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Her Story: I Pretended To Be Someone I’m Not To Gain My Family’s Approval

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

How do you tell your family that their dreams are not yours? When is it okay to break free from family expectations and follow your own path? How do you gather up the courage to tell the people that you love that your life isn’t theirs to govern, that your own dreams and aspirations are just as important as their sacrifices and should therefore be acknowledged and respected?

When my parents asked me what it was I was going to study in college, instead of telling them the honest truth that I really didn’t know and that I was as clueless and lost as could be, I told them what they wanted to hear: I told them I was going to go to medical school. I told them I wanted to be a doctor and I was going to start volunteering in hospitals and start reading all these books about the human anatomy and whatnot just to show how passionate I really was about it.  

Why, you may ask, would I do such a thing? Why would I feign to be interested in something I had never showed interest in before? Why? Because of my father’s story that remained branded in the back of my mind ever since I first heard it as a kid. He had once told me that ever since he was a little boy he always knew that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. He said that he had gotten accepted to a university back in Mexico that offered him the opportunity to study and prepare him for medical school. But he gave it up without even finishing his first year there, for two reasons. One, he couldn’t afford to pay for tuition. And two, around the same time he withdrew from college, he was given the opportunity to come to the U.S., the so called land of dreams and opportunities that he found too hard to resist. He was young and crestfallen for having his dream crushed because money did not come in abundance in his household and he found this opportunity the chance of a lifetime to turn his life around. He came to believe that since there was no hope for him to become a doctor without any money in his pockets, he had nothing to lose. He hoped to go to the States and gather enough money to help his parents financially and possibly return and finish studying and get his doctorates degree and fulfill his lifelong dream when he gathered enough money to keep him and his family well off. Bringing my mother along with him, they were able to collect enough money to send back to their loved ones from time to time and save some for my dad’s future college tuition. But two years after they moved to the States, I was born and I became their motivation to stay—permanently. They knew that I would receive a better education and be provided with more opportunities in the U.S. than in Mexico. My father didn’t want to be selfish and jeopardize the possibility of a better life for me just so he could fulfill his own long lost dream.


I asked him once if he regretted his decision, if he regretted leaving home and coming to the U.S and leaving his dream behind. But he said no. He said that his children’s well-being was more important to him then the goals he once had as a kid. I remember him saying that people who regret their decisions and have no goals or aspirations get nowhere in life. But I can see it. I can see the regret etched visibly in those dark circles under his eyes, in his weary posture whenever I catch a glimpse of him coming back at the crack of dawn from working his late night shifts only to come back and sleep during the day to start the tedious routine all over again.

I felt so guilty afterwards. If it weren’t for me, my father’s dream wouldn’t have been put on pause and he wouldn’t be living the life he was living now in the U.S., away from his family and loved ones. I felt like I owed my dad something, like I had to make it up to him for giving up his dream for me and my sibling’s well-being. I thought that maybe, if I did this for him, if I lived his dream for him and he saw me get accepted into medical school and get my doctorates degree, he would see that his dream hadn’t died in vain and maybe then he wouldn’t feel so empty and incomplete for not being able to fulfill his goal in life.  

But it wasn’t until I actually got to college and started taking these science courses and got a proper outline of everything that I actually had to do to even be considered eligible to apply for medical school, did I realized that my little façade could only get me so far.  

It was foolish of me to think that I could trick myself into thinking that I too wanted this, that I somehow shared this dream with my dad. I wanted so hard to make myself believe that this really was my goal and that I wasn’t doing this just to please my parents. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t keep fooling myself any longer. I couldn’t keep pretending that I was interested in something when my heart lied elsewhere. This goal wasn’t mine. It was never mine to take. This had been my fathers and as much as I wish I were the one to bring that pride and dream of being a doctor back into his life, my life wasn’t his. He couldn’t live the life he had once dreamed of living through me. And I wouldn’t allow it. Because truth be told I, like my father, had discovered from a very early age what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I was introduced to Harry Potter in the fourth grade and after reading her books I was amazed by how much J.K. Rowling’s words, a combination of twenty six simple letters, could create such a powerful phenomenon that affected not only me but millions of people around the world, creating a sense of escapism in which readers could divulge into and lose themselves in this magical world of the boy who lived. And I wanted that. I wanted to write books that did that to people and Rowling inspired me to start writing. Her work had been able to ignite that burning desire I had been waiting to feel for so long so I could finally show my true potential.  


But the thing was, I had never thought it was something I could pursue in life which was why I had always felt so lost because if writing wasn’t in my future then what else was there for me? My parents never viewed “writing” as a successful career path or a career at all so it was disregarded as a simple hobby of mine. It wasn’t until I came to college and fed my craving for writing by taking some creative writing classes alongside my biology and chemistry courses did I realize that I couldn’t lie to myself anymore. I guess I always knew that I wanted to be a writer but I was just too afraid to admit it to myself, afraid because I knew how disappointed my dad was going to be once I told him the truth. I had always known and feared that if I did anything else, he wouldn’t be as proud of me as he would have been if he had seen me become a certified physician and it was disappointing him the most that was holding me back.  

I spent many sleepless nights debating over what to do, overwhelmed by my family’s expectations and my own aspirations and goals. I had tried so hard to help but all I did was make things worse. I had given my father hope; hope that his dream might live on in me when in reality it was never there to begin with. I realized that even if I went through this, if I did everything in my power to try and get into medical school I would fail. I would fail because in order to succeed in something you must want it more than anything and I simply wasn’t passionate about medical school. I could never be able to pour my heart and soul into it and dedicate my time wholeheartedly to it as if I would have done with my writing.  

I don’t know where I gathered the strength and the courage to pick up the phone and break the news to them but I did. They didn’t take it well, obviously. My mother was worried and my father was just downright upset. I had expected their reactions but it didn’t mean I was prepared for it. The only thing that held me together were my father’s previous words: people who regret their decisions and have no aspirations or goals get nowhere in life.  

Now, I never said I didn’t have a goal. Of course I have a goal. But it’s not to get into medical school. My goal is to prove my father wrong. To prove to him that even a simple writer can live a prosperous and diligent life as any doctor would because writers are in it not for the money but because they love what they do and they love the kick they get out of writing. Medical school was never my goal and I shouldn’t have let it get as far as it did but I was just scared that my parents wouldn’t be proud of me for choosing a path that they didn’t approve of. And I understand why my father reacted the way he did. I understood why he was so mad. I know he regrets the choices he made when he was younger but I’m not going to make the mistake of losing the chance to do something I want to do just to please him. I won’t make the same mistake he did and let my dream pass me by. Even if I don’t have their full support just yet, the fact that they have now accepted that this is what I want to do is enough for me.  

And I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of myself for being brave enough to stand up to my parents and remain loyal to my dreams and not backing down, no matter how scary and uncertain the future may be. And I’m not going to regret my decision because a person who regrets their decisions and has no goals or aspirations in life will fail by default. And I have no intention of failing. 

Jasmine Venancio is originally from Southern California but is currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, Riverside. She is a passionate and ambitious student who is very independent and strong-minded. She is majoring in Creative Writing with an emphasis in fiction.
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