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EAR ABBY:

I am a young adult, the eldest of four children. I sleep in a basement (furnished and livable), which serves as my bedroom. I have no job, no driver's license, no friends who live close by.

I try to make my family happy, despite being underappreciated by my parents and siblings. No matter how often I clean the house, take the blame when I have done nothing wrong or try to be social and see eye to eye, I spend many nights crying like a baby in the inky darkness. A few times I have felt so down I have wanted to end my life.

I found an opportunity to get the training I need to accomplish the first half of my dream, and being a chef would help me earn the money I need to make the other half of my dream a reality. The thing is, I'm required to live on the property of the school.

I tried running away once and had to come back. I don't want my parents to think I'm trying to run away from them again, but we don't communicate well. How can I get them to see I'm trying to move toward my goal instead of severing family bonds?

- Baby of the Basement

DEAR BABY: I don't know how old you were when you ran away, but if you are close to 18 or older, then finding a way to be self-supporting should be your priority. Family bonds are supposed to be bonds of love, not chains that prevent a person from achieving his or her potential. If you can't explain this to your parents, then you should enlist the help of another adult - a family friend or a relative - to help them understand that getting the training or certification you need for a career isn't severing anything, but is to everyone's advantage.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.