The spring semester is upon us, and I am sure that I am not alone in saying that choosing a major, a summer internship and a career has become a daily mental battleground for me. Keeping up with application deadlines, narrowing down my actual interests and career aspirations and staying on top of current obligations like my classwork and extracurriculars is all a bit overwhelming. This is why I always treasure every second of winter break.
Winter break — a long, tranquil four weeks — means no homework, no club commitments and, most importantly, no emails. We can turn off our phones without fear of missing a reminder or a Collab notification. We do not have to feel bad about doing absolutely nothing all day. Winter break and the ignorance it allows us all to partake in is bliss — until we are sitting at a table surrounded by family members who are all very concerned about our 10-year plan.
It is like they expect us to go off to college, have a grand “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life” moment then come home with plans to conquer the world. Do not get me wrong, I love my family — so much — but I do not think our families realize how stressful and anxiety-inducing it is to be bombarded with questions about our futures that we desperately wish we could answer.
First year, I was excited for the long winter reprieve from school but was not ready for the serious “future plans” discussion with my family. However, this past Christmas, I felt more prepared for their questions. I had declared an English major, decided to apply for a second one and had picked out a short-list of internships to apply for. I would not have to fill the smothering silence at the table with “maybe” and “I am not quite sure” — not this year.
Then I got home. Cue the atomic bomb explosion sound effects.
No, I am just kidding — it was not that bad.
As expected, I had some serious conversations with my parents about my goals for the future. I think that the indecisiveness and “I want to try everything” attitude I carried home with me at the beginning of my first-year had made my parents nervous. But now that I am almost halfway through college — as much as I hate to say it — I do need to figure out what I see myself doing for the rest of my life.
Coming to our families with our plans, or lack thereof, leaves us vulnerable to their approval and their disappointment. Our intentions are never to let our families down, and we certainly want them to be proud of the independent strides we have made in college.
But at the same time, we must remember that college is an investment of time and money, and that we and our parents are both important stakeholders. So, does that mean our parents should have a say in what we do here?
According to a survey of over 3,000 students, 54 percent of parents try to exert their wishes for their child’s course and career choice, and only seven percent of students believe it is wrong of their parents to do so.
Compromising is difficult enough without the weight of life-altering decisions hanging in the air. However, I know that choosing a major, an internship and a career that make me happy matters more than appeasing my family. And, if my goal — turning my passion into my career — aligns with my family’s aspirations for me, great. But, I also understand that defying your family’s wishes to pursue a passion is not a privilege that everyone can afford.
I know that compromising depends on a lot of different factors, and I recognize how privileged I am to come from a supportive household where my parents genuinely want the best for me. Knowing that they care and have my best interests in mind makes it easier for me to let go of my young-adult pride and itch for independence to hear them out, but that does not mean I am willing to listen to the rest of my family push me to go to graduate school and change my major to something useful — who needs English, right?
Going home may complicate our plans and make us rethink decisions we have already made, and usually, I am ready for combat when I take my seat at the holiday dinner table. But this time going home was the reality check — and mental break — I needed. When it concerns my future and people who have loved me for all of my past and present, I am willing to cut a deal or two.
Compromising is hard, and I am not nearly as good at choosing my battles as I would like to be. Compromise requires letting go and perhaps giving up something — but when it comes to decisions that you, and only you, are going to have to live with for decades to come, be careful not to give too much of yourself away.
Emma Keller is a Life Columnist at The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.