Disclaimer: In Real Life is a platform for everyday people to share their experiences and voices. All articles are personal stories and do not necessarily echo In Real Life’s sentiments.
Society views certain industries, like medicine, as better than others, like hairdressing. As such, parents try to discourage their children from picking fields with a low-success rate, worried their child won’t have a good future.
Usually, the child goes along with it because “Parents know best.” But how true is it when it comes to something as life changing as a career choice?
So I decided to ask some people: What parent-approved career did you choose? What dream did you give up on? Do you have any regrets?
I wanted to work in the Arts, but per my parents’ wishes, I became a doctor.
“I was 16 when I realised I couldn’t pursue the career of my own choice,” Sofia* a 33-year-old orthopedic doctor recalls. (*not her real name)
In Form 4, Sofia had to decide between the Science or Arts stream. “I wanted to pursue designing, so I thought it was obvious that I’d pick the Arts. But my parents disagreed.”
Ever since Sofia can remember, she had a creative mind. Her parents would buy her tons of toys. “They would get me legos, toy medical kits and dolls, but I would always find more entertainment with a piece of crayon and blank paper.”
She always enjoyed colouring and painting as a child, and as she got older, she used these as an emotional outlet, especially in her teen years.
“My solution to everything was to paint,” she said candidly. “Upset after my parents yell at me? Paint. My friends leave me out of their plans? Paint. A boy broke my heart? Paint.”
By the age of 12, Sofia knew it was something she wanted to pursue seriously. “My parents saw my love for art, but they always thought it was something I was wasting my time in.”
Sofia’s parents were in the medical field. Her father is a doctor, and her mother is a lecturer in medical school. “It was obvious, as the only child in the family, I was expected to follow in their footsteps,” Sofia concluded.
There were times that her parents brought up the topic of her doing medicine as a career, and she would say: “No, I want to become an artist.”
Each time, she would be shut down. “At one point, the topic of my ambition became taboo,” she told me.
I told my parents I wanted to go into the Arts, and they weren’t happy about it.
“When I reached 16, after contemplating for months, I broke the news to them that I wanted to enter the arts stream. They were not happy about it. They were furious and attacked me with questions, like: “Why can’t you take medicine instead? Don’t you know your choice is an unrealistic field? What will others think?”
Eventually, Sofia caved in to their badgering and gave science a shot. “I remember just thinking that maybe medicine would not be as bad, and that I could do my art as a hobby,” she shared.
In school, Sofia struggled with maths, chemistry and physics. “I couldn’t understand what was being taught, no matter how many hours I have put in to study. I even failed chemistry and had to retake it in order to get into uni.”
Sofia eventually got the hang of it. She accepted that she had no choice, and instead of hating it, she started to find something that would interest her about this course.
“It was a very fake-it-till-you-make-it situation, so when I formed this mentality, I started getting better results in college and university,” she shared.
Sofia has mixed feelings about her career
It’s been 7 years since Sofia started practicing medicine and looking back, she has mixed feelings about it. “I do enjoy it, but maybe not as much as I loved art.”
“Medicine was so mentally draining for me to learn. Though it has been years, I wish my parents saw things more from my perspective.”
“I could say “I would have done things differently,” but honestly there’s not much you can do at 16 when you are relying on your parents, so the outcome would have probably been the same,” Sofia shrugged.
She says that the older generation needs to realise that creative careers are not a disgrace or unrealistic. According to her, they need to put their child’s happiness and mental health above what society might think and stop pushing their passion onto their children.
Sofia has gotten very busy with her career, and does not really practice art anymore. “Maybe in the future, when I retire I will start painting again. But for now, it’s on pause,” she concluded.
Sofia advises youths to put their foot down and follow their dreams. She believes doing so is better for your mental health and well-being.
On the other hand, Amanda has a different view of her parents’ persuasion to make her change her career choice.
I wanted to become a lawyer, but my parents felt business was a better choice.
Growing up, Amanda a 23 year old* (*not her real name), never really knew what she wanted to do.
“I used to always think there was still so much time. Until eventually, time ran out and I had to choose a course,” Amanda explains.
Amanda describes herself as a good problem-solver. She also had an uncle who was a lawyer, and he would always regale her with stories. “I found his stories really interesting, so when I had to make a choice, I chose law.”
However, her parents did not agree with her choice. “They weren’t thrilled about it. They felt this field isn’t in good demand nowadays, and would not make me successful in future.”
Though Amanda wished that they saw it through a different lens, she understood where they were coming from.
“They sat me down and explained why some other careers would be better. They gave me 3 options to consider: Food Science, Business, and Computer Science,” she added.
Amongst all 3 options, Business seemed like the best option to her. “It was a broad degree with various options to branch out into, such as marketing, finance, etc.”
“I did have a rough start in the beginning, as I did not know anything about business. There was so much business jargon that I did not understand,” she confesses.
But the more Amanda learned about it, the more she started enjoying and acing it. “In uni, I got into the Dean’s list multiple times, and when I graduated, I landed a good job in a marketing agency.”
She enjoys her job and hopes to open up her own company in the future.
Amanda doesn’t regret following her parents’ advice
“I am glad that my parents convinced me to change my mind. I grew to love business and can definitely see a future in it down the line.”
Amanda also sees how some of her friends in different fields, even Law, have a hard time getting employed now.
“They often get rejected, and start working in different jobs like in insurance companies or customer service.” In the end, she feels like she was lucky to have had parents that looked out for her.
“I am thankful that I had my parents to guide me and advise me, or else I would never have taken business,” she acknowledges.
Unfortunately, not everyone has this same support. “It’s very important for you to research your degree, the requirements and the demand for it in future, and ask yourself if that sounds interesting to you,” she advised.
Amanda also believes that people should be more open to try other opportunities they have previously never considered.
“You never know if you will enjoy something until you try it. So why not go for it?”
For more stories like this, read: Career Trends in Malaysia – What’s Popular Today? and How to Know if Your Current Career Isn’t Right For You.
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