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Take control of life by figuring out how to support yourself

Q: I am a 19-year-old college student who is home for the summer. At my father's insistence, I found a menial summer job at a fast-food joint. I had been offered a summer research position in my field of study, but my parents did not allow me to take it because it is located halfway across the country.

While I am upset about the internship, I am absolutely miserable at the job I ended up taking. My co-workers are very nasty, the hours are long and I'm on my feet the whole time, and my shifts are given to me only a few days in advance, thus leaving me with no time to plan fun activities during the summer. I want to reduce my hours so I can enjoy some well-deserved free time, but my father is forcing me to work almost every day of the week.

I am so stressed out that I am finding it difficult to sleep, and I am extremely depressed.

Where do I go from here? I have tried to find a new job, but nobody seems to be hiring. My dad knows how miserable I am, but when I alerted him that I was thinking of quitting, he screamed at me to the point where I just curled up in my room and cried for an entire day.

Miserable in the Midwest

A: If your father isn't a bully, then he sure is acting like one.

And to resolve a situation with someone who is/acts like a bully, your best course isn't to zoom in on the situation itself, but instead to zoom out far enough to address the full scope of the problem.

Translation: The solution isn't to fix the summer job, it's to position yourself beyond your father's control. You're a legal adult already, of course, but as a student I imagine you're financially beholden to your dad, thus your need to accede to his wishes on the internship — stunningly short-sighted wishes, I should add.

If I were to advise "Pay your own tuition and support yourself," it would likely seem impossible, so I'll break the elephant into small bites. Put in a call to your school's financial aid office (and counseling service, if possible; your description of your dad's response looks like emotional abuse to me). Talk to a mentor in your field if you have one, and find one if you don't, to see if there's scholarship money for talented students; that internship suggests you fit that description. Use those unplanned days off to figure out if any combination of scholarships, loans, scrimping and a job during the school year can free you to make your own choices. These concrete actions alone have the power to alleviate a lot of your current frustration.

Then, on your work days, work. While I don't wish a miserable job on anyone, a miserable job with an expiration date — when there's a brighter future coming soon — is the kind of experience that replaces whining with perspective down the road, when you'll need toughness you can't yet foresee.

Take control of life by figuring out how to support yourself 06/25/13 [Last modified: Monday, June 24, 2013 1:07pm]
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