Dear Coming Through The Rye Staff,
I’m a general engineering student in a well-known engineering school here in the Philippines. This course is what my parents dreamed for me ever since I was a child. Out of respect, I followed it for them since was a child. It’s my obligation to follow what they want or else they won’t send me to school. To be honest, I find it hard solving those complicated problems – so many computations, sines, cosines, logs, everything. I hate wasting my time torturing myself with these. I hate algebra, trigonometry, and chemistry. I hate everything about mathematics. I’m tired of failing exams. I’m tired of having lower grades (which my parents don’t know). I get nothing but headache, depression, bad days. All that they know is that I’m a good student with good grades, because I always lied. Every time they ask me about my studies, I always said it was okay. Otherwise, they will be disappointed.
Math is not really my passion – art is. These days, I’m thinking of shifting into another course. My parents will surely disagree. I would like to get a B.S. in Fine Arts. I have always loved the arts. I love expressing myself. However, this would be hard without expressing it first to my parents. All that comes to my mind is to runaway. After that, I’ll study what I want. I’ll be a scholar or a working student. I will stand by myself. However, I’m afraid I might fail and come to regret all of these choices for the rest of my life.
The closing of the first semester is already coming. I can’t keep lying to my parents and myself. The truth will come out, which will surely disappoint them. After the first day of our semi-final examination, which was today, I walked out. Alone. Thinking… I just don’t have any of the answers again. Tomorrow, the second day, I will surely not have any of the answers again. And the third day will be the same.
I don’t have any idea where my life is going – no direction. I don’t see any glimpse of tomorrow with me as an engineer. I can’t do this. I don’t want this. Sometimes, all I want to do is just listen to music and forget everything. I want to stop time, so I won’t have to attend school anymore – no more sleepless nights. I just want to be with friends and laugh all day. I want to return to my childhood days where there are no problems to solve. I’ll just play and dream. I wish I could escape from the reality. Stay in my bed all day. Sleep forever and dream. It’ll be a place far from reality. I’m just being hopeless with my life. I don’t know what to do. Could you help me?
Thank you for writing to us here at Coming Through The Rye. I apologize that it took a while for me to get back to you. With our limited staff, we are currently having difficulty responding to every letter.
Wilson, you’re at a moment at which you’re questioning the very foundations of your life. You’ve “hit a wall.” It all happened or is happening so fast – so sudden and without warning. You feel depressed, angry, and lost. You’ve been swallowed whole and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. Wilson, what you’re going through right now… is an existential crisis. The good news? It’s perfectly normal and expected, especially of college students.
From what you’ve written us, to me and to the rest of our readers, you seem so focused on and concerned about your parents’ dreams and respect for them. However, let me ask you this, “What about your dreams? What about respect for yourself?” Now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s easy for you to say, because you’re some white male from America’s upper middle class and you couldn’t possibly understand or relate.” Nope and double nope. You’d be wrong in more ways than one. I’m a first-generation Asian American male from America’s lower middle class. My parents work in a Chinese restaurant, and for most of my life, they dreamt that I would one day join them. So, I know where you’re coming from. I know what it’s like to have the burden of another’s hopes, dreams, and expectations on your shoulders. And more importantly, I know what it’s like to have Asian parents.
Do me a favor and reread the letter that you send to us. Now tell me, don’t you owe it to yourself to be happy? Doesn’t everybody? If you keep allowing your parents to live out their dreams through you, you’ll never be happy. I know this for a fact. In college, I studied psychology and philosophy. And in my studies, I learned the answer to the age-old question, “What is happiness?” It’s a simple yet elegant answer. “What is happiness?” Well that depends – who’s asking.
From a philosophical perspective, happiness is a state induced when a highest good, any good that is desired and pursued for its own sake, is achieved. From a psychological perspective, happiness is the motivation driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself. In a sense, it depends on who’s asking. It depends on you – what your highest goods are and what your intrinsic motivations are. From a philosophical perspective, “being an engineer” is a good that is desired and pursued out of respect for your parents. From a psychological perspective, there is obviously no motivation driven by an interest or enjoyment in “being an engineer.” It’s no wonder why you’re depressed, angry, and lost.
As for what you should do… I think it’s pretty clear to you already – start a serious discussion with your parents. I’m sure of this. Whether or not shifting into art/getting a B.S. in Fine Arts is the right pathway for you… well that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. Only you know what your highest goods are and what your intrinsic motivations are. Only you know what will make you happy. That’s all I can think of right now.
This is a defining moment in your life. What you do now will either make or break you. It’s your moment, Wilson. Good luck.
I encourage you to add more to this dialogue.
Catching those before they fall and helping those who have fallen back up,