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Preference vs. Parents

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Preference vs. Parents

It wasn’t until 8th grade when she saw her first DSLR camera. She was so used to seeing those small, plastic, throw away cameras so this Nikon looked like a machine. A beautiful machine in which she wanted in her hands so badly. Ever since she saw it, she wanted to know everything. Everything about the way it worked, the way it could capture a moment, the way it could make the ugliest thing in the world seem so beautiful. It was all she worked for.

On a trip to Chicago, she wandered the city. Sunglasses on, ear buds in, and her favorite vanilla chai tea in hand, State Street is where she stumbled upon a small run down Kodak store. A place where held everything she ever wanted. No bigger than her living room, the store seemed like an endless hallway. Vintage cameras, film, tripods, lenses, developers. It was all calling her name. Loud and clear. She had never been so fascinated. So, growing up into high school, she was on a hunt to learn more. A hunt to use older cameras.

In her great grandmother’s old belongings, she came across an old Kodak camera, no bigger than a chocolate bar. At her grandfather’s she found an older version of a Canon. She wanted to know how all these pictures would look if they were developed. That time soon came when she entered her junior year of high school. She took a photography course in which she learned how to develop her own film, learn the basics of a camera, explore the darkroom, and study different photographers. Everything was completely hands on and she loved every second of it. Never was she ever so excited in her life.

After gaining the knowledge she did from that class, pursuing photography in her future became a dream of hers. At that moment, she knew being a photographer is what she wanted to do. College became a longing and something she looked forward to.

Then the talk came. The college talk. Not so much a dreaded moment, but something she definitely wanted to push off because she knew exactly what was coming. It wasn’t what she wanted anymore.
“You know,” her father said, “your grandfather will pay for any college you want to go to.”

He seemed to have so much emphasis on the word ‘any’. But when he said that, she knew she was capable of getting into almost any college. She had potential to do a lot more that just photography. She knew that but then again, she didn’t want to know that she could do something other than what she loved.
“How about being an accountant? A teacher?” her mother budged in, like she always does.
“Doctors earn a lot of money. Like a lot of money. Think about that in your future.” her dad stressed. “U of I? State? St. Xavier? NIU? Carroll? George Williams?”
It seemed like the list was never ending. She zoned out. Her parents’ lips were moving, but she wasn’t listening. She thought about how bad she wanted to do photography while in the background, all she heard were school names being thrown at her face.
“I’ve always wanted you to be in the medical field.” Her father said.
She knew all of this already. It was almost a daily reminder, or even like a set alarm every day. It was a constant struggle between what she wanted and what her parents wanted. They were always breathing down her back on this. Always hovering over her with pressure to be the best. But what if she didn’t want to be the best? And then they said it. The words that made her lose all confidence, “You’ll get nowhere with photography.”
The only thing she could do at this point was to narrow down her options. But, it was only clear that photography is what she truly wanted to do with her life. No, she didn’t want to be the damn doctor her daddy wanted, or the business lady her mom expected. Support wasn’t there for her, not even from her own parents. Once it came time to start applying for colleges, she did what her parents would have hated. She applied for her dream art school, Columbia University of Chicago. As much as it would disappoint her parents, she had no remorse. Not a care in the world. She thought back to the time in high school when her work was praised and displayed, and she knew this decision was right. She wasn’t going to live her future with ‘what ifs’.
She had to let her parents know before the acceptance letter did. So, she sat her Mom down. With an exhausted look on her face, one eyebrow raised above the other like the kind of look you would get when you knew you were in trouble as a kid, her glasses on the bridge of her nose, emptying change from her green smock, she said,
“Listen, Chrissy. I’m just trying to tell you what’s best for you. College is what decides your future. I never went to college because I couldn’t afford it. I felt worthless. My parents didn’t give a damn if I succeeded. I never want you to feel worthless. And I DO give a damn if you go to school.”
Of course she knew that. She just needed her mother to be in her shoes for this one. She wanted her mother to realize she can’t be happy if she’s living out the life that her mother never had and not the life she wants.

An hour and a half and a few hundred tears later, she got what she’d been waiting for. Support. And from her mother of all people it seemed.

“Do what makes you happy, baby girl, because I never got to. Ever.”
At that moment, the world melted off her shoulders and took every bit of anxiety and stress with it. She was finally at ease with her emotions and her decision.


Three years later she became one of the top ten photographers in her school. She worked internship after internship every summer and even began to start her own freelance work. She took pictures of the strike in Millennium Park, worked for presidential campaigns, and traveled all around the world. Photojournalism became her calling and she was more than happy with the way her life was heading. She couldn’t ask for it any other way. So, she thanked her mother for siding with her and for understanding that this is what she wanted to do because for once, she can share her happiness with her.

Do what makes you happy. Live your life for you and no one else.





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