Ask Amy: Amy says, ‘I’ll see myself out’

Dear Readers: After 21 years writing the “Ask Amy” column, I’m announcing that I’m leaving this space. My final column will run at the end of June.

I’m healthy, happy, and 64 years old. This is a decision I’ve been wrestling with for more than a year.

When I was first hired by the Chicago Tribune to write an advice column after Ann Landers’ death, I was a middle-age, single mother. My daughter, Emily, and I moved from our long-time home in Washington, D.C., and relocated to Chicago.

My welcome to Chicago was to deliver a solo performance of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in front of 35,000 baseball fans during the seventh-inning stretch of a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

This turned out to be a metaphor for my experience writing this column, which has been an exuberant and sometimes nerve-wracking effort of trying to hit the right notes before a huge audience.

After several great years in Chicago, Emily left for college and I moved back to my tiny hometown of Freeville, N.Y., (pop. 505), to spend time with my sisters, aunts and cousins, and to be with my mother at the end of her life.

My experiences have mirrored those of many of my readers. For me, these last two decades have been about the intensity and consequences of both love and loss.

After returning home, I promptly tumbled into a Hallmark Channel plotline, when I fell in love with and quickly married a man I’ve known since childhood (we grew up on neighboring dairy farms). My husband Bruno and I then blundered into the oftentimes awkward blending of our family of five daughters.

I became a stepmother, and then a grandmother, all before I believed I was ready.

My mother and her three wonderful sisters are gone now. A niece and nephew died, tragically, while in their teens. Much of my recent life has been absorbed by caregiving, mourning, and recovery.

Day in, day out – over the last two decades – readers have generously shared their own vulnerabilities about many of our common experiences. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to help each other.

I’ve burned through eight laptops, opened bushels of postal mail, written columns in the car, on planes, in hospital waiting rooms, on my honeymoon, and at my mother’s bedside. During this time, I’ve also written two books, a screenplay, and scores of essays.

Doing this work has sent me into therapy. It has inspired me to explore the teachings of world religions, and to seek the insight of thinkers like Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung. I’ve quoted the wisdom of Maya Angelou, Joni Mitchell and Fred Rogers, as well as dozens of poets, social scientists and psychologists.

I’ve made my share of mistakes, been well-pranked – at least twice (that I know of), and learned how to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and to forgive other people for their own mistakes. Inspired by readers’ dilemmas, I’ve also worked hard to mend fractured family relationships and to be a better friend.

My personal experiences are a reminder that we humans can’t really control what happened before or what happens next. Joy, like grief, comes at you in such unexpected ways. That’s why it is so important to pay attention. I’ve learned to do that.

Being an advice-giver has challenged me to be aware of cultural, social, and relationship trends – and to appreciate the quirks of human behavior.

When readers get frustrated by my lengthy answers to sometimes petty problems, they will often suggest that I should just tell people to “get a life!,” but I think that wrestling with our questions – from the quotidian to the profound – is living.

For the next month, I’ll continue to publish fresh columns and rerun some favorites. After that, my fantasy is to drive an RV across the country, visiting people I’ve met through this work who have challenged me and tantalized readers with their anonymous requests for advice.

In my hometown, I’m opening a little lending library. You can find me on social media, through my Asking Amy newsletter, at, or at the Freeville Literary Society on Main Street – talking books with kids and offering advice to anyone who asks.

I’m delighted to make way for your newest advice-giver: R. Eric Thomas, whose “Asking Eric” column will continue to foster the engaging relationship we’ve shared. Eric is young, smart, and a talented advice-giver – formerly of the Dear Prudence column.

You can help Eric get started by sending your questions to [email protected].