My artist brother embarrasses me, but I don’t like feeling this way. How can I change?

Our elder has some poetry recommendations that might help

Dear EWC

Hello, I’m in my late 20s and work as a receptionist, and have a brother in his 40s. We both still live with our parents. He’s unemployed and has been for the past 15 years or so and he didn’t finish art school. He’s an artist and has always wanted his artwork/his creativity to be his main source of income, but it hasn’t been working out that way. Honestly, I feel kind of embarrassed to talk about my brother and I feel ashamed at myself for feeling embarrassment. I also feel a bit judgemental, like sometimes I think, “He’ll probably be here with mom and dad forever, but I’ll be out in like a year or two,” or something like that. I sometimes feel like my life is better than his and that if he’d just get ‘a real job’ then he could start living the way he imagined himself living. I don’t want to feel embarrassed of him or judgemental. My question is how can I change the way I think about my brother? Thank you for reading.

William replies

Thank you for writing to the Elder Wisdom Circle. I’m glad that you are asking for advice and I’ll try to do my best. My first thought was that at age 40, he probably ought to be out on his own. That said, if he’s still living at home and trying to make a living with his artwork, it’s unlikely to change in the future. Are your parent’s comfortable with the situation, and are they also OK with you living there as well? Once adult children get a job, it’s normal for them to move out and chart their path in life. Based on what you’ve written, the living arrangement seems to be acceptable to all involved. I assume that your parents are happy to have you both still living there and that you all are contributing to the household in some way. That’s not the question you asked, and I only mention it because sometimes parents want their freedom after their children become adults. In other cases, they like it when the kids are always around, for financial and emotional support, or just because it’s a close family.

I don’t think you should be embarrassed about your thoughts. It’s normal to wonder how this will all work out. Based on your letter, it seems like everyone is satisfied with the living arrangements. Are you thinking it’s unfair or morally wrong for your brother to be living there because he can’t do so on his own, and if so, would you want him to move out and not be able to support himself with his artwork? That might be a common notion that most people in your situation feel from time to time. I believe my children had some temporary resentments toward each other when they decided one or two of the others were getting a “free ride” or what they perceived as special treatment. The key word is temporary, and not to obsess about it. If you measure a person’s worth in purely financial terms, your brother is not pulling his weight. He’s following his passion, and so far it hasn’t returned enough money to pay for room and board without living at home. I don’t know if his artwork will ever “pay the rent,” if I may put it that way. That doesn’t diminish his worth as a person. Your brother is doing what he likes, as I assume you are doing. To him, my guess is his artwork is a ‘real job,’ just as your secretarial work is to you.

We can’t foretell the future. Your brother may never make a lot of money. Many famous painters like Van Gogh didn’t make a lot, nor were they recognized as significant, until well after their death. I’m in no way saying your brother is another Van Gogh. Probably he isn’t. For whatever reason, he’s happy doing what he does, and your parents seem glad to help him with his passion by allowing him to live at home. I wouldn’t give it much more thought, nor would I be embarrassed about the thoughts you have had. You can’t change the way you react overnight, but I think you should accept things as they are. Does his living at home doesn’t affect you, and if not, is it worth pondering? As the Desiderata says, “Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” I find that poem quite inspiring when I notice my mind wandering into areas that (1) I have no control over or (2) I find my thoughts about others disconcerting. If you are unfamiliar with it, here’s the full text:
http://mwkworks.com/desiderata.html

Thinking this way often resets my mind, and stops me from comparing myself to others. It also reminds me that there are things I can’t change.

I know I haven’t answered your question exactly as you wanted. I can’t change your thoughts. Only you can do that. The fact that you realized those thoughts embarrass you tells me that you are a mature young woman who will accept things and people as you find them. It’s all we can do.

I hope I’ve helped in some way. If you have other questions or problems in the future, please write to Elder Wisdom Circle again. We are here to help. All the best!

Letter #: 436025
Category: Self-Improvement

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