If past worrying was unnecessary then future worrying is too

ComPsych is this place that puts out research about how employees feel, and it turns out that feelings are generational. At least at work. Which is what ComPsych specializes in.

The biggest problem Gen Y has is depression. The biggest problem Gen X has is relationships. The biggest problem Baby Boomers have is death.

This is surprising to me because I have read for so long that the biggest workplace problem Gen X has is that Baby Boomers aren’t dying. But I guess this is just showing how old I am. I have been blogging so long that I was blogging when the biggest problem Gen Y had was helicopter parenting.

I am happy to hear that Gen X has relationship problems because I don’t want to feel alone. But also I see that Gen X relationship problems translate to older women telling younger women that they marry early and refuse to be the breadwinner. But Gen X is not the divorce generation.

I am underperforming even in the generation known for being slackers. Fuck.

I have been coaching people in person. As soon as I announced that I moved to Swarthmore, which is outside Philadelphia, people started asking to meet me in person. What about business plan bootcamp? What about a writing workshop? I’ve been trying stuff. I’ve met really cool people, and I’ve done it all at my dining room table.

My younger son said, “Are you going to keep taking over the dining room with people from the blog?”

My older son said, “Are you going to keep coaching couples on how to keep their marriage together when everyone can see your husband is not moving to Swarthmore?”

I said, “Yeah. I’ll coach them on how to have a long-distance relationship.” And we laughed. Because my cousin just called and I told her to relocate for her boyfriend’s job if she wants to marry him. “Long-distance relationships don’t last!” I told her. “It reflects lack of commitment from one or both parties.”

The thing is, I have an amazing track record on helping couples keep their marriage together. How can I have that and be so bad at it myself?

The people who live below us fight all the time. The guy is on drugs and the woman kicks him out when he’s high. Or whatever the word is for the drugs he’s on. And when he’s not on drugs she is yelling at him for being a bad husband.

I can tell that she needs to stop yelling at him and tell him he’s either on the street or in rehab. And he’d go to rehab because he loves her. I can tell. And she loves him because people don’t yell at people for being a bad spouse unless they want the spouse to change.

The farmer and I stopped yelling after two years. That’s about how long it took. And now we are like a ComPsych report, doing great at our jobs and struggling to maintain our relationship.

Sometimes I think I’m doing a terrible job at something, and then I realize I’m just like everyone else.

In my 20s I thought I was a total fuck up, and then I realized that everyone in their 20s is struggling to figure out where they fit, and the people who struggle the most figure out the most. And I was fine.

In my 30s I gave up my career to stay home with kids and was ashamed for being a stay-at-home mom. And I had to keep earning the money for the family and I was ashamed at how little I was earning. Now I see this is very common landing ground for high-earning women turned into moms. I wish I could have known I was doing just fine and cashing out our retirement fund to give me time to figure out how to work from home was a really good idea.

In my 40s I thought I was so stupid for having a failed marriage. And I told myself I have to focus on keeping my next marriage together. No more failed marriages. Only incompetent people have failed marriages. I told myself that.

And I believe it. I think it’s terrible for the kids.

Melissa tells me there was nothing else I could do. “Your kid was born to play cello. You have to get him to where he needs to be.”

The farmer would tell me I don’t have to do any of that. He tells me that culturally this is Jewish. I tell him that culturally it is farmer to tell kids the land is more important than relationships. We are probably both wrong. I just can’t see. It’s so hard to see ourselves.

The only way I know that I’m not losing my mind is that the people I coach are all so smart and so interesting and they can’t ever see their lives as clearly as I see them. And they think I’m a genius about their lives. But I know the truth is that they can’t see themselves just like I can’t see myself. I was doing fine in my 40s, as blind as everyone else, and picking up pieces when they fall.

Except now I’m 50. And I’m going to be one of those people with two failed marriages. I think. It’s not yet. All my stuff is still at the farm.

I keep looking at the pictures for my blog I didn’t use while I was at the farm. And I thought I would save them and use them for all the days I’m writing about missing the farm. But instead I find myself using them to take inventory of things I want to take off the farm.

Carla told me she knows I’m going back to the farm because I left all my plates there. But the last time the farmer came to visit, I made him bring a few.

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  1. Katt
    Katt says:

    Your brain ignores your nose. You can see it, it’s right there, but to see clearly, your brain ignores it. Our lives are like that, even in reflection, we see them reversed. Don’t be too hard on yourself, listen to your kids and make lots of mistakes. I’ve decided at 54 that Auntie Mame is my new ideal mentor, live, love, laugh. And give yourself the gift of time. Time to heal, time to discover. Time to see. It’s as clear as the nose on your face.

    • Eva Kanto
      Eva Kanto says:

      Oh! Auntie Name. Rosalind Russell. My mom introduced me to that classic and I absolutely connect with people who GET it!

      Meanwhile, Penelope, my husband and I have been having a rough marriage. I almost 100 percent of the 23 years we have been married there have been issues! I am coming to the conclusion that he will always be self-centered and that the kids’ best interests are not on his mind. He thinks about their basic needs like food and shelter but as far as thinking ahead and giving them opportunities, he’d rather spend the money and time going on vacations and “having fun.” He has been in full blown anxiety and been diagnosed with hypochondria for the past 3 years because he is 47 and he just can’t deal with his age. He gets anti-aging and hair loss surgeries and buys more skin care products than any woman I know. I am battling an autoimmune disease and I go to the doctor less!

