It’s Tuesday, and it’s time for me to solve all your life’s problems with the anonymous mailbag.
As always, you can send your anonymous mailbag questions to email@example.com, anonymity guaranteed.
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Okay, here we go with the anonymous mailbag:
“I’m 26 years old and a Navy vet. I got out a little over four years ago, and I feel like I haven’t really accomplished anything in life since then. I’ve just sort of let life happen to me.
I went to college for a little while, and got good grades in the classes that I took, but I have more dropped classes and withdrawals than completions. I have just sort of been bouncing around from crappy job to crappy job and haven’t been making much progress in life. I got one DUI and narrowly avoided a second one, and have very little money or success.
I’m a pretty smart guy, or at least other people have always told me so, and I have a lot of interest in both sports and law, which is why I enjoy listening to your show. At one point, I had aspirations of being a defense attorney. But I feel as if I have allowed life to pass me by, and my choices the past four years have put me in a spot where I may be forced to resign myself to a life of mediocrity. I know from an academic perspective that it’s not too late for me, but it certainly feels that way from an emotional perspective. It’s tough to know where to start.
I don’t want to end up like Cliff Calvin from Cheers; I don’t want to end up a guy who was pretty smart but did nothing with it and ended up just being the smartest drunk guy in a dive bar.
What advice can you offer someone like me, who is wondering what I can do do get my life back on track and avoid being a loser forever?”
First, you were in the Navy for four years. That means you aren’t a total screw up. You were able to keep a difficult job that requires substantial discipline. You also have an ability to follow orders. I don’t know how or why your tenure in the Navy ended, but most 18-year-olds aren’t able or willing to serve four years in the Navy like you did. So I think you are selling yourself short in saying you haven’t accomplished very much in your life. Serving four years in the Navy is far more than most 26-year-olds have accomplished in their lives.
Second, you are still very young.
I understand the idea of a quarter-life crisis — I remember thinking at 25 years old, even after graduating from law school and having a good job, “What in the world am I doing with my life?” — but I think as you age, you gain more wisdom. And you realize how young you still are and how ridiculous the concept of a quarter-life or mid-life crisis really is.
Trust me, 26 is insanely young. Especially if you have no life encumbrances. You aren’t married, and you don’t have children. You just need to find a pathway forward in your life.
Figure out what your goal is and then start doing it.
Don’t worry about the end result. Start out with one day as your goal, then one week, then one month, then one year. You don’t build a house in one day. You have to show up and do the work every day. Eventually, if you keep the work up, you’ll look around and realize you’ve built up a pretty impressive structure.
I’ll use myself as an example here.
I started writing sports and humor articles online at 25 years old with no connection whatsoever to anyone in sports or in media at all. I was living in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a practicing attorney at the time, and I wasn’t remotely close to anyone in sports. Hell, I wasn’t even within thousands of miles of any college football stadium at all.
But I started writing online for an audience of virtually zero.
And then I kept doing it, day after day after day.
If you want to write, do it every day for a year. Every single day. Don’t write one article and ask people for feedback or wait for praise for what you did. Do it every single day for a year.
In order to accomplish your life goals — whatever they may be — you’re going to have to establish discipline in your life. And unlike in the Navy where there is someone providing you direction for your day in a hierarchal manner, aka a boss, you’re going to have to be your own boss and establish your own plan and set your own goals.
I started writing every day when I was 21 years old. I promised myself I would write for one hour every day, seven days a week, pretty much 365 days a year. Do you know how many people are willing to do that?
I did this every day for over a decade before I made enough money to live on just writing.
For over a decade.
I wrote while I was in law school. I wrote while I was practicing law. I wrote as a dad with young kids crawling all over me. I still write for at least an hour a day, pretty much, twenty years later.
And, oh by the way, I’ve also added in three hours of daily radio and an hour of TV too, all because of the writing I’d done.
My life at 21 was far less busy than my life is at 41.
But I’m still carving out the time and the discipline to write.
I’m not the greatest writer who has ever lived — far from it — but I had the drive, self-discipline and work ethic to write every day when most people didn’t. I wrote when I felt great. I wrote when I felt awful. I wrote when I didn’t want to write. I put in the time at my craft to eventually find the way to make a living at it.
It took me years to make a $100 a week for my writing.
So I’m not sympathetic to people out there who want to do something and aren’t doing it. No one is stopping you from achieving what you desire in life, especially not in America.
