Saturday, April 14, 2012

Supporting others' dreams

My little sister wants to move somewhere far away.  She works in the advertising and design field; she says that there are no good career opportunities for her here.  She wants to go somewhere like New York, Miami, or Los Angeles, where, from what she tells me, the job prospects are plentiful.

She's talked about this for years, so it's nothing new.  She was a bit of a late bloomer though -- she started and stopped going to school several times before she finally earned her degree about a year ago.  When she was still in and out of school and jumping from one job to the next, the whole moving away and making it big seemed to me like one of those fantasies we all have when we're young, before reality sets in.

Once my sister finished her degree, she did what we all do -- she found a job and started working.  The job wasn't perfect, but she was gaining a lot of experience and seemed to be enjoying it.

A few weeks ago, my sister and I were sitting in my living room, just talking and catching up.  We started talking about our goals for the future.  She told me that her dream is what it has always been -- to move to a big city to get a good job with a prestigious agency making a lot of money.

I'll admit I was less than supportive.  I guess I assumed she'd outgrown her dream.  After all, I remember having a similar dream of moving to New York and becoming a famous singer.  (This despite the fact that I don't sing very well).  At some point I realized that it wasn't a realistic plan and decided on something more practical.

I pointed out to my sister all the difficulties associated with moving to a new place -- saving enough money to pay for the move itself; securing a decent job in a distant city before moving there; finding an affordable place to live; making all new friends; etc.

"See, this is why I don't talk to anyone in the family about my dreams," she said.  "You always put them down."

"No we don't," I replied without thinking.  But then I thought about it.  She had a point.  Why was I discouraging her from following her dreams?  Why was I trying to convince her that her goals were unattainable?

As it turns out, she had her own hypothesis.  "You all want me to be like you.  You want me to buy a house next door, get married, and raise a family without ever leaving home."

(Just an aside -- this is a more accurate characterization of my older sister than it is of me.  I did in fact, leave home; I just didn't go very far away.  I went to college in a city about an hour and half away from where I grew up.  I moved back in with my parents for about a year after I graduated.  When I moved out, I bough a house in a neighboring city, about forty-five minutes away from my parents' house).

"That's not true!" I protested.  "It's just that we'd miss you if you move away," I acknowledged.

"Some families only see each other once a year," my sister countered.  "Not that I want it to be like that," she quickly added.  "I'm just saying."

I know, of course, that there are families that only see each other on special occasions.  Some families are like that; just not our family.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me like most families that only get together once a year do so because they find it difficult to be around one another more frequently.  Close knit families tend to see each other more often, even when its members live in different places.  (Hell, I see my best friend two or three times a year, and there's a seven hour drive separating us)!

Ultimately, I told my sister that she has to do what's best for herself.  Our family is mostly made up of adults; as such, we are responsible for dealing with whatever feelings we have about what she chooses to do.

I thought about it a lot over the weeks that followed our conversation.  Shouldn't I encourage my little sister to reach for the stars?  Why is it so difficult for me?

Most of it is that I will truly miss her.  Somehow, I get the feeling that if she moves away she won't come back very often.  (Part of me suspects that she's running away from something that she thinks is here but is really inside her).  I fear that the little sister I love so much will become a stranger to me, someone who no longer has a place for me in her life.  I'm afraid of losing her.

The other thing is that even though she's lived less than an hour from the family for the past year, she has been distant.  She told me she felt like she had to get away from the family if she was ever going to learn to make it one her own.  ("Making it on your own" is overrated, I think).

Since becoming an adult, I've always found comfort in my family's unwavering love and support.  It makes me sad to think that my sister finds this same love to be stifling and restrictive.

Still, our experiences are different.  She is the youngest of my parents' three daughters; I think even now my mother finds it hard to stop babying her.

It's probably selfish of me to begrudge my sister her dreams.  Maybe the best thing to do is to share my fears with her.  I'm not sure.


  1. Shukke Tukudo: Our ordination is called leaving home and attaining the way. When we do that, we're called Unsui- clouds and water.

    Bad news: Some of us are clouds and water
    Good news: You don't have to worry about advising clouds and water- if they're truly clouds and water, then they are untouchable.

    I did what you suggested- had a job, lived near family, was building a career. It was a bit like torture for me.

    And when you take lay-ordination, it's called staying home and attaining the way. These are seen as a equal, parallel paths. But as my teacher says, some of us just do better in a cage!

  2. I can understand trying to advise your sister based on what you think is her own good. Unfortunately, what works for you might not work for her. Coming from a family of a bunch of medical practitioners, I was expected to go to medical school. I became a social worker instead. Fortunately, you seem to be more open minded about your sister's wishes. My family considers me an utter failure for only having a masters degree in social work.

    At the same time, it's important for your sister to be grounded and not shoot too high. Given this economy, it's harder to achieve those big dreams than ever. While it's good to dream, one needs to stay realistic at the same time. It's a rough world out there.

  3. Her life will play out as it supposed to ...for her.
    You are you, and your replies are based on your own needs and how her ideas "sit" with you,
    just relax and be love.

  4. I share your views. Or maybe because our culture here in the Philippines is different from yours there in the States. Everyone here has an extended family live nearby.


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