I have a friend who grew up in a very harsh environment. His parents were never married, he has multiple half siblings from his parents’ other relationships, has one brother in prison with four children from four different women, and has a sister that dropped out of high school and has three children whom she cannot afford to take care of and the father is out of the picture. His mother is on welfare and disability and his father was released from prison as well as is on welfare.
Lately I have noticed that my friend, who is in his late teens is starting to think that he is going to end up in situations like his family members have ended up with. He also seems to be having clouded judgment lately and has made a few “close call” mistakes lately that could have gotten him into serious trouble, like some of his family members.
Any advice for me that you can give on how I can try and help him go in a more positive direction? He thinks he is doomed to follow the footsteps of his family members because he was born into all of this chaos.
-Not Wanting Friend to Follow Family Member’s Footsteps
Dear Not Wanting Friend to Follow Family Member’s Footsteps,
First of all, you are a great friend to be looking out for your friend who is going through all of this. It sounds like he needs as many positive people in his life as he can get, especially right now as he may be closing his high school career and embarking on the real world.
As far as the topic of following your parents’ footsteps goes, a lot of people have a big misconception about this. Just because your mother is a nurse, does that mean you have to be a nurse too? Just because your father is a police officer, does that mean you have to be a police officer too? No. What this means is you may have the genes to pursue these paths because your parents pursued them before you, but that doesn’t mean that you have to pursue the path that your parents did.
Think about it.
If your great grandfather was a police officer, and so was your grandfather, and so was your father, and now you are, and so will your son be one day … why not mix it up a little? If everyone in your family had the same career that could get boring as everyone would be working the same position. There is nothing wrong with doing this, as it could also be interesting at the same time, however in the end it is solely the choice of the individual.
The same goes for your friend’s situation. Just because his sister dropped out of high school does not mean he has to follow her path and do the same thing. Just because his brother went to prison does not mean he has to follow his path and do the same. Your friend has the ability to make his own choices. What he should be doing is looking at how his family members have lived their lives and decide on whether or not he wants to follow them. If he doesn’t then he should be thinking about doing the complete opposite of what they did to avoid being in the situation that they are now in.
This is a great lesson to all of us. If we have a family member who is an alcoholic, that doesn’t mean that we have to become an alcoholic too. We all make choices to drink or to do something that may end in the consequence of us going to jail. We also have the ability to make other choices such as going to college, showing up to work on time each day, raising our children in a healthy environment, or even staying away from fast food. Every day we make our own choices and the only path we should be focused on is our own.
Tell your friend to create a new path that has never been traveled on by his family members, and to leave a trail for them to start following your friend instead of the other way around.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Michelle “Mikey” Arana is a 2003 graduate of Mountain Pointe High School. She offers free peer advice, however, Mikey is not licensed or trained, just a fellow friend to the community. All inquiries made to Mikey will remain anonymous unless legal issues occur. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.