Your Dreams Vs. Unsupportive Asian Parents: Finding Your Way

We all have passions and dreams, which our parents might not always agree with. In a stereotypical Asian family, artistic and creative dreams tend to be frowned upon, and we might have second thoughts about chasing them.

Writing is something I love. Seven year old me rushed home after school and wrote fictional adventure stories in my bedroom, and loved writing essays for English classes. These days after work, I write for this blog and work on my first book. But for as long as I can remember, my Chinese-Malaysian parents have never been keen on me spending time writing.

Sometimes the road to our dreams is a hard one. Kurt Hugo Schneider & Sam Tsui, 2016 | Weekly Photo Challenge: Narrow.

Sometimes the road to our dreams is a hard one. Kurt Hugo Schneider & Sam Tsui, 2016 | Weekly Photo Challenge: Narrow.

One can say Asian parents are harsh and narrow-minded when they rather their kids pursue one dream over the other. Others might say Asian parents are simply looking out for us.

If it doesn’t earn bring in a decent paycheck, to some stereotypical parents that creative dream might not be worth chasing as it “isn’t practical” in the long term. Material success and making strides in one’s career is the pride and face of countless Asian families. To achieve this, it’s common sense to have a reputable job and dream that pays the bills and hit the shops. Arguably, professions in the arts involve evaluation while careers in fields like medicine and engineering have a higher potential of shielding one from (cultural and non-cultural) biases by employers and clients.

In the months leading up to graduating from university with a Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Cultural Studies and Applied Maths), my mum kept hovering over my shoulder. “Apply for jobs at the big companies like the Tax Office. Bureau of Statistics. Commonwealth Bank. More money,” she said each time she saw me sitting in front of my laptop in my room after classes. I would be looking up and chasing publication after publication after yet another publication in hope they’d take a look at articles I’ve written.

Honouring one’s parents and supporting them in their later days is a virtue in Asian cultures. Creative endeavours don’t promise this, at times not even food on the table tomorrow. Confucianism has long been a fundamental part of Chinese society dating back to the Han dynasty and filial piety is one of the philosophy’s values. Today Confucianism is still highly esteemed and in China a percentage of one’s wages might be deposited into parents’ bank accounts. As a writer or reporter for a magazine, one might work odd hours when an assignment comes up and get paid as and when one gets published. As a painter or musician, not all exhibits and performances promise returns.

“Don’t anyhow spend your money. Buy me a house next time,” as my mum likes to say to me. One day, I’d like to own a place of my own. Thinking about the $500 I earned from freelance writing jobs over two years, I wonder if buying a house is possible from just writing.

That face you make when you love what you do and do what you love.

That face you make when you love what you do and do what you love.

Creative dreams encourage us to speak out and express ourselves, whereas hierarchical Asian family structures encourage otherwise. Elders are assumed to be correct in Asian cultures. Going against their word is seen as disrespectful; tradition and superstition, the tried and tested, are regarded as common sense. The pathways of business, medicine and law have time and time again made numerous cities in the Asia Pacific region the progressive cities they are today.

In Asian cultures there is also the mentality that doing over and over what has always worked brings success. As such, some “don’t get” creative passions where one needs to be spontaneous to inspire progress. According to my mum, I’m “wasting my time doing something leisurely” too often, wasting my time writing. There’s truth to that. Practising repetitive formulas, my university maths subjects and the number-crunching job I worked in last year were easy-going. After sleeping well and waking up on many a Saturday evening, I sit at my desk to work on my book and sometimes ideas come and sometimes they don’t…mostly it’s the latter and frustrated, I don’t write much.

Having been brought up in a culture of routine, it’s no surprise some Asians don’t know how to go after their creative dreams, and hesitate and end up fitting the passive stereotype. It can be hard not listening to our parents: we feel guilty if we don’t because our parents may have sacrificed much for us, for example moving to the Western world to give us a better life or working three jobs at a time. We feel like we owe them and feel the need to be who they want us to be, like that hardworking student or dedicated career climber.

Many Asian Australians continue to fit such stereotypes. Research in 2013 shows students of east and south-east Asian background are 30 times more likely to make the Maths Extension 2 HSC honour roll than their Anglo counterparts, and dominate 10 out of 13 of the most popular honour roll subjects. Only recently over the last decade are Asian Australians pursuing careers in the arts and media more despite bamboo-ceiling resistance.

Time and time again, we might feel our stereotypical Asian parents “are right” about our creative dreams. It’s how I often feel. To pay the bills, I work a full-time non-writing day job which takes up most of my time. When we show up somewhere where we’re wanted and put our skills to use, we keep learning and growing. In the unemployed months after graduation, facing rejection from publication after publication, I felt like I could do more with my time.

     When we face rejection and hit a creative brick wall, we wonder which way to go.


When we face rejection and hit a creative brick wall, we wonder which way to go.

