Q. My 21-year-old niece will be graduating from a well-known college in May.
She has already secured a great job in another state and has the potential to relocate to their different offices around the world. She is bright, beautiful, and has a budding future ahead of her.
Here’s the rub: She announced in January that she and her (off-and-on-again) high school sweetheart are getting married.
We were all shocked and hoped for a long engagement, but they decided it would happen in June, in the smallish city they grew up in.
He is a really nice guy and I like him, but he did not go to college and his aspiration in life is to own a used-car lot.
I’m worried that the disparity in aspirations might be an issue in the future. Plus, he is not planning on moving with her to the big city she’ll be working in (what the heck?)
My niece is traveling to England right before her wedding.
My aging parents are in no shape to travel the eight hours to the wedding, so they won’t be able to see their first grandchild married.
My father is unwell and may die before then, and then my siblings and I would be planning a funeral!
In the space of a month, my niece will graduate from college, go abroad, get married, move, and start a new job.
I’m mad at her. I don’t understand why she feels this great rush to get married. I didn’t get married until later, and had such grand adventures and experiences. I was hoping she would, too. Sometimes I cry about it.
I love her. I try to be interested and supportive, but it’s really hard. I’m afraid she’ll get pregnant right off the bat and put her career on hold.
How can I wrap my head around this and get past my disappointment? She’s so young but I know she’s going to do what she wants to do.
A. People your niece’s age often have boundless energy to cram in many momentous experiences. From your perch, this must seem like an exhausting whirlwind.
It is worrying that you would be brought to tears over your niece’s (mainly positive) life choices. You view every single one of these choices through a scrim of your own needs and experiences. But she is not you. She is not supposed to serve your needs. She is definitely herself, and she has the right — and the need — to live her own life. She will definitely make mistakes along the way. This marriage might be one of them. Unfortunately, you cannot inoculate her from either the mistakes or the consequences.
Your only job is to continue to love her; you should not concern yourself too much with the particulars, or judge her harshly as she plows her own path. That’s her parents’ burden.
Q. As school has become increasingly harder and more academically challenging, I’m finding it necessary to quit some other activities. One in particular is my music lessons.
I have always enjoyed playing the harp and my teacher has become a mentor to me.
I eventually told her that I am thinking about moving on and I told her why, but I could tell that I made her sad.
I don’t want to risk hurting her feelings, but how do I discontinue lessons without doing that?
A. It is an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes we simply must disappoint people in order to see to our own needs.
Your first duty in your youth is to find ways to be compassionate toward yourself. You sound like a kind and compassionate person (how right the harp seems to be for you!). Your teacher is sad because she will miss her regular contact with you. She may also miss the income that your lessons bring in.
Say goodbye with certitude, gratitude, and respect.
Your teacher will have to manage her own sadness, just as you will have to manage your various burdens. She’ll be fine. So will you.
Q. Regarding “Expectant,” whose husband was going to be at his father’s heart operation instead of attending the birth of his child, I’ll tell you this much: If my husband was having heart surgery, we would both tell our son to be with his wife when their child was born.
A. I would do the same.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.