Dear Carolyn: Yesterday I received a save-the-date from my niece for a wedding in Hawaii. While we can afford to go to such a wedding, we recognize that many people in her family will not be able to attend. We feel that this is pretty thoughtless to family members with limited funds and mobility.
She also is planning to move to Hawaii soon after she graduates from college. But she doesn’t have a job there.
When I graduated from college, I moved back home with Mom and Dad for a few months until I could find a job and make it on my own. Good jobs are not easy to come by but I think she really expects that one will magically appear. She has huge student loans, even though my brother has paid for her college.
It seems she is expecting life to magically fall into place. How can we get her to be a realist?
A Concerned Aunt
The old-fashioned way: Let life do it.
If she enjoys celebrating her wedding with whoever can attend, and if she finds a job in Hawaii, then these will prove her current expectations to be realistic enough.
If instead her wedding is too sparsely attended and she doesn’t find a job in Hawaii, then reality itself will assert its ownership of the last word, and probably suggest some more modest goals for her to adopt.
I suppose I’m missing some information on the huge loans from a paid-for education, but no matter — their existence for whatever reason means that if her Plan A doesn’t get the huge-student-loan payments made, then she’ll need to move quickly to implement Plan B. Unless your real concern is that your brother is propping her up — which is a beef with him, not her, and not your business to fix.
So “we” don’t have to do anything to get anyone anywhere. Except perhaps to step back, let her life run its course, and let her make corrections where her experiences tell her they’re needed.
People aren’t mirrors. Your niece is not on this earth to reflect the wisdom of your post-collegiate decisions, or anyone else’s decisions or priorities.
You chose to move home to regroup after college and that decision apparently served you well. Good. Well played. Your choices won’t prove to have been any less valid if, by some stroke of good fortune, your niece manages to pull off her big Hawaii plans — nor will your past choices accrue extra brilliance points if your niece falls on her face. You found your way, she’ll find hers, two completely independent processes.
I expect you’ll like each other a whole lot better through her process of self-discovery if you limit your involvement in it to advising only when asked to advise, and intervening only when called upon to intervene by her being in real — versus projected — peril.
That is the beauty of natural consequences, particularly with adults: They get to be the bad guy and do all the hard work of teaching while you park yourself on the sideline and sincerely root for a loved one’s success. “Sincerely” and “root for” being the operative terms.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.