Lin: No shame in heeding parents’ input


Angela Lin, Columnist

The other day I was speaking with a professor — I’ll call him Prof. X — and he asked me why I chose to switch out of journalism as a major. Our conversation went as follows:

Prof. X: So why are you switching?
Me: Well, Medill is really intense, and I just don’t think I’m passionate enough to pursue it and be successful.
Prof. X: Is this what YOU want?
Me: Of course —
Prof. X: How do your parents feel about this?
Me: Well —
Prof. X: You should do what makes you happy, not what makes your parents happy.
Me: That’s true, but —
Prof. X: I mean, I’m half-Asian, so I know how it feels to have parents that want their children to be doctors or engineers.

Let me preface this article by telling you I’m not going to make an argument that confirms or rejects the “stereotypical expectations of an (insert race here) family.” Rather, I want to express my weariness of the social conception that “what makes you happy” and “what makes your parents happy” are separate entities. Most important, I’m especially weary of the stigma that depreciates those who incorporate parental expectations into their personal decisions.

Yes, I understand that we need to shape a society of independent thinkers and leaders and adults and blah, blah, blah. I know. I’m not saying you should flush your dreams down the toilet for someone else’s happiness. However, I am advocating that there’s nothing wrong with incorporating other people’s expectations, including your parents’, into your decisions.

I’m aware of how lucky I am to have parents who are supportive of me, emotionally and financially, regardless of what I want to do. I understand that my relationship with my parents does not apply to the entire demographic at Northwestern.

Having a supportive family is a privilege. Unfortunately, those of us who have this privilege often forget that it’s a privilege, which leads us to perpetuate the conception that decisions should always be made beyond parental influence.

I’m proud of my parents, so I want them to be proud of me — it’s as simple as that. So when I transferred from journalism, I’m not ashamed to say that a part of my decision was based on my parents’ well-being and happiness. They were overjoyed when I was initially accepted to Medill, but I didn’t want to repay them through a half-happy life of cutthroat journalism and low-paid internships.

No, I’m not deprecating journalism, either. I have the highest respect for Medill students, as they exemplify what most higher education institutions need more of: raw passion and unbeatable ambition. The primary reason for my switch was because of my love of math and science, but I also wanted to “pay” my parents back for all the support they gave me over the years.

“Pay” doesn’t necessarily mean a better financial return. My switch from journalism was really more about incorporating everything my parents have taught and given me and focusing this toward a goal that would leave me happy and personally successful. I know this is what makes my parents happy and, therefore, what makes me happy.

Really, I’m using my personal situation to emphasize that there’s nothing wrong with basing your decision off of someone else’s wants, needs and goals, for the world isn’t solely centered around your wants, needs and goals — at least not forever.

So, even if you’re estranged from your family or you’re paying for your own college education (I applaud you), somewhere down the line, the decisions you make will have an impact on somebody that’s important to you. Although this is so blatantly obvious when applied to the future, it’s often overlooked in the present tense. Especially when arriving at college, it’s so easy to focus on the future and live in the romanticism of individuality, independence and freedom. However, remember that every choice that you make affects those that are important to you even more so now, so don’t feel ashamed of incorporating this concept in your future actions.

Angela Lin is a Weinberg freshman. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].