Welcome back from Thanksgiving break, Zags! This submission came to me before the long weekend and I thought it was a perfect issue to address this week as many of us are just returning from visiting our families for the holiday.

“To whom it may concern,

I want my voice to reach people that are affected by what was written in my submission. I want people to know that it’s OK to follow their dreams and to follow what’s best for them. I know several students that experience anguish because of parental pressure to succeed. I’ve heard students say, ‘My parents are going to make me transfer if I fail any class.’ There are also some students that are studying to be things that their parents want, not what they want. 

Personally, I’m in that boat because I’m afraid to tell my parents that I want to be history teacher, something they have advised me time and time again will not benefit me financially. They have established Gonzaga as their home, but it’s going to be taken away from them, or they’re not expressing themselves to be the best they can be. If we truly have a Zag-help-Zag culture, we have to tell them it’s OK to fail and to pursue their dreams. This is how I’m going to try and reach out to them, and tell them it’s OK.”


Let me start out by saying that, even as a graduate student (one who will be done in three weeks!) I still feel pressure to have my life figured out. This pressure is especially strong when I visit family and my relatives ask questions such as, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” or “What kind of job do you hope to get with your degree?” 

I had to make up answers to these questions numerous times this weekend. I do not think my family members intend to induce such anxiety with their questions, and in all honesty the majority of the pressure I feel is probably what I put on myself.

Never have I had a clear direction of where I wanted to go with my life, and I almost guarantee you if my parents gave me a path I would have diverted in the most drastic way. I was fortunate enough to get tuition assistance from my parents, the idea behind it being so that I could focus on my studies. I still worked two jobs — at one time, three — because I didn’t want to feel indebted. 

I actually started my AA at a community college, and then transferred to Eastern Washington to finish up my bachelor’s in English literature. I remember wanting to take a quarter off in between transferring schools to decide my major and my dad said that he would no longer support me financially if I didn’t immediately enroll at EWU — his thought being that if I took a break I wouldn’t go back.

At the time I was working my tail off and still there was no way I could have supported myself — ’tis the life of a college student. But you know what I did? I said, “Go ahead.” 

Maybe part of me was calling his bluff, but I knew that if push came to shove, I could make it work if I had to. 

I felt backed into a corner and under pressure I decided that my happiness and autonomy is above what my parents may or may not think is right for me. And this is the important point to note: In the end your parents only want what is best for you. 

There is no “handbook,” as my mom would always say, so they do their best by guessing what they think is right for you. Sometimes they think they are protecting you from their past regrets or mistakes. 

In reality, only you know what is best for you and your life, and even though it might be a scary and awkward conversation, your parents will learn to accept it. More than likely they will also respect you for it as well. 

There is a huge paradigm shift when we go away to college. Before, our parents had control over our lives and got used to taking care of and providing for us. Once we evacuate “the nest,” there is an adjustment phase where our parents learn to let go and allow us to make our own decisions (and sometimes mistakes!). 

This transition does not happen overnight but I do think that there is a turning point when our parents have the epiphany that we are no longer children. For my parents, it was when I decided to take time off in between degrees and live in Spokane on my own.

The point I am hoping to get across is that your parents love you; they would not put pressure on you to excel or take a path they see fit if it weren’t out of genuine care. It may take them awhile to accept and seem supportive, but I highly doubt you will be disowned if you decide to become a history teacher or an artist instead of a doctor or engineer. 

Once you make that decision to pave your own path I guarantee you will feel liberated and empowered, and potentially even more respected by your parents. In the end, your relationship with both yourself, and your parents, will be strengthened. As stated in the submission, we strive to create a Zag-help-Zag culture at Gonzaga and I can assure that you will be surrounded by support from your classmates and professors on campus.

Sure, it’s frightening, but you are at a stage in your life where it is time to make decisions for yourself with confidence. Know that we have your back and, more than likely, so will your parents.

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