Updated on 02.09.11

Pleasing Someone Else or Pleasing Yourself

Trent Hamm

I originally intended to include this email in tomorrow’s reader mailbag, but my response to this woman went on for so long that I felt it deserved a post of its own.

Julie writes in:

I’m 26 years old, single, and I have an entry level graphic design job that I love. On the side, I do some freelance painting work for local grocery stores, painting their windows with various designs to attract customers. I love what I do even though it’s not going to make me rich for the foreseeable future.

My parents constantly put down what I’m doing and tell me to start “earning a living.” They point to my older brother who is a systems analyst who makes $80K a year working for [the state] and they ask why I can’t be more like him.

I’m so tired of all of this. Every time I see them I wind up feeling horrible about my career choices and kind of depressed and I think about quitting what I have and doing something else. I know I should go back to school and get a different degree that would qualify me for something better […] so I’ve decided to do that.

Julie’s email was pretty long and even in the excerpt above, I edited it a bit to remove some familial details that really don’t need to be aired in a public forum.

Suffice it to say, Julie’s stuck in a challenging position. She’s sitting at a crossroads in her life and is about to make a very major decision, not because it makes her happy, but because it makes her parents happy.

My advice to Julie is simple: do what you love. This is your life to live, not your parents. You are the one that has to wake up each morning and face your day. You’re the one that has to deal with the balance of income and enjoyment of your work. You’re the one that has to navigate whatever career path you choose.

Whenever you are forced to choose between making yourself happy and making someone else happy with a major life decision, choose yourself. Don’t have a child if you don’t want to have one. Don’t choose a career path to make someone else happy. Don’t fill your life with something you don’t want, or you’re signing yourself up for a miserable life.

This isn’t to say that relationships don’t sometimes require compromise, but those compromises are usually done so that all members of the compromise end up ahead over the long run. I’m constantly compromising with my wife, but almost always I end up gaining (on the whole) more than I give, as does she.

Giving up your dreams to please someone else in an abstract way (meaning your choice doesn’t really affect their life) is not a compromise. It’s willingly giving up your dreams for almost nothing in return.

In this situation, if she makes the career switch, Julie is highly unlikely to wind up ahead – and, frankly, I’m not sure her parents really will, either. They might gain some benefits from having a child with more income, but they’re also certainly gaining some resentment and loss of trust from their daughter. That, on the whole, is a net loss in my eyes.

What about Julie? Won’t she earn more income? She might, in the short run, but you’re much more likely to excel in a career path that you love and are passionate about than in a career path that you have no passion for at all. I don’t care what the career paths are, I’ll bet on the person with passion and excitement every single time, because they’ll always go the extra mile to succeed. Julie is not only filling her days with design work, she’s doing it as a side gig, too, and she still wants to do more. That’s passion and excitement. That’s a person who’s going to keep improving their skills, keep making connections, and eventually start getting ahead.

Julie, don’t give up on the artistic work you’re doing. You’re in a career path you love and that you’re passionate about. That will carry you a long way and leave you happy in the end.

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  1. Karla says:

    Great advice, Trent. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    Best of luck to you, Julie!

  2. Johanna says:

    Julie, I’m so sorry. Please understand that what your parents are doing is horrible. It’s bad enough to hear from your parents, in any context, that you’ve disappointed them, but to have them “constantly putting you down” over something that is really none of their business is especially horrible. And to stack siblings up against each other…well, as my own mother often said, “There’s no excuse for that.”

    You are right. They are wrong. And you can tell them that I said so.

    But even if you do decide to continue in the career that you love (and I hope you do), there’s still the matter of how to deal with your parents about it. I don’t have a good answer for that. They’ll probably come around eventually, but it may take years. It may help to try reasoning with them (“What does it matter to you how much money I make, as long as I’m independent and can pay my own bills?”), or it may not. It may help to withdraw yourself from them, or threaten to (“I’m spending the holidays with my friends this year, because I’m tired of hearing what a failure you think I am”), but that’s risky. It may help to talk to your brother, or any other siblings you have, and see if you can get them on your side. Without knowing more about your parents, it’s hard to say.

    Good luck to you, though. Be strong. Lots of virtual hugs if you want them.

