BFTP #2 - High Expectations
For: Coquitlam Now My Generation Column
Written: April 2005 (grade 10)
When I was a kid, I sat on my grandfather’s lap, and he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I answered the way any young Canadian boy would, that I wanted to play in the NHL. To this, my grandpa replied, “No, Chris, no. Hockey is a game, not a career. You should be a doctor. Doctors are esteemed; doctors bring prestige and wealth to the family. You need to bring honor to this household.”
Since then, I have lived the past 12 years of my life trying my hardest to “bring honor to my household.” Entering grade 11, the decisions that I make will begin to determine my future and my career. Will I attend a post-secondary institution? If so, what will I study? Sciences? Arts? Or maybe music? What is my career goal? Where do I see myself in ten years? These questions and more contribute to the mounting pressure that high-school students experience from within. However, the pressure often stems from expectations at home as well. Pressure from family can drastically affect a student’s choices.
Some families just wish for their children to be happy. Whatever the child decides to become, he has the blessing of the family. Some families push their children in one direction, but ultimately, they leave the choice up to the child himself. And then there are some families whose expectations for their children are strict and uncompromising.
In Asian culture and society, there are three professions - huge generalization, mind you - that are of the utmost prestige and honor: medicine, applied scientist (eg. engineering,) and business. If one pursues any of these, one will enjoy longevity and wealth. As a CBA (Canadian-born Asian,) it’s easy to understand my grandfather’s concern over my future, and it’s also easy to ignore it. But lately, as I begin to contemplate the upcoming year, I find the decisions regarding my studies increasingly influenced by my desire to please my family.
I plan to become a journalist, or maybe a teacher, neither of which are professions which will “bring prestige, wealth and honor to my household.” This, of course, is not true at all, as journalists and teachers are both highly-regarded in our society today. However, on a recent trip to Toronto, my grandmother took me aside and told me, “Christopher, you are the youngest and last male in our family. You’re the only hope to carry on the family name.” I was confused. My cousin is a chef, and my brother an officer in the military. Yet somehow, the duty to carry on the family name falls to me. How is this possible?
Lately, I’ve been giving second thought to my aspirations to become a journalist. The second thought? Will it please my relatives? In a way, those of you reading this must think it pathetic that I would base my entire future on the opinions of a few family members who probably won’t even be alive to see me pursue it. I myself also find it somewhat ridiculous at times. Why should the expectations of others alter MY life?
Someday, I hope to be a grandfather as well. And when my grandchild sits on my lap, I’ll ask him what he wants to be when he grows up. And I’ll leave it at that.