Dear Liza: Do I Make My Family Happy, Or Choose My Dreams?


Dear Liza- I am torn between living the life my family wants me to live (and I know they want what's best for me), and having adventures that I've always dreamt about. What do you think I should do?


Wow, this is a tough one! It's really hard when our ideas about what's best for ourselves conflict with our family's. It's good that you recognise that their intentions are coming from a place of love, but it sounds like that's still really conflicting.

Since I don't know the specifics of the situation that you're referring to, I'm just going to talk generally about reconciling the dilemma and hopefully some of this will be helpful for you. Take what is, leave what isn't - that's the best way to treat any kind of advice but particularly advice that is build on a problem that may contain issues that the giver has no awareness of.

When I read this, my first instinct was to see if there's a way you reconcile the two lives - are they really so far apart? It might be that you can take elements from your adventures and mix them with what they want, creating a situation that could be favourable to both sides.

If that's not the case, then the best thing to do is to truly understand where the conflict is. It might be that they have considered aspects of your dreams that you haven't, and have valid concerns about it. Listening and talking it through might allow you to make adjustments to your plans that would reassure them and ultimately work out better for you. Plus a willingness to listen and engage with their concerns might make them take your suggestions seriously - in my experience a well thought out decision has always gone down better with my family than a vague dream.

Ultimately, though, you might want to take the leap. It is your life after all. I say this because when I was floated the idea of attending university in Abu Dhabi there were very few individuals in my family who supported the choice. It seemed crazy - the university had barely begun, and moving abroad wasn't a common choice among my friends and immediate family. But I persisted, providing solid evidence to the more skeptical as to why this would ultimately be a good thing for me, and demonstrating an understanding of how I would cope if it did turn out to be a terrible choice. Four years later and I couldn't be happier - it actually terrifies me to think of what life would be like if I hadn't walked this path. Those who resisted are now thrilled for me (and I think forget their initial reluctance) because they can see what a good decision it ultimately was. Arguing against them was really difficult, but I always made sure to do so respectfully and with a full awareness of their concerns, and it worked.

I don't know what the life you want to lead looks like, but a good way to start might be doing something little that they might not agree with, and then using that as evidence for why it's a good thing when it goes well. If you want to travel, take a shorter trip first and plan thoroughly, demonstrating to your family your maturity and ability. If you want to take a subject in university they aren't happy with, take one class and show them your talents as they emerge. Starting small can avoid big bust ups whilst still giving you what you want. 

I would never suggest doing something that jeopardises your relationship with your family but I think, depending on how you handle it, you might have more wiggle room for what you want than it might seem right now. Introduce the idea, back it up with facts and understanding, and see how it goes. Sometimes people can take a while to change their mind, but it doesn't mean that they never will. Cliche as it sounds, you only live once and I would hate to see you regret not taking opportunities out of the fear of what your family would say. They want what's best for you, after all, so show them what that is.

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