DEAR ABBY: I am 39 and have been at my job for 15 years. I don't enjoy it and haven't since day one. The work is stressful and doesn't bring me one single ounce of gratification.
I have always wanted to be an elementary school teacher, but now I'm afraid that ship has sailed. I'm currently back in college for business (my job helps to pay my tuition) and feel like I'm not being fair to myself. I don't like finance, and I was never good at math. I get paid well and am well-invested in my retirement plan, but I'm miserable every minute I must sit in my little cubicle. I consider it my jail cell.
I need advice on where to take my career because I'm not getting any younger. Or is it too late? -- OVER THE HILL IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR O.T.H.: You are not incarcerated, and you are only as trapped as you choose to make yourself. Most colleges have career counseling services, and you should avail yourself of them.
If teaching children is your heart's desire, you will have to take the time to prepare for it, know ahead of time what opportunities are available and what the compensation is. Make it your business to find out before making any drastic changes. You'll be glad you did.
DEAR ABBY: I fervently want to help my daughter and her father (my ex) fix their relationship. They are both a lot alike -- bullheaded and stubborn. They can't see how much they hurt each other.
My daughter feels he has chosen his "new" family (wife and stepchildren) over her because she isn't invited to family game nights, dinners out, etc.
He feels she doesn't appreciate what he does for her.
She's expecting a baby (our first grandchild) in December, and I think they should try to mend fences before the birth occurs. We lost our son (her brother) three years ago, and I know this figures into the family dynamic as well. I just don't want to see them hurt each other anymore. Can you help me fix this? -- ANXIOUS IN COLORADO
DEAR ANXIOUS: I wish you had clarified what your ex "does" do for his daughter, because from your description it appears he has done the minimum and little else. Having been excluded from "family game nights and dinners out," it's natural that she would feel her father made a new family and left her in the dust.
While I admire your impulse to be the peacemaker, I don't think you can fix this. Family counseling might be able to mend the rift, but only if all parties are willing.
DEAR ABBY: My wife died on my birthday a few years back. It was the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me, and my birthday has been depressing since.
Every year, people continue to send cards and gifts, wishing me a happy birthday. All I want to do on that miserable day is get through it. It will never be "happy" for me again. Ever.
I don't want to be nasty to these well-meaning people, but I really do want them to stop. How can I convey that my birthday is not a happy occasion anymore? -- PARTY POOPER IN NEW MEXICO
DEAR PARTY POOPER: I am sorry for your loss. A way to ensure your message gets across would be to write or call these well-meaning individuals, thank them for their good wishes and tell them exactly what you have written to me. I think you expressed it very well.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)