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Advice is like insurance: you invest in someone by revealing your biggest secrets, challenges and situations in exchange for an opinion of what to do or how to respond. You risk your confidentiality for potential help in the future. If the insurance fails you, you lose a bit, but if it saves you, it has the ability to protect your reputation, relationships and habits. 

This pertains to all types of advice; it is undoubtedly a valid resource, and somewhat of a necessity. No matter the age, circumstance or expertise of the person you ask, a second opinion is valuable. As humans, we are stubborn. We often struggle seeing perspectives that differ from our own. For the same reason why politicians are encouraged to look at issues from the other side, and why doctors and therapists seek second opinions, people should seek out opinions besides their own.

Sometimes we need motivation or clarity. Other times we need direction or reassurance that we’re not crazy. Others, we need an abrupt slap back into reality. No matter the depth of the situation at hand, the answer is simple: confide in someone else for advice. 

With mental health declining, we often hear the phrase, “talk to someone.” We tell children that they should find a trusted adult who they can talk to about their emotions and experiences. Why does that change as we mature? As life becomes more complex, shouldn’t we receive more help rather than less?

The problem is that when situations become more complicated, the stakes increase and the cost of investment makes the entire process less enticing. Would my friends approve of what my partner did last Thursday night? Do I really want my roommate to know I failed my econ test? I’d embarrass myself if I told anyone that I haven’t called my sister in three weeks since our fight. 

Now that things have changed from “Mom, how do I make these cookies while also avoiding burning the house down?” to more complex and personal topics, it’s more difficult to build up the courage to ask for help. The question arises: is difficult advice worth the cost of an expensive insurance policy?

The simple answer is yes. However, students have an undeniable flaw: the intuition that it is “embarrassing” to ask for help. It could be the internal pride we fear destroying, or the competitive environment society has fostered. Either way, the harsh truth is that you’re never going to be equipped to handle every situation better on your own. We are all happier people when we can utilize others’ expertise and differing perspectives to better ourselves. The reality is that no one is going to be the best or most qualified at everything. The beauty of the world lies in our diverse talents and strengths that we can use to benefit one another.

But this time, you don’t have to ask someone you know. It’s being brought to you; you just have to inquire. Journalists saw the investment of advice unnecessary, and therefore created, in my slightly biased opinion, a brilliant idea: the advice column. Newspapers eliminated the risk of divulging confidential personal information with this system. Individuals anonymously requested advice from experts, who would then publish a column that described the individual’s problem and offered them advice. Advice columnists hoped to not only help the individual, but also to serve the greater community, which may be dealing with similar problems.] Advice columns combat the multiple risks associated with reaching out for help, making them an excellent resource for the paper’s entire audience.

Abby Van Buren, a pseudonym taken by Pauline Phillips, called her advice platform “Dear Abby”. She addressed addiction, parenting, family drama, mental health, confidence, abuse, financial troubles, dealing with exes and everything in between. “Dear Abby” is famous for helping readers navigate complex situations with full confidentiality. All advice has the potential to help all readers, and advice columns take the burden of keeping your deepest secrets off of your close connections

With that, I introduce Dear Lindsey: an advice column catered to college students and the Ann Arbor community. We will address time management, dating, mental health, social media, friendships and more. This column is the advice you have always needed, only this time you don’t have to risk telling anyone in your life.

There’s nothing more disappointing than confessing your secrets to someone, only to receive a vague response and have them conclude that the investment into your problem is not worth it. Instead, let me give you all the advice you need — or even the advice you didn’t know was necessary — from Lindsey. 

Submit your questions here!

Lindsey Zousmer is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at lzousmer@umich.edu