Ask EDN Question:
I just started undergrad. I want to major in psychology but my Dad doesn’t approve. He says that ” I will go crazy with my patients” (#EritreanParentsJustDontUnderstand) and would rather I was another kind of doctor or lawyer or engineer. I think in the community I live in, mental health is a big problem and everyone just glosses over it. I appreciate my parents and every sacrifice they’ve made for me, but I believe psychology is my calling. How do I pursue it as a career without loosing their support or them being ashamed of me?
This is just such a great question, and is something that many of us in this generation of Eritrean-Americans is facing.
First, I think it’s important to recognize that our parents’ generation has been through a lot. Living through multiple wars, moving to a new country, adjusting to life in a new culture… etc. Those experiences lead them to want safety and security for their children, and nothing seems more safe and secure than a career as a doctor, engineer, or lawyer. It’s not that they think this is the only way to be successful… but they feel that it’s the path of least resistance to financial security.
But, at the end of the day, we have to live our lives for ourselves. To share my own personal experience, I followed my parents’ advice in getting an engineering degree and working in government as an engineer. Probably the most stable, low risk career path anyone could choose… and my parents were ECSTATIC. While I enjoyed the job, I woke up every day feeling like I was heading down a career path for the wrong reasons. Instead of doing something that energized me, maximized my own unique talents, and was aligned with my interests and passions, I was doing it for the stability and to make my parents happy. Does this sound familiar to you?
So – I made a change. I left my comfortable job and got a masters in a different field. My parents thought I was crazy and questioned the decision every day. It wasn’t until they could see how much of a positive difference there was in my life that they started to change their mindset. They saw firsthand how much more fulfilled and happy I was in my new job, and also could see just how proud I was of the work and accomplishments.
The moral of the story is that your parents don’t know what they don’t know. And it’s unfair for you to expect them to “get it” without showing them positive growth. It’s your responsibility to live your life the way you see fit and to find your own definition of success. If you can do that, and keep your parents involved in your life along the way, they will come around.
After all, no matter how tough they are on us, they love us above everything else – and your happiness will win out in the end.
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