Credit: Jade Zhang/Xtra; Courtesy Rachel Woroner
Ask Kai: Advice for the Apocalypse
3 min

Seven questions with Xtra’s new advice columnist, Kai Cheng Thom

“Ask Kai: Advice for the Apocalypse” is a column to help you survive and thrive in a challenging world

We’re welcoming Kai Cheng Thom on board as our new advice columnist for “Ask Kai: Advice for the Apocalypse.” In preparation for the launch, we’ve asked her a few questions about her column, the best advice she’s ever been given and what you can expect from “Ask Kai.”

Can you start off by telling us a little about yourself?

I’m a writer, performer, creative arts facilitator and former therapist. I also love lasagna, young-adult literature, psychology and anything related to witchcraft. I have little-to-no faith in humanity as a species, but I deeply believe in the potential of individuals to be compassionate and courageous.

Xtra is super excited to have you on board as a columnist! How do you feel?

I’m also super excited! But I’m a little nervous because, as my favourite neighbourhood Spider-Man says, “With great power comes great liability . . .” Or something like that. On the serious side, I feel really blessed to have the chance to connect with readers in this very direct and public way. As a society, I think we need more opportunities to think through personal questions in a public forum because we are all, on some level, struggling with the same big challenges: how to be good, how to be brave, how to navigate life, love and loss in a terrifying world.

Why did you choose the title “Ask Kai: Advice for the Apocalypse”?

“Advice for the Apocalypse” was inspired by many conversations with fellow queer folks — especially the lunchroom and water cooler conversations I had at my former workplace, which was a mental health centre for youth. We were a group of therapists, child and youth workers, social workers and outreach workers, and we spent our entire workdays supporting folks and giving various kinds of advice while we were also all grappling with the hard reality of the changing world: he resurgence of fascism in political leadership, the exponentially increasing impact of climate change and environmental degradation. We were supposed to be confident, competent adults — people who had the answers — but, in fact, we were all confused, even frightened, in the face of such enormous global realities. This made me realize that most people — even those who appear to have their shit together, whose job it is to have their shit together — often feel the same way.

What are some of your favourite advice columns?

I love Carly Boyce’s “Ask a Feelings-Witch” and Morgan M Page’s “Courting Disaster,” both of which are published in GUTS magazine. I might catch some flak for this next one, but I also really like Dan Savage’s “Savage Love,” though I strongly disagree with some of his past takes on bisexuality and gender identity.

What separates “Ask Kai: Advice for the Apocalypse” from other columns?

Unlike other advice columns which are often about how to fit into the status quo or how to ignore the political context of the questions being asked, “Advice for the Apocalypse” comes from a place of radical love and compassion, as well as a radical political stance that acknowledges the realities of the systemic oppression and global crises that we are currently living through. You can also look forward to insights and guest spots from other contemporary writers, thinkers and healers in the social justice movement! This column relays ideas from psychology, sociology and spirituality  in plain language to try to help you on your journey to survive and thrive in a challenging world.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Someone once told me that we’re all going to die anyway, so we might as well choose the hill we’re going to die on. That’s always stuck with me in a really profound way. In other words, we know that life won’t always be easy — and it might not even be long — but our lives can always be meaningful if we find ways to give them meaning.

What’s your advice-giving style?

I’ve been really influenced by my years as a community worker and therapist — which means that I strongly believe in the power of unconditional love. I want this to come through in the advice I give, even when writing a response to an anonymous question. I like to try to put myself in the other person’s shoes (while acknowledging that each person’s situation is unique) and really dig in deep, from a number of different angles. This isn’t tough love advice — this is deep love advice.