      As I have gotten older, I feel so much happier letting go of superficial anxieties which seem so unimportant. I am looking at life from a totally different perspective and I see how important it is to give my children my best efforts and love for the very SHORT time they are in my care. I let go of any resentment towards my spouse because some people are simply unable to get this perspective. Some would say, they are unable to grow up. I don’t know about Farmer or my husband because they are both “responsible” adults with money and jobs. I think it’s just a matter of priorities. Land can be rented out and you can go back to it, not so with children.

    • Nicky
      Nicky says:

      I’min my 20s don’t know what should i do about my life.right now im an English teacher not happy with it and no boyfriend don’t know where to go ……

    • k
      k says:

      Wow, great Colbert clip. (Oprah also had some interesting insights.)

      As a big fat worryier (re past & future), I’m totally saving this clip.

  2. Ellen
    Ellen says:

    You’re very brave to write the way you do, and you go through things instead of doing things other people do – people deny stuff and they eat or drink or smoke but you face things and you’re clear headed and honest. Every person does the best they can do, you’re doing excellent. Life includes problems and unhappiness. Xoxoxox ps I wish you would teach yoga or even just go to a teacher training, it helped me get through a hard time in life

  3. kat
    kat says:

    I hate endings. And goodbyes.

    Even when it’s for the best.

    Trying not to be sad about the end is exhausting.

  4. Jane
    Jane says:

    I love this post Penelope. I’ve also realized that you can never see yourself as clearly as other people. I’ve recently accepted that when I realized I can help people with their resumes but I find it hard to write my own resume. Once I’ve accepted it, I stopped beating myself up and decided to seek help where I need it, either from friends or from people like you. Actually this reminds my of an old post you wrote about seeking help and finding mentors (for your career), I get it now.

    I’m not sure if you and the farmer have sought marriage counseling or if he’s even up for it. If he’s not, than maybe you should. It may help you sort out your feelings. So whether you guys stay together or not it may help you feel a little better because you’ve gain clarity. I’m sorry you are going through this. Although I’m happy you are coaching people because it’s good to be around people during this time. You will feel better one day, and you know you got through it.

  5. Lauren Teller
    Lauren Teller says:

    the red
    the crystals
    the two doorways
    where’s the table?
    where’s the roof?
    now am i crying because I’m old
    but not yet you!
    boys and music and basketball
    food and sleep and stitches
    plates get broken
    get glue
    get milk

  6. mk
    mk says:

    Oh, sure. Most therapists have been in therapy themselves. They’re good at helping others see, but they need help seeing themselves. We all do.

    But, more difficult than seeing, is the doing. It’s easy to see others and give good advice. And it’s not always hard to agree when others tell you the truth–at some place, you’ve always known it. It is hard to go home and do what you know you ought to do.

    You’ve already given all the advice you need, yourself, in this blog. You’ve said it all. You’ve sorted through the research and summarized and explained.

    Personally, I think you don’t need a therapist as much as you need a coach. The old-fashioned football coach who shouts at you and makes you run laps and asks you what the heck you think that was that you just did right there. Who videotapes the practices so you can get some perspective and see exactly where you’re making the mistakes. Who tells you to huddle up, and helps you focus before the game, and then celebrates when you play your heart out.

  7. Maria
    Maria says:

    You’re 50?

    So am I.

    I have never been married. I proved it in divorce court. Texas. Seriously.

    A man I was dating said “It’s nothing to brag about.” I assume he means as a middle aged woman I should have a few under my belt.

    I also have never been divorced. I gave him that look and he thought about his 2 divorces.

    But you know what? There are days I crave bonding legally with a man and being able to count on him being there in the morning. I would get married just to say I did it and not think past today. I would do it in Vegas, with Elvis (likely Asian) and Jesus (likely from Mexico) as my witness so the marriage certificate would be just as fun as the experience.

    Good thing I wore the white dress when I was in second grade for communion otherwise, I might have done it for the dress (Today I find that creepy).

    Broken men come a dime a dozen. They entice us with their drama, giving us hope we can fix them. We live in their world while having stepped out of our own, for the story, adventure, hope that his shoes would fit.

    But eventually, we take our colored glasses off and see them for what they are and they realize they are holding us back.

    You called him your husband, but you were never married to him and you can prove it in court. You have divorced once. You lived on a farm with a man who was at times giving and at times selfish and abusive.

    Things can be replaced. You can tell him to have that garage sale and it will pay off the imaginary debt he thinks you owe him.

    He can’t keep the stuff and still claim you owe him.

    Tell him it adds value to his farm.

    Or he can trade the stove and piano for seed.

    I thought I was losing my mind and was a screw up because I was poor and losing it all. I couldn’t keep it together. Turns out I was very ill physically, had sleep apnea, anemic and low oxygen levels.

    “From the ashes rises the Phoenix” Harry Potter

    • Caroline
      Caroline says:

      Wow, I wanted to tell her to follow her own tough advice on staying together until reading this. Why was it never legal? I want a loving dad for her kids and proximity to him.

      • Maria
        Maria says:

        The farmer’s parents refused to give him the farm he had worked on most of his life if he married her. The stipulation was to keep the farm in HIS family which did not include her and her kids.

