Who am I? This is a question that I have been struggling to answer for these first two months of my freshman year. It is so simple, yet so intricate.
It’s like I spent my whole life working toward one goal: college. But now that I’m here, I’m like, “Now what?” You see, there’s a stigma in the Arab-American community that when you go to college, you have to have your whole life figured out and you only have three options: pre-law, pre-med or some kind of an engineer — the “holy trinity.” Funny story: my first two days here at the University of Michigan, I was pre-med, but then on the second day, I came to the realization that I hated science. I could do it, I was good at it, but I couldn’t care less about DNA or polymers. By my third day, I had dropped my science course, taken up a political science course and could not have been happier.
I was surrounded by people who cared about social issues and I finally felt like I was on the right track. However, the question still arose whenever I would talk to my “khaltos” or grandma, “What are you going to be later in life?” I think that’s what I have come to detest about my experiences with Middle Eastern culture — that I need to have my life figured out by the first semester of my first year in college. It’s hard enough making the transition and adjusting to collegiate life, but then at the mere age of 18, having to decide what I’m doing for the rest of my life. With this in mind, I spoke with my parents, hashing out my worries and pressures. Their replies were nothing short of comforting as they told me exactly what I wanted to hear.
Happy. That was their answer, one simple word. The explanation behind “happy” was as simple as the actual answer. My parents didn’t go to college, they came from another country and made a life in America from absolutely nothing. They had no plan or course of action, they just knew they wanted to raise their future children in a land that had a safe environment and stable education system. By going to college, I had fulfilled all of their dreams and wishes. They want me to be happy because they sacrificed everything they’d ever known for their children. If I’m not happy in the end, then what was all their sacrificing for? I could be a doctor or an engineer, but what kind of a life would it be if I was not content?
Ultimately, my parents surprised me because compared to other parents, they were wholly understanding. So, does the “holy trinity” truly matter in life? No, it doesn’t. Just because seemingly everyone I know is trying to become a doctor doesn’t mean I have to be as well. I’m breaking the unspoken Arab rule and going against the status quo, and so are my parents by not pushing me to do something they know I don’t want to do. They let me know they supported my decisions and I have never been happier. So, who am I? I am Reem and I am a girl still trying to navigate her way through her first semester at college and I am content doing it because I have some amazing parents behind me for the journey.