Growing up in a Filipino household with hardworking parents and grandparent, and being the eldest child and only daughter creates some intense intersectional expectations. My father’s side of the family had doctors, architects, teachers, and artists; my mother’s side had generations of domestic workers, store owners, and farmers.
There seems to be an overwhelming consensus in Filipino culture that to be successful you will need to be a nurse, domestic worker, teacher, or anything that will pull you out of poverty.
I’ve been pushed and pulled into several directions based on the expectations of my elders to the point where I decided to fight fire with fire. A nurse? Nah, I’ll be a doctor.
Being the first of both families to attend university in Canada, everyone had high hopes. I was to become a psychologist and open a practice of my own—I would meet expectations and then some.
But, sometimes your passions cling to you like burrs on a finely knit sweater. In third year, I wrote a manuscript for National Novel Writing Month, and fell in love with a craft that I buried in a concerted effort to smash familial expectations.
Instead of deciding to take a fifth year to do a thesis, I applied to a publishing program. I decided to drop everything and read. There was a great deal of confusion and a lingering sense of doubt within my family, but there was something within me that knew if I didn’t take this chance, if I didn’t see what I was made of, then I would’ve been an artless doctor for the rest of my life—if I ever made it to grad school, that is.
After I was accepted into the program, it was strange walking into psychology classes every day, looking at the crowd of students who were invested and determined to make something of themselves in the field. It was as if I was swimming in another stream and watching everyone else float by me, unaware of the academic waters that they resided in.
I met one person in my program who was also applying to something other than psychology. We spent a good 30 minutes before an exam talking about how psychology was interesting but wasn’t for us, and how tradition and culture almost messed us up. It was a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one who wanted to take a chance and invent a new path for myself rather than following one that I knew I never wanted.