  3. moom says:

    I wonder if there is another side to this story? Is Julie making enough to survive or does she depend on handouts from her parents? Or is she complaining about how she can’t afford things when they say this? What is Julie planning to study instead?

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Unfortunately, if parents have this attitude they often don’t stop at careers. Next it could be she’s not married, and when she marries it will be that she doesn’t have kids yet, or she hasn’t bought a house, or hasn’t bought a bigger house.

    My grandfather used to always tell my mom and her sibling that they had to do what made them happy, not him — that way they couldn’t blame him later on ;)

    It was meant as a joke, but it’s the truth. My advice to Julie would be to focus on her own happiness and independence (financial and emotional) and not doing anything that will make her resent her parents for the rest of her life.

  5. BJD says:

    I was thinking the same thing as #3 moom. To Johanna’s point “as long as I’m independent and can pay my own bills?” — how do we know that is the case? there is nothing in the edited letter to let us know if Julie really is living independently or dependent on her parents

  6. Ryan says:

    I’d encourage Julie to grow her freelance gig, if possible. Keep the entry level job for now, but see if you can really increase the freelance side of things. That’ll improve your income and I think most parents would be proud of someone in business for themselves.

  7. Yuri says:

    Julie should be able to look in the mirror and be honest with herself yourself about her decision to choose this career. If there is any remote doubt, maybe it’s time for a change. In the end, SHE is the one that will have to look back and say if she wes happy with her decisions or not. What do you want to remember when you look back? After all, they have gotten their chance to live their lives, now it’s time to live yours the best you can. Choosing the best is not always money, it’s PERSONAL fulfillment.

  8. JC says:

    My advice would be to continue to grow your skills and expand your horizons.

    That doesn’t mean becoming a lawyer or a doctor or a systems analyst…but to find other professional oportunities that develop skills and interests you have – and maybe explore a bit to find new ones.

    Maybe there are people who are your clients that do things that interest you…look into that. Good business skills are also important – while you may not be a business owner in the near future (or ever) – knowing how to manage for the bottom line is something that employers would value.

    And let your parents know how excited you are about your career development and growth.

  9. Mary says:

    I think what also plays a role here is the generational differences. Her parents probably grew up in an era where making art as a career was unheard of. If you’re not in a secure field, like health care or IT, people tend to think you’re not going to make a lot of money. And while that may be true, your passion should come first. It isn’t fair to have yourself make a ton of money when you absolutely loathe the job.

    She should talk to her parents honestly, saying hey this is what I love to do, this is my dream, and I’m sorry but I’m not going to change that because of what you think. And agreed with #4, Elizabeth – it goes with every aspect of your life, not just your career.

    Parents will be parents. I choose not to let them get in the way of how I want to live my life.

  10. valleycat1 says:

    If you decide to stick to your guns & remain in your preferred career, then here are a couple more ideas on how to handle things when your parents bring up the topic again:

    1. A dead stare (or an incredulous look) & refusal to engage in that conversation at all (don’t say anything, as it sounds like you’ve had the discussion many times already). It takes two (or more) to argue.

    2. Immediately change the topic. Prepare a list of ideas ahead of time, so you aren’t fishing for something to say in the heat of the moment.

    3. The next time your parents start on the topic, tell them one time that appreciate their concern AND you are happy with your life as it is and you don’t plan to change, and that if they continue to raise the topic you will leave. Then if/when they do, do it – calmly and politely.

  11. Cindy Brick says:

    I’d betcha Julie is taking and/or asking for regular “help” from her parents. If she is supporting herself on her own, then by all means, Valleycat1 (comment #10) has a some great responses. But you can’t assert your independence until you’re truly BEING independent. It may mean giving up some luxuries until your work can support them…but it would be worth it.

  12. Noadi says:

    As long as Julie is surviving and paying her bills, even if things are tight right now, then she should tell her parents to knock it off. If she is taking handouts from her parents she needs to stop, immediately, because it is giving them a reason to put this pressure on her. If need be, tell them you will not spend time around them if they continue to make you feel bad.

    I run my own small jewelry business, and I absolutely love what I do even though money is pretty tight and my income isn’t steady. I’ve never been happier than I am right now, supporting myself by doing something I enjoy every single day. I know too many people who make more money than I am but they hate their jobs and they’re miserable because if it.

