If your life represents a ship sailing through an unpredictable ocean, who would you allow to steer the wheel? Would you steer your own ship, or would you hand your control over to someone else?
Throughout my life, I’ve discovered the importance of putting the wind in my sails and steering my own ship.
Growing up in an almost traditional Asian household, my environment taught me that following certain conventions was necessary. Straight A’s, graduating with a degree, getting a (parent-approved) job, marrying, and having kids seemed to be the key to a fulfilling life. If I failed to fulfill any of these requirements, I presumed that it would cause unnecessary family drama or my parents to compare me to others of similar age. Even though my parents never pushed me to follow in those footsteps, I still felt the pressure to conform to those expectations because of the way that the media portrays Asians as well as several Asian parents’ desires to raise children who make them proud.
Many parents fail to realize that they use their desire for their children to have the best as an excuse to apply unrealistic standards and therefore protect their pride. What’s more, the way our parents were raised has shaped their attitudes. Our grandparents worked hard for their children to have better lives. However, as our society modernized, the children our grandparents raised, our parents, started competing with their peers over who had the most successful children. If their own children do not match up to their peers in academics, talents, or work, our parents tend to feel humiliated and demand that we match their expectations, without taking into account that everyone has their own capabilities.
Our parents sometimes use our looks as a subtle way to compete with each other, too. I feel as if I can’t dress up without having a relative marvel over my looks, but if my parents smirk back at them, I feel hollow inside. I’ve even considered disfiguring my face because I feel like others expect me to serve them, not control of my own life.
Still, that can’t be where I’m steering my ship.
When I understood these, I realized that there is nothing I can do about them, and not all parents are like that. What I can do, however, is free myself from these conventions, understand the past, accept reality, and focus on improving myself.
So I picked myself up by thinking for myself. I asked myself what I truly wanted to do in life. The moment I found my answer, I worked towards it. I steered my own ship towards my dream: writing.
My life started to truly change for the better when I decided to let go of the pressure and follow my own dreams. In pursuing my passion, I’ve challenged myself, found my voice, and used it to speak out about important causes.
Now, I feel more alive than ever.
If you are struggling against others’ expectations, remember that you shouldn’t live a life you don’t want to live. Don’t think that your life isn’t worth fighting for. No matter who you are, stay strong in defying expectations and pursuing your dreams. You will still struggle along the way, but at the end of the day, know that you are your own person. Develop your strengths while you overcome your weaknesses. You are capable of doing anything you dream, so remember, you are the one who steers your own ship.