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Lord Galen
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Seeking Independance
July 30, 2012

Dear Galen

Recently I’ve been having a lot of doubts about myself and what I should do regarding the situation of my Independence from my family. In my culture (I’m South American), it is not just accepted, but really common for people to live with their family (usually just parents and grandparents) until they get married. That is to say, there is absolutely nothing wrong for a thirty year-old to be living with his or her parents.

However, my problem stems from the fact that, though my family is generally more “accepting” of alternative life styles than others, they still expect me to live with them until I’m a lot older. I studied in an American (International) school for most of my life, and because of it I have different ideas of what a nineteen year-old (like myself) should be doing towards independence. Frequently, I see many people my age (or even younger) on the internet asking for advice and starting with something like “I’m nineteen [or eighteen, or even seventeen] and still living with my parents.”

Often, I’ve tried to explain to my family (mainly my mother, whose opinion I truly value over everyone else) as to why achieving independence and paving my own way is important to me. I want to succeed, and learn by my own mistakes. Instead, often I feel coddled by my grandparents, who don’t wish me to be hurt… which I understand, it’s only natural of family to not want to see you hurt. What I don’t understand is how, in my (repeated) attempts to assert my independence, they don’t seem to respect my decisions, instead downright disrespecting me.

For example, I previously wanted to go to college in the States. Though I never asked for them to agree with my decision (they obviously didn’t), I at least expected them to accept that I also need to make my own decisions… and eventually take responsabilities from my mistakes. My own mother, who, as I said, is the most important person to me in my family, wept and told me to “think of her”. She’s a single parent, and I understand (at least to some level) all of the sacrifices she has done for me. Often at night, I heard her crying over our finances (no alimony from my father, or any other type of help), or just frustration over life. Often I tried to sacrifice stuff for her too, and never upset or fight with her too much. So when I told her that I wanted to go to college in the states, I never expected her to tell me that “I never did anything for her”, and that I was basically an ingrate, not appreciating her sacrifices. She even went as far as to say that I only wanted to go because I wanted to “seek her approval” (as in, make her proud.) My family and her repeatedly told me that I wasn’t responsible or independent enough, and the only way for me to gain independence was living with them until I understood it. They also told me I was losing my national identity, and that I was being foolish.

Those months of my life I often felt incredibly alone. They made me realize that though my family is not a bad one, they won’t support my decisions but instead treat them with disdain if they don’t agree. In the end, because of many complications, I ended up staying in my home country for college. It’s great, but I’m still looking to be independent. I already have a steady job and my aim is to rent a room. At first I was going to move into a room in the same building as my grandparent’s (a room which once belonged to my late great-grandfather and is now disocuppied). This would have been perfect, attaining a greater level of autonomy while still quieting my grandparent’s fears. However, my mom is moving to town next year, and she’ll be occupying that apartment. Of course she wants me to move in with her. I’ve often talked to her about my plans of saving up money and renting a room, but she will not even let me speak anything about it before getting really angry.

Basically, I addressed you this letter for several reasons. First, how can I know when I am getting legitimate advice from my family? Since that time with college, I haven’t been able to trust them at all anymore. Secondly, how do I know if I am being unreasonable? It is a possibility that I am being unreasonable… though my gut tells me that I should at least try it. Thirdly, how do I know if I am being immature about it? Lastly, if I do end up moving, what would be some advice?

I’m pretty sure I want to move, and I am willing to do whatever it takes to survive… but I think sometimes I still seek my family’s approval, and that really throws me off balance and plants many doubts in me.

Independence Seeker

Dear Seeker,

There's an old say about "roots and wings" regarding parenting: "A parent's job is to give their children roots to grow with and wings to fly away with." Your mother and grandparents seem to want those roots of yours to stay firmly planted in their own little garden and their brow-beating is their way of clipping your wings.

You didn't specify your gender in this letter, but it matters. With South American culture, it matters so much! It matters enough that I searched out your email username and found your twitter and Google+ to confirm that you are indeed female. This is the first time I've ever sought out additional information on someone who's written to me, but I needed to confirm what I suspected. Suspected? Yes indeed! Based on the way you're being treated and what I know of South American culture, it's unlikely that this was a dude writing me. Women are considered weak delicate little flowers who can't possibly survive on their own (or shouldn't, anyway). You have to stay right there with the family until a big strong man comes along to look after your pretty little head, cuz girls are too stupid and silly to take care of themselves. That about right? If you were a guy, it's very unlikely that your mother would question your desire to move out. It's pretty much like America in the 1950s and before. Retarded, ass-backward "tradition." Am I wrong here? If you were a man, would this still be an issue? Hahaha... I'm not wrong. But on the off chance that you are a dude, then I'll just say that you need to man the fuck up and tell mommy to let go of your balls. But, again, I'm not wrong.

This adds the element of ass-backward South American sexism disguised as "tradition" but otherwise it doesn't really change the advice I would give.

Independance is learned (and earned) by being independant! You are now a grown woman and there is nothing your mother or grandparents can do to prevent you from moving out. Well, there is one thing and they're already doing it and it's working. Emotional blackmail. They emotionally blackmailed you out of the college you wanted. They're emotionally blackmailing you into staying just where they want you. And that shit only works if you let it!

Despite all that, I'd like to ask what's the rush? You're 19 years old and in college. Right now, I'd advise you to concentrate on school. This is the same advice I'd give to anyone else in your situation. Stay with the parents until you're out of college and have a job. But at the same time, you need to put your foot down. If you decide to take my advice and plan on leaving home as soon as you're done with school and have a decent income, then that's what you should tell them.

And when I say tell them, I mean INFORM them, not ask for their permission or approval, because you don't need it. Tell them once, and only once. After that, you don't mention it again until the words that come out of your mouth are "I have an apartment now, I've moved most of my stuff over there, I'll be leaving tomorrow evening."

Be prepared for them to actively attempt to stop you from leaving. If they do that, you don't want a huge fight, so don't fight them. You told them this was coming. You told them how it was going to be. Their refusal to accept it does not change anything. They can't keep you locked up in the house by force when you, at the very least, have to go to work. So if that's the only place they let you go, then you go to work and then go to YOUR home afterward.

Really, you need to seriously grab hold of the concept I'm offering you here. They can't actually STOP you. All they're doing is making you feel like shit so that you stop yourself! You inform them of how it's going to be and then just don't argue with them anymore. Right now, it's an argument between you. You need to make it not an argument, but a fact of life that they can either accept or hate, but it's going to happen either way, with or without their approval or permission.

I do strongly advise waiting until you're finished with college, but that's entirely up to you. If you feel you're ready and want to leave this weekend, do it. It'd be stupid, but it's YOUR life and therefore YOUR stupid mistake to make. It isn't up to me or your mother to tell you what to do. It's up to me to advise you and, frankly, once you're college-aged, that's all your mother has any right to do either. Do what you feel is right for you and anyone else's opinion is insignificant.

In closing, I do feel I should offer you an apology. People write to me looking for advice and they expect anonymity in that process. I do apologize for looking up your twitter and G+, but I did feel it neccesary to give the best advice possible. Rest assured, I won't remember your name, I don't keep the emails I get, and no one else will ever know who you are either. Anonymity is still alive and well here! Good luck to you.

All My Hate,
Lord Galen

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