Dear Straight Talk: My parents have always dominated my life. I’m a junior at a college I hate. I play college sports and a musical instrument I’d rather not play. I’ve never worked, being too busy being “enriched.” I sound spoiled, but I’m actually depressed and seeing a counselor. My parents are not bad people, they are just intent on my success and I feel enormous pressure to not disappoint them. My life has been so hyper-organized, I don’t know how to go about finding my own passion. Please help. — “Lisa”
Kira, 20: If you’re really this unhappy, do something about it! Your parents should love you and respect your decisions, ultimately. Think about future work, your dreams, travel, anything. Ban all “dad-wouldn’t-approve” statements. Write everything down, no censoring!
Katelyn, 18: Socializing, studying abroad, or joining a cause will teach you more about yourself than your instrument and sports team — so drop those. They’re too stressful! Write down what you enjoy or are good at — and everything else, too. Have your counselor explain to your parents why their actions are subversive, not beneficial, to your life. If they insist on pressurizing you, limit contact.
Molly, 21: Have you spoken with them about this? My advice is to take classes you wouldn’t normally take. Or take a semester off and work. Who cares if you don’t graduate “on schedule”? You might discover what you actually enjoy. After graduation, exploring is harder.
Brandon, 21: When parents dominate someone’s life after 18, that person is usually being financed. But financial help (often to turn us into “little them”) can be helpful. That’s where negotiation comes in. Don’t break your unhappiness to them like you want to drop out. Have an idea of subjects you like and future work. Be practical, too. For instance, my girlfriend hates college, yet she wants the “house of her dreams” so she avoided majors that lead to Dollar Store employment. I hope you find your passion. My parents stuck me on sports teams I didn’t enjoy either. Once in college, I discovered crocheting.
Taylor, 15: You’ve never felt passion because you haven’t discovered it yet. Start with a goal as simple as “try one new thing a day.” It could be walking a different route, a spontaneous road trip, or an adventurous class (spin, cooking, photography, etc.). Explore and have fun.
Brennan, 19: Travel is an amazing way to turn life around. Your parents can probably afford it and it’s an easy pitch since it’s “enriching.” Once you’re there, ditch the planned itinerary and just live.
Nicole, 23: Your life’s work should involve your greatest effort and focus. Only you can discover what that is. Listen to your heart, pay attention to what intrigues you, and/or makes you smile.
Justin, 26: I was once told that life is empty and meaningless and when you understand that, happiness follows. A blank canvas has only possibilities. Try things you’ve never tried, hang out with people you never imagined hanging out with. You are an empty vase and can put whatever flowers in there you want. If those flowers get old, throw them out and try new ones. You didn’t miss the manual, everyone is as lost as you. Big secret: That’s OK. Just try things out and quit over-thinking.
Dear Lisa: Congratulations. In your situation, unhappiness is a sign of good mental health. In addition to the panel’s great advice, have your counselor teach you standing-up-for-yourself skills. Also, take personality tests. They are fun and informative. Your college career center offers them. Good luck to you. — Lauren
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