As kids, we grow up listening to our parents.
They decide on the kind of education we receive, the type of clothes we wear, the food we eat, and even more often than not, the friends we have. After all, our parents only want the best for us.
But somewhere along the line, we stop reaching for our dreams and instead, we work hard to meet our parent’s expectations. We become the ‘alternative future’ our parents have envisioned for themselves. This is the future they wished they had growing up. This is the future they would’ve chosen if given the chance to start all over again.
That’s why they make sure we never have to encounter the mistakes or failures they’ve made in their past, because they want to see themselves succeed in us.
My parents, who had immigrated to the US from Hong Kong, wanted me to have a good education, a well-paying job and a kind, loving man to take care of me. They provided everything I needed to help me focus; things they had worked so hard for: school funds, shelter, a complete meal. They even folded my laundry and washed the dishes after I was done eating, so I could have more time to further my life.
I was thankful for everything they’d done and returned their hard work with straight As, volunteer work (I wasn’t old enough to work legally) and a strong, self-driven man who I could rely on.
I wanted them to be proud.
But things started going downhill when I left to China.
The love of my life suddenly discarded me and left me in the middle of nowhere to fend for myself. I didn’t know what to do, as I couldn’t speak a word of Chinese. I didn’t have anybody close by who I could talk to. And I couldn’t get a job because I didn’t have powerful connections.
I was stuck.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents what had happened, because I knew I’d failed them.
It was at that moment, having hit rock bottom, when I realized that because my parents had done everything they could to protect me, to shield me from harm, from ever worrying about responsibilities, I became absolutely powerless. I was weak, naive, and lacked the ability to think for my own and fend for myself.
I’m not trying to say my parents did a bad job of raising me. In fact, I’m very lucky to be showered with their love and support (even after I returned home).
But sometimes, I wish they were a little less protective so that I could see what the world is really like.
As kids, we can’t always depend on our parents or other people to help us in every situation. Eventually we will have to face an obstacle on our own or make a life-changing decision. And sometimes our decision might disappoint our parents and their expectations of us.
Our parents may have our best intentions at heart, but it’s really just the ‘alternative future’ they wished they had for themselves.
It’s more important that we learn how to fend for ourselves and know what harsh reality feels like before choosing our path.
It might be scary, but it’ll easily be one of the best decisions you’ll have ever made in your life. As it has for me.