Ask Persephone: Suffering fools, unpaid internships, and the existential anguish of mortal existence
Advice from the Majestic Queen of Shades
August 16, 2016 at 1:19 pm
Sometimes even crones need a (wrinkled, gnarled) guiding hand when walking through the long, dark hallway of (semi) mortal life. A few more brave souls — both crones and ordinary mortals alike — have beseeched Persephone, Crone of Crones, Dread Queen of the Dead, BFF of Hekate, Goddess of Witchcraft and the Hearth for her guidance. Here are their pleas and her responses.
Greetings, mortals. Your price has been paid, thus I come bearing new portents and warnings. Heed my wisdom or face the refreshing, potentially herbal consequences.
Q. Dear Persephone,
My best friend hangs out with some people that I do not like. I try my best to deal and be polite, but sometimes my friend will tell me that her other friends know I do not like them. I tend to be sensitive and an open book with my emotions. What are some ways to mask my dislike and build bridges instead of burning them?
A. Dear Miss Behavin’,
Short of transfiguring these enemies into herbs or other inanimate abominations, I do not see how you could better handle this situation. You only have so many days in your limited human existence to waste in the company of people you do not like. You are already doing your friend a great service by suffering her fools. You are under no obligation to pretend you enjoy suffering their foolishness. Aside from your current behavior — careful politeness and courtesy — you owe them nothing else.
Besides: when someone knows you dislike them, you are free from the anxious dance of pretending to care what that person thinks of you. What could be more terrifying for an enemy than an impeccably courteous yet semi-impersonal veneer over what they know to be a solid block of pure, unadulterated contempt? This will unseat your foe, leaving them wide open to your campaign to overthrow their place in your social group, or in any Kingdom of Departed Souls.
Q. Dear Persephone,
I’m at a crossroads career-wise and I could use the ancient wisdom of the Goddess of the Underworld to guide me. I’m currently working in a job with a supervisor I loathe. Without getting into the details, he’s a real asshole and the worst part of any given workday. My other co-workers are just fine and so is the work itself, but it’s time for me to part ways with this particular employer.
I’ve also been really interested in pursuing a career path that is kind of an offshoot of my current one. I think the work would be interesting and fun but I don’t have any way of building experience towards it. On a whim, I reached out to a small company that does this kind of work, and after meeting with them they offered me a full-time internship — unpaid of course.
So here’s my question — do I go for it? I hate my boss and this is the kind of work I want to do, but an unpaid internship is a risk and there’s no guarantee of paid work at the end. How do I proceed?
Ready for Change
A. Dear Ready for Change,
With your stunted mortal lifespan, I completely understand your desire to follow the winds of change to wherever they choose to carry you, rather than waste an opportunity to alter the course of what little time you have left. However, you have other mortal considerations — namely, your ability to sleep in a clean, dry place and feed yourself. You must weigh these needs against each other before making a decision. Keep in mind that the entity you are seeking advice from requires neither sleep nor sustenance from the earth to continue performing ethereal labors. But also keep in mind that as far as deities go, I think I know a thing or two about dramatically reinventing one’s identity, and the various pressures that go along with that.
Ready for Change, I do not know where you are in your life. If you have no significant responsibilities and a ready team of supplicants working to maintain your current standard of living, taking this leap of faith might be what you need to build your very own unearthly empire of professional success. However, there are other, sounder ways to take this leap.
My advice? Hone your craft, temper your skills under the fires of Hephaestus, and find a way to survive in this world first before birthing yourself anew. Take on other projects and ensure that you have both the skill and the true passion — the kind that lays beyond mere curiosity and beginner’s luck — before throwing caution to the wind. Reach out to your professional network for mentoring opportunities, if you have one, and if all else fails, ensure that you leave a sacrificial piglet for guiding celestial beings (ahem) to cast fortune your way in these endeavors.
Q. Dear Persephone,
Nothing I ever do feels like it’s right or enough. I know I can’t rely on other people for validation, so–suggestions? For how to stop feeling this way? please
-Lost in Space
A. Dear Lost in Space,
I’m afraid the answer to this question is as deeply unsatisfying as the feelings that prompt you to ask it in the first place: there’s nothing anyone can do to make it right or enough. And most unsatisfying of all is this: everyone (with the exception of divine presences, naturally) feels this way sometimes. Most people walk around feeling this way a lot of the time.
I can only assume that you are writing this in a time of grief or upheaval. Perhaps you were disappointed by a friend or loved one. Perhaps you failed to accomplish a goal that meant a great deal to you. Whatever the cause of your pain, let me tackle this question one point at a time.
Nothing I ever do feels like it’s right or enough
One of the beautiful things about mortal life is that you are always growing, changing — moving away from some things and towards others. The truth is that nothing humans do can ever be right or enough, because even what’s right right now won’t be right in a few months or a year or a short millennia from where you are at this point in time. With hindsight, it’s easy to see how Past You miscalculated, or failed to take Future You, or Future Your Loved Ones, into consideration. But that doesn’t mean that the efforts of Past You were failures.
I know I can’t rely on other people for validation
To some degree, sure you can. Humans today are always commodifying attention in such a negative way — paying attention, desperate for attention, etc. But from a divine perspective, attention is one component of worship, which is an integral part of any consecrated diet. And while you can’t rely on external validation alone, it sure helps feed your spirit’s resilience. If you’re crying out to be noticed, don’t criticize yourself too much for recognizing your own loneliness and isolation.
So–suggestions? For how to stop feeling this way?
If you’re looking for a charm or for divine intervention to prevent you from recognizing when you feel insufficient, I’m afraid that you’re two piglets and a purification ritual away from getting your wish on this one (even the Dread Queen of Hell can only do so much to erode your natural emotional functions, I’m afraid). But if you’re looking for advice on how to navigate this troubled River of the Damned:
- Talk to a trusted loved one about these feelings. Reach out to someone who can affirm your loveliness and inner light. Again: this will not solve all of your problems, but it may help with your most immediate feelings of inadequacy and pain. It’s okay to say “I feel lost right now and I’m worried I don’t measure up.” The bright side of everyone feeling this way sometimes is that just about anyone can empathize with a statement that blunt.
- Make sure you are taking the time to do things that bring you joy and have no immediate payoff — tasks that don’t further any agenda outside of contributing to your sense of happiness and well-being. You can’t fall short when your goal is to watch your favorite moving picture, or drink in the anguish cries of your enemies as you transfigure their living forms into writhing mint leaves.
- Understand that as new joys move into your life, these sorrows will fade. Maybe they’ll be back for you someday, but they always eventually give way to new experiences, adventures, and opportunities. Isn’t that best part of being an ever-changing finite being? That the sky changes and the clouds part and something new happens to you?
Dearest Lost in Space, I warned you that this would be unsatisfying. May you find peace, joy, and a bountiful harvest in the days to come.
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Previously, on Ask Persephone: