What Do You Want to Be?

Sunday, April 29, 2018 - 2:25pm


Graduation Buy this photo
Courtesy of Author

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” my kindergarten teacher asked me as I walked across a small stage as I “graduated” to the first grade. “A doctor!” I happily exclaimed with confidence as I grabbed the diploma and skipped across the stage.

“What do you want to be?” asked my high school counselor as we sat together picking classes for my first year of high school. “A doctor!” I said, looking excitedly at the science courses I’d be adding to my schedule.

“But sweetie, you know you don’t have to choose this profession, right?” she responded. I was startled for a second, but I just brushed it off. “I know,” I stated, as I registered myself for chemistry and physics. “I can do this.”

“What do you want to be?” asked my classmates. “No, but what do you really want to be?” asked my classmates, as if the word “really” would change my mind about pursuing medicine. My replies weren’t as confident as before, because no matter what I said nobody seemed to believe I truly wanted to practice medicine.

My Caucasian counterparts were met with a completely different response: People were happy for them and no questions were asked, yet I was always doubted.

The “tiger mom” stereotype is seen in TV shows, movies and even books. People often assume the only reason I’m pursuing medicine because my family is pressuring me, yet this is extremely untrue.

Many thoughts began to race through my mind: How is it right for people to judge my family situation based on my heritage? Why does nobody believe I’m truly interested in science? Do people think poorly of my family because of me?

“What do you want to be?” asked a girl sitting next to me in a biology course. “A doctor … but my family doesn’t even want me to be a doctor.” I found myself adding this little line in order to show that my family wasn’t as overbearing as most Indian stereotypes claimed they would be. This response was often met with a statement of shock — what type of Indian parent wouldn’t want their daughter to be a doctor? After all, that definitely goes against the racist stereotype most people have in mind!

But why should I have to add that line? Why should I have to explain myself or my family life to everyone? My family grew up in a different country but the stereotypes are still incredibly rude and hurtful, since the majority of Asian parents just want their children to succeed and be happy. While I can’t speak for all families, I can speak for mine, and others disrespecting them by pretending they forced me against my will to enter a job I didn’t want is something I refuse to put up with any longer.

“What do you want to be?” is a question I will probably get asked again. “I want to practice medicine because it’s what I’m passionate about,” will be my answer. So don’t question it.