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Tell Me About It | by Carolyn Hax

Daddy as career counselor? Just say 'no'

Daddy's professional advice unsolicited, unnecessary

Q: I am 28 and married. My father feels I am wasting my time and skills in a job that pays so poorly (high school English teacher). He thinks I ought to go to law school, like my cousins. I've been teaching for four years, and while it hasn't been easy, I'm really passionate about it and feel as though I'm making a difference. My parents frequently go on cruises, and each time I'm bombarded with tales of people they've met who are successful in business, law, etc. Presumably, the intent is to encourage me to pick something else. How do I handle my father's nitpicking in a respectful way?

Stressed in California

A: My arguing your worth to you is as far beside the point as your arguing your worth to Daddy. Your profession is your business, not his. While it's certainly nice to bask in parental approval, a functioning adult certainly also knows it's not necessary.

So, stop giving him traction. Ask him, once, to please respect your choice and stop pressuring you. For any further meddling, it's "Appreciate the concern," change subject (or, for cruise anecdotes, "How nice for these people," change subject). Daddy loses more than you do, ultimately, from his refusal to see who you are.

Worrying about worrying should ease with time

Q: I am a first-year law student. After an exam, I spend all my time worrying that I got the worst grade in the class. When I know I made mistakes, I panic. How can I be okay with not getting good grades without thinking my life is ruined?


A: Some of it will take time; specifically, time spent making mistakes which you then come to realize haven't ruined your life.

Some of it will take adjustments to your behavior. Learn to occupy your mind right after exams — good books, favorite shows, friends, exercise. Line up distractions.

Some of it will take broader recognition that worrying betrays a need for control. Address this by making strict distinctions between things you can and can't change.

Some of it may be clinical. If neither time nor tricks blunt your panic, then it's time for a screening, to rule out an anxiety disorder.

If you grit your teeth and suffer, be sure it's for a good reason

Q: I despise my job. I've made a list of my options, and my only viable option is to stick it out a couple of years until I have the experience necessary to transfer to another job. How do I summon the strength when this job affects every other aspect of my life? It's all I can do some days to hang on.


A: First, make sure you distinguish between "only viable option" and "only option that I am equipped to envision." You want your misery to be in service of a worthy goal, not just in service of limited thinking.

If your reasoning holds and you resolve to stick with it, then you, too, can benefit from calculated distractions. Dot your calendar with motivators, the more regular the better — exercise classes, season tickets or subscriptions, TV series, standing dates, short vacations. Anything your wallet and schedule can withstand (and that isn't self-medicating). You can jump to these rewards, one after another, until you're safely across the stream.


Daddy as career counselor? Just say 'no'

05/27/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2008 4:20pm]
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