August 13, 2008
All my life, I have been surrounded by family who require the best out of me. Everyone had expectations for me, go to a good college, become a doctor, make a lot of money. The expectations increased when my esteemed sister got into first Harvard University, then Harvard Business School. People don’t usually say anything, but I can feel the hopes, hanging above my head like a personal cloud.

My parents were doctors in China, and my mother’s parents were also doctors, and they loved their work. Then, my parents came to America because there were more opportunities for my sister. They gave up their lives, the work they loved, leaving everyone in China to come to America. There, they were important; people respected them for being doctors. Here, they are nobody, they are just another family. All of my parents’ dreams of success were crushed when they came here, and they’ve transferred their dreams onto the next generation’s shoulders.

Since I was a young child, I knew the names, “Harvard”, “Yale”, “Stanford”, and “MIT”. They were the goals of every Chinese parent for their precious children. Since I was a young child, I knew of the fallen hopes of my mother, the hopes that she’s pinned on me. My duty is to be a doctor, for my family. Nobody pressures me, but I know that if I choose a different path, I will disappoint people. Every time my grandfather calls, he inquires, “Is Anna at the top of her class? Does she still plan on being a doctor?” When my sister chose to be an economics woman, my family started relying on me to keep alive the tradition of being a doctor. By now, I can not imagine anything except the path that had been set out for me in my parents’ minds ever since I was baby. It is a perfectly satisfactory one, but having my future planned out for me, is dissatisfying.

In elementary school, my mom pushed me to be the top in the class, however she knew how. By second grade, I knew to be scared and ashamed if I got so much as a “B” on a test. I was scared of the disappointment in my mother’s eyes and the frustration in her voice if I gave her the results. I was ashamed of not having lived up to her expectations, the ones that had been set high by my sister. When she realized that I would be able to work hard without her reprimands and pushing, she let me loose slightly. Yet, it has become a habit for me. I don’t even know whether I’m earning my straight A’s for me, or for her. What’s worse is that I have established a reputation as the “smart girl” in my school. I’m also compelled to earn my grades for my peers, because that is what they expect out of me. I am terrified of letting anyone down, of feeling disappointment from anyone.

Like many Asian parents, my mother believes in the power of lecturing. It seems like every day it is the same thing. I can never escape from school, from work, from doing what I must to get into a good college. Everyday, I hear the same words, always regarding studying, always. Sometimes, I just want to scream hearing my mother talk. It seems like everything always goes back to the main theme, “Study hard, and be successful”. Having that on my conscience is exhausting.

The expectations, hopes, and dreams of my family and peers have shaped my personality to what it is today. I’m afraid to give too much of myself away, afraid that I will get hurt. I’m afraid to be me, afraid that I will disappoint. I’m afraid to say what I want, afraid that I’ll be laughed at and afraid to bare myself that way. Now though, my feelings are bared, for the world to see, or are they? The likelihood of anyone that I know reading this is slim, so I am still safe in my shell, the shell of the “good girl”.

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