There’s no reason why we can’t pursue our creative dreams under the disguise of hobby. No reason why we can’t create opportunities out of our down time. One tired evening after work three years ago, I chanced upon this blogging community that is WordPress and looked around. There aren’t many multicultural blogs around let alone posts like my style of writing, but I didn’t think I had much to lose putting my articles up here. As singer Sam Tsui said on chasing your dreams:

“You just have to trust that if you have something unique….You can just go ahead and do it. [If] you have something to say, it’ll stick somewhere.”

Sometimes going after our creative dreams entails keeping to ourselves and not shouting it from the roof tops. Having always grown up with the typical Asian mindset, perhaps we have to learn to be a bit selfish and put our individual selves first in order to keep doing that creative thing that we love. Writing is not something I show or talk about with my parents anymore. Neither is this blog. And discouragement I hear less at home.

My day job takes up most of my time and energy these days. I struggle to find time to write and it does feel like I’m living my parents’ dream. But I still write. In reality, the world does not revolve around us average folk and we cannot have it all – at least for a moment in time. Coming from a typical Asian family, chasing our creative dreams involves waiting and creating our own chances as we live the Asian stereotype and non-stereotype. Who says we can’t experience the best opportunities from both worlds, one bit at a time?

Certainly not all Asian parents disapprove of all creative ventures. Countless Asian parents are willing to pay for piano and violin lessons for their kids, and in turn take pride in watching them perform the keys and bring home musical accolades and certificates at the very least. At university, I told my parents no more piano lessons, no piano diploma for me. Though I loved these lessons, I explained to them I wanted more time to practice differentiation and integration maths formulas…and silently told myself, more time for writing too. As producer Kurt Hugo Schneider said on committing and working hard at your craft:

“If you want to be the best at something, you have to do it to the exclusion of everything else.”

When we believe in ourselves and what we do, we attract positivity, and support when we least expect it.

When we believe in ourselves and what we do, we attract positivity, and support when we least expect it.

What we do makes who we are, and who we are makes what we do. Just as cultural stereotypes can hold us back from going after our dreams, they can also be the very traits that help us go after them. The other day I skimmed through the first draft of my book that I completed one year ago. Editing it has been slow…but due to recent work and health issues, a hard decision had to be made. Skimming chapter after chapter that sort of flow into each other, I realised how far I’ve come, quietly little by little. And it beats the feeling of getting published in a magazine.

When you have no expectations, every milestone is an achievement. When you make the most of the pieces in your hands, who knows where you can go, no matter where you come from. All you got to do is try.

Do you and your parents agree on your dreams?

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328 thoughts on “Your Dreams Vs. Unsupportive Asian Parents: Finding Your Way

  1. I guess parents in general tend to have an inbuilt preference for the safe, the steady and the practical when it comes to the future of their offspring. On the other hand, nothing would have encouraged me to continue with math beyond high school, no matter how much my parents had insisted on it. I would have had to refuse on safety grounds. I’m certain my head would have exploded

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  2. Very coherently written article Mabel ! I guess the whole process of “Our dream vs Asian parents” is a bittersweet one. Sometimes we know they are being irrational about pushing us a certain way and sometimes a part of us knows that’s its for our own good. My parents “kind of” agree on my dreams and aspirations. I mean they have their apprehensions and they do show it very subtly but they don’t push it too much, for now at least. I wanna go study abroad for higher studies after being done with my graduation, keeping my fingers crossed for that.
    Let’s see!

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  3. Reblogged this on The End Justifies the Journey and commented:
    I wasn’t supposed to post anything today other than a reblog (see previous post). But this is a relevant and very good read! Certainly relatable especially for Asians.

    To add my piece, my parents never discouraged my writing. But they never really encouraged me either. That was why I didn’t really know I wanted to be a writer until I was a teener–I just knew I loved to write (so did my sister). My mother did like reading copies of the college school paper I wrote for and that was enough validation for me that she wasn’t exactly against it. I did know early on that they were just worried about my future. They did not have to tell me as that is the norm. The term “starving artist” came about for a reason, right?

    I think how we see art (writing included) really depends on the society we live in. If the government does not support the arts, naturally, the future could be bleak for any artist. Not everyone has the resources, connections or great luck to be the artist he wants to be.

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  4. I have the feeling is a bit like that in most countries. My parents were really encouraging me to take science and maths options at school, instead of art and history. It’s a general problem thinking that all the science jobs are better than the manual or artistic ones.. and I find it sad. I think every discipline is worth it and should be praise.

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  5. Hi m – I find it interesting to read this post after watching the Olympics in rio – tonight they had a few athletes talk about the training and the hours and hours in the gym! For years – the training – the sport of a hobby that becomes all work and the identity is wrapped up in that sport – whew ! Amazing on one hand – but ……

    Well very interesting points you make because on the very practical level – bills have to be paid – food on the table – and needs met! What saddens me is the overspending and the escalating money needs that overtake people quite easily – and they follow money when it is a hobby they need !
    Or who knows – we are all so diverse – and I always enjoy your culture rich posts!
    Oh and I say throw out generic milestone timelines to focus on personal goals and stuff you said here /
    Peace
    🌺🌺🌺🌺

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  6. What an interesting post, I really loved reading it. We have been living in Asia for years now, and all you are writing makes a lot of sense.
    As a parent, I have always told my kids : It is ok if your dream is to become a clown. But then don’t be any clown. Be the Best One. Whatever path you ll choose for your career, give it all your passion and energy. Then your happiness will make me happy 🙂

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  7. I love your balanced view of all opinions on the issue and the insights you share as to how you find your way through. It’s a great plan to have a day job I feel. Even if parents are supportive of creative careers most artists need a mix of steady work to stay true to themselves artistically. Sometimes if we struggle through things the work produced at the end can be even more refined and precious. I enjoy your blog, your posts shine, your work is winning ! So here’s to your ongoing success with your heart career !

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    • You are so right. Sometimes creatives do need a variety of working roles to come to grips with reality and pursue their craft at the same time. For instance, without a day job I would not have been able to afford my camera equipment and take photos for my blog – and photography something that interests me.

      Thanks, Lita. I like your writing and poetry a lot. Keep up the good work!

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  8. As you know I do play the piano since I was small, and even though I can modestly say I have talent, my parents never ever let it be anything more than just a hobby. I always wonder what could I have done if they had let me push it to be more than that?… However this (non) creativity thing is not just Asian I think. In my Spanish side of the family, I have some family members that like to paint, but only ever used it as a hobby too. One of my cousins who is a very talented painter and artist decided to study Fine Arts, and I remember the family acting as if it were the end of her life!

    I do want to say something to you though, whether you ever “make it” as a writer, whatever it is your definition of success may be, whether you ever properly make money from it or not, it was what makes you YOU, and what brings richness and meaning to your life. I don’t make money out of piano at all (I only play for myself) but lately when someone asks me what I do, I sort of mumble my real job (which is boring and doesn’t make me happy) and I also say: and I play the piano. It sort of brings more meaning to what I am. I’m sure its the same as being a writer for you brings your personal internal richness. (I do think you will succeed though…) xx

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    • Sofia, you are brilliant at piano and i think you play a mean Rachmaninoff. It is in time and your notes roll off into one another very nicely. He is a composer that has never been friends with my fingers. I preferred Bach and Beethoven when I played the piano many years ago. Nothing wrong with pursuing our passion as hobby. Though others may not take it seriously, we can. As you said, success is what we make of it and what we think of it.

      It is great that you are proud of playing piano and you mention it to others 🙂 Who knows, maybe one day you will get paid to play. When someone asks me what I do, the first thing I tend to say is I’m a writer. Not that I don’t like my day time job – really like my current job. But I feel so much more comfortable saying that 🙂 Lol, I feel like I am successful in writing in many ways and perhaps this will be as good as it gets.

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      • Awww thanks for your words Mabel. Indeed others might not take it seriously but it is something I have in my heart, but not only that it has taken a whole life’s work to play the way I do (even if only myself and a few others enjoy it, understand it) and that is what makes me way more enriched than people that don’t have hobbies or passions. Thats what I think anyway…
        To me you already succeed in being a writer because you are one, and I hope you succeed way more! PS I’m glad you like your current day job! 🙂

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  9. I agree that the Asian culture and more so the South East one is very focused on earning well than following a passion. It’s easy cos then you don’t have to figure about how to earn money and society is well aware what the child is doing. Yes, society cos that is one set of people who always want to know what you are up to.

    I was lucky that my parents let me choose for my dreams. Writing is my passion but I can’t say which is bigger – working in Human Resources or writing. I value both equally and I get to do both. Yes, writing does not give me as much money cos I am not the best but still the satisfaction does come in from all nooks and corners.

    The mindset, though is changing. People are looking into very different aspects or career and are open towards varied choices. I hope more and more people think of happiness over bills.

    Great post, Mabel.

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    • Thanks, Parul. That is so true that by focusing on education, we set ourselves up to be financially secure in the future – and perhaps also things like taking care of family, traveling and starting our own business too from what we’ve learnt and earned.

      Good to hear that you work in a field you love. In Human Resources, you must come across many different kinds of people and stories and that can inspire your writing. Bills are important but then again, at the end of the day there is nothing like inner happiness.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. An interesting commentary Mabel but I think Angle parents are more similar in this area than you think. Most parents want very much for their children to pursue a path that will lead to stability and self-reliance. I remember telling my dad I wanted to major in French in college (because I love language and loved French writers). He challenged me to find a way to make money with such a major so I ended up minoring in education so I could teach French, which I abhored! Happily for me, back in those days there was no such thing as a technology major so computer companies were hiring language and math majors and I followed a very lucrative career in that arena – including teaching others how to do my job in France – in their own language of course LOL! Anyway, I understand where my dad was coming from and am glad he and I both got what we wanted. So keep at it, even if you have to do it in your spare time. Remember JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series while commuting to work at her day job and was rejected by most every major publisher before finding one that would take her on!! Good luck-we’re rooting for you!

