My parents really want me to study accounting and are really set on me going to school for this but I am more interested in studying something more creative. I don’t know how to convince them otherwise 

Age: 19

Hi friend. Thanks for this question.

This is tough because as frustrating as it is, it is understandable that your parents would want you to pick a career which in their eyes, is guaranteed to provide you with “stability” by traditional standards.

They sacrificed a lot to immigrate and give their children a better life, and they only want to ensure you are able to build something for yourself that is secure and free of many of the struggles they experienced. 

But understanding their rationale doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right in every circumstance. (Mom, if you’re reading this, I love you and I’m sorry). 

What’s important to remember and to sometimes remind them, is that we have something they didn’t have—which is choice.

While they may be pressuring you to go down a path that is separate from what you want, you have to remember that before all else, even if it doesn’t always feel like it, you do have a choice. 

Ignoring this fact, or convincing yourself that you truly have no other choice has a cost associated with it—and in many cases this cost will come in the form of your own happiness. 

Biting your tongue or sacrificing your own wants and needs to appease other people is a slippery slope. Once you become accustomed to abandoning yourself to please others, you will forget how to decipher between what you want, and what others want for you.

The only way around this is to have an open and honest conversation. I know—terrifying. In brown households, we are often extremely averse to having difficult conversations, instead opting for passive aggression or complete silence.

But there are some things worth speaking up for. 

It will be tough, but you have got to sit them down and explain to your parents that this the career they want for you is something you wholeheartedly have no interest in, and that when you envision your future, you see yourself doing something that you enjoy, not just something you were forced into.

The times we are living in right now have shown us that stability is difficult to come by regardless of what career you are in. The entire world was uprooted in 2020 and nothing has been the same since. But in this time that was marked by uncertainty, loss, and grief, it crystallized that at the very least, we should be doing things that make us happy.

I’m not necessarily saying that your job needs to be a source of your joy, but it at the very least shouldn’t contribute to your misery. You owe yourself that much.

Going to school and getting a degree is tough, and is certainly not for everyone. But if you are going to put in the hours and effort to study something and pursue a career, it should be something you can at least tolerate

In presentations and workshops I’ve been a part of, I’ve been asked by young brown girls about how my parents “let” me pursue a career in journalism. How did my parents “let” me do what I want?

I recognize I have a certain level of privilege in doing what I desire, but simply put—I didn’t ask for permission. I explained to them what makes me happy and what I see myself doing, and simply went for it. 

They could have chosen to not support me, or to get upset with me for chasing what I want without first asking them, but the truth is, despite them being my parents, this life is mine and mine only. 

You are young, but the fact that you are having these doubts and allowing yourself to vocalize them is the first step. 

I know far too many brown kids who went down a career path they had no interest in just to appease everyone but themselves. This deep dissatisfaction will bleed into every facet of your life if you don’t learn to stand up for the kind of life you want for yourself. 

I don’t know how we can repay our parents for all they have given and done for us, but I assure you the answer is not found in sacrificing our own happiness to avoid disappointing them. 

(Chances are we have already disappointed them many times over and likely will again in the future, so there’s no point in being afraid of the inevitable).

But this also requires us to redefine how we see “success.” Our parents want us to be successful by societal standards—doctors, lawyers, accountants, or CEOs—sometimes forgetting that true success is being at peace when your head hits the pillow at night. 

So when you look into the future, and think about what dreams you have for yourself, what do you see?

The first step is speaking those dreams aloud, and honouring yourself enough to know that you deserve to live them.

Your parents just want what’s best for you, and what’s best for you is building a life you didn’t feel cornered into. They will come around. 

If you too find yourself in need of advice, submit future questions and submissions anonymously for "Sh*t you can't ask your parents," here.

About the author

Rumneek Johal

Rumneek is a journalist, host and speaker. She is currently the BC Reporter at Press Progress where she focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism. Her previous work centers on asking tough questions within her community, starting conversation and chipping away at the status quo. Other focus areas for her work include the South Asian community, arts and culture, pop culture, and more. She is a proud Punjabi woman from Surrey, BC.

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