There are so many times that advice is offered in life. When someone is embarking on something new, advice can be a grand gesture, often a wish and a hope of good things to come, more than practicality. Advice can be a rallying cry, friends who help shore up our resolve to adjust our aim, be brave, and try again. It can come from a place of regret, our attempts to help others avoid our own past misfortunes, words to steer a loved one around the rocky outcrops of life’s hurts.
Similarly, there are many reasons we choose to take or ignore advice. It may be a life preserver, words we cling to in an effort to keep afloat through storms we’re not certain we can weather. Advice can be unwanted, a knock to our sense of independence or adventure. It can seem like a barrier to our drive to discover and learn from our own mistakes. There are times when advice is just too close to the truth. Sometimes we simply aren’t ready.
In Pathogen, book two in the Dr. Kate Morrison Investigation series, Kate is struggling. Her life has changed dramatically since meeting Sgt. Andy Wyles. She would rather spend her time thinking about the incredible woman she has fallen in love with than the recent life-threatening incident with a deranged, self-proclaimed doctor. Or the fact that it brought up memories of her past and the heartache of losing her sister. When Kate is asked to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak in the wealthy and highly political town of Hidden Valley, British Columbia, Kate ignores Andy’s advice that maybe she should take a moment and think about everything she’s been through. Kate wants to focus on her patients and solve the mystery of a virus that isn’t acting like a virus. Kate wants to work with Andy and the RCMP as they investigate a potential bioterrorism threat. Kate does not want to stop and think about events and memories that hurt.
Like most people in life, there are times I seek out advice and times I am too stubborn or unwilling to accept advice, regardless of how badly I am in need of guidance. Here are just a few pieces of advice that stick with me.
My wife leads by example when it comes to advice, particularly in the area of failure. From Jen’s perspective, to fail is to discover the first attempt in learning. Failure is not something to avoid and it certainly isn’t something to be frightened of. For me, someone who wants to avoid that sinking feeling of failure at all cost, Jen’s continued lived example is a gentle reminder that failure is a first step and it can be as gleeful and magical as success.
A few years ago, my colleague David texted me some advice. He said “Tinker, Jess. Tinker.” Similar to Jen’s view on failure, David’s encouragement was to continue to find moments of exploration and adventure in our everyday lives. It’s a reminder that there is more than one way to solve a problem and sometimes the best solutions come from fiddling and tinkering and playing.
One of the most recent pieces of life advice I received was during this past summer’s Olympic Games. I love watching women’s soccer but I also find it stressful. My friend Katie told me, “Dude, always pre-pay the swear jar.” This advice makes sense to me. It’s a reminder that sometimes, despite our best plans and intentions, the wheels are going to come off and we’re going to struggle. In those moments we can grab a beer, find a friend, and curse to our heart’s content knowing the swear jar has been pre-paid. Tomorrow is always new day.
In Pathogen, there are a lot of reasons Kate is not ready for Andy’s advice. Like any of us, Kate is doing the best she can in a life filled with moments of joy and love as well as pain and heartache. Even as we want to echo Andy’s advice to Kate to simply stop and breathe and take some time to think, we know we cannot make others listen. There are times we cannot make ourselves listen. We carry on, we listen and learn, we watch out for each other, and we try again.