  13. Priswell says:

    I’m going to assume that Julie *is* paying her own bills. If she isn’t, that’s a different thing, but we’ll start from that point. My thoughts are along the line of Elizabeth’s. If she made more money, would her parents stop comparing her to to her brother? If she made more money in her current line of work, would her parents be satisfied?

    She’s happy doing what she’s doing, it just doesn’t make her parents happy. She should approach her conversations with her parents with 5-6 responses to why she does the things that she does that she can just lather, rinse, repeat, and 50 ways to divert the conversation when they press the matter.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I’m surprised that people assume Julie is taking hand outs from her parents. While that could be the case, I suspect it’s more likely that Julie’s parents want her to conform to an outdated mode of career planning — make as much money as possible while living in drudgery and then retire to the lap of luxury.

    However, society seems to be shifting towards finding a fulfilling career and achieving a good work/life balance instead. I think we’re seeing a shift towards rewarding experiences rather than “more stuff” and that’s trickling down to our career paths too. Julie’s given career is flexible — she could launch her own full time business later on if she wants, or work part time or at home if she chooses to raise children.

    People’s ideas of retirement have also changed. Look at the research — many of the people who are happy in their careers don’t want to retire at all, or they take a few years off and go back. (There’s even a buzzword for it — “rehirement”) Creative careers are great for this because of the freelancing, consulting and teaching opportunities you can take advantage of at any stage.

    I’m sure Julie’s wondering if she would be better off earning more cash now, even if she’s less happy, but I think careers are life-long investments. Most people I know in creative careers found it tough at the beginning, but once they got going they’ve never regretted it.

  15. Jules says:

    Spent my college years and four years of graduate school working towards a career that, frankly, I just didn’t really care about, but that my parents had convinced me to care about. Except that, once I got out from under their wing, I found that I really cared about some other career path. Misery is having to go to Europe in order to escape the pressures and really get back on my feet again. Trust me, you don’t want to be miserable.

    It’s one thing to tell someone “It’s your life” but trust me, it’s a whole ‘nother story to have to live it. My relationship with my parents, for instance, have basically bit the dust (not that they were ever stellar to begin with) when I announced my Plan. It’s HARD to break away from that.

  16. Adam P says:

    Trent, is the reader getting help for her parents? That sort of justifies their nagging her to get a real job if she isn’t making enough money to support herself. In that case, painting is a hobby and she should do it while earning enough money from a job that supports herself.

    However, if she is not taking money from her parents but merely not making as much as Mister Perfect Brother the systems analyst for the state, then her parents are just idiots who need to lay the heck off and let the daughter find her own way.

    For Julie, the goal in life to me is to be happy. If you can suppport yourself doing a job you love that makes you happy, then you’re doing a lot better than most millionaires out there in my books.

  17. Michelle says:

    I think the parents are making everyone miserable. I’m the brother in this situation. My parents are always telling my sister, “Look at Michelle! She’s doing so well! Why are you struggling when you could be in a secure career like your sister!”. And it makes me feel awful! Maybe Julie could enlist her brother to get her parents to stop. I bet he is as miserable as she is.

    And the truth is, I really enjoy my work (engineering), and my sister really loves hers (graphic design), so the only people unhappy with the situation are my parents!! And for the record, my sister makes plenty of money as a graphic designer!

  18. krantcents says:

    Good advice! My children are successful and happy in their careers because of that advice. If you are happy in your career you start to see opportunities that other people don’t see. A friend’s son did window displays not that different than Julie and created a great business from it. He branched into trade shows and other things because of it. I think what may be missing from Julie is the conviction that she made the right choice. If she has that, she needs to express that to her parents. As a parent, if I heard her conviction I would back off.

  19. Brittany says:

    Stay strong, Julie. As long as you are paying your own bills and not taking any money from your parents (I assume this is true), keep on keeping on. My mom flipped out when I changed my major from secondary education to international studies (ended up with a double in economics as well) because they couldn’t see it as a viable career path. But she wasn’t paying for any of my school, so I patiently and quietly ignored her advice. I still don’t make a ton of money, but I have a job I’m passionate about, pay all my bills, and have almost killed off students loans just shy of my annual salary. Oh, and I’m happy. Totally worth it. Good luck and stay strong!

