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home : columns : dear harriette January 25, 2020

10/22/2019 7:35:00 AM
It's ok to stop following parents' plans

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have always done whatever my parents told me to do. I took the career path they recommended. I chose to live in the neighborhood my father thought was right for me. It's not that their ideas were bad, but now I'm 30 years old, and I feel like I'm living the life they wanted for me instead of the life I want for myself.

Honestly, I don't really even know what I want for me. I have some ideas, but my father never said they were valid. He always told me I should do something responsible. I'm doing that, but I'm not happy. How can I step out on my own now? It feels like it's too late. I've been following their rules my whole life. -- Stepping Out

DEAR STEPPING OUT: Good news: You are at the perfect stage in your life to separate from your parents. You do not have to be angry with them or resentful or anything else. Instead, recognize that you are coming into your own, and it is time for you to think about next steps purely from your perspective. As an adult, what do you want to do with your life? Where do you want to live? What feels like your path, independent of your parents' desires?

This doesn't mean, by the way, that you have to extricate yourself from the values that you were taught that have helped to guide you to this moment. It does mean that it is time for you to fully accept responsibility for yourself, for your choices, for your life. It may also mean that you have to stand up for yourself and tell your parents your intentions and ask for their blessing -- even though you should proceed whether or not you get it.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My husband and I are coming up on a big anniversary, and our kids suggested that we have a party. They are super gung-ho about it, but my husband and I are lukewarm. Our life is pretty boring these days, and while we are together, I don't think either of us feels like celebrating. I'm not saying that we want to get divorced. We just don't want to make a big deal out of something that feels like everyday life. Our kids are so into it, though, that we don't want to disappoint them. How should we handle this? -- Not in the Mood

DEAR NOT IN THE MOOD: Day-to-day life is not super exciting for most people. That's normal, and it includes couples who have been married for a long time. While you do not have to agree to a party, consider that it could be a lot of fun. Having loved ones gather who will celebrate your life and their various intersections with you can be uplifting. Your children are eager to do this and may be inspired to share highlights of your life together that will spark joyful memories that all of you will enjoy.

An anniversary party does not need to seem like a renewal of vows. It can simply be a party where people who love you gather to sing your praises and enjoy one another's company. I say go for it, but remind your children that you would like for it to be low-key.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)

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