DEAR NATALIE: I am a first generation Chinese-American woman in her late 20s. My parents always pushed for a big career for me, and nothing short of perfect was ever good enough. Well, up until six months ago, I was working as a very successful engineer consultant. The job was rough, however, and I was constantly traveling all around the United States for clients. I was completely burned out after several years of this work. So, I secretly quit and went back to become a pilates instructor. I absolutely love it. However, neither of my parents know yet. In my family, it is typical to hide feelings, keep emotions bottled inside and not talk about things that are bothering us. I didn't tell them I quit because I didn't want them to be angry. Sometimes, I wish I was another ethnicity - one that lets it all out! What should I do? I fly home to visit them next week, and I'm terrified of their reaction. -- The Switch Up
DEAR THE SWITCH UP: Coming from an Italian-American family, I'm sure my relatives wish each other would not let it all out from time to time! All kidding aside, family dynamics can be tricky no matter what your background, each having their own quirks to work through. In your situation, it must not be easy to express your own interests and desires. Your family looked at your financial stability and professional success as the American dream come true. So, no wonder you feel intimidated and nervous to be honest with them. But hiding your life is no way to live either. While familial acceptance is important, nothing beats owning who you are. Take them out for dinner when you visit and frame the conversation in the context of what is bringing you happiness. Explain to them that this change has impacted you for the best. Talk to them about your plans and let them know that their love and support are what you need right now. They may be angry, confused or hurt, but remind them that you are an adult and you just want to be fulfilled in your own life. If it takes them a while to accept this, that's OK. You know how they react, so mentally prepare yourself for whatever is coming your way, but remind yourself that at the end of the day, you're the one that has to look in the mirror and like what you see.
Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to email@example.com or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)