I am just out of high school, and I have come to realize what I really want is completely out of my family’s standards. I come from an Indian family, where the standards are extremely high. Like in most Indian families, I am expected to become a doctor or engineer. To please them, I followed a course in high school for science and mathematics.
I did reasonably well, considering the toughness of the course, and everyone expected me to continue on this path. However, I met a wonderful man who is a teacher. He made me realize I would love to do something to work with people. My family, however, would scoff at that. Also, I have fallen in love with this man.
I know my family will never approve as he is Italian and not the rich Indian they envisioned for me. In spite of it all, I love my family. I don’t want to disappoint them or fail myself. What to do?
Sati, one verse in the Bhagavad Gita might be freely translated, “Your path, no matter how humble, is better than another’s path, no matter how exalted.” That sentiment is not wishful thinking or a pipe dream. It expresses a profound psychological truth. When we do what we know we should be doing with our life, we envy no one.
The problem with following a path not your own is that the problem never goes away. Some people who are forced into a course of study they do not like fail several subjects or get caught cheating on a test. It is not that they lack ability or that they are dishonest; they subconsciously act out what they cannot consciously face. Other people finish the course of study and feel not success but sadness.
Another person who faced your dilemma was Eknath Easwaran. As a teenager in South India in the 1920s, Easwaran was told by his family, “India needs engineers.” Though Easwaran had the ability to be an engineer, he knew it was not his calling. He resisted his family’s entreaties and became a successful professor of English in India.
Successful lives often evolve into something which was never planned, and in his 50s, Easwaran moved to the United States and began teaching people how to leave painful memories behind, live fully in the present, and discover their unique contribution to life. As he said, he moved from “education for degrees to education for living.”
Your family wants to secure your future, rather than trust the future. They are hardly to be blamed for wanting a secure thing, but the world does not need another uncaring doctor or bored engineer. Though your path may be difficult, it is still your path. And like Easwaran’s life, your life can evolve from what your family now sees into something which expresses who you are.
One of Eknath Easwaran’s favorite stories was about Mahatma Gandhi. Once, as Gandhi’s train was leaving the station, an American reporter came to him and asked for a message to take back to his people. Gandhi scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it back to the reporter. What Gandhi wrote was, “My life is my message.”
Wayne & Tamara
Hi. I was asked and accepted a date with an older man. I am 20 and he is 29. He has been married and divorced and has children. I still find myself attracted to him more than anyone I’ve ever met. Is nine years really such a big deal as my friends make it seem?
Vanna, on an unpleasantly warm day, people often say, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Hot, humid weather feels worse than hot, dry weather because sweat won’t evaporate. His age is not such a big deal; it’s the ex-wife and children. Your friends are concerned that “humidity” will have you sweating.
Direct Answers – Column for the week of March 8, 2004
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