Ali Sethi is a Lahore-born writer and musician. A graduate of Harvard College, he is the author of the acclaimed debut novel ‘The Wish Make
r’ and a contributor to The New York Times op-ed page. Ali is also a classically trained vocalist. We discuss differences between intellectual activity and performance, differences in masculinity across cultures and how he draws inspiration from the Sufi tradition to encourage multiple perspectives and interpretations.
Our advice question this week:
So my problem concerns my friends from college. We were housed together freshman year and none of us had a lot in common. But I actually loved the fact that we all had different personality types and interests and values. I grew close to them and still keep in close touch with most of them. But over a decade since we’ve graduated, these differences — especially the differences in values —have come to grate on me. For one, while I pursued a career in non profit social justice work, most of them went into corporate and tech careers. I make way less money than they do, and when we meet up for dinner, they always choose expensive places that I can’t really afford. They see themselves as carefree and fun-loving and never seem to be aware that these dinners put a serious strain on me financially. I protest sometimes, but I am tired of being the grumpy downer complaining about money.
What’s even more frustrating is the fact they see themselves as caring people but seem unwilling to do anything to back that up - including supporting me emotionally, logistically or financially in the non-profit startup I founded.
It would be sad to lose those friendships. I’ve been friends with these guys for literally half of my life. But their lack of support for me and my work has made me question why I’m still bothering to stay friends with them. In college, the fact that we shared so little in common was appealing — now it’s maddening. Should I ditch these guys and try to make friends with more like minded people? If I do that, won’t I just be stuck in a bubble?
Grumpy in Gowanus
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