Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When people want to stand in the way of your dreams

Hello Polite Readers!

Today's letter is a bit of a heart-breaker for me. An anonymous friend (I'm going to dub him Rhys, because I'm in a Welsh mood) writes:
When I was 18 I had the chance to move to LA and live my dream by working for my favorite dance company. I ended up turning it down because my mother said she needed help taking care of my brothers. A few years later I decided to move to Chicago and stuck to my goals. It got UGLY between us and several other members of my family that didn't want me to move. I returned to Tucson and to be honest, I just know it's not for me. Now the dance company in LA is offering me a second chance and I'm ready to take it. I just know everyone is going to freak out and try to persuade me against it again. Any advice to negate fights about the topic?
Oh, Rhys Rhys Rhys, please don't let anyone talk you out of this. You had a rare chance to follow your dreams and you gave it up for family. Now you're being offered a second chance, not at a different dream, but at the same one you turned down before. How often does that happen? Never, that's how often. If you believe in any sort of higher power, you'd have to also believe that said higher power was bludgeoning you over the head with the message "Follow your dreams!!!"

Sadly, you're not the first person I've known whose family seemed determined to keep them where they were. Well, I'm here to tell you that you're an adult and no one can tell you where to live or what to do. Your brothers are not your children. It is not your responsibility to help your mother raise them. Few things break my heart more than seeing an older sibling forced to give up their life to take care of their younger siblings.

So how do you tell your family that you're going for it, you're moving to LA to follow your dreams? You know I'm going to tell you to be firm and polite, right? Ok, good. Let's do it.
Mom, I've decided I'm going to move to LA. Dream Dance Co has offered me a job again, and honestly, there's no opportunity anything like it here in Tucson. If I don't jump on this now, I may never get another chance. The job starts next month, and I'm going to head out a week or two early to get settled into a new place. I've already been looking at some apartments...
 Obviously tweak the facts I gave to fit your actual situation, but you get the idea. Don't ask for permission, make a statement. You are moving. You do have a job lined up. You're looking for a place to live. You have a date and a plan and everything. You are doing this thing, and you're doing her the courtesy of letting her know what's going on.

Other family members don't even need more than that. Just tell them you're moving. Or tell them after you move. I may not be the best person to ask about that, honestly. If not for Facebook I wouldn't be in touch with any of my extended family. If you're super close (although really, why be super close with people who want to crush your dreams?), you may want to give them a pared-down version of what you give your mother.

And then there's your brothers. I don't know how old they are, and I'm not good with kids, but you'll need to give them some age-appropriate chat. Obviously they survived you moving to Chicago for a time, so they can handle this. Especially since LA isn't that far from Tucson, maybe they can come for visits. Surely you'll come back for holidays. And modern technology makes it really easy to stay in touch, so I'm sure you can set up some video chats or XBox live gaming or something to let your little brothers feel like they're still part of your life.

Of course, if your family has given you push-back in the past, they'll probably not be stopped immediately by your firm announcement that you're moving. So when they bring up some sort of complaint, say "I understand your concern, but I've given this a lot of thought and I'm going." Don't explain yourself any more than that. If they try to start a fight, do your best to extricate yourself from it. Change the subject. If that doesn't work, hang up the phone or walk out of the room.

By the way, I know someone who did what you're thinking of doing, and he wasn't exactly polite when he told his parents he was doing what he wanted no matter what, and things were ugly for a bit... but they got better. There's hope for you, Rhys. Be polite. Stand your ground. Make compromises where you can (ie, promise to call your mom every week/other day/day, whatever, but don't let her berate you when you do call), but follow your dreams. Good luck, I'm rooting for you!

Do you have a situation that's left you at a loss for words? Drop me a line at and you could be in a future column.


  1. .. Well, that's better than the advice I would give of "fake your own death." ;)

    1. Your advice would make a better movie than mine, that's for sure!

      "5 years ago, he faked his own death to pursue his dreams of a dancing career. Now his dance company has really hit it big, and they're going to perform at the Super Bowl half-time show. The only problem? The family who thinks he is dead LOVES football. Will he come clean at last, or perform his whole routine in Groucho glasses? Find out in... Dream or Die Trying!"