  20. Lise says:

    Julie– I don’t know which grocery stores you paint at, but there’s a Trader Joe’s I shop at in Nashua NH which always has great scenes painted on its windows, so I’m guessing you do something like that. Personally, the pictures make me smile every time I go there, and I’ve heard people commenting on them to the cashiers. So this isn’t financial advice, but it is a thank you for making the world a more fun place!

  21. kristine says:

    My only advice is to make sure you learn web design too, and have health insurance.

  22. Mike says:


    Do what you love…I wish I could go back 20 years and tell my 21 year old self that. You are one of the lucky ones who has found a job they love at a young age. Best of luck to you!

  23. BD says:

    Testing this comment box. Tried writing a post, it didn’t work.

  24. BD says:

    Interesting…my test post posted, but my main comment didn’t. Trying again without the URL:

    Wow, Trent. Did you forget your own article ALREADY?
    You wrote a WONDERFUL write-up on people in Julie’s position and advised them to find other work, or get a patron: an-artist-on-the-side-coppola-on-the-future-of-artists-and-artisans/ (See this site’s article for Feb. 2nd, 2011)

    Now, you’re back to parroting “DO WHAT YOU LOVE”, when we all of us artists know that for artists, it’s BAD ADVICE to have art as a primary job.

    Seriously. Get another career, and just do art on the side. I’ve been down this road, and I’m here to warn you.

    I am a middle-aged out-of-work Graphic Designer. I have not been able to find work in the design field now for over 6 years. I was once in your shoes, bright-eyed, full of hope, working an entry-level graphic design position and hoping to go somewhere. Months turned into years, years turned into decades. Not only was I never able to “move up” in the graphic design world, but Graphic Design Wages all over the nation came tumbling down, and thousands of graphic design jobs were cut.

    Now, it’s almost impossible to get a decent-paying graphic design position. The $12 an hour or so you make through most of your design career won’t be enough to *realistically* live on. Sure, as long as nothing goes wrong (ie, your health stays good, you stay accident free), then you can scrape by, but the minute something major happens, you’ll be in debt with no way to pay it off. If another recession hits, you’ll be the first to be laid off. And when you get old, if you ever have to leave your current job, forget getting rehired. The design world is harsh towards older designers.

    Businesses don’t want to pay for art…they want it cheap or FREE (see Trent’s Logo story here at TSD).

    So you’ll eventually find yourself not making a living wage, or out of work altogether.

    I’m going back to college now for a degree in Accounting. If I were you, I’d SWITCH CAREERS while you can, or at least find a second job that pays better and do design on the side. And I’m NOT the only one!

    Almost ALL of my middle-aged graphic designer friends are in the EXACT SAME POSITION as me…moving back in with parents and going back to school for a different career.

    Don’t follow the “do what you love” ploy, unless you don’t MIND being homeless and living under a bridge or ending up in a homeless shelter (I almost did).

  25. Izabelle says:

    Graphic designers have an extra layer of prejudice to work with (because applied arts are often demeaned as “not work”) and it’s a shame that Julie’s parents can’t see past it. Julie, if you are reading this, please hang on. Yes, graphic designers usually start small, but this is a very rewarding career with a lot of room to move upward.

    You say you love your job. Why quit that? You only have one life to live, this is not a dress rehearsal, so might as well do what feels right for YOU.

  26. Izabelle says:


    It really disturbs me when people who failed at graphic design use their own experience to convince other designers to change fields.

    Yes, this is a tough field. Yes, a very large amount of designers need a “day job” to make it. If I had listened to them, I’d be doing something else and being miserable. Instead, I have a blast all day managing a team of fun, smart and incredibly talented designers.

    For having read my share of designer résumés and with my networking experience, I can say with confidence that creative, competent designers who know how to market themselves and keep up with technology usually have no problem making a living. For those struggling, I’d say first search within yourself.

  27. Wes says:

    I can see why Julie is upset with her parents. Sure, parents are there to advise their children to make “good” choices, but sometimes grown children will go down their own path. If it’s clear that Julie has made her choice, her parents should drop the issue.

