I ran into an old acquaintance/friend on campus today. It was very random, considering that she’s not a student at the university. I hadn’t seen her since I graduated from high school about ten years ago.
In the Chinese-American world in which my friend and I grew up, it was expected for us to do well (i.e., get straight A’s) in high school, attend a prestigious university (Ivy League or better), and get a well respected, high paying job right out of school so our parents can brag about us to the rest of the Chinese-American community (a graduate degree from a prestigious university is optional only if there isn’t a company wanting to hire you before you even finish college).
Of course, neither of us lived up to these expectations, but my friend’s story is more interesting than mine. She had straight A’s in high school and was accepted to a very prestigious university but dropped out after a year for medical reasons. All her goals (projections of her parents’ goals for her) fell away. She spent many years soul searching before she eventually found Christianity. Her goal now is to be a missionary and someday return to college. Note that most Chinese people (including my friend’s parents) frown upon religious jobs, mostly because those jobs don’t make much money (relative to jobs in business, medicine, law, or engineering).
All these years later, she has mostly come to terms with how her life has turned out (I’m sure Christianity helped with that), but she still often feels ashamed that she didn’t live up to the expectations she grew up with.
It’s interesting how far our lives diverge from what we expect when we’re kids. While many of my friends my age now have Ph.D.’s, have high paying jobs, are buying houses, and/or are married with children, I don’t feel behind. Everyone’s path is different. I have my own timeline. I’ve learned and grown from every experience and every hardship. I wouldn’t change anything. I value where I am and what I do so much because of where I’ve been and what I’ve done. Good times.
I like to think that everything happens for a reason. Maybe my “random” encounter with an old friend who lost her way was so that I could share what I’ve learned about life with her. Just a thought.