Culturally Conflicted Teenager

Those Who Wander Lost is a blog-site dedicated to the Class of 2013 but with enough room for guest contributors to share their pearls of wisdom, advice, rants, worries, and stories about college life and beyond. Posted here with permission by the author, the lovely Anne — one of my high-school cohorts, a major part of my barkada, and definitely a wordsmith in her own right. She’s also a pretty boss photographer, if you’d like to check out some of her work, including her 365/Day photo project! (Mahal kita kiddo) 

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I’m reading a speech by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt persuading the American audience that the U.S. should annex the Philippines and he states:

“The highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”

Throughout the speech, he essentially points out that Filipinos are incapable of forming their own government because they live a life of “ignoble ease” as opposed to the American lifestyle, the “right lifestyle” is to live a “strenuous life,” where there are greater moral prizes. There was, of course, the 1898 Treaty of Paris and the United States’ overwhelming desire to rise in military power to compete against Great Britain, France and Spain; therefore, by annexing the Philippines they can exploit its resources as well as China’s.

Back to topic. As I was reading this, I asked myself, “Is the Filipino Ideal to choose the path that leads to an easier peace?” I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is a principle for any culture. Otherwise, it would derail one’s morality, but so many people are surrounded by the idea of, “Success which comes…to…easy peace.”
I’m Filipino American and I began my college career as a Nursing student. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. A plethora of Filipino and Filipino American students are taking the “path of ignoble ease.” However, there is nothing ignoble in this choice. When you’re from a community oriented society, you have to live up to the strong instilled principles of one’s duty to family and I can’t help shake how pervasive the principle is.

It is true that there is a shortage of nurses in the United States and because of this, the nursing field is in high demand. I didn’t need to worry about the finding a job after college as much as others. If the starting salary of a new nurse is approx. $20/hr then I could have paid off student debt in about seven years. Despite how enticing it is to know that I can be free from the pain of running around the job market, I feel like I didn’t have the freedom to experience the pain.

Simply put, the reason why I took up Nursing is because of family. My immediate family is closely tied to my extended family in the Philippines and it is my duty as the privileged born American (because there is the idea that every American is rich) to give back to the mother country.  Plus, having visited the Philippines several times doesn’t make the decision to say, “No,” any easier. Overtime, I found the term “family” to be a paradoxical. For any of you who haven’t watched spoken work artist, Sarah Kay, perform “B,” a line that struck me was:
“When you step out of a phone booth and try to fly and the very people you want to save are the people who are standing on your cape.”

I want to fly so I can understand the world by myself and eventually self-actualize myself, but I feel like family tries to hide the pain from me. In a community oriented mindset, you help your family/ community and it fulfills yourself. I guess for me, this is where I have internal conflicts because I always want to better myself by pulling off a Thoreau and runaway to Walden Pond.

By the end of my sophomore year, I dropped out of Nursing and switched to Public Health. It wasn’t easy and the process to switch heavily involved calming down my parents, informing them of my plans, crying at myself thinking if I’m switching because I really want to or because I didn’t want to be another Filipino stereotype. Switching was the first time I truly felt autonomous and saw myself as my own person, but when I look at my parents and, even worse, look at those aunts and uncles who ask “What’s your major?” and they reply an underwhelming, “Oh,” after I say “Public Health,” I wish I stayed on the “path of ease.” I’m not taking this non-prestigious major because I’m unaware of my roots. I’m never going to forget my roots.

Despite the judging glances, I’m willing to struggle through this. If my family is truly my family, they’ll help me out through this and I’ll continue to work hard so I can help them out. It might be this childish mindset thinking that I can do this and struggle through this, but I know I’m mature enough as well to handle it.

— A. S.

(Admin note: Girl, I know the feeling. Pre-med was never for me, but it was what my parents wanted so badly until I had to tell them: Hey guys, it’s okay, I got this. You do what you need to do — go ahead and fly, your parents will be proud.)

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