The thing with family is simple: it’s impossible to live without them, but it can often seem impossible to live with them. This is especially true when they set expectations that seem unattainable and far beyond what you want for yourself in life.
I understand the struggles you’re going through, though. Part of you wants to impress them, do as they please in order to keep them happy; after all, they did raise you and want the best for you. In return though, you are putting their needs over your own and not taking into consideration what you want for yourself in life.
If you are close to your family, you will know what I mean when I tell you that you may be feeling guilty about not making all their wishes come true, but you aren’t obliged to.
Choosing a post-secondary career is prime time for parents to feel as if they are responsible to pick what program suits you best. They might try to convince you that because they are a doctor, you must be a doctor; or if they are a teacher; it only makes sense for you to be as well. Although this may seem impossible, but trust me I’ve been through it, you must stand your ground in telling your parents what your hopes are for a career, as it will take over the rest of your life.
My experience was no different than most. I was insistent on pursuing a career in journalism; a field that I have been passionate about forever considering I come from a place where valuable stories are often left untold. This is a field that is not something my mother was very fond of. Coming from Lebanon, being a journalist meant that you must write about politics and when you do, you are bound to be threatened and potentially killed. Unless you want to report entertainment, you are destined to somehow end up involved in politics. It took a lot for me to explain to my mom why I want to be in this field that wouldn’t support her idea of the jobs a women should possibly partake in.
How was I supposed to take care of a family if my future job might involve me running out in the middle of the night or the crack of dawn? What if this job costs me my life and in turn, my mother’s second-born child? All these factors had to be weighed in when considering a decision that will literally shape the rest of my life. In her eyes, it was a safer bet for me to become a teacher, a noble career for a woman, one that makes a difference, is safe and would work for my future family. Sure that seemed like a nice guaranteed route, but I reminded my mother every time that the career is mine to live with, not hers.
It’s important to find the time to explain your perspective: just because a certain career worked out for them doesn’t mean that it will exactly work out for you. This won’t be easy and they won’t always agree right away, it takes patience and persistence.
You might feel as if they are disappointed in you, think you are capable of more and you aren’t pushing yourself to your full potential. In that case, slow down. Listen to them and consider what they are saying. It’s very possible that they have some positive insight that can help you in your decision-making, but remember that ultimately, the decision is yours.
The idea of family expectations goes way beyond just education and also into important aspects of your life such as relationships and your social surroundings. During post-secondary years, it’s very possible that you will come across a significant other whom you may consider as a potential partner. This person may not meet the expectations of your parents and you find yourself in the same situation you were once in when applying for post-secondary.
The same advice applies in this case. You must introduce your parents slowly to the idea of a significant other in your life because odds are, this will be something that may make them happy but will also worry them very much. They may try to convince you that this isn’t the right time or the right person for all different kinds of reasons. Again, I advise you to take their thoughts and suggestions into consideration and look at the pros and cons. If it doesn’t make sense to you, stand your ground. If in the long run, you end up being wrong, at least you’ve got a lesson you can learn from.
It’s not uncommon for family to think highly of you. It’s quite normal for them to want you to do your best and see you in places they maybe didn’t see themselves when they were your age with the opportunities that you may have nowadays. Keep that in mind when dealing with sensitive situations and remind them that you appreciate their insight.