Lifestyle

How Do I Get Over The Guilt I Constantly Feel For Being A Disappointment To My Parents?

Hi! I got a JEE rank of under 300 and graduated from IITM. I recently finished my Masters and got a job in the US. I hope my input will be useful.

Do you really think that clearing IIT/IIM would make your parents proud? Yes. For a few days, maybe. Maximum of a couple of months. I have parents who would disapprove of every action I took that they did not think contributed to my academic performance. I lived a life they wanted and I subconsciously internalized their thought process and gave up my passion for music because it was a “distraction”. I have stopped blaming my parents for this, but they had their part to play.

Do you believe their expectations would’ve vanished once you cleared JEE? No. You have to get a good rank, secure a seat in EE/CS and then get a good GPA. It is still not over. Get a final year project in an area that has good paying jobs. Apply for higher studies in said area and make sure you get a PhD because MS is for people trying to escape the rat race in India. Then get into a top US university with full scholarship. Finish graduation again with flying colors and get a job in a well known MNC.

Routine Life. Image Credit: Geektoauthor
Routine Life. Image Credit: Geektoauthor

I gave up half-way through this charade, not because I wanted to rebel, but because I suffered from depression. It was intermittent and lasted till last year until I got control of it. Every time my parents talked to me over phone/skype the usual rounds of questions followed.

“Did you eat? What did you eat? Did you make sure it was vegetarian? Did you cook? Why not? Did you have exams recently? What grade did you score? Why did you not get A? Why is your GPA under 4.0? Did you apply for internships? Did your internship yield you a full-time offer? When is your thesis ending? Why is it not fully funded? How was the graduation ceremony? Are you still searching for jobs? Did your other batchmates get jobs while you failed? What is your pay package? What is it in comparison to others?”

If you want to live a life to please your parents, you will never find happiness or satisfaction. I can see that a pro-Indian-parent post from an Indian parent (surprise!) got many upvotes. I will probably get a lot of downvotes, but this stark reality needs to be addressed.

Just a few weeks back, my parents skyped with me and asked me why I wasn’t looking enthusiastic and didn’t smile while talking to them. And I couldn’t tell them that I have been suffering from depression for the past few years in which I even contemplated self-harm a couple of times. They have never genuinely inquired about my emotional health. The only few times that they have hinted at it is only to make sure that it didn’t affect my test scores. I force myself to smile during these skype calls just to avoid this very discussion:

“Why would you doubt that we love you? We want the best for you. A better life than we had. Opportunities are rare and we don’t want you to miss them. We paid for your education. How could you resent us? Maybe if you didn’t waste time in IIT then you would have been in a better graduate program and wouldn’t have felt depressed. We know what will make you feel better. We have the perfect girl for you to marry!”

Indian Marriage
Image Credit: Linkers Wedding Solutions

I can’t help but appreciate the irony as I am typing this. I am having an identity crisis because I don’t want to die with resentment. The feeling that I never lived the life I truly wanted – the one full of failures that is still worth it because of the path/journey it took me through. The journey that is not as scary as it seems because I get to travel with this amazing person (hopefully a girl :P) who offers a hand to lift me up whenever I fall. Not because I made into IIT. But because she is proud of me no matter how badly I fail in my endeavor. Of course, it is still a work-in-progress!

You, on the other hand, already have this person in your life. Do not give her up so your parents could find a girl who will mirror their disapproval and lack of support for the rest of your conscious life.

Find a part-time job that will wean you off parental support. It won’t change their mistreatment of you. Although, you will have a choice to ignore it then. Value your girlfriend because it’ll be hard to find someone like that who empathizes with what you are going through with your parents. I know I am having enough trouble doing that. When you have kids, do not subject them to the distressing childhood you/I had. Prove your parents wrong by being proud of your little ones no matter what.

And 30 years from now, when you are skyping with your grown-up kid in college, be content in the feeling that the smile you see on his/her face is genuine.

The above response is written by Raghu Nandan S, and it originally appeared on Quora. It is edited to add some visual images to it.

 

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