by Dan Neuharth, PhD
Dear Dr. Dan:
Your job isn't to please your parents. They may not understand that, but it's your life and career, not theirs. You are an adult, equal to your parents in every way. You have many ways you can "break the news." You could use humor. For example, tell them something like, "Mom and Dad, all lawyers have a midlife crisis, and mine has come early. It'll be fine, don't worry." Or you could say exactly what you said in your letter to me. Or you could make the topic off limits for a time by saying something like: "Mom and Dad, I'm sure you have private or sensitive topics you don't want to discuss until you are ready, and right now my career is one of my private subjects."
Over time, as your own approval of your choices grows, your parents' approval or disapproval will become less important. Ask yourself questions that can help you distinguish your unique passions from goals chosen for you, such as: What do I love to do? What were my earliest life dreams?
Seek allies during this transition. Find a role model who has successfully made the switch from law to a career closer to your heart. Talk to those who encourage your dreams: your mate, close friends, siblings, relatives, or a therapist. You may want to take a break from your job or start doing part-time what you'd eventually like to do for a living. Either way, I'd encourage you to keep your state bar membership active indefinitely. Recognize, too, that in a transition like this, emotional ups and downs are normal. Avoid being hard on yourself. You are giving birth to a new part of yourself as an adult and birth is painful.
As "Bloody Mary" sang in South Pacific, "You got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?"
Helpful Resources on this Topic Hand-Me-Down Dreams: How Our Families Influence Our Career Paths and How We Can Reclaim Them Mary Jacobsen Other Ask Dr. Dan Columns:
Hand-Me-Down Dreams: How Our Families Influence Our Career Paths and How We Can Reclaim Them Mary Jacobsen
Other Ask Dr. Dan Columns:
If You Had Controlling Parents: How to Make Peace With Your Past and Take Your Place in the World