Life Advice for Book Lovers: Feeling Stuck and Facing the Sacrifices We Make for Family
Book Recommendations for the Troubled Soul
Welcome to Life Advice for Book Lovers, Lit Hub’s advice column. You tell me what’s eating you in an email to email@example.com and I’ll tell you what you should read next.
Sorry for my English. It is not my first language. I stumble across your post Welcome to Life Advice for Book Lovers and I’m taking it as a call of the universe.
Adulthood is harder than I thought. In the last three years, I lost my grandfather and his brother—who are my male parent figure—and my grandmother is in coma.
I studied really hard to get a good job as assistant of judge and planned to become a judge myself. I have a nice salary but the beginning of the career is in small cities with poor structure.
That part is fine. At least I’m saving a ton of money, right? Wrong. My sister got into Med School and doesn’t get a scholarship so now 70 percent of my incomes goes to help my mother to support her.
I love my family but this situation makes me feel stuck like I’m achieving nothing in life. And I’m getting bitter towards my mom and my sister because of all professional opportunities that I have to denied because demand some downgrade of my salary for some time before getting better. And I can’t afford that because of her.
Literature was has been my best friend and escape place.
So please, what should I read?
Dear Future Judge,
I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the losses you’ve experienced recently, and for the situation you’re in now. It’s not easy to make sacrifices for family, and I hope yours knows how lucky they are to have you.
This is the part we don’t talk enough about: the way it feels to be caught between caring for the people who depend on you and striving for the other markers of adulthood that we’ve been sold. We’re taught from a young age that “progress” and “growing up” look like getting married and buying a house and having kids of our own. And even if those are things we decide we want, how can we achieve them—emotionally and financially—when those resources are being allocated elsewhere? Why isn’t sending money home or helping your sister pay her way through school looked at with the same respect? It should be. I, for one, am in awe of you.
I imagine the injustice of the situation hits particularly hard, given your chosen career path. As a judge, you want to dole out fairness in a world so devoid of it. And it’s not fair, the situation you’re in. I hope you give yourself the space to feel that without guilt or self-judgement. It’s okay to be a little bitter about it.
Now! Onto the fun part: for you, I’d recommend Mina Seçkin’s The Four Humors, which follows a young woman named Sibel as she spends the summer in Istanbul. She’s supposed to be taking care of her grandmother and studying for the MCAT, but she too feels a little stuck in life. It’s very much a story about family—what they demand of us in bad times and the ways they might nourish us, too.
Along similar veins, perhaps Rachel Khong’s Goodbye, Vitamin will prove to be good company. Thirty-year-old Ruth’s life hasn’t turned out the way she imagined it would. After her engagement ends, she goes home to her parents—only to find that her father is losing his memory. It’s a touching (and funny!) story about feeling stuck and finding small moments of tenderness and joy in the muck.
Love to you and yours,