    That said, I think BD is on to something. The “do what you love” advice is not grounded in reality. It certainly does not serve an individual’s financial well-being and, in my opinion, it may not even serve his or her spiritual well-being. I have to disagree with Trent’s last sentence; there is no guarantee that doing what you love will “carry you a long way and leave you happy in the end.” BD made this point nicely.

    If Julie “loves” painting windows for next to nothing, that’s certainly her choice, but I don’t think I could ever be satisfied with my life if I were not doing something that served other people. It may appear that she’s serving someone, but the price others are willing to pay for that service says something about how valuable it actually is to society. Simply put, the reason her brother makes so much more than her is that he is fulfilling a greater need in society.

    But like I said, Julie’s life is hers to live, and I’m not trying to judge her. But I would not tell her to do what she loves for a living. That’s what hobbies are for. Instead, I would tell her to pick a more productive career that she can see herself learning to love. That turns the “do what you love” into “love what you do,” and, in Julie’s situation, may provide both the fulfillment she wants and the financial stability her parents want out of her career.

  28. Izabelle says:


    Julie mentions that she paints windows on the side, along with an entry-level graphic design job. She is already employed in her field! Don’t mistake art for design. Dismissing a graphic design career because it appears fun makes about as much sense as telling a passionate accountant to crunch numbers as a hobby!

    We are in an era that is centered on communication. This is a great time for designers because graphic design is, in essence, visual communication. Designed interfaces, apps, brands, websites, etc. are popping up like never before. And from my experience, good designers are busier than ever these days.

  29. Wes says:


    I never dismissed graphic design as a legitimate industry, and I don’t doubt its overall importance in communications. Julie’s specific problem (the problem I addressed) is not about Graphic Design careers in general. It’s about her attitude towards it. She doesn’t think she can make money doing it, which tells me that she either is not any good at it, or that she’s less interested in being productive than she is in drawing pictures.

    Also, Izabelle, where did I say anything close to dismissing an entire career because it “looks” fun? To the contrary, I encouraged Julie to find a productive job that she could love doing, and loving what you do and having fun often go hand in hand.

    Julie’s problem isn’t her career field per se. Her problem is that she simply “loves” doing something but doesn’t believe she is either ambitious or talented enough to actually be of use to others and make a good living off of it for several years. And just because you, Izabelle, are a very talented and successful Graphic Design artist, you cannot assume that everyone who “loves” graphic design is making the right choice by perusing that career.

  30. Michele says:

    My question is, why does Julie’s parents even know how much she makes and how much her brother makes?
    As long as she is paying her own bills, they have no right to that information…and she shouldn’t share it with them. “I’m doing OK and I’m happy” should be enough for any parent…if they want more they should be told ‘I’m an adult and it’s my personal business thanks for asking’. Now, if the parents are footing bills, then they should be concerned, but I didn’t get that from Trent’s post.
    BTW- my sister’s husband is a graphic designer and has always managed to keep food on the table, pay the mortgage, and send 4 kids to Catholic Schools for 12 years AND all 4 to college- and all 4 graduated with no student loans. I don’t know what he makes, but he inspired my youngest son who just graduated in May with a degree in graphic design and has a wonderful job that he loves in San Francisco, and he is taking care of himself in a wonderful style without help from his parents! If you are talented in Graphic Design, it can be quite a lucrative career! Suck it up Julie and tell your parents to MYOB (as long as you are not the parental dole)!!!

  31. Julia in UK says:

    It sounds as if Julie might be either living in her parents’ home or having to take financial help from them. If so – I’m afraid I think they are right.
    Perhaps Julie would set the record straight here and tell us whether she is completely independent from Mum and Dad?

  32. Kate says:

    To those who disbelieve that relatives will openly chastise and try to guide adult children who they perceive are walking down the wrong path…parents do that and probably the best thing is for the “child” to distance themselves and realize that he/she has somehow emerged from the family with a different world view/value set. By distance I do not mean cut them out of their lives.
    Parents (and very often grandparents) hate to see their children struggle and often provide unwanted guidance in the form of comparisons to other siblings. It shouldn’t be done, but unfortunately it often happens.

