Whether it be at a wedding function, a family BBQ or during that two minute commercial from your mom’s favourite Indian Drama, the “Puth, what are you doing with your life?” is the most common question kids will get these days. Our typical, and apparently very non-sufficient, answer is simply “I don’t know.”
Our parents’ glazed, high expecting eyes are filled with the same confusion and uncertainty that us kids wear on a daily basis. Or, what’s worse is when 9-year-old Harman tells his dad he’s “thinking of studying Health Science” and suddenly his chacha’s sister-in-law’s fufur’s nephew starts congratulating him on his entrance into medical school.
Not fun times.
To gain some insight on this issue, we conducted a survey with 40 Indo-Canadian students at Simon Fraser University. We decided to present them with the same horrid, sweat-inducing question. We asked “Do you know with 100% certainty what profession you want to pursue with your degree? A staggering 55% of students selected “No.”
More than half of the students did not know what job they wanted to obtain.
Of those students who said “no,” we also asked them how often they thought about what they might want to do with their education and 68% of them selected “constantly.” We then asked all of the students (including those perfect kids who know what they’re doing with their lives) another question. We asked “how much pressure do you put on yourself in terms of school/your career.” Instead of picking the option “some” or “very little,” a shocking 75% of students chose “extensive.”
Out of a select 40 students, 30 Indo-Canadians put “extensive” pressure on themselves with their education and careers.
So what does all of this mean?
It means that we, as Indo-Canadian kids, are questioning our career paths ourselves and feeling pressure to obtain job success from ourselves. Being constantly questioned about it when we already constantly question ourselves does not help us try to figure it out.
We also asked students for open comments about the question “so Puth, what are you doing with your life” and we had some interesting responses:
“I stress about it all the time. It’s always on my mind. And sometimes I just don’t even go to family parties cause I can’t hear that question again”
“Sometimes my cousins bet on how many times we get asked that at a party”
“Some parents just don’t know that we feel like such a failure every time we’re asked”
“I’ll study for 8 hours straight, go two nights without sleep working on a paper and then get asked that. Like can I crawl in a hole?”
We understand that parents want to know what jobs their children want to pursue. Further, we have an endless amount of appreciation to all the parents who pay for our education. However, we are pleading to our parents for some time to figure out what exactly we plan on doing with the education. Somewhere in the mess of midterms, papers, assignments, volunteering, and part-time jobs, we are constantly trying to figure it out. Our surveys show that kids are frequently trying to decide which fields to pursue and you better believe that as soon as these kids do figure out, their parents will be the first ones they tell. We are requesting that, perhaps, after we answer “I don’t know” the first time that maybe you can wait until we tell you what we want to do before discussing it again?
A second, and almost more pressing issue that needs to be addressed is the idea of extended family members posing this question. It’s one thing for our parents to ask (they want to know where their thousands of dollars are going—fair enough) but when your “chacha’s sister-in-law’s fufur’s nephew” starts asking, it can get very stressful, very quickly.
There is nothing us kids want more than to use our education to build a successful life and make our families proud. If we could get there without the added stress of being questioned all the time, it would make our journey alot smoother.
So, what can you ask instead?
Perhaps a “puth, what’s your favourite class this semester” or “puth, it must be so hard to get all your final papers handed in on time” or “puth, here’s some delicious homemade butter chicken.”
Basically any other question will suffice.