So my advice to you, or any other person out there who wants to achieve something, is to stop looking for reasons why you can’t do something and find a way to begin to do what you want to do with your life.
For me, it was promising myself I’d sit down in front of the computer and write for one hour each day. That was it. Just one hour out of 24 every day.
And twenty years later, here I am, still doing it.
If I can build a media company by starting to write for an hour a day, you can do what you want to do too.
You just have to start.
And keep going.
“I am married with 4 school-aged children. We are trying to do our best to shield our kids from Coronabro and Coronosis insanity. We enrolled all our kids in in-person private school.
My wife recently caught the virus and was sick for a couple weeks. I was perfectly fine (I may have already caught it last February before the virus was known) and obviously, so were our kids. We believe it is insane to quarantine healthy children just because a parent is sick, so we kept my wife’s sickness a complete secret (she does not work outside the home, so there is no employer to worry about) and still sent our kids to school. Especially since the best way for her to recover is to get rest, and having four bored and energetic kids home all day would certainly not allow that to happen.
However, our school’s COVID rules state that any child exposed to someone sick should quarantine. We think that rule is insane as all studies indicate asymptomatic kids are not spreading the virus. Do you think we did something drastically immoral here?”
I probably would have kept my kids home from school for a week, but I can certainly understand why you made the choice you did. The reason I would have kept my kids out of school is because it sounds like your wife was legitimately sick. That is, she knew she was sick and she knew she had COVID.
We aren’t talking about a one-day stomachache or a slight fever for a day that immediately went away. In those situations, I don’t believe in the necessity of getting tested for COVID. If you felt poorly and get better quickly, would you have ever gone to the doctor before COVID? Of course not.
I’ve had the flu several times in my life, but I’ve never actually gotten a flu test to confirm it. And on those times when someone in our family has had the flu, for instance, last year my oldest got the flu, we didn’t hold our younger kids out of school in the event they might get the flu too. And the flu, statistically, is far more dangerous to young children than COVID is.
But if my wife were sick, I would have held my kids out from school for a week.
I’m not going to get into the morality or immorality of your actions, but I will discuss a couple of situations we’ve had with our kids during this entire COVID mess.
My kindergartener said he felt sick one Saturday back in October. My wife looked at his throat and was convinced he had strep throat. Our oldest son had strep the previous week, and she assumed he caught it from him. So she sent me to the walk-in clinic with our kindergartener.
I took him to the clinic that late afternoon — which was PACKED with people there to get COVID tests. I mean, absolutely packed. It was a college football Saturday, and I was trying to follow the games on my phone while my six-year-old played with his superhero figures next to me in the waiting room. (He didn’t feel that bad.)
I checked him in at the front desk and gave my insurance card to the front desk girl. She asked me for my driver’s license, but I didn’t have it because I’d accidentally left it at my kid’s elementary school the day before when I had to check my second son out for a different doctor’s appointment. (A well visit, he was fine. Once you are a parent you just go to the doctor all the time. It’s kind of insane.) Anyway, I didn’t have my driver’s license because I had accidentally left it at the school the day before when I checked my second son out of school for his doctor’s visit.
But the front desk girl was adamant that, without my driver’s license, she couldn’t let my son see a doctor. I had my entire wallet, pictures of the kids with me in it, all my credit cards, everything was there except my driver’s license.
So I told her about my driver’s license issue, and she said, “Well, do you have your passport, sir?”
Am I going to Switzerland or the walk-in clinic?
No, I didn’t have my passport.
Confession: I have very short patience when people are applying nonsensical rules that were clearly not created for this situation, so I may have begun to get a bit heated at this point.
After all, what was this front desk lady protecting me from here?
I said, “Hold on, what’s your issue here? You think I stole someone’s wallet, got my picture taken with their kids, and then decided to spend my Saturday night pretending to be them so I could take one of their kids to the doctor for a strep throat test?”
She said, “Well, the policy is the policy, sir.”
So, look, I am like D-list famous. Maybe F-list famous. But if you type my name in on Google, my picture comes up. So I said, “Look, if you need a photo ID from me, how about I type in my name on my phone, you can watch me and see that it matches the name on the credit cards, and you will see my picture come up on Google.”
So I type in “Clay Travis” on Google, and all these pictures of me come up.
She looks at me, looks at all the pictures of me on my phone, and says, “I’m sorry, that doesn’t work. How do I know that’s really you?”
