The transition from being a teenager in high school to an “adult” in university can be strange and difficult for many. It involves adjusting from depending on your parents to learning how to become self-reliant.
This requires both you and your parents to transition from a parent-child relationship to an adult-adult relationship.
Imagine you’re 28 years old, you’ve got your bachelor’s degree, you fought through medical school, and you’re almost finished your residency. You’ve met your parents’ expectations, and they are overjoyed and proud, but you’re unhappy. Can we find a way to prevent this?
I’m currently experiencing this transitional phase as a 19-year-old second-year student. Luckily for me, I have older siblings that dealt with the brunt of the “become a doctor” lectures bestowed upon them by our parents. As a result of my siblings’ diverse educational choices, my parents are slightly more open about my choice of a career path.
Fortunately, I do not live with my parents, so I am able to be more independent. This is not the case for everyone. Statistics Canada states that over one third of young adults from the age of 20 to 34 were living with at least one parent in 2016 — a number that has been increasing since 2001.
In some ways, it’s easier to live with your parents because tuition is outrageous and housing costs are, frankly, also shit. While this may present itself as a feasible option, it can also create problems — especially if your parents try to restrict your agency and choice as if you were still a child.
Finding your voice can be a struggle when you have grown up believing your parents know better than you and following everything they say.
I find that traditions play a significant role in the transition to adulthood. In my experience with South Asian culture, adult children living with their parents is the standard back home.
These cultural factors are the reason why many students are in a field that they are unhappy with and why this transition is difficult for so many. I know that some parents push the doctor archetype because they truly believe it is one of the few ways that their child can have a stable job. It’s a trend I’ve noticed especially in immigrant households.
As a first generation Canadian myself, I have come across countless young adults being pressured into fields they are unsure of and many amazing young women whose agency is being restricted. I’m not trying to demonize your parents and say that cultural traditions are terrible, but there comes a point where you decide what you want to take away from your parents and your culture.
There is also the factor of financial independence, in which young adults still rely on their parents to help with their finances. While this can be helpful for the average student, it can also translate into your parents having an influence in how you use your money.
The transition is even more strenuous if you suffer from mental illness. I find that my anxiety is the largest barrier that I face in my growth into independence. If parents use emotional abuse techniques such as gaslighting or intimidation, I can only imagine how much more challenging this life transition may be.
The transition into adulthood is already difficult. Nevertheless, it is still possible to transcend financial, cultural and mental barriers. It is important to cultivate a support network — friends, siblings or cousins — because you’re not alone. There are mental-health support services available as well, including the Student Wellness Centre here on campus.
Remember, you’re in control of your life — you don’t have to be a doctor if you don’t want to be.
Graphic: Mỹ Anh Phan