  33. Izabelle says:


    Maybe I misread your original comment… but from what I read from Julie’s question, the only negativity or that she has seems to stem from her parents. And there is a big difference between “won’t make me rich” and “can’t pay the bills”! One does not necessarily need to make 80k to make a good living!

    I know a lot of designers who have to deal with this kind of abuse from well-intended parents. When I chose design, mine wanted a full evaluation from the career counselor because they were afraid. I may not be rich, but I do live comfortably. Now my parents are very proud.

    I agree with you that just because someone loves it doesn’t mean that they should absolutely pursue a career in design. But switching paths to please others is not a good idea.

  34. Victoria says:

    I just wanted to offer Julie a little bit of advice a friend gave to me. I have a very solid relationship with my parents, but sometimes do get nagged about my choices and whether I am doing the right thing, etc. Part of this is because I have a good relationship and tend to tell my parents things that others might not share with their parents — including the times I feel more negative. But the thing is, parents tend to latch on to that because they worry naturally, and if there’s also the successful other sibling in the picture, they have an obvious point of comparison to make. The advice my friend gave was to consciously ONLY mention the good things when speaking to your parents. Don’t complain, even jokingly. Simply say: “It’s so exciting, I’m doing X job,” or “This is going so well,” or “I have a great opportunity coming up” etc. If they bring up the negatives, counteract with positives. Show them that you ARE happy and they will hopefully come to accept that.

  35. Wes says:


    It seems you’ve made the mistake of misreading my comments twice. I never suggested Julie should change her career to please someone else.

  36. getagrip says:

    Parents do push, often even if you are doing better than okay. They interfere even when you’ve tried to make other arrangements. I’ve caught grief about where I moved to, the kind of house I bought, when I had children, how I raise them, etc. My favorite response is when my mother asked me “Why don’t you ever take my advice?” and I simply said, “You don’t give advice, you dictate orders.” She has never learned, never changed, at best she now bites her tongue more often.

    However I do understand her, more so now as my children are gaining independance than ever. A parent has a broader sense of experience than their child in most cases simply by having lived longer. You see your child heading for the bad relationship. You see them heading for the dead end career of subsitance living. You see the manipulation others use on them and how they are making choices that will lead to a lot of pain. You see these future happenings because you’ve seen them before, often many times, played out among relatives, friends, children of friends, and in your own life. So I understand where the drive to “fix”, even if well intentioned, can come from.

    So my advice to Julie does mirror much of what others have said with the caveat that she isn’t likely to change her parents comments, only modify them a bit. But if you understand where it comes from, you can alter your response some and hopefully take some of the sting out. If you are getting economic support from you parents, I’d recommend keep working to get off it so they can’t hold that over you as proof you need to do something else. If you aren’t then maybe you can smile, change the conversation or flat out let them know you heard them, that you’ve heard them the last twenty times, that you love them but this is what you’re doing and you’re doing fine, then change the subject.

    If you want to go for the more exasperated response or are willing to have some fun at their expense to put home the point, you could pull out a little notebook, make a check and then say something like, “wow, new record, only took you thirty seconds into our chat before you told me I’m worth less to you than my brother and I’m a loser for not working at a job that would likely make me blow my brains out after six months of being shackled to it. So how about this weather?”

    But we both know they won’t get that, yet sometimes you have to imagine having a bit of fun so it isn’t such a stressor when the situation does arise again.

  37. Katia says:

    Really makes me appreciate my parents! I am one of 5 children and while we all make different amounts of money, we are all happy. Why? Because our advice was ‘find something you love to do, then find a way to get paid to do it.’

    I have a degree in elementary education/teaching the hearing impaired. I did teach nine years, but ‘retired’ to raise my children. My husband’s brother kept after me to get a ‘factory job’ because I could earn more money than I did teaching. But I am totally satisfied with how things turned out. Now that my children are older, I am secretary at my church, not earning what I could if I went back into teaching or even substituting, but I am enjoying what I am doing.

    One only needs to look at celebrities to see that money can’t buy happiness. It’s personal fulfillment that matters most, whether you make big bucks or not. If you are happy doing what you are doing; and you are making ends meet; then stick with what you are doing. Trying to please others will only end with you being unhappy.