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    • Your dad was wise and it sounded like he wanted you to have a well-rounded, practical education. Glad it served you well and you saw the positive side of it. It certainly gave your opportunities and took you to places. Quite a ride.

      The JK Rowling story is an inspiring one. Thanks for sharing. I barely have time to write my book these days, I don’t know. But who knows. Chipping away at it!

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  11. Many among our parents’ generation knew hard times at one point or another. Making money, dealing with money, and putting food on the table were more pressing than writing pretty words. Of course I’m with you and understand that not writing is not an option for some of us. Self-expression also was not part of their culture.

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    • We live in a different generation and time. Things change. Perspectives change. I hope you find the time to write these days, D. Miss you around here but I’m sure you’ll be back soon x

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  12. Mabel, whatever you wrote is spot-on. Many people suffered because of career ups and downs because, early on in their student life, say at the end of their high school they could not decide which way to go. When societal pressure is not in line with our own passion, we have to opt for one. Writing and most other creative or artsy pursuits are generally considered better as a hobby unless one is naturally gifted or else sure of all the hard work that would be required to stand out from the crowd.

    But as you said: “Who says we can’t experience the best opportunities from both worlds, one bit at a time?”

    So yes, the best way out is to have a decent job and a parallel hobby that is also like a second job. At the end of the day, if our genuine interests can become our career we are happier and life is less of a burden 🙂

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    • You summed up my thoughts in so simply, Parul. You are so level-headed. There is a lot of competition when it comes to art – every artist wants to be reconigsed and not only be successful but to also get feedback on their work.

      Sometimes a decent job can teach us a lot more about the world than our passion can. Food for thought 🙂

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  13. You definitely summed it up right with this phrase “Having always grown up with the typical Asian mindset, perhaps we have to learn to be a bit selfish and put our individual selves first in order to keep doing that creative thing that we love. “. I feel as though we were always raised to be selfless that we forget to give ourselves some credit to follow what we want to do. To gain that independence. It’s sometimes so hard to do so when you have that constant negativity, but hey, at least we’re trying.

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    • It can be hard to feel and gain independence coming from an Asian family – we are often raised on being self-reliant on each other. Asian parents are happy to pass things down to their kids, even going as far as paying for their tuition fees. As an Asian kid from a typical family, sometimes you may feel it is the comfortable thing to rely on others…but in reality it makes sense.

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  14. You are really good writer and I would say that this post is pretty familiar with me. I am a photographer, but I was graduated from Applied Linguistics and Economics and after graduation my mom find me a boring and not creative job at the aircraft repair plant. My parents didn’t want to consider photography as a work, they were thinking it’s just a stupid hobby, unless I started to won travel grants with photography, make serious exhibitions and work on international art projects. Apart of this I.m doing freelancing in photography and currently I see that my parents are more friendly to my profession now =D Keep working on your dream and I hope that one day your parents will be proud of you!

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  15. I think we have to keep chasing our dreams because otherwise the children that these parents love so much will not feel whole… It is the passions within us that light us up, inspire us, and drive our days so we will not be complete if we stop doing them to please our parents. It took my parents a long time to get on board with my writing career but now they are.. sometimes it just takes being stubborn to get them on our side 😉 Well written, Mabel!

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    • So glad you decided to stick to your passion, Christy, and you are a published author of a book today. At the end of the day, I think our parents want us to be happy and if we are happy, then they will be happy too. Keep writing yourself 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  16. This post speaks the truth. For as long as I can remember, my parents have always placed a HUGE focus on math and science. I understand that they are important, but seriously, can you not celebrate the fact that I got a 98 in history? 😛

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  17. Very interesting and well put, dear Mabel…
    Many Western countries might follow similar commandments, I guess— but there is something noblest among Asian cultures, which is `Honouring one’s parents and supporting them in their later days´…
    I was thinking of certain pragmatists and materialists parameters such as Fame, which as we know is something ephemeral. For instance, those mothers who struggle in order to see their daughters become models.
    Hierarchical family structures could create an atmosphere pressure I suppose. But there is also advantages conisting of regular patterns of behavior, respect and order.
    Creativity might come in many shapes… and if you stop to think it, asian cultures are masters in haikus and their derivated poetic forms, which could be considered the deepest kind of poetry
    From a personal point of view… I have always admired Japanese people, particularly their spirit of resilience after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I guess this could be related with the previous points you- and I later on- have discussed.
    Thanks for sharing… Loved the post…. Sending best wihes. Aquileana 🌟

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    • You are so right. There is something noble about Asian cultures, that we work for our family and put in hard work to earn our next achievement. With regular patterns of behaviour, we learn to stay on a straight path, most likely the “right and untroubled” track and move on with our lives.

      So clever of you to equate this train of thought with methodological haikus. There is an art to them and poetry in general. It reminds me of Chinese calligraphy – one stroke after the other in a certain order, a certain way you need to draw each character.