        The risk was all hers.

        So they had a sweet ceremony that was for ceremonial purposes but had no legal value.

        But I digress…. This is how it all started (the farmer was stalking her, invited him to his farm, and invited her to come to it ‘to find peace’… it was a trap).


        This is the blog as to why he never married her legally, it was to keep the farm because his parents refused to give the farm if he married her.


        This is what he did to her


        • Bostonian
          Bostonian says:

          Perhaps this is why the parents would not give him the land if he married her: because they thought that, sooner or later, she would run off on him, and if they were married, then she would own half the land, and the divorce would destroy the farm.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            In her only real divorce with her ex-husband she didn’t ask for anything except full custody of the kids. So that doesn’t make sense if she has already demonstrated she wouldn’t do that.

          • jessica
            jessica says:


            Wasn’t that because the first husband did not work and support his family? It didn’t seem like he had any assets. The farmer’s farm ‘would’ be a large asset if his parents treated him like the adult he is. (why have they not transferred over the farming land to the farmer?)

            I have a close relative that has this same farm/farmer’s son set up. It is the most dysfunctional, sad thing I have witnessed, personally. The son could practically never leave and go out on his own and the parents took full advantage of that. And they are now much older than Penelope’s situation.
            This farmer/farmer family bs won’t stop, unless he makes a choice to leave the farm and start a new life, which is supposedly near impossible for him.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


            I’ve only pieced things together with her only divorce. On the one hand her ex father in law was a c level executive for a defense contractor, so I assume there is at least some sort of inheritance.

            Question, are farmers not able to get a pre-nup like other people can? Why couldn’t they get all the debt and farm land stuff written in a pre-nup and get married?

            I agree with your assessment of the situation. Too many unhealthy relationship issues between everyone.

      • Laura Friis
        Laura Friis says:

        They couldn’t make it legal because of P’s tax bill. There was a wedding but it wasn’t legally binding.

  8. Ashley Barney
    Ashley Barney says:

    I read your blog for your refreshing honesty and I find your paradoxical mix of modern feminist values and traditional husband/wife roles to be highly amusing.

    As I’ve read about your move to Swarthmore, I’ve been thinking to myself, “With her deep concern for her son’s vocational success, how concerned is she with his character?”

    Is the good life simply about being incredibly successful in a career? You’ve repeatedly said that it’s not so. You’ve said fulfillment in life is about relationships, at least for some people. I wonder if your son’s teacher in Chicago was good enough, excellent, in fact. Surely he could still have had an enjoyable and successful career as a musician if you hadn’t moved. But if he becomes a man believing that he doesn’t have a father who wants to live with him, I wonder what will become of him. We bow at the altar of success in our culture, only to die of depression and meaninglessness. We strive to prove to others how great we are, and we don’t live for anything beyond ourselves. If we never stop moving, and if we constantly indulge in material comforts, we can avoid having to admit that deep down we think there ought to be so much more to life. If we don’t have truth, if we don’t have hope in any ultimate meaning or destiny, if adults can’t show children true commitment and what it means to choose to love, what is all the success in the world for?

    I pray for you and the farmer. I hope that he will want to show your son what it means to be a person of character: to be committed to meeting the deepest needs of all people in one’s care, no matter what the cost. I pray that you will want to give the farmer that opportunity.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      blog.penelopetrunk.com/2016/05/29/everyone-competes-at-something-the-first-step-is-to-admit-it/ foretells the move to Swarthmore. Regarding Z’s teacher, he had an amazing one for years, but she retired in May due to illness. I think they had tried a couple of teachers after her, but hadn’t found “the one.”

      From that post “Which brings me to myself and cello. I want to be a parent who navigates the cello world impeccably. But at the top of the cello world is a small group of parents (mothers) who are untouchable when it comes to getting their kids what they need. These moms make the Tiger Mom look like a bunny. And I don’t know if I can keep up.”

      And then “We can only control what happens in our own life. I am focusing so much energy on the world of competitive musicians. But I can’t compete there. I am in the world of mothers. That’s where I have to compete. And competitive mothering is so humiliating because mothering should not be about competing.”

      • D
        D says:

        Orchestral musicians are fighting a competition where, pretty soon, no one wins. There are only a handful of orchestras in the world with a base pay of at least $100K (fewer every year) and each of those has literally hundreds of applicants for each opening. Even the next Yo-Yo Ma won’t be Yo-Yo Ma famous. Tastes have changed. Most kids won’t earn enough playing to even cover the costs of their lessons.

        None of this is news to Penelope, who is nothing if not on top of trends. Just seems a little incongruous that she would become a cello tiger mom. I guess “mom” is the operative word.

          • Bostonian
            Bostonian says:

            It could bring in a little more, depending on which orchestra you pay for. The top base salary is Chicago, at 144K base, and the average minimum salary is 109K. That means a lot of orchestras pay less. The Alabama Symphony has a 33K starting salary. This means that even at the very top, musicians are trying to cobble together a living through multiple avenues, like orchestra plus teaching plus scoring plus studio gigs. And the paid gigs are only for the very best musicians – the others just find different careers.

            Berklee has a good music salary guide (google it).