    Best wishes to you, Julie!

  38. Kevin says:

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but whenever I see someone advise others to just “do what you love” and not worry about the money, I can’t help but wonder if they’d still espouse such a philosophy if what the person “loved” was sitting on the couch, collecting unemployment insurance, playing video games.

    Bills? Maybe he’s living with his girlfriend, and she takes care of the bills. Retirement? Psssh… that’s not for like, 30 years. Things will work out. After all, everyone keeps telling him to “do what he loves,” and he’ll have a happy, fulfilling life, so I’m sure he’s not too worried about retirement. He’ll find a way to make it work.

  39. Carole says:

    There were other questions besides Julie’s. Doesn’t anyone have any thoughts on them? It’s just an observation. I don’t have anything to add either.

  40. Carole says:

    Sorry my previous post doesn’t make sense after rereading the post. I was thinking there were several questions.

  41. Jon says:

    Julie, it’s probably time to be an adult and get a real job. Do the design and art on the side if you love it. I know several people with graphic arts/design degrees who can’t find any work in that field.

    To the lady who had to run off to Europe to find herself and escape the pressure.. GROW UP!!

  42. Peter says:

    I speak with a little experience on this since I found myself in Julies ‘exact’ position, and oddly enough with exactly the same career. Julie, this is one of the toughest life choices you will ever make, there is no right or wrong answer either!

    On the one hand lets not kid ourselves, we work to eat first, and enjoyment of ones work is important but nevertheless a blessing not everyone can have. But Julie you have both, if money is really an issue, you can do many things to supplement your steady income, especially in your line of work, freelancing for example can be lucrative.

    Also consider the following:
    1. Studying will require further sacrifices, and income loss, so if you went this route would you be able to recoup that money? And be better off for it in future?

    2. If you choose to study something else, will you attain the job satisfaction you have now?

    3. Do you have other goals that will be affected? getting married and having kids for instance? how will these goals be impacted?

    The one major difference btw my situation and Julies is that I could only get an internship in my field, and never managed to find a decent paying position, so I chose to study again, I then spent the next 7 years studying whilst working, so I did get a decent paying job in the end, but it came at quite a cost.

    Comparing you with a sibling is not fair on you, as we are all unique, with our own personality and talents… I know of two sisters, the one with a PHD (worked her butt off since forever) the other does nails (took a short course), and the sister who does nails is the more successful, (financially, family wise and socially). Nothing is fixed in stone, you also won’t find a silver-bullet solution to your situation, the big secret is simply finding the right balance in your life.

  43. Earth MaMa Jo says:

    I agree with Trent’s advice. Do what makes YOU happy. You are 26 and entitled to live your own life, and live it the way you want.

    I wish someone had pounded that into my head when I was younger. I’ve been independent since I turned 18, but that didn’t stop my parent’s interference with MY life until it came to a head when I was 33. I am estranged from them now, and my life is actually much better. Sure, I miss having parents, but the stress of trying to live up to their demands became too much when I realized that I would have to put THEIR needs and wants above my own, my husband’s, and my children’s. Mind you, I’ve never asked for a dime from them or lived in their home since I turned 18. At 33, I was finally free to pursue career and personal interests that they “disapproved of” vehemently. I can’t even imagine how my life would be now if I’d continued to let them control it – which is what they were doing, but I didn’t really know it because my whole life had been that way.

    But, I also agree with the overall sense of others when they ask if Julie has a life independent of her parents – it’s a key component here.

  44. Elizabeth says:

    @ Jon — graphic design is a real job. All the instruction manuals, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, signs, pamphlets, books, etc. we see weren’t created by volunteers.

    It really depends on where you live and what industry you work in, or if you work for yourself. For example, in my area designers who work for tech companies generally get paid more than ones who in manufacturing or publishing. As with any job, demand is higher in certain places than others. To say graphic designers in one’s area don’t do well doesn’t mean the situation is universal.

  45. Squirrelers says:

    For each of us, our life is our OWN. It’s not good to live to make others happy, or to live up to others’ expectations. To that end, do what it is you want to do.

    I do think that focusing on what you truly enjoy is a solid approach to take. It also needs to be balanced with your practical day-to-day needs of paying bills as well as saving for the future. So I see a balance here in this specfic case. But the overriding theme to me is that one should do what he or she wants to without living based on others’ expectations.