      You are so kind for stopping by ❤

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  18. Interesting again – Mabel, you are incredible. Finding new interesting topics all the time, keeping us thinking, commenting, writing…
    This time, I believe many parents in the western world would also recognize themselves. I was born into a working class family, where few people had had the opportunity to study. In my mother’s family only the eldest boy got the chance – and he did well. Worked among other countries in the USA in the chamber of trade, which also meant he worked together with Robert Kennedy. My uncle is still alive, 85 years old, and can still tell us about his studies and work all over the world. A 7 languages man, ambassador and all…My grandmother was very proud of him.

    The overall message among parents here in Sweden surely is the same as you write about: Get yourself a well payed job and your art ambitions had better be your hobby…My grandmother’s brother was a landscape painter and emigrated to America – never to be heard of since. I have cousins and other relatives doing the music business and so on. My daughter is a talented writer and sketcher, my son a talented graphic artist and musician. But all of them have got ordinary jobs/ uni studies as well. After all – you have to earn money to survive… I guess i am one of those mothers who want my children to manage on their own, to have a decent life from the start. Then, when the education is finished – they can go for their dreams!

    I never got any support for wanting a university degree. I was working class. I got my degree and a rather well payed job as a high school teacher. Now, today, my parents are proud of me…but as I said, they never wanted me to go to uni. Even if I loved to study, even if I felt I wanted something more out of my life…

    I am sure you will reach your goals, Mabel. Anyone as talented as you – WILL. If, or when, you become a mother, I am sure you will want the very best for your child – even if it sucks telling them to get an education and a job before they hit the dream-button.

    Hugs to you from a fellow dreamer 😉

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    • “they never wanted me to go to uni” So proud of you Leya to defy the odds, pursue your higher degree and get a job for yourself. Watching your uncle must have been inspiring and perhaps that spurred you to be more independent. I too like to study, but when I finished my Masters a few years ago I told myself no more study…for now 😀

      Sounds like creativity runs in your family. So many artists, musicians and illustrators and I am sure each of them find a sense of purpose in these creative ventures. Wise of your family to still encourage each other to hold down a stable day job – very realistic as you look out for each other.

      I think we are all incredible in our own ways. This includes you, Leya. You too keep dreaming 😉

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  19. Great post Mabel, you are in the perfect position to pen such a philosophical piece. You’ve definitely have the stereotypical Asian parents in that ~ “If it doesn’t earn bring in a decent paycheck, it isn’t practical” and I think to a certain extent any couple who were immigrants instilled such thought into their children. My parents (my mother to be specific) was very much focused on ‘success’ as it would ensure that her children would live a comfortable life. I think parents fear for their children so much, that they may suffer if they do not have a “good job” and that they know best. I think that is the funny thing about life ~ people chase what makes them happy, and parents are no different except when it comes to their children. I think parents tend to push for ‘financial success’ instead of ‘happiness’ for their children as while it may lead to a bit less happiness it will in a sense be the safest route in life and much less chance for pain. I’ve always wondered about this contradiction in parenting (happiness vs. financial success), and still cannot quite figure out why it is so 🙂

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    • Parenting itself is a touchy subject because there are so many styles of parenting, and to a large extent it depends on the culture we come from. But that is another story for another day 🙂

      I think your mother is wise. Leading a comfortable life where we don’t need to worry too much about putting food on the table and a roof over our heads, we allow ourselves to explore so many other parts of life and what we can and cannot do…and perhaps ultimately what makes us happy. I suppose for me and you, that can relate to both writing, photography and traveling.

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    • Thanks, Lisa. In a sense I like editing more than the first draft because I have something to work with. The book is coming along slowly, but slow and steady, we’ll all get there in the end.

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  20. Well, it’s the creative person’s dilemma in many cultures I think – but at least in my cultural background creative pursuits are encouraged, and parents aren’t expecting their children to give up their dreams in the ways you describe. However I think most parents will try to warn their kids that they do need a back-up plan, because they know how hard it can be to make a living through the arts – just look at the music industry, not to mention George Brandis’ cuts to arts funding.

    Anyway, I’m glad you haven’t given up on your dreams in spite of the challenges. As you say, there are few blogs like yours so it is really valuable to the community, even if it’s not bringing you money, keep on persisting with your writing!

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    • It is only realistic to have a backup plan in many contexts. As the saying goes, putting all your eggs in one basket can be risky. A lot of us reckon we can do without creative ventures…I don’t know if it’s because some of us don’t appreciate what art brings or if we are too stubborn to think otherwise.

