Welcome to the conclusion of 20 Something's Week. We'll have to do a 60 Somethings Week as well because that would probably be a hoot - turning the blog over to readers in their 60s. We kicked off this week in response to 20 Somethings trying to figure out how to be empowered. On Wednesday I talked about building your own support network. Today I'm going to talk about how to get disentangled from dysfunctional and destructive environments. This came up in last week's comments thread.
I know things are confusing in this part of the blogoshpere, afterall, you've had people present themselves as your very own personal Empowerment Messiah, yet after reading their blogs for years, you're pretty much in the same place and if you question these Empowerment Messiahs about why their sketchy adivice isn't working- they scream "Get out of Blackistan!" Or they call you a “race woman” or a “Mammy” or a saboteur.
Life is not a piece of Ikea furniture. You can't dump all of your disjointed pieces on the ground and expect someone to hand you a set of directions to figure out how to put it together. You ultimately are in charge of your own life. Being a grownup means making difficult decisions.
Over at Dear Prudence, a college student writes in asking for advice because her mother and step-father are pressuring her to let them harvest her eggs so they can have a child. She lives with them and is financially dependent on them. She is also receiving pressure from other family members who are telling her that if she doesn't give up her eggs, she is destroying her mother's marriage because her mother won't be able to have a child with her current husband. Its a pretty good example of familial dysfunction.
Now my grandmother is calling me a "home-wrecker," saying that my mother and stepfather will get divorced if they're incapable of having a child. My family refuses to go to a donor outside the family because it wouldn't be "their" child, and they say my genes are 50 percent from my mother. They also won’t consider adoption because they say "those kids are disgusting and messed up." They plan on having my eggs harvested and raising my child as their own. I am a university student who lives at home, though lately I have been crashing on friends' couches in order to avoid going home because the situation has gone from hard to ridiculous. My family has been controlling and emotionally and verbally abusive all my life, and until recently I didn't realize that normal families aren't like this. I have no way to escape because I can't afford to move out—I have a job that doesn't pay that well, and I'm also a full-time student. What can I do? Dear Prudence
Unlike some empowerment bloggers who scream at the top of their lungs to LEAVE dysfunctional and destructive environments, Prudence actually gives very detailed advice about how this girl can get out of this situation. I would go so far as to say that this is some of the most specific advice that I've seen Prudence provide recently and I think it is applicable to our current discussion about people who tell you that your life sucks in general, you're in danger, you need to get out, but omit any details on how to do that.
1.Sometimes other people’s problems are other people’s problems. A great skill is to master letting other people’s problems remain THEIR problems. You don’t need to “fix” anything. Sometimes you just need to watch...from a distance.
2. Take an honest and brutal assessment of your resources. All of them. You've been brainwashed into thinking that NOTHING good can come from an environment of people who look like you. However, you probably have access to far more resources than you've realized. Even if someone can't help you directly, they may be able to direct you to someone who is able to help.
3. Ask for PROFESSIONAL help. If you're a college student, there are DOZENS of middle aged woman and men who have budgets allocated to help you become a well-rounded productive citizen. Your goal should be to seek those people out and make them earn their salary. The money's sitting there, staff meetings are held about what to do with that money. If it isn't used, sometimes they lose it OR it goes into the pot for bonuses.
4.Once you seek out help, when a disinterested third party offers you advice, be willing to consider trying it. You might think it will work, but you never know. Something I started doing last year was taking people's advice on low risk issues based merely on the fact that they'd been sucessful. I didn't analyze it or run scenarios, i just did what they told me to do and trusted them. Almost 99% of the time they were right. My racing coach is the best example. I just made the decision to believe that after a decade of coaching she knew what she was doing. I remember the first time she told me to keep running through a walk break over a freeway overpass and I thought my chest was going to explode. I ignored my "you're gonna die!"
5.Expect and prepare for sacrifice.
6. When it comes to your own self defense, don’t substitute someone else’s judgement for your own. Not even your mother. People don’t like conflict or change. They would rather you suffer in silence to make them feel more comfortable.
Again, your life isn't a box of Jiffy Cornbread mix, following someone else's instructions will never meet your specific needs, but they are a good jumping off point.
Enjoy your 20s. Take LOT's of non-lethal risks and a few potentially legal risks ( swimming with stingrays, skydiving, driving cross country surviving on Mountain Dew, running with the bulls.). You're not supposed to have it all figured out. That's part of the fun. And if you make it out, you and your friends are goign to have an amazing time in your 30s laughing at all the things you overcame in your 20s