This is a message for all of the young people who grew up in an immigrant household: be true to yourself and do what you love, even if your parents disapprove of it right now.
Within our Asian American experience, a handful of things remain consistent, including the shifting cultures between generations. Often times, this leads to a cultural divide particularly evident between immigrants and their U.S.-born children.
We joke online as a coping mechanism for this very real and painful human experience. Memes about tiger moms and being called a “disappointment” are jokes that have almost become a defining characteristic of our generation.
Your parents want what’s best for you but what is actually best for you may not be what they want.
Here’s why you should follow your own path:
1. They have different fears than you.
We often forget or fail to recognize that our parents lived different lives than us. They lived through different obstacles, different wins, different losses. They have different fears. If you put yourself in their shoes for one second, you may realize how difficult it was for them to move their entire lives to America, a completely new country, not knowing the language and not having a stable job or community to lean on. So, it only makes sense why most immigrant parents place such an emphasis on having a stable career.
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But here’s the thing: statistically speaking, U.S.-born children of immigrants are much better off than immigrants themselves. Based on “measures of socioeconomic attainment,” they have “higher incomes; more are college graduates and homeowners; and fewer live in poverty,” according to the Pew Research Center
This is all to say that second-generation Americans grew up with more opportunities than their parents because they didn’t have to adjust to anything; their parents did all the assimilating for them. So, oftentimes, the children of immigrants aren’t driven by the same inherent fears that their parents had.
2. You would create a greater impact by doing what you love.
Naturally, by doing what you love, you’d dedicate more of yourself to your work. So in the long run, not only would you create a greater impact through your work, but you would also eventually do better for yourself which is what your parents wanted in the first place.
3. You can’t make your parents happy, only they can do that.
Many of us feel obligated to make our parents happy by pursuing the career that they have chosen for us, but the problem is that even if we did choose to go into that “perfect” career, it doesn’t guarantee our parent’s happiness. True happiness is a choice that comes from within.
However, this is not to say that we shouldn’t show our parents that we love them. We can go out of our way to show them your love or it could even be little things like calling them several times a week, sending surprise flowers to mom, taking the parents out for dinner or just telling them “I love you” every time you speak to them. These things are very important, however, we shouldn’t alter our lives or careers to please them. We need to learn how to separate these two things.
4. Doing what you love now prevents future resentment.
Not listening to your parents’ wishes in the short term will prevent your resentment towards them in the long term. So many Asian Americans end up resenting their parents for years because they blame their own decisions on how their parents raised them. Ultimately, your life is your responsibility and you have always been in control of your decisions.
Your life, your decisions, your consequences.
5. They’ll come around.
When you think about what your parents fundamentally want, you’ll find that it is very simple. Most parents just want you to be safe and happy and their advice is often motivated by those two goals in mind. So, if you know that you will fulfill these two goals without listening to their career advice and by following your own path, then the choice is ultimately yours. At the end of the day, it is your life and they’ll come around when they see that you are doing well.
Lastly, I wanted to acknowledge that even having the ability to choose a career is a privilege. I don’t want to accidentally polarize people who do not have the financial or physical means to go into a career of their own choosing.
Feature Image via Pexels