      Thanks for the kind words, Maamej. It has been challenging keeping the blog, but I try.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. When I was younger, I wanted to be a comic book creator, writer, and traveler. My parents were against my creative dreams and kind of beat the creativity out of me. They wanted me to work in business. So I pursued their dream and made a bit of coin. But they never managed to beat the wanderlust out of me. Fast forward 27 years and the birth of my sailing dream. Now that I had an established career and money to support myself, I raised the idea of my sailing around the world. Everyone I knew supported it (my mother ‘sort of’ supported it – she was afraid I would be captured by pirates and would have preferred I sail around the world on a cruise ship). I was like ‘where are my naysayers! Why isn’t anyone trying to stop me’. So with a small travel kitty and ‘permission’…I had to go. In the end, it all turned out okay…just a little delay. In your case, I think that you have a HUGE future as a writer in front of you. Can’t wait to read your 1st book.

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    • When we met, I knew you were smart career-wise, financially and creatively. So creative of you to refer to earning a living as “made a bit of coin”. Am tucking this phrase away in my pocket for another day, I hope you don’t mind 😉

      You know, you write on your blog and travel on your sailing ship. Two out of three. Very well done. Sailing on a cruise ship? Well, steering the ship yourself sounds all the more fun and you have more control. Thanks for being ever so inspiring and encouraging. I have a feeling we will meet again 🙂

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  22. It’s not an easy task when dealing with our dream vs. parents’ dream. The only thing that we can do is to keep pursuing and do our best to reach our goals. My parents disagreed with the major that I chose; they were afraid that there would be no jobs for me in the future. The facts now, because of my major, I could continue my study and finally work aboard, working in the field that I believe matters to humanity.
    That reminds me of Emma Watson’s advice to a girl was unsure about becoming an engineer because her father said it was a “man’s” profession; Watson advice her to become an engineer.

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    • I am sorry to hear that you and your parents disagreed on your major. But good on you for standing up for what you want to do. If you do what you like, chances are you will be good at it and you will find a way to make it work in your life. Keep doing what you do, Indah. Always chase your dreams.

      Got to love Emma Watson. She is such an inspiring woman.

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  23. I couldn’t have agreed more with you here. You have touched a chord which hardly talked about but is a ‘fact’.

    Cheers for penning it down.

    I am on a similar boat just like you and moving ahead one step at a time. Every small step counts.
    Keep going.

    Cheers,
    Rajiv

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  24. Hi Mabel, I always enjoy your thoughtful posts. Parents want their children to be happy and productive but what that looks like to the parent and child is often vastly different. I just read a review of a new book that has some interesting concepts in parenting styles called,”The Gardener and the Carpenter” — What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children
    By Alison Gopnik. So many opinions, so little time… 😉 Thanks for your terrific post.

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    • Thanks, Jane. That sounds like an interesting book you read there. Maybe I’ll check it out at some point. Child and parent are often born into different generations, and so experiences can be vastly different. You are right, so many opinions but so little time… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  25. I hope you dont feel alone on your journey. I find that many children of immigrant parents, Im 2nd generation West Indian, dont like their kids to pursue non- professional degrees. I have a degree in sociology, and my mom considers it a waste. My mom is a Registered Nurse.

    My big sister is a genius, and has a B.A. in psych and two masters, but she works as A Software Engineer, so shes a superstar, to my mom. There’s always pressure to be better or make more money that, your immigrant parents. Theyre never satisfied. And they always expect you to listen to whatever they say, even if they know their wrong.

    Its very frustrating and limiting. It’s even worse if youre a true free spirit, like myself. Keep your head held up high; you seem like youve got it all under control.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • Good on you for doing Sociology at university and what you wanted. I hope that it opened up paths for you, and if not it hopefully you made some connections and relationships out of it. Your sister really does sounds like genius, the kind of person who can achieve anything if she sets her mind to it. As strange as this might sound, parents are always…almost always. I think we all reach a certain point in our life where we’ll question where are we, what are we doing.

      To keep your dreams alive, I think we need to stop comparing ourselves to others, and then simply put ourselves out there with no expectations. No expectations, no pressure. Thanks for the kind words and thanks for reading, Vinny 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Thanks for responding. She really is brilliant, but annoying. lol. I definitely agree that we have to stop comparing ourselves to others. Ive only recently stopped doing that. As for myself, Im in a bit of a rut, but Ill climb out of it pretty soon.

    Like

  27. I think there are many unsupportive parents out there, mine included. Being from a small town where everyone knows everybody, my parents were more worried about me embarrassing them and bringing them ‘shame’ than anything else. I don’t want to get too much into it here, but they were very unsupportive of my decision to move to Taiwan because it was something unheard of at the time. They, particularly my father, didn’t speak to me for over four months before I left because he didn’t approve. I explore the topic and touch on it in my memoir. Luckily though, I had an amazing set of grandparents who encourage me to follow my heart and chase my dreams. And the funny thing about it was when all the town admired my courage to move half way around the world, they [I mean, he] took full credit for it.

    Like

    • It is very nice to hear that you unsupportive parents story had a happy ending. It sounds like they were proud of you…and probably always were. Your dad being not supportive, perhaps he was really just concerned for you. I am so looking forward to your memoir when it comes out. Very excited for you and I look forward to reading this part about it, and also the rest of it too 🙂

      Like

  28. I’m also a fan of Kurt and Sam! And I completely understand the struggle of trying to meet the expectations of “typical Asian parents,” such as those piano lessons I dreaded every single week until I finally stopped them when I went to university. My family always wanted my brothers and me to pursue medicine, and for various reasons, one of my brothers and I both ended up trying, but in the end, we both realized the field wasn’t for us. Your posts are very relatable and well-written!

