There is a lot of room for pride in a first generation student, and believe me, it is merited. We have fought through obstacles that our disadvantaged backgrounds have posed for us. We made it. We’re here and we have a presence in collegiate institutions. For that I applaud all of the hard work and sacrifice behind it.
But, as the old adage goes, for every up there is a down. As one of my favorite childhood books (Esperanza Rising) said, “Every rose has its thorns”. The thorny bit for us is dealing with the expectations that press down on our shoulders.
You’ve become the new gold standard. The one in your family that everyone else will be measured up against. You are expected to do great things, be a doctor, be a lawyer, be a politician, engineer, researcher, business person, investor, etc. You are not expected to stop anytime soon. They say: “You have already got the drive and momentum to get you so far, why not go even farther?” It is difficult to explain to your family that those glorious career paths will all but take the life out of you. You are never expected to say “I can’t do this,” or “I need a break.” You are expected to be a fighter like you always have been. You cannot show weakness, or cry out of frustration because you’re supposed to use that energy to find a way through. You are supposed to be strong.
Your accomplishments will now be a legend told to your brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, children, grandchildren, etc. There will be little room for excuse for them because if you could do it, why can’t they?
Everyone in your family has unwavering faith that you can do whatever you decide on. That sort of support is wonderful and can even be your crutch when you’re at your lowest. Their steadfast belief can also be a form of pressure, how can you possibly let down everyone that believes so much in you?
All of these thoughts echo and bounce around in my mind even when I don’t want them to. I’ve come to learn that despite the fact that we do have these monumental expectations to deal with, it’s nothing we can’t handle. Take it a day at a time. Live humbly, live gracefully. Stay sane and strong for YOURSELF. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to worry about what everyone else thinks about our decisions because at the end of the day it is our life that we are living. Inevitably we are setting an example for those that follow, but set an example in which you were happy every step of the way. What use is brilliant success if you followed the sinusoidal curve that was your sanity? Live happily because at the end of the day those that believed so much in you want to see you happy and whole more than they want to see the specter of the person you used to be.