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advice about dropping out and dealing with family

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Hi everyone, I'm an american Public History student in Canada currently on LOA for medical/mental health reasons. I have my internship and late coursework to finish up. Unfortunately I don't have the funds to get an paid or unpaid internship anywhere I would like so I am probably going to have to do mine if I can get one around home. 


I lost my access to counseling services when I took my LOA so I apologize for the following but I don't really have anyone else to rant to besides friends who aren't in grad programs and haven't been in school for a few years. 



However, since I will be going home I'd much rather just get a job if I can and work since my research assistantship at a historical society here in Canada was the one thing I really enjoyed and learned from. Plus I need a car under my own name and my own health insurance and I would like to rent a room somewhere like a normal adult.  


Also, my dad (who has lent me money to come here) has informed me that my grandmother is "getting old" and has started showing signs of forgetfulness and has made some weird financial decisions etc. I am the one who is probably going to be her caretaker if she gets sick in the future. Therefore my family has asked me to come home for the next semester which to me seems like it would lessens my chances I think of finding job closer to the midwest or east coast in the future. 


All of this is really disheartening since one of the reasons I came this far north is to find a job in the midwest or west coast. My family doesn't seem to get that and has made comments about how far away I am going from them.


There are few entry/master's level jobs in the South from what I have seen. Usually a day's drive or more from where my family is. 


So the thing is I would like to go back home but I would like to get a job and just move on with my life and prepare myself to take care of sick and dying family members. But even though I've learned a lot here that doesn't matter because I won't have the degree. Even though I have seen first-hand Master's and Ph.D's resumes being rejected from my minimum wage job that I gave up to come here because they were "over-qualified." 


I guess I'm asking for advice of how to break it to my family that I'm not good enough or strong enough to finish this measly portion of my degree. Not to mention my grades have been average to abysmal from the start so I'm afraid of even trying to reapply elsewhere later. 


They had such a hard time with me doing an LOA though. On the hand they have been supportive of me trying to take care of myself (I was very close to suicidal) and on the other they have asked me over and over why I can't just end my LOA in the middle of the summer semester. Since i'm doing a bit better now and do my internship  (which isn't really available anymore). I guess I could really try to do that but I don't know what that would mean financially or administratively (I had a scholarship but most of it was used up during the fall/winter). Not to mention I would feel really awkward trying to come back in the middle of the summer after all the major events I would have helped with are over. If they even had room for me since I know they had several other interns coming in when I abruptly took my LOA and were most likely delegated my tasks. 


I know i'm shooting myself in the foot either way but any advice of how to frame this in a positive light would be helpful. I'm still alive and breathing? 




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Well, first off, I don't think you are shooting yourself in the foot. You're doing what is best for your mental health at the moment. There are certainly worse things than dropping out of a grad program in life! And at any rate many people do and manage to move on to productive lives.

It sounds like you are deciding between what your family is telling you to do and what you want to do. You've laid our their opinions more than your own in that post - what is it you actually want to do? Do you want to finish your degree?

I have a similar family dynamic and also had a crisis in school that made me drag out a degree. What I learned was that my family wanted me to try over and over again even when it was obvious that it wasn't working. If your gut tells you it isn't working and your grades aren't going to improve and you aren't going to get the degree anyway, then you are better cutting your losses. I wasted a lot of time and money before coming to my senses and not listening to family any more. I tried a different approach and graduated. They sound like they are not really listening to you and don't really understand what you want. If it were me, I'd stop consulting them and simply inform them of my decisions as if they were set in stone. Decide for yourself where you want to live and work, and inform them of it. IMO the best way to convince them that you're not shooting yourself in the foot is to find a job and tell them that's your plan. It sounds like they won't be pleased with the situation either way so why try to please them? Get a job and have a plan and they'll come around.

However, if you can't do the career you want at all without the degree, then it's a question of a plan to come back later. But in that case, will you have dealt with the mental health issues? If you don't, then it seems you will run into similar problems. I guess I'm asking you whether the mental health issues stemmed from you being unhappy in your program or if they are an ongoing issue. If they are ongoing, you have to figure out a way to deal with them whether you do the program or not. If they are related to grad school then it doesn't really make sense to go back!

If you want to take care of your grandma, that's one thing, but if you are just doing it because of their pressure, it's only going to give you stress and unhappiness. I don't recommend that to someone who is already having a hard time. There's a cultural aspect to it of course but I don't think you are obligated to take care of your grandmother unless you want to. After all, your parents generation are the children and they should take the initiative in care. But they are obviously looking out for what they want instead of what you want - they want you to finish, they want you to care for her. But what do you want? If you do want to become an independent adult, ultimately those are your choices, not theirs.

Edited by seeingeyeduck
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  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you for this. I've had issues with depression for ten years but my depression and anxiety got worse during college not better. I've felt like an impostor since I started this program. I feel like my family means well but they just would like me to finish for the sake of finishing rather than me dealing with my mental health issues. 

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