Living In a Prison of Expectations

536081022_af8ae080fd_zI loved and worshipped my paternal grandfather, who died when I was 6. He was a doctor. I wanted to be a doctor. My parents expected me to be a doctor, especially since my dad didn’t take that route. They expected me to obey them, to get the best grades, to be the best at everything I did.

Then, I didn’t want to be a doctor. I wanted to play in the percussion section of an orchestra. At the first college I went to, my mom told me to major in Music Business, so I did. When I realized that I had to take accounting and business classes, I dropped out. I felt like she tricked me. I took the year off, and took private lessons from a percussion instructor. My parents were okay with this, as long as I took at least one class at a 2-year college. I did: typing.

While growing up, my mom always told me about her friends’ kids who got college scholarships. I had to be like them. That would please my parents. At the end of my gap year, I auditioned as a Music Performance major for the percussion section at a Houston university and earned a partial scholarship. Even though it wasn’t a full scholarship, my parents were satisfied.

I never registered for classes sophomore year because I was too busy partying. I no longer wanted to be an orchestra percussionist. I wanted to be a rock star! I had played the drums in various bands since I was 15, so why not? My parents weren’t happy, but for the first time in my life, I didn’t care (I was too busy partying, remember?).

After moving back to Chicago, I got a day job as an admin assistant. But at night, I worked in bars as a cocktail waitress, coatcheck girl, and go-go dancer. I was also the drummer for a band that had regular gigs at local venues. We were never headliners — we always opened for other bands, but it was still awesome. I loved it!

In 1995, I was supposed to replace the drummer for a well-known (at the time) indie band for the second leg of their tour with a more famous rock star. I couldn’t believe it! My dream was coming true! I was going to go on tour! A few months later, I was told that the band’s management decided that a “personnel change” (their words) so early in their career wouldn’t be good for them.

I had memorized all of their songs! They continually played in my head. I couldn’t delete them from my mind, so I lived in hell for a while. I decided to retire as a drummer to concentrate on treating my mental illness, which definitely didn’t satisfy my parents.

I’ve lived my entire life trying to meet my parents’ expectations. I still do, except that their expectations have become my own. And, if you read my last post, I am definitely not “good enough.” A quote from this article in dated September 25, 2017, “Asian American Women Are Killing Themselves” sums it up: “I felt like I disappointed them because I didn’t follow their traditional . . . expectations of me.” But I feel like I’ve disappointed myself.

I still have expectations. I may not be able to hold a job, but I expect that getting out of bed and showering every morning shouldn’t be such huge tasks, but they can be. I should be able to drive and do more household chores, but it gets overwhelming. I hate living in the prison of my expectations, but I’m fighting to escape.

Photo credit: Felipe Morin via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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