Dear Annie: I had a falling out with my elder brother.
It happened when the whole family had gotten together for Thanksgiving dinner. My husband, Kurt, had been laid off about a month prior and hadn't yet found a new job. My brother kept telling Kurt what he "should" do and how no company would want him if he were to be unemployed for too long. Kurt was polite through the unsolicited career counseling session.
After dinner, we quickly excused ourselves and went to the other room to play with my niece. At one point, Kurt went to use the bathroom and overheard my brother telling my dad that he doesn't think Kurt has any ambition. Kurt whispered the incident to me, and I flipped.
I was livid with my brother. I told him that he did not have the right to judge anyone and that he was being a total and complete jerk. We left, and I haven't spoken to my dad or brother since.
However, none of this had anything to do with my sister-in-law or niece (my brother's daughter). I miss her, and I'd like to be around my niece more often. I feel stuck. I don't want to put her in an awkward situation, but I also don't want her to think that I am angry with her or that she is part of this turmoil. — Sister-in-Limbo
Dear Sister: Blood runs thicker than water. It's wonderful you value your relationship with your sister-in-law, but your relationship with your brother is even more important. Imagine how regretful you'd be if something happened to him and you'd left things on a sour note. It's time for you two to reconcile. Find a middle ground; perhaps agree to disagree about Kurt's job situation. Though you're the little sister, you'll have to be the bigger person.
Dear Annie: I got good grades in high school to get into a good college. While in college, I did internships over the summer to get a job after college.
At my first job after college, I did well enough to get promoted.
I got promoted so that I could get into graduate school.
I did well in graduate school to get a better job after graduation.
I did well enough in that job to get promoted.
I am 33 years old and have always had a carrot in front of me. Now I feel as though there is no direct, linear path. It used to be, "Do well here to get there." Now I feel as if there are no paths. It's wide-open.
My career is important to me, but I am not sure what to do. I could switch jobs, but after the novelty of the new gig wears off, I will be back to where I am today. I could start my own company but am not sure that's exactly what I want to do. People talk about finding meaning and being happy, and I want those things but just feel so lost. I wish there were another carrot to go after. — Thirty-three and Floundering
Dear Thirty-three: Pause. Soak in all you've accomplished — great grades, jobs, promotions, a master's degree — and all the great experiences you've had so far. Forgive yourself for not having all the answers. Practice mindfulness meditation. Learn to embrace the joy of just being.
As John Lennon put it, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
So pay attention. Instead of going after another carrot, cherish the one you're chewing today. It's the only source of true nourishment.
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Photo credit: Eli Christman