Balancing expectations, passions necessary

Sharon Kim, columnist

“It’s your life – you should do what you want to do.”

Thank you, brave 9th generation Caucasian organism, for those enlightening words. I can see the light now: everything seems so simple. I can just go ahead and do what I want to. Let’s pop the champagne and sprinkle the confetti!

But if only it were as easy as just doing what I want to. I’m not sure if you could tell, but I’m Asian – specifically a second-generation Korean. Through the cruel laws of Asian-hood,  I was automatically passed down these things called ~expectations~. Even my blood type is AB+, so naturally, only A’s and B’s run through my grade book just like it runs through my veins.

Don’t get me wrong – not all Asian households are like this. My parents are actually super laid-back; they expect me to not fail out, but they aren’t tiger parents. They always gave me the option of giving up if I get worn out.

But as a child who grew up seeing the struggles of an immigrant family, the desire to succeed is elevated. Living in a foreign country with vast differences in cultures wasn’t easy for my family – financially and socially. Yet I watched my family build themselves up through their hard-work, so how could I possibly let them down?

My mom would jokingly ask, “what’s my favorite letter in the alphabet?” And because I was that kid, I would answer “A.” Yeah, my mom thought it was a hoot, but I wanted nothing more than to show my mom her favorite letter.

I have a few suppressed dreams: becoming an English teacher or making my way up to being an editor of a fashion magazine. These are all attainable, of course, but I surprisingly found another goal through my expectations: becoming a clinical pharmacist.

Is this goal final? Who knows, honestly. My underdeveloped brain continues to change its mind, but as of now – this is it.

There are a few people who question my goals. Is my dream solely cultivated around the expectations of my family? Can’t I make a decision for myself?

Having the desire to make your family proud doesn’t always have to be stifling. You don’t have to give up your dreams to show them that you can make them and yourself happy.

Instead, find a medium and compromise. I discovered that I can pursue a path as a pharmacist while also exploring English as a minor. I just need to show my family what I can do, and that I can be hella good at it.

There’s a silver-lining to expectations: yeah, they’re stressful but because of them, I’m pushed to try harder and expand upon who I am. It’s a true blessing in disguise.

Sure, we all know about the Asian grading scale. “A” means average, “B” means bad, “C” means catastrophic, “D” means disowned, and “F” means find a new home.

I made my own grading scale. Craft one out of your own desire to succeed; don’t think of your expectations as something that weighs you down – instead, use them to push yourself off the ground even higher.