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by Abigail Van Buren

Designer's High Success Can't Match Family's Expectations

DEAR ABBY: I was always interested in computers and pretty adept at working with them, so I combined this interest with my love for graphic design and began producing small Web pages for friends. One of the pages I designed was seen by a large New York advertising company, and it started throwing me clients so I could make some extra cash. Their in-house designer was a whiz with pen and paper, but keyboard and mouse were foreign concepts to him.

Within two months, I was able to quit my full-time job and design full time, and was earning more than before. I loved the work and didn't mind the deadlines. My family seemed pleased that I was doing well in a job I enjoyed.

Three months later, I got a call from the executive V.P. of the firm. He asked if I wanted to be the new V.P. of the newly created computer graphics development department. It meant a move to New York, but a generous salary with perks and benefits. I took the job and left for the Big Apple.

Although I came home as often as time would allow, I was now regarded as "the successful one with no time for his family." At my younger brother's wedding, I gave them a beautiful Tiffany lamp and a nice check -- however, they looked at me like I was shorting them because I didn't give them the keys to a new car or an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe.

I sent my parents on a three-week Caribbean cruise for their anniversary; they had never been on one and had had few vacations in the past. Now, every relative I have expects the same extravagant gifts. What should I tell them? -- TOO SUCCESSFUL IN N.Y.C.

DEAR TOO SUCCESSFUL: I can think of no load more difficult to carry than the burden of other people's expectations. Your relatives are greedy and presumptuous. If they have the gall to raise the subject of what gifts you "ought" to give them, tell them no one has all the money that others assume they have, including YOU. It's the truth.