Careers and Defying Parental Control
Twenty years ago, I entered this world with no idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Sometime after that, I wanted to become a Pokemon master. At age 11, I was waiting for my letter from Hogwarts so I could grow up to be a wizard. Today, I’m working toward a career in journalism. And for some reason, out of all those career dreams, my mother objected to my career as a journalist the most.
During high school, my mother never directed me toward a specific career. She let me take two years of photography classes and join the yearbook staff instead of pushing me to take AP Chemistry and AP Physics.
Perhaps she believed it was engrained in my mind that I would follow in her footsteps and choose a career in the health care field. She spent about 30 years as an optometrist for Kaiser Permanente. I understood the advantages of her career choice. She put a roof over my family’s head. She saved enough money to send my sister and myself to college. And she was able to retire when I graduated high school. It’s a pretty solid lifestyle, in my opinion.
My mom would often tell me, “I just want you to pick a career that lets you enjoy your current way of life.” But it sounded more like, “You can become anything you want as long as you become a doctor.” As I started college, the aspiration to become a doctor was in the back of my mind, but coming in as an undeclared major opened more opportunities to search for something else. And maybe that’s where it all went wrong … or where it all went right.
I decided to pursue a journalism career toward the end of my freshman year in college. My mom would not know of this until the latter part of my second year. She did notice the uneven ratio of humanities classes to science classes I was taking, but I said it was for GEs.
I hated lying to my mom about my career choice, but truthfully, I was scared of her. I pictured a conversation where I would say, “Hey Mom, I want to be a journalist when I grow up!” And she would reply, “I suppose that’s a good career choice … if you want to bring shame to our family and live a terrible life.”
The conversation didn’t go like that. We were sitting in Sarita’s, the Mexican restaurant near my house. My mom was sitting across from me, eating an enchilada and I was working on a California burrito that I’m probably still digesting today. Mentally, I prepared several reasons for my decision and a grab bag of rebuttals to responses.
“Mom, I think I’m going to declare literary journalism as my major and try to become a journalist,” I heard myself say.
My mom slowly looked up from her plate. I prepared myself for the look of disapproval and the destruction of my dreams.
“Journalism is a tough career, you know,” she replied.
I readied one of my preloaded responses, “Yes, but I’m much better at writing than I am at math and science.”
“It’s your decision. You know this enchilada isn’t as good as the other Mexican place.”
That was the one response I didn’t see coming.
Occasionally, my mom still reminds me that journalism is very competitive and not as stable as a career in the health care field. We’ll take a trip to the pharmacy and she’ll say, “See, can’t you picture yourself doing that? You could work from 9 to 5, make 100K and just play.” I’ll reach back into my bag of responses, but my mom continues, “Oh, I saved you an article from the newspaper. I like the way he writes, maybe you could have a similar style.” I stand down.
Today, I’ll still find myself flipping through my friends’ biology and chemistry books seeing if I recognize anything, and sometimes I’ll wonder if I’ll regret the major and career I’ve chosen.
This is not to say that aspiring doctors will be unhappy — perhaps their parents did not want them to become doctors, but their love for medicine fuels their drive just as my love for writing makes me want to be a journalist.
We’re surrounded by those cheesy inspirational quotes about shooting for the moon, or making dreams into reality or just being told that I can do it. I follow one quote from the film “Little Miss Sunshine”: “You do what you love, and f*** the rest.”
It might not land a job or buy a nice car, but to love what you do is such a rare opportunity. And to decide what you love is a decision that can only be made by you.