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My mom’s expressions always come to mind when I’m faced with a decision. The inflection of her voice and her unique tone is audible in my head. Her adaptive aphorisms are something I fall back on. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have my parents as a source of reliable advice.

I value my parents’ opinions. I was raised to respect authority, especially at the hand of my commanding father. Now that I’m a junior in college, I feel the full limbo between adulthood and childhood. I’m in that phase where I’m independent but not really.I can decide to stay out all night, party, skip class — that’s completely in my range of autonomy. But, I cannot actually provide for myself. I am still heavily financially dependent on my parents. He who has the gold makes the rules.

That leaves me, and I’d guess many college students, in a confusing and peculiar relationship with their parents. I am starting to come into my own, and the University of Michigan has taught me to always be inquisitive. In high school, my parents’ word was law (even if I attempted to fight back). Now, I probe. I would not consider myself equals to my parents quite yet, but I think I’m on my way. I’m starting to have more intellectual conversations with them, and a curious development has evolved. My mom will come to me for advice. The roles haven’t entirely been reversed, but they are shifting in a way that leaves more space for my input. We can have more open conversations about taboo subjects like sex, alcohol and drugs.

Yet, with my newfound sense of agency comes a drawback. There is a mantra that’s on loop with our generation: you only live once so be yourself and give those holding you back a royal “f**k you.” While I vibe with the ammunition behind this sentiment, I implore if there is a line to be drawn? The example I’m going to give you ties back to dear old mom and dad.

My parents, for better or worse, have more conservative opinions about tattoo culture. It’s their prerogative to feel this way. They do not discriminate those with tattoos, they just don’t want their children to have them. You catch my drift? Their reasons range, but the point isn’t why they feel this way, the point is how I, as their daughter, respond to their stance.

I personally like tattoos. I have been debating getting one for three years now. The design I want, where I want it and its size has not wavered. It’s not some impromptu decision; in fact, its been relatively thought out and intentional. Yet, a couple of things are holding me back. The biggest one: disappointing my mom and dad.

This leads me to that overarching question: when do other people’s’ opinions infringe on your own right to agency, and when should those opinions matter enough to demobilize you? There’s a careful balance that needs to be investigated — one I am always playing with.

Many people would tell me to do what I want. “Don’t tell your parents, they’ll never see it anyways,” or “they’ll get over it.” Those people would probably be right, but blatantly disrespecting my parents feels so inherently wrong to who I am and how much I revere them. Sneakily getting a tattoo isn’t the answer, at least, not for me.

The other apparent answer would be to sacrifice the tattoo. Is a piece of ink worth the trouble? I think that’s an individual decision. This choice would represent resigning free will in exchange for civility, peace and harmony.

There’s always another option: openly discussing the tattoo with them. Unfortunately, for my family, I’m not sure that would get me anywhere. They are cemented in their beliefs and no amount of arguing will change their mind.

To be clear: my parents are not helicopters. They are not overly involved in my life — never pushing me into or out of any career path. I was allowed to pick my sports, clubs, college, friends and extra circulars. They have always supported me, but like many parents, they also expect me to act representative of how I was raised.

I’m still fuzzy on where the line between doing what you want and acting accordingly is. We do live in a free world, after all. And the idea of acting accordingly is situational. As humans, we all possess free will, but whether we act on it is dependent. Technically, you can do whatever you want, but let’s not forget there are repercussions for your actions. So, I can get that tattoo, but I’ll have to pay for it (and I’m not talking about paying the artist).

Will I get the tattoo? Who knows. I sure as hell don’t. But, I’m doing my best to live for myself without ignoring others.

 

Image courtesy of: suescheffblog.com

Liv Asimakis

U Mich '20

I am a junior in LSA at the University of Michigan and am double majoring in English and Biomolecular Science. I am pre-medicine hoping to one day specialize in fertility.
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