The Helpful, Hurtful and Hellish: Uncalled for Family Advice from the Oltons

3 Sep

The Oltons are my father’s extended family.  No, we’re not talking about cousins, uncles and grandparents.  This is far beyond your typical Thanksgiving dinner crowd.  These are firsts and seconds once removed.  These are the sort of relatives you discover through facebook and funerals.  These are the sort of relatives you could marry in any of the fifty states, if you wanted to.  Not that I’d recommend it.

So every summer my father hosts the Olton reunion at the lake.  There is hiking, swimming, eating and gossiping.  The Oltons write self-published books, sail around the world, make their own limonchello, and narrate the inevitable and absolutely endless photo slideshow.

So, naturally, I spent the weekend receiving all sorts of advice.  Because it would be selfish of me to keep such wisdom to myself, I intend to share a selection with you.  I promise only to editorialize a little, and only in italics.  Enjoy!

Name:  Michael

Age:  old  (Couldn’t resist, dad)

Occupation:  Professor

Career Advice:  Plug in your computer. Don’t take any wooden nickels.

Name:  Barbara

Age:  39  (I don’t know about the accuracy here)

Occupation:  none

Career Advice:  When the right thing comes along, you will know it.  (Hopefully it will be that easy …)

Name:  Faith

Age:  67

Occupation:  retired high school English teacher

Career Advice:  Well, it’s a different world today than the one in which I sought jobs, but I would hope you follow your heart.  Think of a good place to live, either for friends or gorgeous terrain, then find something to do to support yourself.  Hopefully that is fun , absorbing … and lucrative (enough).  Good luck and remember that Americans can reinvent themselves endlessly!!  (Sounds good to me)

Name:  Claude

Age:  68, I think, but it isn’t important any more.

Occupation:  Retired Park Engineer

Career Advice: I like Faith’s idea of finding a fun place to live, then trying to find a way to be useful.   I decided that the National Park Service had all of the best places locked up, so I went to work there.  That may be 1970 thinking; today you need to find your own “product”.

Name:  Judy

Age:  72

Occupation:  Retiree

Career Advice:  It is perfectly permissible to postpone reality until you are prepared to deal with it.  (But when does postponing reality become fear of committing to the search and figuring out the rest of your life?)

Name:  Connie

Age:  68 (soon), but who is counting?

Occupation:  Retired Health Inspector

Career Advice:  Keep all of your options open. Try them all if you wish. Life is a journey with lots of opportunities along the way. In my day, we thought that everyone should choose a career and stick with it. Today, we know that in one’s lifetime there is room for several careers. Do the daring, carefree things while you are free to do so. Later, there maybe other responsibilities that will limit you ability to experiment.  (Bummer for real adulthood, have fun while you still can?)

Name:  Chuck

Age:  Ancient

Occupation:  out to pasture

Career Advice:  Remember this: your first job won’t be your last, and your last job will be nothing like your first (you can afford to take a chance on the first and be wrong).  (So take chances, try new things, have no fear!)

Name: Holly

Age: 35

Occupation:  Art Conservator

Career Advice:  Do something you love – make sure it is fulfilling intellectually, financially and creatively.  Of course the reality is that you might not meet all of those goals but, if at the end of the day you can say that you are happy, you’re doing alright.

Name:  Jim

Age:  38

Occupation:  IT Specialist (I fix computers)

Career Advice:  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  Do something you love – if someone wont pay you to do it, find a way to start doing it yourself.  Build a network of friends and coworkers in your field of interest.  Avoid a cubicle at all costs. If you do end up in a corporate environment, don’t be afraid to speak up about things that can improve but stay constructive.  Whatever you end up doing for work, make sure you balance it out with whatever interests you enjoy outside of work.

Name:  Claire

Age:  26

Occupation: Development for the American Heart Association

Career Advice:  You are young, do what you love.  The years after college and before you “start a career” are priceless and you can never take them back.  Travel, do odd jobs, feel things out.  If you fall into a profession that you love, CONGRATUALTIONS! When you finally feel you need to settle down and get a “real job” make sure it is in a city you love.  Make sure you work for a company that you believe in and a place that makes you happy 2 days out of 5.  But, in terms of looking for jobs, don’t be ashamed and use your family contacts!  Everyone does!  It doesn’t belittle your talents or your merits!  Good luck and you can always call for support.  (Wise for a young-un, eh?)

Name:  Rose

Age:  17

Occupation:  Student (Such a cute Freshman)

Career Advice: Never get a job! Enjoy being unemployed! I’ve never worked and enjoyed every minute of it!  (So easy for those in college to say)

Don’t like what you see here? Stay tuned for part two, advice from the Winikers, on my mother’s side.


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