And I was like, “Do you think that I rigged the Google search image algorithm for Clay Travis IN MY SPARE TIME so I could take my kid to get a strep throat test without a driver’s license?”
So do you know what I had to do? I had to FaceTime my wife so she could hold up my passport for the front desk lady to see so I could get my son a strep throat test.
Did I mention that it was a Saturday night in the fall, and there were college football games being played, and we were packed in a waiting room probably exposed to COVID a billion times? And, of course, it took forever.
After about two hours, we finally get back to see the doctor. It takes five minutes to take his strep test and check it, and he’s not positive.
Uh oh, I was supposed to be there to get a prescription. What do I do now?
So then the doctor insists my six-year-old be checked for COVID. I didn’t want to do the COVID test because I don’t want to be the parent that causes a ton of kindergarteners to quarantine, but the doctor was really insistent about the test — I felt kind of COVID bullied, to be honest — and I eventually relented.
Now you can call me a pussy for this, but after the incident at the front desk where I was Googling myself in the waiting room to get a strep test, I’m thinking that refusing a COVID test for my six-year-old is suddenly going to be front page news.
In my defense, I hadn’t even thought about the possibility that he might have COVID because his mom said he had strep throat, so I didn’t even think about anything other than the strep test.
(I hate when I’m put in a position where I have to make parenting choices I haven’t prepared for, and I know I’m going to have to tell my wife which choice I made BECAUSE INEVITABLY I MAKE THE CHOICE MY WIFE DISAGREES WITH. EVEN WHEN I’M TRYING TO MAKE THE CHOICE SHE WOULD MAKE AND NOT EVEN TRYING TO MAKE THE CHOICE MYSELF.) That is, like a lot of dads, I completely turn off my own brain and just try to think like her. And I thought since she thought he was sick, she’d want to know what he was sick with.
So as soon as I get in the car and call her back to tell her the results of the doctor’s appointment, she immediately says, “Why’d you get him a COVID test?!”
I can’t win.
Anyway, the doctor tells me we’ll get the results in a day. The next day is Sunday, no results come and then the results don’t come for the entire next week, during which time my six-year-old feels completely fine and spends five straight school days watching Ryan’s World videos on YouTube. It turns out he had a 24-hour bug, like kids have been getting since time immemorial.
But we kept him out of school for the entire week, waiting for his COVID results.
The other two kids went to school as we waited on the results.
The results never came.
By that point, we’d held him out of kindergarten for a week, roughly ten days since he felt bad for that one day, and he’d been 100% fine ever since.
Last month, three months after our doctor’s visit back in October, my wife was back at the clinic for a follow-up appointment because my 12-year-old got his tonsils out. So she went up to the front desk girl — of course my wife always has her license, so she has no issues — and tells them we never got our COVID test results.
So the front desk girl looks up my six-year-old’s results.
All that effort for nothing.
The second COVID parenting decision we had was back in the summer. My then nine-year-old spent the night with one of his friends, and the friend’s mom tested positive for COVID two days later. Well, all three kids were in summer camp that week. So we all went and got tested too, but the tests were going to take a week.
So one of my son’s been exposed, minimally, to someone who tested positive. Then my son had been around us and his two brothers since then. It had only been a day or two so far. So what was the right thing to do? We decided to have my wife go tell the camp counselors about our son’s potential exposure. The summer day camp, to their credit, was very rational about the entire thing. They were fine with us keeping our two kids who hadn’t been at the sleepover in the day camp all week, and we kept our son that had been at the sleepover at home.
Again, this was back in like June or July.
But we spent an entire day trying to figure out what to do.
None of us ever tested positive, and our son’s friend’s mom was fine after a day.
As a result, I’ve now been tested twice, once back in the summer and once at the White House before we met President Trump. No one in our household has tested positive for COVID, but I’m going to get the antibody test at some point. I feel like, given the fact that I haven’t really changed my daily routine in a year, there’s no way I haven’t been exposed to it by now.
Anyway, I share these two examples from my own life because I suspect many parents out there reading this right now have had their own decisions to make without any real precedent of what the right decision was. My wife and I have tried to be rational in a profoundly irrational time.
And there’s no one playbook that makes sense for every family and every situation.
So I’d urge cautious rationality as a general response when it comes to kids and COVID.
Something that, of course, has been in short supply in this country for the past year.
