Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am one year out of college and I don't think I can take my job much longer. When I was 10 years old, if you had asked me where I wanted to work, I would have said Corporation X -- it's a dream company, and that's where I work! But, ugh -- after a year of working 14- to 18-hour days, five to six days a week, for $10.50 an hour, I am exhausted and still living paycheck to paycheck. Here's the kicker, though: I might work an 18-hour shift, but I will only be given three hours of work to do. The rest of the time I just sit at my desk and wait. When I do have something to do I love my job! Honestly, if my job paid better, gave me benefits, I worked normal hours and they constantly had work for me to do, it would be the perfect job. What should I do? Should I stick it out for a few more years in hopes of getting slightly more reasonable hours? Or should I call it quits and cut my losses and try to get into a graduate program in search of a new career path?

Exhausted

DEAR EXHAUSTED: Your best course of action is to use your extra 15 hours of time during an 18-hour shift in a way that will improve your experience at work -- and impact your future.

Notify your supervisors of your capabilities. Pitch ideas for ways you could be more productive and useful to the company. Be proactive. It's your life. Take charge of it.

If you feel certain you have exhausted opportunities at Corporation X (or if you simply don't want to work there any longer), leverage your employment at this company into a job at a company that will value you more and compensate you better. Whether you take another job or decide on graduate school (or both), don't leave until you have something else lined up.

DEAR AMY: My two brothers and I recently took our 99-year-old mother to an attorney to finalize issues around her trust. One of the stipulations is that if one of us should die before our mom, then that one-third share would go to our children, skipping our spouses. One of my brothers does not have any biological children, but does have a wife and stepson with whom he is very close (and who has children of his own). That brother's wife is outraged that in the unlikely event that he dies before our mother she and her son would be left out of the inheritance.

My brother has said that this issue is ruining his marriage. I am sad and upset that my sister-in-law believes she is entitled to a third of my mother's estate. I know for sure that the trust has been set up not only according to estate-planning convention but also according to my mother's wishes. Isn't that the bottom line?

A Worried Daughter

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DEAR WORRIED: Your sister-in-law may not feel that she is entitled to a portion of your mother's estate, but that her son (and grandchildren) should be. If the son she brought into the family through marriage has been in the family for a very long time, this choice reinforces his "step" status and also the "not quite full family" status of his children.

You might feel a little less sad if you can see things from her point of view.

Regardless of her (and your) feelings, this is how your mother wants things to be. Is your brother attempting to manipulate family members to change the terms of this trust? I hope not. His wife should not be staking their marriage on this, but if she is, you should offer him sympathy, not solutions.

DEAR AMY: The letter from "Aware" made me so sad. She was an overwhelmed and unappreciated single mom with four children. Boy, could I relate! I hope Aware follows your advice to go easier on herself and to look for more support in her community.

Been There

DEAR BEEN THERE: Many people responded with compassion to this letter. Thank you.