Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: I have this overwhelming anger or jealousy toward my younger brother because of how “easily” his life seems to come for him.
One example: I paid for community college on my own, and when I decided to go to a university, my parents co-signed for a semester but said I needed to figure it out after that. I could not afford it, so I joined the military to get education benefits as well as health insurance.
Now, two years post-military, I am finally able to use my education benefits. My brother never cared about school. We tried to convince him to go, but he didn’t want to go to college for something he didn’t want to do for the rest of his life. We tried to talk him into the military, but he doesn’t do well with authority. Now my military father is going to let him use some of his education benefits. He will get to go to college for free with no sacrifice. It’s so frustrating!
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His recent desire to pursue school is because his girlfriend is pregnant. He has never been able to keep a stable job for long. An education would serve him well – but he also quits when things get tough.
I had to sacrifice so much to just be able to afford to go to school, but he just decides he thinks he maybe wants to do something like human resources or accounting (hah! if only you knew him) and snaps his fingers and, voila, college, at your command? Doesn’t seem right.
DEAR RIVAL: Would you want his “easy” life if you could magically trade? I wouldn’t. I agree that his free education doesn’t seem right, but it does make sense to me. Your parents’ job was to launch their children with the skills and emotional resources to support themselves.
With you, it worked, apparently quite well. You have a work ethic, discipline and a conscience.
With your brother, something didn’t fall into place that needed to. He lacks the discipline and work ethic piece, and apparently the conscience part isn’t strong enough for him to say no to the parental bailout and start getting serious. So your parents are scrambling to get this foundering child launched. Can’t keep a job, can’t stomach authority, can’t support the child he has on the way … so, ugh, maybe an education will save him.
What you describe isn’t his winning a lottery so much as your parents’ achieving desperation, to which I bet a lot of puzzled, heartbroken parents can relate. Maybe they created it themselves by indulging him, or maybe he’s always been this way and indulgence is their break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option, maybe a combination of the two, but, regardless, they are where they are.
Is that the same thing as things coming “easily” to him? I’m not so sure. He has the education money you had to serve in the military to get, so on the surface, yes – but he’s on a road that’s ultimately so much harder than yours that, again, if I could choose your path or his, I’d choose yours without batting an eye. Please ask yourself which you’d choose. Don’t let money blind you to the hard path of your brother’s dysfunction.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.