My cousin recently graduated from dental school. She worked hard to get to where she is, and I’m proud of her. But if I’m honest, I admit that my emotions undulate from pride to envy, the way a water bed lifts your body one moment, then sets its down the next. I’m especially jealous because her parents are incredibly proud (as they should be), which I read on a Facebook status posted by her mom.
In Filipino culture — and most Asian cultures — making your parents proud, particularly career-wise, is an important expectation. When I watch Chopped, a competitive cooking show, and there’s an Asian-American contestant, they almost always say that they’re competing to make their parents proud and to prove that they can be successful in their chosen profession. Some of the competitors admit that their parents expected more from them than “just” being a chef; this basically means following a career route that may not be of your choosing.
I was supposed to be a doctor. My parents, my mom in particular, expected this of me. I wanted to be a musician, but when I decided to quit my job at age 26, and return to school full-time to become a veterinarian, she was hopeful. Instead, I got a terminal masters degree (the highest degree you can earn in my particular field), which gave me the qualifications to be a creative writing professor. My students couldn’t call me “Dr. Natividad,” but “Professor” in front of my name still had a nice ring to it. My mom was proud. It gave her bragging rights.
Then, I had the Breakdown and couldn’t work at all — I often have trouble just leaving my house alone. How would I even get to a job? I feel unsuccessful, especially compared to my siblings.
I texted my dad this morning to ask him if he’s proud of me, which you can read on the screenshot. His answer is an enthusiastic yes. This gives me some validation, and I believe it to an extent. But what’s really fu@ked up is that I still want to make my mom proud, and she’s been dead for over a year! Her expectations became my own.
Have you ever felt envious of a sibling or other relative?
Did/Do your parents have expectations about your career?
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