Dear Carolyn • I am a young man in college with many things going in my favor. However, one thing that bothers me about my father is his way of controlling my work life. He often advised me as I grew up to enter a certain job field and steered me in that direction by giving me a firm push (and tuition money). There are several aspects of the career that interest me, and time after time I have put in the effort, knowing that it is a smart decision and that my parents have provided me with opportunities unheard of in many families.
When the inevitable rough patches of school and work come up, though, it can really make me second-guess whether I am putting in this effort to please myself or to please him. I have dreams to take my career in a somewhat different direction from the one he expects, one that would be more risky but also more fulfilling to me. When I try to bring up these ideas to him, I am met with a lot of resistance, to the point of his doubting whether I realize the gilded road is before me.
This fall, I will be entering my last year of school. Is there something to be said of going against a plan largely created by another for the sake of making one's own decisions, even if those decisions wind up being mistakes?
Dear Pigeonholed • The last thing you need is another voice from the clouds (or ether) saying, "Do this, child." What you need is some faith in the authority of your own voice, own desires, own opinions, etc.
Because nothing undermines your authority more than guidance from people with ulterior motives, I'll disclose mine: I believe the true "gilded road" for any emerging adult is the one that suits and supports their individual passions and strengths. I emphatically, strenuously disagree with your father's philosophy and methods.
I also don't think there's any real question about whom you're working to please. You're choosing to please your father and you know it. A more revealing question, perhaps, to ask yourself and your father: Do you think he hoped to raise a strong, independent young man, or a weak, subservient one?
Carolyn Hax's column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.