        • Ashley Barney
          Ashley Barney says:

          If you’re referring to my post, Melissa, I intended no unkindness and I apologize to Penelope if I seemed to be judging in a condemning way. I read her blog because I respect her for what she says. My only aim is to bring up questions regarding the meaning and purpose of life, because I think that sometimes we get distracted and can’t see what matters most. I don’t believe that what’s material is all there is; I believe that people’s souls are eternal so the most important thing in life is to care for people’s souls rather than mere career success, and even more than superficial happiness. I speak from my own worldview, and based on that, saying these things is the most caring thing I can do for Penelope. I am a flawed person who struggles with my selfishness every day and I depend on God to show me how to continue to change.

  9. Grace
    Grace says:

    You moved for your son’s cello lessons. Your marriage isn’t surviving your move. Farmers don’t leave their land. I never thought he’d join you. Never.

    Here is an honest question. It’s the question all of your readers want to know. Would your marriage survive if you stayed at the farm? It seems like you two have more issues than the distance from Wisconsin to Swarthmore.

    And it is Jewish (and Asian, and upper middle class urban elite) to uproot a family so a kid can pursue a talent. I wonder if it’s worth it. I know that world class talent has to be nurtured. But then the family lives as though success and achievement are more important than relationships. I think that’s the wrong message to send.

    Maybe you are choosing between two difficult situations: For which would your son resent you more in 20 years: (1) making him stay at the farm and not letting his talent flourish as much as it could? or (2) giving him the best cello lessons possible, and breaking up his family?

    • Grace
      Grace says:

      Also, why are you putting so much resources toward classical music training? The ROI is 99.999999% negative. You are an expert on trends. Please do a post on symphonic orchestra attendance. It’s dismal. The current blue hairs won’t be around in 15-20 years when your son is in his prime performance years. There’s no one else to take their place. No one in their 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s is going to the symphony anymore. Unfortunately.

      Moving to cultivate talent would be worth it if the success (if reached) actually pays for the price it took to get there. For classical music, the success (even if reached) is not going to pay for a fraction of what you put into his lessons (and car service, and apartment).

      But I’m sure you already know that.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I’m sorry, but this is reductive to their intelligence. You CAN have parental relationships AND be successful.

      How the parents manage their relationship is on them. They need to leave the kids out of it, but continue to unconditionally support the kids cello or not.

  10. KD
    KD says:

    Melissa is wrong. Cut the crap about the importance of cello. There is basically nothing less important than cello to your and your kid’s circumstances right now. Be honest with yourself about what you’re really running from and why. Until you do that you will never be able to address it honestly, and worst of all, your kids will grow to permanently distrust you. You say you’re doing A (driving hours to Chicago, moving to Philly) because of reason B (your KIDS’ futures). But everyone can see that it is total and complete bullshit.

  11. Carol
    Carol says:

    Its a great post but I dont really see the issue. It all strikes me as quite American (Im not American). Farmers dont leave farms. Ever. Your child wanfs to learn the cello and you want to help him. So move and do that. You dont need to divorce. During the recession in Ireland tons of couples had to make similar changes. Often the husband went to the UK/Canada/Australia (the recession hit the construction industry hardest so it was mostly men that lost their jobs). 8 years passed, the economy got back on its feet and a lot of those men came back. Or else their wives and kids moved to them.
    What Im trying to say is your child wont be learning the cello for ever, in a few years he’ll be self sufficient and you can move back to the farm. Whats the big deal. your husband visits once a month, you could go to the farm once a month, a few years pass and you revert to living together full time again.

    I think youre taking a very all or nothing approach. Unless of course the cello is an excuse and really you just wanted to leave the farm and your husband in which case thats ok too

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      I think there is a good point here. The move seemed imperative for the future of the child. It doesn’t mean the farmer’s life has to be destroyed to meet family expectations. There is a time for everything.

      • Tina
        Tina says:

        But I think there are other issues in the relationship that have led P to this outcome. To make a situation like you describe work there has to be a commitment from both sides for it to work and I don’t think that exists.

    • Cáit
      Cáit says:

      I was thinking everything carol wrote. And I’m an INFJ so I question your real motives for equating temporary location differences and divorce. Reread your brilliant anti-divorce.

    • Sarah Faulkner
      Sarah Faulkner says:

      This was the post that showed the readers the marriage was done.


      how many times did the framer say he was unhappy? 3? 4? It was the, “I hate you” That sealed the deal. if we had been reading about how much he loved her and all the things he did to show her then I would say, “long distance is hard but it will work.”

      It’s like a fire….when I cook and start a small fire from grease I can put it out easily. When you have a small argument with your partner, but go to bed not hating them that’s a small fire.

      If I was cooking and the grease fire spread to my curtians and the carpet, I can’t put it out, I either stop life, call the fire department and get help, or I let it burn and move. In a marriage if your partner is telling you all the ways they don’t like you, and says “I hate you.” life stops to put out this large fire, or you move on.

      • Cáit
        Cáit says:

        I once read interviews with long married elderly. Many of the husbands had been very bad to their wives, but they stayed togther things improved life goes on. Marriage is for life.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          Marriage is not for life. We have laws that state otherwise. I’m my husband’s second wife, we have a beautiful marriage that is at times flawed, because we are human. We have three amazing kids who want to make our planet a better place to live. As long as there has been marriage there has also been divorce.

          Even so, Penelope and the farmer were NEVER married and were never going to be married.

