DEAR HARRIETTE: I have always done whatever my parents told me to do. I took the career path they recommended. I chose to live in the neighborhood my father thought was right for me. It’s not that their ideas were bad, but now I’m 30 years old, and I feel like I’m living the life they wanted for me instead of the life I want for myself.
Honestly, I don’t really even know what I want for me. I have some ideas, but my father never said they were valid. He always told me I should do something responsible. I’m doing that, but I’m not happy. How can I step out on my own now? It feels like it’s too late. I’ve been following their rules my whole life. -- Stepping Out
DEAR STEPPING OUT: Good news: You are at the perfect stage in your life to separate from your parents. You do not have to be angry with them or resentful or anything else. Instead, recognize that you are coming into your own, and it is time for you to think about next steps purely from your perspective. As an adult, what do you want to do with your life? Where do you want to live? What feels like your path, independent of your parents’ desires?
This doesn’t mean, by the way, that you have to extricate yourself from the values that you were taught that have helped to guide you to this moment. It does mean that it is time for you to fully accept responsibility for yourself, for your choices, for your life. It may also mean that you have to stand up for yourself and tell your parents your intentions and ask for their blessing -- even though you should proceed whether or not you get it.