    Like

    • I think your parents, like mine, wanted to give us kids opportunities. But if we don’t like what we do and feel forced to do it, chances are it will show and lead to undesirable emotions all round. It not only a certain skill to get involved in a particular activity of field, but also a particular attitude. Thanks so much for the nice words.

      Like

  29. Awesome and insightful article, Mabel. You are an incredibly eloquent writer. Congratulations on your recent graduation! It’s great to see that despite the pressures of your parents and cultural expectations that you continued doing what you love.

    It is people like you who I absolutely admire and look up to. We know that pursuing our passions can be challenging but we still relentlessly do so because it is important to shift those stereotypes.

    I am running a campaign which aims to help break down the stigmas surrounding Arts and creative art degrees. In doing so, I hope to start a conversation about it that it is more meaningful – one that does not simplify the value and status of arts in higher education. It would mean a lot if you could check out my blog and support a fellow Asian-Australian Arts student.

    I also update weekly via Facebook and Twitter (@endartsstigma).

    I look forward to reading more of your work.

    Have a lovely day!

    Like

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. An arts or humanities degree is certainly not the end of the road. In fact, like degrees in maths or science, it can open up a world of possibilities to us. While some of the stereotypes about arts degrees can be true, there is nothing wrong with going after our passion. If it makes us happy, it makes us happy.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Great post indeed @Mabel Kwong ! 🙂
    Being from a stereotypical Asian family, and going through this struggle of making my parents agree with my dreams and making them realise that reading medicine makes me feel sick myself and my continued efforts of convincing them to allow me to pursue my writing dream, I can totally link my feelings with this post of yours. It feels great to know that there are many other dreamers like me out there..who just like me..even though being intelligent enough to avail any big money job or any such career that our parents will always love to see us in, choose to take the road less travelled and optimistically strive towards our passion..:)
    Thank you so much for writing this..!
    O:)

    Like

    • I hope you continue to dream. The world needs more dreamers like you 🙂 The more we dream, the more we keep that love for what we really want to do inside. Our parents may not really understand us and it could be a number of reasons. Don’t know if we can really change their train of thought, don’t know if it is worth trying to do so.

      Good luck with what you want to do, and thank you so much for your kind words 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not knowing whether we can ever change their train of thoughts and more importantly trying to do so is true enough a thought..which even intrigues me many a time..But I guess these thoughts are also to be credited to keep me going towards my passion and keep dreaming and working day and night to turn those dreams into this world’s reality (including my parents too 😉 )
        Thank you Mabel for the encouragement and Good luck wishes..:)
        Although I always thought luck is just a Universe’s way to portray the outcomes of our karma..But I guess I would love to add positive mindset too to this “karma” thing which makes up our Luck..
        Aaaa…I need some really good luck at this point of time..really..!!
        Thank you Mabel !
        You write very beautifully.

        Like

        • Good luck with what you choose to do. Not everyone will agree with what we choose to do and they won’t change their mind. Rather than trying to change that maybe we should invest our energies elsewhere.

          I think positivity is karma and vice-versa. With positivity comes peace, and with karma comes a sense of fulfillment. Thank you so much for your kind words. I really appreciate it and I am humbled 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you once again Mabel for these generous words 🙂
            Yes..hardly anyone will agree with what we choose to do when we decide to walk the path of our dreams and yeah..energy investment should be practical and not be wasted elsewhere other than what can push us further towards our dream’s realisation.
            I’ll keep myself positive as I am now and may what come, I’ll keep walking and moving forward..head held high..
            Thank you so much ! O:)
            You are really encouraging !
            The super power watches everything and He is continuously blessing you.
            Stay blessed O:)

            Like

            • The more we stay positive, the more we hope, and the more we dream. And the more we dream the more positive we are again. It call comes full circle in the end, and if we believe in our dreams enough and stand up to take a stand, who knows where we’ll go. Good luck 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

              • Very well ! You’ve painted this feeling of mind very well through the colors of your words and brush of your skills..Very Well !! It indeed comes full circle…and yeah ..this time I’m taking my stand and true again..who knows where the sun of my story’s gonna rise..!!
                Thanks a lot for the wishes !!
                May the Supreme Power be Always with You !! 🙂

                Liked by 1 person

                  • Haha Thanks @Mabel !! Such words are what describe “Divya”..In everything I say from the core of my heart, such words come up on their own..and I’m so grateful to the Universe that people admire it and grateful again to people like you who love it. It feels really good ! 🙂
                    Thank you !!