“I’ve been with my current girlfriend for the last 7 years. We’ve lived together for the last 2 and have discussed getting married and starting a family together. I’m in my early 40’s and she’s 6 years younger than I am, so we know there’s a bit of a time factor involved if we are going to have a baby. She’s gorgeous, has a great heart, and I’m confident she will be a great mom when the time comes.
However, she has been battling a drug addiction for several years, which I suspect stemmed from anxiety and depression. It has alienated her from most of her family and friends who grew weary of the typical addict behavior she elicits. I had several family members who succumbed to alcoholism, so I understand addiction and the difficult battle associated with it. She’s made the choice herself to go to detox and rehab several times over the years but has been unable to stay clean upon returning home. We live in a state where addiction recovery services are difficult to obtain, and her basic state insurance further limits options. The type of treatment she needs (longer than 30 days) simply isn’t available here and having to pay out-of-pocket to send her to a long-term facility in another state is not something we can afford.
This last year being locked down due to COVID certainly hasn’t helped. She’s more despondent, distant and unwilling to let me get close to her in any physical way. That, along with me losing my job due to COVID, has caused me to grow increasingly frustrated and impatient with her and driven us even further apart. Despite what some friends have suggested, I don’t want to give up on her. I’ve already invested 7 years of my life with her, plus I feel I’m at an age where I’d rather not start over with someone new. If it weren’t for her addiction we’d likely already be married and at least planning on when to have our first child. When do I accept that despite my patience and best efforts that maybe this relationship isn’t meant to work out? Can the relationship be salvaged?”
Let me start here. I’m not an addiction specialist at all. So I’m not going to try and analyze her behavior or tell you what the right decisions to make are as it pertains to her addiction. I’m just going to address your situation in particular, beginning with your goal to one day marry and have kids with her.
If your girlfriend can’t shake her addiction to drugs or alcohol, what makes you “confident she will be a great mom when the time comes”?
Babies don’t lessen stress, they increase it. Not to mention, having an addiction to drugs or alcohol puts the baby at risk during her pregnancy. I understand you love your girlfriend, but the evidence you lay out in your email doesn’t suggest, at least to me, that she is likely to be a great mom. Now I’m not saying that she would be a bad mom or that she wouldn’t care for your kid. I’m just saying the baby is unlikely to cure her addition issues, and the evidence you’re providing in your email makes me doubt she’d be a great mom.
In fact, if anything, the baby is likely to add many stresses to her life, which could create more addiction difficulties going forward.
Furthermore, you say you have lost your job and her health insurance is inadequate for what she needs now. Does she have a job? Can she keep a job? Either way, if you can’t afford the treatment she needs, how are you going to be able to afford to raise a baby?
Again, I’m just analyzing your perspective here, not hers.
And what seems key to me here is that, at some point, you need to make a decision about what you want from your life. If you want children and you want a partner who can raise those children with you, I’m not sure your current girlfriend satisfies those desires.
Now I understand you’re also in a tough spot here — because you love your girlfriend and you have also invested seven years in the relationship. So let me take these in reverse order. If you’ve invested seven years with her and you’re still not where you want to be, what makes you think you’ll be there in ten years? Or fifteen years? Or two years, for that matter? At some point, no matter who you are, if you’re years into a relationship and it’s still not giving you what you want, I’d suggest it might be time to move on to a new relationship. (This is presuming you’re just dating and have no kids. If you have children, I think fighting through difficulties in relationships becomes far more important, but that’s another story.)
It seems to me that your desires — marriage and fatherhood — aren’t likely to be met by the woman you’re dating now. So that leaves us with this question, why are you still together? Your answer might well be because you love her and fear what would happen to her if you aren’t together. But you’re her partner, not her parent. It isn’t your responsibility to take care of another adult for the rest of your life. You can choose to do that, certainly, and it may well even be commendable for you to do so, but it sounds to me like you want things from your relationship that your partner isn’t able to provide.
And whenever that’s the case, no matter the reason, it’s not fair to you or the person you’re in the relationship with to stay together. Because ultimately you end up resenting your partner for the things you want that the relationship isn’t giving you. So the big question you have to answer is this: do you want the life that you don’t have — marriage and fatherhood — or the life that you have now? Because based on your email, it seems clear to me that you can’t have both.
Difficult as it may be, you get to choose YOUR life path, not hers.
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