    • Eva Kanto
      Eva Kanto says:

      I left a reply closer to the top of the post but I as I am reading more and more replies and insights, I am in agreement with the fact that the black/white thinking and knee jerk reaction (which both my son and husband tend to have…both have Asperger’s) isn’t necessary. After all, there are MANY more YEARS left in a relationship that is ’til death. Hopefully. Who knows how long Penelope’s son will be taking the lessons? Many alternatives could also be reached, including using video streaming for internet lessons. During the summers or on weekends, a college student studying music could come out to tutor her son. Over the summer I know there are amazing training camps though some are in Europe and you must audition.
      There are so many junior orchestras in cities that put on musicals or symphonies over the summer and I am sure that through the music community, Penelope’s son could board with another junior musician for the duration. These are some ideas to mull over.

      I think my earlier reply was knee jerk in response to my own situation! Yet, I still REALLY value our marriage and keep working at it, knowing that a good relationship between myself and my husband is the best support that we can give to our kids’ well-being. I have to think creatively as well to make sure that both of my kids get any extra help for any talents or struggles they may have, but I eventually figure it out in a way that also has my husband on the same page. It sometimes takes time, mistakes, and arguments but we get there. I compromise in this area and my husband does in others. We also win and lose to each other. NOW, anyway…It took my husband a WHILE to be okay with the lack of control he felt when “losing” his want over mine. If one or both partners in a relationship are NEVER or ALWAYS compromising then one or both are always having to give up something. This makes for an unhappy relationship. (Sometimes a partner has to WIN to feel their value, especially if it’s not a deal breaker!)

      I have no idea what is going on in the relationship, so this tidbit I had picked up from a therapist is just thrown out into the posts in the hopes that it might help in some way.

  12. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I’ll be 50 in August. My problem is not that the baby boomers won’t die, but that in my industry (software development) they’ve all already given up and moved on and now I’m the oldest person in the room everywhere I work.

    When the developers wax nostalgic for the cartoons they watched as children, I know all of those cartoons because I watched them with my oldest son, who’s 31. By the way: those 90s cartoons were great fun.

    Do you have people you can call for coaching, much like we can call you? Sometimes even the coach needs a coach. Because yeah, sometimes we just can’t see clearly.

  13. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    “I tell him that culturally it is farmer to tell kids the land is more important than relationships. ”

    The farm is what he does, who he is. This is what cello will be for Z. It is vocation vs. relationships.

  14. Denys
    Denys says:

    Its hard to tell ourselves the truth. Only one thing can come first in our lives. You picked kids. Before kids you picked career. Picking kids this time meant moving. The farmer picked the farm (career). It doesn’t mean you failed at marriage or the marriage failed, you just picked two different things to come first.

  15. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    “It took me three days to decide to move. The first day I knew it would be great for cello. But my older son would have to come with. And I felt hesitant to drag him along with us if it wasn’t best for him. My older son loves academics. And he loves working in-person, one-on-one with a tutor. But we couldn’t find tutors near our house. So he did some subjects online. But we hit a wall with chemistry. The tutor said problem sets are difficult to do online. And we hit a wall with the SAT tutor who said our connection on the farm is so slow that we are wasting our money on the tutoring.

    In Swarthmore I found a great biology tutor and an SAT tutor in one day. Local. In person. So easy. No driving for us. We interviewed chemistry tutors for two days. My son couldn’t believe how many choices he had. He was hooked. He wants tutors back to back all day long.

    We could argue the merits of this plan. But you can’t argue how much easier it is to get my kids what they need in Swarthmore than on the farm. The farm was a really great place to raise kids. But it’s a very limiting place for teenagers.

    Location is limiting to everyone. I guess families try to pick a location that presents the most opportunity for the most family members.”

    I’m posting the above as a reminder that this move is more than about one child and his cello lessons. There’s no doubt it’s the reason they’re in PA and can be argued it has happened sooner than later. Penelope also took into account the needs of her other son which I rarely see discussed here. It’s anyone’s guess if his academic needs could be met by staying on the farm. Evidently Penelope didn’t believe they could be. That left her needs and her relationship with the farmer. She made the decision to move and she’s doing her best to deal with the consequences of that decision. Also she made mention of how limiting it was for the boys to live on the farm at this time with their interests. As nice as the farm is to live and is missed by her, it was also limiting to her. Penelope is coaching people face to face and trying out new things now. It’s who she is and why many of us come back to read of her latest discoveries and adventures – even those that didn’t go according to plan. Penelope has written that she doesn’t do intimacy well enough. Maybe. I think it’s more a case of what I’ll call relationship adaptability – the ability of both partners to adapt to or overcome the ever changing and challenging scenarios that are encountered over time in the relationship.

  16. Alexandra Marie
    Alexandra Marie says:

    I know Melissa is your best friend…but, why you take advise from someone who never married and don’t have kids? You are guided by your intuition and you move because your children’s needs. You don’t want to feel regret in the future for not give your sons the tools for improvement in their lifes. It’s a hard choice but you will decide what its the one you think it’s the best. For me at least I never forgive myself if I didn’t do was best for my children. Even it is a high price like a divorce or separation for a partner. If you and the farmer are commited for each other it is going to work. I have friends with long distance relationship that works because the environment and community it’s the best for their kids. It’s your choice… and everyone should respect that. The plates, just donate them… and buy knew ones..

