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DEAR HARRIETTE: I just recently got my driver’s license and posted about it on Instagram. I’m one of the first in my grade to get it. Now, new people who I’ve never even talked to are reaching out for plans. I’ve always had trouble making friends, so it feels nice to be wanted. I just can’t help but think it has something to do with wanting a ride. How do I make sure the people reaching out aren’t just using me for my license? — Feeling Used
DEAR FEELING USED: Your post served as an invitation to your peers — at least to some of them. Sure, some may be looking at you opportunistically to get a ride. As long as you are clear about that, you may be able to use this moment to expand your friend group.
Look at the people who have reached out to you. Who among them is interesting to you? Who would you like to get to know better? Choose to respond privately to those who you find interesting and agree to do an activity together. See how it works. If the person is thoughtful and inclusive at whatever activity you two choose, repeat. If not, move on without getting your feelings hurt. Indeed, if the person dumps you at an event and really just used you to get there, let that person know that you are leaving at a particular time and they can find their own way home.
It may take some time before you figure out who is worth hanging out with, but you can approach it as an adventure. You have the car, so you can set the rules. For those who don’t want to follow your rules, you’ll see them in your rearview mirror.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Ever since COVID-19 shut down the airports, my family and I haven’t traveled as much. We used to go all the time to Florida, Massachusetts and Maine. The time spent away from my hometown helped to clear my brain and recenter my thoughts. When I asked my mom about traveling, she said it wasn’t in this year’s budget. I know it’s selfish, but I was really counting on having some time to reflect in a different state and get away from my worries. What should I do? — COVID-19 Tales
DEAR COVID-19 TALES: You have to real- ize that the effects of COVID-19 on many families was far greater than not being able to leave the house. Many families felt the impact in their wallets. Thousands of people lost their jobs or faced reduced incomes. Who knows what happened to your family, but trust that if your regular routine has been interrupted, it’s for a reason. As your mother told you, traveling is not in this year’s budget. Trust her when she tells you that. I’m sure it pains her to say it out loud, especially if it has been your norm.
What you can do to lighten your spirit is to get outside! In many states, you are now free to spend time outside without a mask. Explore your neighborhood, your city, your old haunts. Rediscover friendships that bring you joy. Don’t wallow in self-pity. Create hap- piness. You can do it!