Graduation for me is just a day away — and I’m terribly excited, and terribly scared.
The “real world” is not the realm of academia, with security in the systematic cycles of Fall Semester turning into Spring Semester, and summer vacation just around the bend. You have no idea how much I’m going to miss that, that luxury of knowing what comes next.
In fact, I think it’s this idea of “knowing” everything that leads to all kinds of anxieties for recent graduates. And if you’re suffering from Overbearing Parent Syndrome, Subtly Disappointed Parent Disorder, or perhaps even the good old Constantly Criticizing Your Life Choices — then you’re in luck. Because you’re not alone; I find it’s a problem for many people, although in different and varying dosages of parental pessimism over your education.
Because it does boil down to the fact that your college experience is your experience–and even if your parents may disapprove of that seemingly “useless” major that you picked up along the way, the fact remains that it is your life, and your choices. Be proud of who you are and what you know interests you, and what makes you get out of bed in the morning to attack a new day.
… But it’s not always that easy.
Sometimes your parents are the people who you might feel closest to, who you might want to have your back; people who you want to have say to you, “I’m proud of you.” And it definitely hurts when what you think is important will never match up to their seemingly lofty expectations–the shake of the head, the sigh, the muttered “Maybe you should consider another career path” lecture that grates on your nerves and makes your four years in the grind seem all for naught.
It sucks to feel like that. I know, I feel like that right now with graduation tomorrow and the knowledge that I just might have picked the two most useless of subjects to specialize in has apparently caused my parents great sorrow and grief. What will she do with literature in this day and age? Where’s the money in books these days?
Believe me, I ask the same questions of myself sometimes. Maybe all of the time now that I’m being tossed out into the “real world”.
But–here’s the kicker–this is my life. Not yours. I realize that parents want the best for their children, that they want to hold their hand and shield them from everything, and they worry about wealth and security, but I don’t believe it should come at the price of looking your daughter in the eye and telling her: Why didn’t you do what we wanted you to do?
And the answer? Because I’m not you, because I gave medicine a shot and found myself miserable, because we already had a moment four years ago when I announced that I was going to go off the “beaten path” and find my own way. And I thought that it would be a journey you two would support and walk with me to the end, even if it wasn’t a six figure salary, even if it meant that fluttering feeling of uncertainty — I hoped at least for the openness to possibility, that the journey is just as important as the destination, this quantifiable “happiness” that immigrant parents dream of for their children.
I get it. I appreciate that you two are afraid for me, and that in fearing for my own future you are both, in your own way, gently putting down my accomplishments, gently trying to steer me in the direction that you think would be best.
Once more, I say “Thanks”, to you, and to the parents that are deathly afraid for their children amongst the Class of 2013 — but this isn’t a productive way to think, at all.
To my fellows of 0-13 who feel unhappy that the people in your life do not support you–for whatever reason it may be–all I can say is: chin up. I cannot say for sure where the road may lead, but if you find yourself “alone” and surrounded by those who want to diminish everything you’ve accomplished for the last four years (And it’s hard to accept that, I know) just shoulder on.
This is your life, live it — live it happily and well to the best of your ability. And if it’s any consolation: you are not alone, so take what you’ve done with yourself and reach as far as you can — if it’s what your parents would have wanted in any other job, then you can prove you can succeed in what makes you happiest.
(As an aside, I’ll take any and all advice on how to deal with parents who just can’t seem to accept your accomplishments and only find in them faults that don’t match up to their expectations; my way of dealing with my own parents’ lost faith in me and my future career prospects–or lack thereof, in their opinion–is only one way to deal with this kind of anxiety.
Chin up, guys, they can’t bind you down forever.)