Great Wall of Gratitude: The Pressure Teenagers Feel in Silicon Valley | Teen Ink

Great Wall of Gratitude: The Pressure Teenagers Feel in Silicon Valley

August 9, 2021
By Anonymous

“If I didn’t live here, I would want to be a tattoo artist” “if I didn’t live here, I would want to be a farmer” “if I didn’t live here I would want to be an actor.” That is a sentence starter that I have heard too many times. All to the point that I am sure that I’ll say it in the future. I’ve lived in Silicon Valley for all thirteen years of my life, and those are all words that I have heard from people around me; such as my sister, friends, high-schoolers, and the meaning is evident. I want to do something else, to be someone else, but I can’t because I’m here, in Silicon Valley, where I’ve been given all these other opportunities that I don’t want to take for granted. 

We are grateful that we can live here in the technology-filled Bay Area, thankful that we have grown up with such opportunities, education, and even the weather. But at the same time, our futures are already paved for us with little consideration about our own passions and desires. And many of us will walk down this path.

It’s mid-summer, and I have algebra, chemistry, writing, robotics and golf classes, each one ranging from one to three times a week, not to mention camps. To some of you this may seem absurd, but to others this may be perfectly normal or even idle, and I’ll bet that many of those others are children living in Silicon Valley. My parents want me to be successful yet they are cognizant that my happiness is equally if not more important. Meaning, that although they’ll strongly encourage me to be a doctor or some type of engineer, they’ll still accept whatever career I choose as long as it isn’t something “outrageous” like being a tattoo artist. However, I know that many parents may not be this way. But there’s another, less known reason for why children growing up in the Bay Area struggle to make the choices they want about their futures.

My dad’s hair began to whiten in his early 40s. When my sister and I were younger, we would make fun of him for it, but now we know we know that it’s a brand of the stress it took to raise us. My mom’s heart has always been for traveling around the world. And yet she can barely make time for trips with her work. I hear her complain every day about wanting to retire and visit her parents, but she sticks with her job as an engineer. I know it’s so she is able to raise us here. 

I see my parents working until late hours, knowing that they’re doing it so I can have all the best. I start to think about how my dreams of chasing a job will prove more grueling to get the life that they implore for me. That dream breaks. I feel like I can’t or else I’ll be taking them for granted, I’ll be selfish, I’ll let them down. We haven’t considered our dreams much as we have grown up. That’s all they ever were -- just dreams, fantasies. We never actually considered it possible that the culture around us would allow it. As a result, we pressure ourselves to get into the best college possible, and strive to be something like an engineer or a doctor.

Now, I’m certain that not everyone in Silicon Valley feels this way. But to those of you out there that do, just stop and think, how much does your happiness mean to you? Your parents and teachers might want you to be happy rather than flourish like a money tree. And if they really do want you to be showered in glory and prosperity, then just know that you don’t have to give up your dreams either. You can incorporate the work you want to do into the work you think you have to do. For example, you can bioengineer different species of plants to produce sweeter fruit, or be a cosmetic surgeon. At the end of the day, you are in control of your life.

The author's comments:

I am a teenager in Palo Alto. Although I've just started experiencing the pressure that many feel, I've seen it affect people all around me.

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