Recently, my aunt was in town and I met up with her. She was telling me about how my cousin wanted to quit her terrific, high paying job in finance to become a lowly interior decorater. She was even taking a course in interior design, much to my uncle’s disappointment.
Okay, so maybe I’m reading between the lines there, but if I know anything about my uncle, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the nail on the head. All my aunt said was that my uncle felt it was a waste. He thought that if she wanted to do something of her own, she should have started her own business or do something else related to her current profession.
Well, that’s the thing about the older generation. To make a drastic career change like what my cousin is doing is the most ridiculous notions they have ever heard. Don’t I know it. I faced the exact problem when I told everyone I wanted to quit dentistry to do something else. I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time a person told me it was such a waste. I didn’t listen and I quit. Looks like my cousin’s doing the same thing.
If you ask me, I think half the reason why this is happening is because we studied what we studied out of parental pressures to make waves in life. Not just any waves but the kind of waves that our parents could be proud of.
As a child growing up, I remember the intense rivalry between my parents and my aunts and uncles with regards to whose children were scoring the best grades, getting into the better Universities and studying the better courses. The funny thing was that we kids never competed against each other. We never cared who did better or who was smarter or who got into what course.
For our parents, it was never about what we were interested in but how smart we were and how much money we could make. When we were finally in the workforce, the bragging continued. “My daughter’s with one of the top law firms…”, “My daughter gives me $x amount every week!”
It wasn’t even that they needed the money. My parents generation was always very careful with money. I would be surprised if they ever needed me to provide for them in their retirement (not that I wouldn’t give it to them in an instant if they needed it). The point is, the money they receive from their children is another bragging point – “my son gives me more money than yours”, etc. You get the point.
Although I don’t really care what my extended relatives think about me, it still matters to me what my parents think. I still feel this obligation to give money to my mother not because she needs it but because it is one of those things that you do. It’s so ironic that I who scoff at ridiculous traditions, superstitions and beliefs should feel it necessary to adhere to this expectation.
In the Chinese tradition, this is called honouring your parents – a form of filial piety.