As a Chinese/Asian child/teenager, you’ll often hear your parents telling you what they WANT you to do when you grow up. But quite often things don’t turn out their way, and someone like me, chose passion over wants.
When I was in Year 6 (primary school), I recall tuning into ABC news in class which was broadcasting the then PM, Kevin Rudd’s sorry speech/apology to the Stolen Generation. Little did I realise how much impact this long-awaited apology to the Indigenous Australians had on me. From that day, I learnt about justice and what justice meant and served to society – both in the political and legal context.
Eight years later, I am here typing out what I once dreamt of, and that was my yearning passion and interest to do something I’ve always wanted to do when I was young, and that is to study Law at university. Following graduation, my dream is to then serve justice and fairness to victims, and those who were misled or subject to degrading treatment by dangerous members of society. “To serve justice” is a very powerful phrase and I know that it may not always go in my favour when I begin a long career in Law, nevertheless, I will try.
Now you’re probably thinking what has this got to do with me being a Chinese person? Well, when I was in high school, I remember my mum suggesting I study medicine to become a doctor, GP, surgeon, dentist, or orthodontist, but I knew deep down inside that those were not the things I wanted to do when I grew up. It’s not like my mum forcefully compelled me into choosing either of the those occupations, but I was a little frustrated as to why she couldn’t see Law being something good. In my mum’s eyes, everything relating to be being a doctor or dentist was fantastic because it meant that she’d have a super intelligent daughter. Luckily, I don’t have a strict Chinese mum who would go as far as to control every aspect of my life. My mum is young (early-mid forties) and she knew I was a stubborn kid, and if I didn’t want something, then I didn’t want it. My mum is still strict in every aspect but she knew I was capable of choosing my own career path, and have probably come to understand my reasons for choosing Law now.
My dad on the other hand was very different. I don’t think there was ever a time when we actually spoke about what I wanted to do when I finished high school, but like my mum, he knew I was capable of choosing a career path on my own. There was perhaps one time when he asked me directly as we were sitting down about what I wanted to do, and when I told him Law because it was something I’ve always envisioned myself doing when I was 11, he said “okay, just as long as you know you really want to do it, otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time doing something you don’t have a passion for.” I suppose I’m thankful that my dad never brought up all these suggestions of what I should do in life, and also thankful that he saw me having good intentions of what I study now.
But the other thing to note is that my dad is an engineer, and having a background in the field of science meant something for him: either it would empower me to also be an engineer like him one day (which I actually had in mind some time in my school years), or choose physics and chemistry as core subjects in school because that was what my dad would have liked, or wanted. Well, it was the latter that stuck with me all throughout high school, but I learnt that I wasn’t good at physics or chemistry, nor was my interest in the two science subjects greater than my interest for psychology; this being the only social science subject which I really enjoyed. I can still remember when my dad complained about my choice of subjects in Year 11 (psychology and legal studies), and couldn’t understand why I didn’t choose physics over those two if I was also doing chemistry. And I thought to myself, I’m choosing subjects that I think would benefit me in my degree, and here you are telling me how stupid I am for choosing the most unacademic subjects ever! I remember that I had enough of it, and I stood up for myself by retaliating because if I didn’t, he would have still looked down on the subjects that truly mattered to me, and the ones most important for my future. As for chemistry, you betcha why I did it… for my dad of course. When it came to choosing subjects for Year 11 (the year being the one you’d have to start making important decisions) made me feel pressured if I didn’t choose chemistry or physics, because then I would be looked down upon by dad for the rest of my high school years.
The point I’m really trying to take away from this topic is that it doesn’t matter what you do. As long as you have good intentions of studying what you’ve always wanted to study, and see a future in that field, then I say go for it. The person who understands you best is yourself; no one can get in the way of what you love doing, and I’m not saying something like becoming a criminal, prostitute or a drug dealer, but reasonable careers whether it be in the field of science, design, medicine, arts, business, or even the more creative jobs such as those in dance, music, event planning, fashion, etc. Everyone is talented in their own ways, and sometimes, you’ll realise that the academic life just isn’t for you. As a young Chinese person, I know that the academic life isn’t suited for everyone because not everyone in my family went to university, graduated in degrees with spectacular high-paying jobs, and became super loaded as a result. Instead, those who didn’t enter university went onto become a massaging therapist, a graphics designer, a hairdresser, a factory worker, a truck driver, etc. In fact, even some of my family members graduated with degrees which could’ve placed them in firms/businesses that could have given them well-established reputations, but instead, they decided that the academic life wasn’t for them and have gone onto running their own takeaways.
People might say that being a doctor or lawyer is a wonderful job because it’s so laid back, though I will never know for sure until I enter the workforce. But what I do know is that no job is easy! Everyone has to work for what they have, what they didn’t have, and what they are willing to have. My parents started from somewhere to build a home, buy a car and take me on holidays, and once you work hard enough to be at a certain stage in life, then only can one say that they’re living an easier and more comfortable life.