    • Tom
      Tom says:

      Your child is your child.

      And it’s not pc to say, but in 2017, farming is an asinine job for anyone but machines or those without alternatives (or citizenship.)

      There was no way in hell you were going to gimp your baby’s future so a grown man could slop a bunch of pigs.

      You made the right call.

  17. Pecunia
    Pecunia says:

    There is an inherent contradiction within doing long distance relationships in that what may really be objectively and financially the best option for a relationship can be so emotionally damaging for it at the same time.

    I did 2 years of long distance with my boyfriend while pursuing an advanced degree. Before I left, intelligent WOMEN have told me I was stupid and making a mistake to go after my dreams. They delicately implied that perhaps I was too old in my late twenties to take chances on an amazing guy; they assume he was going to get snatched up in a second after I move out.

    They were wrong. He visited me a lot, and now we are back together, and I am a lot happier for having switched careers. But those two years of long distance were tough, and I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

    I am also realizing that in my early 30s, many of my amazing friends are in long distance relationships across the country and across the sea. It often involves an ambitious woman who wants to maximize her opportunities (and she is getting a lot of them), and that opportunity doesn’t jive with the man who loves her dearly, but not enough to abandon his own dreams and preferences for her.

    So far I am seeing these long-distance relationships intact and in many cases, prospering. I guess we won’t really know what this will do to us ambitious GEN Y females until much later. Fingers crossed it works out.

  18. Tom
    Tom says:

    Your child is your child.

    And it’s not pc to say, but in 2017, farming is an asinine job for anyone but machines or those without alternatives (or citizenship.)

    There was no way in hell you were going to gimp your baby’s future so a grown man could slop a bunch of pigs.

    You made the right call.

    • Zellie
      Zellie says:

      This comment amazes me. It shows how perspectives can be so different. Anyway, it is based on giving a value to the other person’s choice of work. Kind of how some comments say classical cello isn’t worth it. The real challenge is to make decisions that honor both choices, even if we don’t understand the value. That’s difficult to do sometimes.

      • Tom
        Tom says:

        It’s not about what a given blog commenter values. It’s about what HER CHILD values.

        If her kid valued farming she never would have moved.

    • Cáit
      Cáit says:

      Tom, I agree with the idea that children are more important than second marriages, i was just struck by how strong your stance is. I wonder what your personal stake is in the idea. I sense you’re influenced by some real life experience. I mean that’s a good thing.

      • Tom
        Tom says:

        I don’t have a personal “stake”, but

        (1) my family background is urban & professional, not rural farming. (This is probably typical, these days.) Penelope always struck me as a 7 figure/year talent. Farming at the farmer’s scale afaik is high 5-figure/low six figure/year, but with the risk of making nothing in bad years. And I agree with the Penelope’s past observations that relationships where the woman vastly out-earns the man are unstable.

        (2) my parents would never in a million years have moved to support a talent I had, despite our Jewish background. (Asinine remark from the farmer there.) I see Penelope’s moving to support her kid as proof that she’s a great mom. Is she the farmer’s dream wifey? Who gives a shit? He’s in love with his patch of dirt; he’ll be ok.

        I haven’t read anything, ever, since Penelope met the Farmer that made it sound like there was anything great about the marriage. Sometimes there were pretty photos, but literally not once did I read anything that made me think “Ah, THAT’S why they’re together.” Instead, it always read like a yuppie’s escape fantasy that had gradually turned to shit.

  19. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    I don’t buy that Millennials have more depression. We have more DIAGNOSED depression. There is less resistance/stigma to receiving such a diagnosis in our age cohort.

    My partner and I have both struggled with depression. So have our fathers. My partner and I have no problem using the “depressed” label to describe what’s going on. Our fathers do not use this label to describe themselves. They do not seek treatment.

    I see this as a trend towards normalization rather than an actual increase in incidence.

    • Isabelle
      Isabelle says:

      This is so true. I’m another millennial with two parents who refuse to get adequate treatment for their mental illness, but have been working to treat my own depression (and, since having kids, anxiety) since I was 15.

  20. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Also, this stat is crazy!

    “Overall, 92 percent of employees have either high levels of stress with extreme fatigue/feeling out of control (60 percent) or constant but manageable stress levels (32 percent).”

  21. Marin
    Marin says:

    Obviously having a failed marriage is better writing material than having a successful one. Since you see that there is an issue but instead of addressing it with the one person that matters, you decide to write about it to a bunch of strangers while you run away from the source of the issue. This cello obsession is something for you to hide behind and has been a constant theme through all of your writings. Even getting rid of the BMW was preparation for you getting ready to uproot and run. You know what you are doing before you do it. Now you just need to ask yourself ‘why’.

  22. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Hello Penelope,
    I appreciate your willingness to share your life and work experience with others. If I was a close girlfriend I would ask you, “Why are you using the kids as a wedge?” as a complete stranger my question is more on the positive/polite side. “Could you not commit to the temporary-ness of moving for high school?” The kids will grow up and grow out and if the commitment is there from the beginning the return to the farm will happen before you realize. With continued conversation (albeit brief) and regular visits for forced communication the relationship can be maintained during this time of separation if the desire to do so is present. Not a marriage counselor, just sharing the thought I had after reading your last two posts.

