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My Family Doesn’t Approve Of My Career—Now What?

Source | FastCompany : BY PAVITHRA MOHAN

I often tell people I have fairly liberal parents, all things considered. As the child of Indian immigrants, it’s something I’ve come to appreciate, especially when it comes to my chosen career path. You could say my parents got catfished: When I went to college, I fancied myself the next Atul Gawande and chose to major in journalism while simultaneously striving for medical school, taking all the necessary pre-med coursework and even taking the MCAT.

Over the years, my father has lodged many complaints over the exorbitant tuition costs he shouldered, but he has rarely, if ever, tried to steer me away from journalism. Then came my brother. (He asked that I not use his name since he’s still at his current job.) After graduating from UC Berkeley last year with a degree in computer science, he landed a software engineering job at a big tech company, which just so happens to be my dad’s place of work. But now, almost a year into his job, he’s mulling a career change that could lead him to journalism or arts criticism. My dad is not amused.

My brother majored in computer science for the same reason I wanted to go into medicine: They were stable, low-risk career paths. Our upbringing had implicitly—and sometimes explicitly—told us that was the right thing to do. But we both found that our hearts weren’t really in it.  For my brother it wasn’t just parental pressure; a career in tech or engineering seemed almost inevitable, he says, for an Indian-American guy growing up in Silicon Valley. It was easy to fall in line with his peers and friends, many of whom were also majoring in computer science and raring to work in tech. “Nobody laid out for me how I could go and get a decent job as an English major,” he says.

Choosing a career path your parents don’t approve of can be fraught with dashed expectations, a lack of mutual understanding, and, often, conditional support. For someone like my brother, the child of overeducated Indian immigrants, it’s also steeped in cultural baggage. Like many such immigrants, both of my parents come from modest backgrounds, which means stability is key. They worked hard to afford their progeny a certain lifestyle, and they want the same for their children as they enter adulthood and start families.

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