More Than Money
Issue #39

Money and Children

Table of Contents

“The True Thank You - Choosing My Own Way”

Personal Stories

- anonymous author

The author is 21 and a senior at Yale University.

The end of my junior year was looming closer and closer, and I did not know what I wanted to do after graduation. I have always been a "science person," but medical school just wasn't appealing enough to me to be worth enduring four more years of schoolwork, and I was losing interest in my laboratory research. As I was walking to dinner one evening, I had an epiphany: Perhaps the ideal choice for me would be veterinary school. It would combine both my love of science and my love of animals.

To confirm the soundness of my new career choice, during the summer between my junior and senior years I worked at two veterinary clinics. Having enjoyed those experiences, I applied for veterinary school in the fall. Life, however, is never that simple. My parents, who I hoped would be my biggest supporters, instead have become obstacles to veterinary school.

My mother has explicitly stated that she has less respect for veterinarians than she does for human doctors. My parents will not financially support me as much as they did my sisters if I am "only going to become a vet." My mom wonders aloud why she bothered sending me to Yale. My father also disagrees with my choice to apply to vet school, which has now become the cause of numerous household conflicts. My parents assiduously emphasize the lower salary and respect for vets in our society as compared to medical doctors. They do not comprehend that I understand that these are the realities of veterinary medicine, but I consider them to be easily outweighed by the rewards of the profession. Furthermore, these negatives do not reflect the inherent value of the profession, but rather the skewed priorities of our society.

I understand my parents' history. I know that, as Chinese-Americans pursuing the American dream, they have worked and sacrificed for me. Both of my parents grew up poor, but through hard work and auspicious timing, they have achieved their dream. They have made a remarkable climb up the socioeconomic ladder. My grandfather embarked on a one-way, two-week-long journey to America with $60 in his pocket and his ten-year-old son, my father, at his side. My mother spent her childhood living in the laundry service that her father owned in San Francisco's Chinatown. She showered under cold water that poured from a hose propped above the door. Her grandfather had come to America in the first wave of Chinese immigrants to build railroads. From the railroad to the laundry, my ancestors exemplify the stereotypical Chinese immigrant story.

The struggle of my ancestors has allowed me to acquire a good education and the opportunity to find and pursue my passion in life. I feel that if I do not live a productive and meaningful life in my own eyes, it would be egregiously disrespectful to my family and our history. Now is my chance to do more than succeed financially.

Yet, my parents' concerns about veterinary medicine are not just financial. They simply do not believe I will be happy. They don't understand that I could become a lawyer or a doctor or any other kind of professional and they would be happier, but I would not be happier. They think I could make a greater contribution to the world in another profession. The truth is that few people make great contributions to the world. While I strive to be one of the few, it is not required in my definition of success.

Veterinary medicine is an area where I know I can make a positive contribution, no matter how small. The animal population is a neglected community in our society. The lack of concern for animals and their welfare motivates me to dedicate my life toward their cause. Pain is pain, and the will to live thrives in all forms of life.

Particularly difficult for me is that every time I return from college, we have the same discussions. My parents say they support me, and yet I must justify my choice to them every visit. I value my parents' opinions, but, like most others, I do not appreciate being told the same thing over and over again. Despite being a product of my parents, ultimately, I am a very different person from them. I know that we will not always agree (and indeed rarely do), but I want them to respect my choices.

With or without their approval, I know that I must do what I believe is right for me and what will most likely make me happy. To me, dedicating my life to veterinary medicine, a career I both value and respect, is the best thank you I can give them for all they have done for me. I hope they can see that someday.

© 1990-2005, More Than Money, All rights reserved