Originally Published: April 8, 2018 5:55 a.m.
Dear Annie: I am a 20-year-old woman, and I feel that my family is toxic for me. My grandfather, aunts and uncles have raised me since I was 3 years old. I do not know where my father is, and my mother is not supporting me. (It goes without saying that she and I don’t have a great relationship.)
My grandfather is the one who pays to send me to school, but in exchange for that, he treats me poorly. He asks me to do a lot of chores, such as turning on the TV for him, making coffee, cleaning his room and more. I feel as if I’m supposed to be a maid.
Additionally, he scolds me if I cannot answer his phone calls or if I do something that he doesn’t want me to do, such as going out with friends. He thinks he’s always right.
Even my uncles now treat me as if I owe them baby-sitting services. They call me all the time to be at their houses just to watch over their kids, even though they have maids at home. If I don’t comply, they get angry. They seem to want me to be brainless. They have always commented on what I should do with my life, too. They want me to go into a certain line of work that I have no interest in, for example.
For the 17 years that I’ve been with them, I’ve never felt that I am truly loved, because true love does not need anything in return. Yes, they did help me in my studies. But I never had my freedom, and I never made decisions for myself. They are so toxic. I can say that because they’ve made me cry so many times in my life. It seems I can’t do anything right.
Now that I am graduating, I want to find work that suits me and to be free. I want to be alone and decide things for myself. What can I do as a career for the rest of my life just to be away from them? Or what are the other solutions to be away from them? — Longing to Break Free
Dear Longing to Break Free: Making coffee and doing some light cleaning in exchange for room, board and tuition — that’s not a bad deal. That being said, your wish for independence is healthy — or it can be, if you act on it instead of letting it fester into bitterness and resentment. Start making plans now, as graduation will be here before you know it. See your school’s career counseling department for help building a resume and finding job leads. Additionally, sign up for job hunting sites, such as Indeed, LinkedIn and CareerBuilder. Or consider more outside-the-box ways to get new experiences, such as working with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (known as WWOOFing).
It’s time to stretch those wings and prepare to leave the nest. The distance might have a way of improving your relationships with your family members, by the way. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
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