                    Liked by 1 person

  31. Great post indeed @Mabel Kwong !🙂
    Being from a stereotypical Asian family, and going through this struggle of making my parents agree with my dreams and making them realise that reading medicine makes me feel sick myself and my continued efforts of convincing them to allow me to pursue my writing dream, I can totally link my feelings with this post of yours. It feels great to know that there are many other dreamers like me out there..who just like me..even though being intelligent enough to avail any big money job or any such career that our parents will always love to see us in, choose to take the road less travelled and optimistically strive towards our passion..:)
    And yeah..true enough..that sometimes we actually agree with this truth that they (parents) wish all the good for us and that is the biggest reason why they want us to take stable and highly recognized jobs as our career.
    Thank you so much for writing this..!
    O:)

    Like

  32. Pingback: 5 Challenges Of Being A Non-Fiction Writer, Blogger And Published Book Author | Mabel Kwong

  33. Many of us can relate to this. I definitely can 🙂 I hope we can best support the future generations with their choices.

    Well written, great to read your post after a while. 🙂

    Like

  34. This post really hits home for me. While growing up I can’t tell you the number of times my parents and especially my aunt (my mom’s youngest sister) disapproved of my creative side and got upset when I took art in high school. When I chose to study animation and applied for an art school, my family got very angry and my mom actually got her youngest sister to talk me out of it. (She wanted me to go to university just because SHE goes there.) It is quite hard when your entire family turned against your dreams and have no other choice then to listen to them.

    Thank you for writing about it. I always experience many kinds of culture clashes like this one being that I am born and raised in Canada.

    Like

  35. Its tough because parents just want the best for you but sometimes our ideas of whats best just dont match up. You have to do what is right for you, because at the end of the day, its you who has to live with the choices you make!
    If you have time, check out my latest blog post at https://tootinghustle.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/is-it-mum-or-mom/ and let me know what you think! Dont forget to leave me a comment 🙂
    Happy Blogging x

    Like

    • ‘its you who has to live with the choices you make’. Very succinctly put. Our parents are our parents and it though we may be related by blood, doesn’t mean we have to do what our parents do. We are own own person and we should own that.

      Liked by 1 person

  36. Finally! Someone brought out the unspoken! I chose medicine too. I’m a medical student and a greater reason for that was my interest in that field but there must have been some kind of a mental conditioning that I must have received since I was young that steered me onto this path. Hahaha I can just imagine my parents throwing a fit if I said I wanted to be an actress or something. These stereotypes are so deep seated that sometimes without noticing, even I shun a particular career option away because “that’s way below my aptitude”. But the conscious part of me believes that you should do what you love and love what you do. Even if that means selling lemonade from your kitchen.

    Like

    • I’ve always admired those who studied medicine and went down that path. From what I’ve heard, there’s countless terms to learn and then there’s the practical side of it – and it takes dedicated routine to be successful in the profession. Hat’s off to you, and I hope you do find time to do what makes you happy – and you said it so well at the end. You could do the most ridiculous thing but if it makes you happy, it makes you happy and others will see that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a nightmare if you look at it from the exam point of you but if you start seeing it like it is an unsolved puzzle, those big words and endless chapters start to seem very interesting and each time you learn something so fascinating about your body that you can’t help but dig deeper.

        Like

  37. Wow! Your post was very relatable… especially the part about asian parents. My family also thinks that traditional jobs are the best. But I simply don’t have what it takes to fulfill their dream 😂😂😂 so I have decided to follow my own. I also struggle with writing sometimes but I know I’ll succeed sooner or later if I practice enough. Can I have your permission to reblog this post?

    Like

    • Thank you so much, Amy. Good on you for following your dreams and doing what makes you happy. Good luck with your writing. The more practice us writers have, the more stories we have to work with. And who knows what can become of them 😂 Yes, you may reblog this post if you wish 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  38. I can’t relate more. For people like us who aspire to do something out of the box, to bend somewhere out of the queue, everybody is lining up for, to select the destination which only a minority of the people choose, need to be ready for different kind of storms world’s gonna bring. Being unique here is more like a curse than a boon. Art which every individual of the world crave for in their life is not seen more than a pass-time or a hobby which has been distracting you from your real goal, at least in the Asian society when the reality maybe that art is what your life is all about. More than a talent, creativity is seen as subject of distraction, a time-waster here. Being creative is a good thing but making your creativity your destination and your journey is like spoiling your life in some part of Asia. The sad part is that even your parents can’t withstand you directing away from the traditional career path, the traditional life or the kind of life they have dreamt about you. The sadder part is when you can’t blame them for they are being tough on your creative dreams only because they have seen the world which contains plenty of opportunity streams for the traditional workers but which also has been very rude to the revolutionary thinkers. Saddest part is when you keep your dreams aside as second thoughts and join the queue everyone else has been standing in. Or even if you are standing by your dreams, you start feeling guilty. Still, keeping our head and heart in balance, we must not stop on our own paved path. After all, no success has been so easy, no extraordinary has been ordinary.
    And kudos to your blog.
    Very elegantly written.
    Thanks for sharing it.

    Like

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