  46. jim says:

    You’re doing what you like and making a living at it. If your parents can’t be happy that you’re happy then that is their problem.

    I’m assuming Julie is paying her own bills. If she is getting financial help from the parents then thats a different situation really. Julie is employed and has a side job, so I assume thats paying her way. Her parents say she should be ‘earning a living’ but I think thats likely just their dismissive attitude towards her job like saying its ‘not a real job’.

  47. Katie says:

    Hi Julie,
    I went to school for graphic design, and one of my favorite teachers told us that you don’t start out making much money as a graphic designer, but if you’re good, you can double your salary in 5 years. Even though I switched to web design after graduation, my teacher was absolutely right. 5 years later, I am making almost double what I made in my first job out of school. And if you’re a talented painter, I think that shows that you ARE a good designer and you have a lot of potential to make great money with that career choice. Illustrators make WAY more many than graphic or web designers do! Keep at it and good luck!

  48. tall bill says:

    Go with your heart & learn all you can & the paycheck will follow. Good Luck.

  49. Bill says:

    I’m a computer programmer and I have worked with graphic designers who make a living wage for 15 years. I have worked with extremely talented people and most do art also as a hobby, I have never met a artistic person who’s hobby art even remotely resembled their work for pay.

  50. Maya says:


    I’m so sorry that you’re parents are treating you this way. Even if they are lending you money, it does not buy them the right to disrespect their own daughter.

    I agree with most of the previous comments that you should actively pursue graphic design since you seem to have such passion for it. I know it’s so much easier to say than do, but you can NOT sacrifice your desire to create just to please your parents.

    Sometimes we make a decision out of fear of making someone angry. However, it’s that same fear that clouds our judgement and usually causes us to make at least another big mistake. And it results in the other person still being unhappy with you and you feeling even worse than before.

    This result happened to me when I also placed my family members’ opinions over my own values.

    The lesson I learned is that if you have to suffer from someone’s disapproval, it’s better to suffer while being true to yourself rather than suffer while living a lie.

    And to Jon, perhaps you should take your own advice.

    Because a true, mature grown-up knows that no two persons are exactly alike. Therefore, we all have to try different things and make different choices (and even mistakes) while learning what works best for each of us.

    I’m praying for you Julie. Good luck!

  51. Kai says:

    You say it will never make you rich. That’s probably true. but does it make you enough to support yourself? IF you can live independently from your parents, support whatever you choose to do, and are enjoying the work, then don’t let anyone else tell you it’s not good enough.
    If you live with your parents or get monetary assistance from them, or have no money to be able to save for the future or insure yourself against possible issues, then you are probably right about it not being enough, and you will need another job – and possibly a degree to enable it.
    But you don’t need to make 80 thousand a year to live. ‘A living’ is defined as whatever you want your life to be. So if you can make enough at the work you do to live a life with which you are satisfied, then let it be, and if your parents tell you it’s not good enough, they haven’t the ground to stand on.
    For parents nagging without justification, I suggest simply refusing to engage. Answer “I make enough to live in a way that doesn’t depend on anyone else, and provides for the life I’m happy to live”. If they insist on berating your choices, tell them you’re not interested in hearing it. If they continue, leave. Eventually they’ll get the point that if they want a relationship with you, they’ll have to accept you as you are. Or they won’t have a relationship with you.
    Some parents never learn, and it’s unfortunate. But you don’t have to take it.

  52. Gail says:

    As long as Julie is self-supporting, she should be allowed to follow her dreams. But if she is still at home, living off her parents, then she should do as her parents say or get out.

  53. Melody says:

    I am a proud mom of a social worker working with mentally ill people. It is often a heartbreaking job and she doesn’t make much money. But she loves it and I would never tell her to do anything else just to make more money. As long as she is happy with her choice and can support herself doing that, then, that is her decision. I would rather have her happy with less money than making a million dollars but so stressed and miserable that she has health problems or dies before me because of it. What good is money if you kill yourself doing something that you hate for years? Julie’s parents really need to back off and realize what a treasure they have. Many parents aren’t so lucky!

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