Expected to Balance
Expectations can help one to work towards a goal, motivate someone to do better, or improve upon a certain aspect. But when do expectations get to a point where one’s own personal identity is not their own, but rather a combination of pressure from parents, society, and conflicting cultural norms?
Parents expect things from us because at the core of it they want us to do and be better, or at least better than they did and are. They might have certain insecurities and nagging doubts about how they raised us that constantly forces them to annoyingly check in on us time after time. They are also hard on themselves based off their own expectation of themselves and their own pressures. With that being understood, the unbalance which can occur in African homes between ‘what my parents want’ vs. ‘what I want’ can be vast. The arenas for this can include personal life and career aspirations just to name a couple familiar ones.
In the personal area; parents tell us which tribe we can and cannot marry, when we should get married, how we should get married, which race of people we should marry, responsibilities in a marriage, and the list goes on. In the career area; parents tell us to be a doctor, be a lawyer, or be an engineer. These expectations, often set very high, causes those of us who grew up in a blend of African/Non-African culture to endure an internal tug-a-war with our desires, hopes, and dreams.
Having immigrated to America at a young age, my parents put a lot of faith in the bootstrap myth; which explains that anyone can basically come to America with almost nothing, work hard, and rise into a comfortable position amongst the upper class. We are expected to get jobs that make good money, which sometimes unfortunately forces us to put conflicting paths to happiness and irrelevant passions aside. We are expected to then, after we’ve acquired a well-paying job, take care not only of our families (even super-extended members) but our communities as well. Not saying that we should not take care of those relatives we know who we are close to, or that we shouldn’t give back to our communities, but the dichotomy comes when we are raised and exposed to cultures that in many ways contrast each other. On one end is a culture that values individual progress and success; on the other end, a culture that puts emphasis on community and unity amongst its people. I was always taught that my own success is not just a reflection of me and my own doing, but of the whole community and our entire people, but on top of all of that, my success is the best reflection of how my parents raised me. I was told that the success of a child is an indication of the parenting that that child received. So if I do not succeed in my life; it will ultimately be my parents fault for not doing something right. And which parents wants to be put on display for raising their child the ‘wrong’ way? None I presume.