HELP ME, HARLAN!: Caregiving son wonders if he’s selfish

By Harlan Cohen

Harlan Cohen

Dear Harlan,

I never married. I was always close to my parents, and I cared for them during their elderly years until they passed. I had a mediocre job, but was able to save money through the years. I had always planned on seeing the country, perhaps going overseas. That time has come. However, I have an older sister who claims I’m selfish. She came home the last three months of my father’s life to “help out.” She resents that my father left me his remaining assets in addition to the home we grew up in. My sister partied with friends all over the country for years. She’s unemployed and has substance-abuse problems. While the house is paid for, I don’t want to stay here for the rest of my life. It needs work, the taxes are enormous, and I’d be content in a small studio condo. Also, my sister and I have never been close, and I don’t want to feel obligated or be compromise for the rest of my life. Am I being selfish?

Bags Are Packed

Dear Bags Are Packed,

It’s not selfish — it’s called taking care of yourself. It’s the most important thing you can do when taking care of other people. You don’t appear to be selfish. Selfish people don’t take care of their elderly parents. They don’t take the time to care about their estranged sister. They don’t turn to others to seek advice. Instead of feeling the need to defend yourself, take care of yourself. Then, ask your sister some honest questions. What does she want from you and this relationship? If she wants money, then you can decide if you want to share some of it with her. If she wants a closer relationship, you can see if you are in a place to spend more time with her. If she wants to push your buttons because she’s lonely, unhappy and unable to deal with her own issues, give yourself permission to keep your distance in order to take care of yourself. Give her a chance to express how she feels, and give her permission to share it. A selfish person wouldn’t care this much. Love yourself, and have awesome adventures. The world awaits you.


Dear Harlan,

What should I do if I hate my job, but don’t have another job in mind? I’m in my first job post-college, and it sucks. I know I don’t like it, but I don’t have any other ideas on what else to do. Is this what life after college is like? 


Dear Stuck,

There’s no reason to hate your job. According to the Pew Research Center, “About half (49 percent) of American workers say they are very satisfied with their current job. Three out of 10 are somewhat satisfied, and the remainder say they are somewhat dissatisfied (9 percent) or very dissatisfied (6 percent).” I love my job. I’ve always focused more on what I want and less about being wanted. It’s how I was raised. When you focus on what you want, you have more control over your future because you are the driving force. You naturally align yourself with opportunities by surrounding yourself with the right people in the right places. Practice answering the question, “What do I want?” There is no wrong answer. Once you find an answer, find people living the life you want to live. Surround yourself with these people. That will help you change direction and change jobs.


Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)” (St. Martin’s Press). Write Harlan at or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 2720 Dundee Road, Suite 226, Northbrook, IL 60062.

© Harlan Cohen 2018; Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.


HELP ME, HARLAN!: Caregiving son wonders if he’s selfish–