Mind “Empty” as I Consider Abandoning My Dreams to Support My Family

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Reader’s Question

I am a 21-year-old from India. I finished my diploma in computers and pursued my dream career in animation. Everything was going normal until my father’s sudden death from a heart attack three months ago. My mother died of cancer in 2006, and I have an older sister who is working.

This is my situation: my father worked in government, so after he died they offered me a job in the same office. But I still have a hunger to learn more and more in my chosen field. Now it seems I have to abandon my dream career and switch to a monotonous government job. I’m very much stuck in this situation. My sister and others tell me to keep my dream career by my side but to start working now. I know that my family needs my support, so I have already started preparing my mind to get into this government job. But I don’t have any stability of mind about this. And in recent times my mind has become very clumsy and empty.

Please help me to know how to change this situation.

Psychologist’s Reply

It sure seems like you are struggling with some conflicting loyalties: your duty to help your family after some tragic losses and your obligation to yourself to develop your talents and pursue a fulfilling career that makes use of those talents.

Your ambivalence on these issues might be fueling some anxiety, and given your recent circumstances, you might also be experiencing some depression. These factors might account for your inability to think as clearly about things as you would like.

If you should decide to put family concerns first, at least for a time, by all means do that freely and without regret. Carrying the burden of resentment for doing what you feel obliged to do but haven’t really freely chosen to do can really intensify your internal level of discomfort. And even if you do decide to put your other career ambitions on hold for awhile, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your dreams entirely or let your talent, knowledge, and skills stagnate.

Right now, you might be engaging in a little “black and white, all-or-none,” thinking. But the fact is that not only do you have choices, but there are many options open to you that don’t necessarily involve your closing doors of opportunity for your future.

You might find some value in seeking the support and objective input of a counselor to discuss these matters. Given the major life events that have occurred recently, you might find some other benefits to the counseling as well.

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