  23. Lauren
    Lauren says:


    Here’s how I see it….

    You are doing the right thing. You are leaving a relationship which included physical abuse. You and your sons will do well in Swarthmore.

    If the relationship were worth saving, that’s where you’d be directing your energy. But you’re not. You know things are not right. You are taking this risk, but not letting go of your old life out of fear.

    Gather your things from the farm. Leaving stuff there is fear ruling your roost. Commit to your new life. Closing the door will be hard, but in time you’ll be happier for it. Work on implementing a clean break. Read The Baggage Reclaim.

    Keep fear in check. Decisions made out of fear are the enemy.
    Let go.
    If you can’t practice this stuff by yourself, see a therapist or life coach.

    The Farmer sticking you with a $30k bill is not surprising. Money is a way for him to maintain his plot line of “Penelope, you’re so hard to live with, you talk so much, ergo I’m not responsible for the shit I pull.” He blames you for being you – when he should be forgiving you for it – then leverages your flaws to say, “you owe me.” That is not healthy. Resist enabling him by changing your dance steps. Tell him you never agreed to a loan.

    My #1 antidote to fear = stay curious. During difficult transition/unknowns, I constantly reframe my fear and anxiety in language that values curiosity. Turns out, fostering a state of wonder is quite soothing.

    And you know how you say you want to be missed, and that’s why you haven’t left in the past? Well, my friend and I were chatting this weekend about how we miss you when you’re (understandably) not around as much… Always know that! We love and miss you!

  24. Mali
    Mali says:

    I just want to make a general comment because I am the only millennial at my company where I work with gen x and boomers. I go/went to therapy for anxiety/depression. The gen xer’s suck at relationships or are always harping about building relationships. The boomers are still going strong and looking a work/life beyond 70.

    Good to know that my worries are mostly generational and that other’s my age share similar worries.

  25. Debs
    Debs says:

    To be completely honest, I don’t agree with Melissa. And, if your son is truly talented, he will be successful at playing the cello anyway.

    Off-topic: I am happy you are writing again!

  26. Hazel
    Hazel says:

    You never seemed to like Wisconsin. Maybe it’s not just a lover/spouse, great house and garden that is important for happiness, but rather a community. If people live somewhere that has schools that fit their values they would homeschool. If people work at a places that fit their values they will be happy. If your home is in a community with people who share your values you will be happy. Good sex and a good house is probably not enough for happiness.

  27. MBL
    MBL says:

    All of these people are offering advice as to what PT should do, go back to the farm or stay in Swarthmore. Do we even know that going back to the farm is an option. I mean, is that actually still even on the table?

    If it is, (while you would need to be VERY clear that they wouldn’t have the final say–because they don’t need that kind of responsibility,) what do the boys want?

  28. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    How many boomers are working ? Boatloads . Supporting our version of the “parasite single ” 3 generations of families tucked into the same dwelling . Because gen x slacked . Boinking like rabbits . Putting tangible accessories first . Being victims of the 08 housing switcheroo. I wonder how many political seats in this country will be handed off from boomer to career obsessed millennials .

  29. blah
    blah says:

    I actually think you’re doing the right thing. Sometimes, the right choice is the hardest choice to make..You tell us all the time that we have to chase our careers, which is what you are doing for your son. If he is going to play professional cello or at least be involved in that world, he has to start leveraging himself to do so. Also, I don’t think that the relationship with the farmer is entirely ‘healthy’ so maybe this will test it. This break might be a good thing.
    Penelope, I admire you. Good luck, you pioneer woman!

  30. Kristie
    Kristie says:

    Here’s another perspective Penelope. Pretend you’re in the Navy. Your farmer is home and you see him 8 to 12 weeks maximum a year for the next 6 to 8 years. At that point your cello playing son will likely be at Julliard or some such elite program full time and you can “retire” back to the farm until you have grandkids that may need traveling parenting “or grand-parenting”. You join a large community of mariners and other remote workers that are away from spouses and families most of the year. You have a new strata of society to explore for your blogs. Your apartment becomes your “temporary ship” with only a few belongings and necessities. Leave the plates at home and enjoy the rare joy of eating off them on your rare visits home.

    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      I lived about 5200 K away from my wife for most of three years. I married the right woman, so that was no big deal. Love can conquer distance.

  31. Hjklmn
    Hjklmn says:

    Penelope, I would’ve loved to meet you in person at one point, but since there’s so much I left out during our coaching sessions, things I probably should’ve told you in hindsight, now you hate me and you think I’m stupid, and I’ve lost my desire to clear things up.

    I definitely think you should teach a writing course, but that’s just me. I dream of taking writing classes. Glad you’re posting. Always look forward to the next one.

  32. lindsey
    lindsey says:

    Your posts just keep getting better. Every time I think I’ve read the best one, you do another one that is so damn good. So much of this is so true!

    I was supported or pushed, however you want to look at it, to the top of an industry as a kid (worked with Olympic-level athletes). Of course, it totally backfired because I wrapped up my self-esteem with how I performed and that’s a downhill spiral. I haven’t touched the sport in 10 years. I still don’t know if I wasn’t right for it, or if I was just mismanaged. At the top level, it’s so easy to make tiny mistakes that have huge consequences, especially when you’ve got a sensitive kid. But, I have to say, that it taught me so much. I go to therapy because I STILL have big wounds, but I’m also grateful that it all happened. I feel like I lived a whole lifetime by 20. You’re giving your kid the chance of a lifetime and that’s amazing.

    Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think you could make the relationship work if you wanted to. It’s not that long of a flight. At some point, you have to let your kid take over his career and then everything changes.

    That’s the only thing I feel strongly about…as someone who went through this…the kids have to make their own independent decision to dedicate their life to their thing. They’ve got to have all the right pieces and want it more than anything in the world–you give up “normal life,” friends, holidays, vacations, everything. As a parent, you can make things happen to a point, but, there will be a moment, and you’ll know when it is, that you have to say, “this is your game now” and then just let it be. I don’t know how that feels as a parent—I’m guessing it’s SO freaking hard–but it probably saved my life. I’ve got a lot of friends that never got that moment, and most are in and out of rehab. I’ve got a friend who was the world champion, who now lives in a van with her husband… but she’s totally happy, so who knows? I live in a cabin in the woods, and I’m pretty happy, too. It will all work out. Good luck.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      lindsey, what an amazing perspective you have! Penelope always inspires some whackadoodle-tells-more-about-the-commenter-than-relates-to-the-post comments, but yours is actually introspective AND pertinent. I really enjoyed reading it.

  33. Scotti
    Scotti says:

    Yes! The past year I have drained my life savings on my second maternity leave and trying to figure out how to create a home based job that I actually want to do. I’m 38. Thanks for pointing out I’m right on track! Without occasional confirmation like this, the guilt and shame can get to me.

  34. Teaanimal
    Teaanimal says:

    Dear Penelope,

    I have followed your blog for about ten years now thanks to a recommendation or an ex and I am sorry for your recent disappointment.

    Although I am younger (millennial), I think the key to having a successful relationship is the ability to compromise. You have many great qualities but your ability to compromise and see life from another’s shoe, especially your partner, seems very limited. There is nothing wrong with having two failed marriages. However, if you want to have a successful relationship, then understanding that life is full of compromises is key.

    The cello lesson is symptomatic of your inability to compromise. Is it worth it? Hard for anyone to say as we don’t have the full story and scope to understand what the future holds. But to unilaterally make such a drastic move, for whatever ultimate reason that is, reflects more on you than your husband/ex partner and your children. And your inability to understand the consequence of such a move shows that you will need tougher lessons in the years ahead or get a partner who will succumb to your whims.

    This is something that I observe from my friends who are in their late thirties and have “troubles” finding mates despite being beautiful, successful and having a great personality. They choose men who are unavailable and when they get men that are they will not compromise to get what they want (or not know what they want).

    Maybe you don’t need a husband/partner as you seem very supported by a wide range of people and have children. But life is cruel and the one thing that my best friend told me that is a great life lesson after our graduation is, “Being an adult is accepting that life is full of compromises.”

    I will continue to treasure your posts and hope you are happy/content regardless of your relationship status. And I hope you figure out what you want of life and get it. Carpe diem Penelope!!!

  35. Emily
    Emily says:

    Thanks for your honest post. It’s nice to hear other people struggle because everything put out on social media is typically perfectly filtered. Approaching 30, I feel like I’m finally finding my identity, though still evolving. In the end, we have got to take the best opportunities in front of us. The fun part of life is trial and error. The rest will fall into place. And if not, like you said, we pick up the pieces.

  36. Ancee Rice
    Ancee Rice says:

    I find myself reading again and again.
    I like the way word after word just makes me sad and expectant and happy and thankful.

    I totally agree with Emily there, to say the fun part of life is trial and error.

  37. Alana Laufman
    Alana Laufman says:

    “It’s so hard to see ourselves.” 100% truth. This is why I don’t toss out all unsolicited advice. There is usually a core of truth that I don’t want to see. I analyze and act on any new revelations.

      ANCEE RICE says:

      true. Somehow, we know it yet we dont want to know that we know it, and end up analysing what to see of ourselves. 100% of our truth is not brought out to ourselves most moments…
      I like this observation.

  38. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    I am part of Generation Y, I can honestly say that I am depressed. They say that Generation Y will never achieve what their parents achieved in the prior years. I’m sincerely hoping that isn’t true.

  39. park worli
    park worli says:

    Life is a very depressing thing in the world. There you are a 12 year old, in seventh grade going to school and then you suddenly realize that you’re 22, it never ends. I’m 19 now and right now I being 16, few years later I’ll miss being 19. It sucks Penelope.

    ANCEE RICE says:

    Penelope, come to the Zimbabwean women.
    We definately will benefit from such your wisdom.
    You have a broad way of seeing and making others see life, interesting and very encouraging.

  41. Naveen Kumar
    Naveen Kumar says:

    I think this is totally associated to quantum physics because if you look in quantum physic it’s all about sprituality and sprituality tells : each & every thing in this world is made up of energy! each person radiating his/her own energy whether is positive or negative and worrying is also a energy but its negative & it affects human future but not only just future beacause when people emitting worrying energy for their future they are spoiling their present too & every body knows If you won’t improve your present then your future come with your distruction..

    ANCEE RICE says:

    You are such a legend to look up to Penelope.
    I like your gift and heart to reach out and intervene for others. Thumbs up, yes!

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