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Parents fear he'll be a pauper

Dear Abby: I'm a sophomore at a religious university. I came here to become a doctor because the premed program has an outstanding acceptance rate to medical school. However, in my third quarter I took a religious studies course and fell in love with the department. I'd like to pursue a career in this field, perhaps as a professor. I have an excellent GPA and am working three jobs.

My problem is that my parents are not supportive. They think I'm being impractical and will end up working in a fast-food restaurant for the rest of my life. Becoming a doctor no longer interests me. How can I convince them that I can major in religious studies and not live in poverty?

-- Rebel in California

Dear Rebel: You shouldn't pursue a career in medicine unless your heart is in it because if it isn't, you won't make a very good doctor. A career in religion doesn't mean you'll end up living hand-to-mouth. While money is important, it's more important that you devote your life to something that gives you emotional gratification.

> It's painful to talk

Dear Abby: I was recently diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on my tongue that has made it extremely difficult and painful to talk. The problem is I don't know how to handle encounters with strangers in public places -- i.e., grocery stores, libraries, etc. I have always been polite and courteous, but now I can do no more than nod. What would you suggest in this situation?

-- Suddenly Silenced in Florida

Dear Suddenly Silenced: Make eye contact with the people you would normally greet verbally and give them a smile as you are already doing. If someone tries to engage you in conversation, point to your throat, shake your head "no," and mouth the words "can't talk." If you feel further explanation is necessary, have cards printed that state, "I am unable to speak." That way, no one should take offense.