Life Advice



Ask Amy: Exiting with some well-worn wisdom

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Readers: Since announcing my departure from writing this syndicated column, I have heard from scores of people across various platforms, thanking me for more than two decades of offering advice and wishing me well in my “retirement.” I am very touched and grateful for this outpouring of support.

The thing is – I don’t think of myself as retiring.

I have led a constant, reliable life. I will read even the worst book to the last page. I have never voluntarily left a relationship, an obligation, or any employment.

(I can barely stand to leave a room!)

But I’m leaving this seven-day-a-week commitment – because I want to, and because it’s time.

My intention is to move on and to do other meaningful work.

Writing this column has given me a glimpse into thousands of lives.

The insight I have gained has inspired and empowered me to listen to my own counsel, to be authentic in my actions, and to – basically – be in charge of my own life, as much as possible.

Showing myself the door at this moment reflects the privilege of good health, strong relationships, years of steady employment, and some prudent financial choices. I’m very aware of how lucky I am.

My favorite way to envision this work is to picture families reading these columns together at the breakfast table and weighing in with their own points of view before reading mine.

And yes, there are still parents and grandparents out there who clip the newspaper and send pertinent columns to kids in college or summer camp, or tape it to refrigerators and bathroom mirrors.

I’ve heard from healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters and office workers who say they discuss the issues raised in the column in the break room.

I love knowing that, and I’ll miss having coffee with you.

The questions raised in this space have been used as teaching tools in middle schools, memory care units, ESL classes and prisons. These are perfect venues to discuss ethical, human-sized dilemmas.

On my last day communicating with you in this way, I feel compelled to try to sum up my experience by offering some lasting wisdom, but I’ve got no fresh insight. Everything I know has been distilled from wisdom gathered elsewhere.

Boxer Mike Tyson famously said, “Everybody has a plan, until they get punched ….” Punches are inevitable. But I do believe I’ve learned some universal truths that might soften the blows.

They are:

Show up for people.

Be gentle with yourself – and with others.

Lead with kindness, and recognize kindness when you receive it.

Reserve your harshest judgment. Sit on your worst thoughts about other people and consider the consequences before expressing them.

Be of service by finding something, or someone, to take care of.

Find creative ways to express your feelings.

Admit to your faults and failings, and resolve to do better.

Ask for forgiveness.

Work hard not to be defined by the worst things that have happened to you.


Recognize even the smallest blessings and express gratitude.

Be kind to receptionists, restaurant servers, dental hygienists, and anyone who needs to physically touch or serve you in order to do their job.

Understand that there are times when it is necessary to give up.

Spend time in nature.

Identify, develop, or explore your core ethical and/or spiritual beliefs.

Recognize and detach from your own need to control someone else.

Respect boundaries – yours and others’.

Seek the counsel of people who are wiser than you are. Ask their advice, and listen.

I sometimes supply “scripts” for people who have asked me for the right words to say, and so I thought I would boil these down to some of the most important statements I believe anyone can make.

They are:

I need help.

I’m sorry.

I forgive you.

I love you, just as you are.

I’m on your side.

You’re safe.

You are not alone.

Now that I’m near the end of my movie, I hope you’ll pay attention to the end credits.

Many thanks to Chicago friends and colleagues, including Jim Warren, who found me, Ann Marie Lipinski, who hired me, Steve Mandell, who represented me, and editors Mary Elson, Bill O’Connell and Carrie Williams. Thank you to “Gentleman Jack” Barry, who softened my exit.

And especially to Tracy Clark, a talented novelist who has helped to correct my faulty thinking and grammar for many years.

Finally, much gratitude to faithful readers, who can find me on social media and through my regular newsletter.



(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

©2024 Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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