The obscure stigma in our lives

Doctor. Engineer. Lawyer. Marriage. House. Family. Children. 7 pressures that are brought up
countless times in the life of a South Asian child, after the completion of high school. The goals we
aspire to achieve. Or more accurately, the goals our parents aspire us to achieve. Where am I going
with all of this? Most of us have been there. We start entering a stage in our life where freedom is
more accessible but with that responsibilities increase, and then our parents believe that with this
“coming of age” we suddenly need to have a secure job, sort out a relationship, and in some
extreme cases, become married! In fairness, it is extremely unfair to generalise this to the entire
South Asian population, however more often than not, our parents seem to forget that we are still
young adults, finding our way in this vast world.

I am fortunate to say my parents have overseen this stigma and have given me the choice to pursue
careers in my interest. For those asking themselves how was this possible, the answer is hilariously
simple. My parents came to a stark realisation that I did not have the ‘academic skill set’ to become
a doctor. Unfortunately, I’m not granted the complete fortune of a complete blind eye, it’s probably
winking at times; saying “I would’ve preferred you become X or Y but it is your life”. Initially, this
constant statement would be tiresome and repetitive, but eventually my parents gave out. I
personally consider this a luxury, as I have seen people who become X or Y are now discontent with
their working life. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why our parents apply these
constraints. They look to the bigger picture, X or Y equals money. Money equals mortgage or nice
house or nice car etc. And what does that all lead to? The universal boast of “My son just brought
the brand 2021 Mercedes Benz A-Class. No, he did not finance it, it was an outright purchase”. That
goes hand-in-hand with “see that Toorak property, 5-bedroom, 3 bathrooms with automatic sensor
lights that turn on when you enter the room? Yes, that one, my daughter put a deposit for it last
week”. (note: Toorak is a very comfortable suburb in South-East Melbourne, Victoria) In hindsight,
whilst I would adore a 5 bedroom house in Toorak, it only seems natural our parents may feel this
way. Whilst I can’t generalise for every SA parent, mine were courageous enough to leave everything
behind in Sri Lanka and subsequently migrate to Melbourne. Hence, I personally feel that it is my
duty to take myself and my family to this “Toorak property” or in layman’s terms, pay back my
parents for all they have done for me, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Whilst they enjoy the occasional victory in the boast wars, they do mean well. They simply want us
to have a good life at the end of the day. But the truth is, these early pressures while having good
intentions, can elicit an unwanted effect in which mental and emotional health is greatly affected..
The constant worry of “am I good enough to be in this course or why am I doing something I clearly
don’t enjoy?”. It only perpetuates this cycle of constant self-doubt which can have significant mental
health implications and at the end of it all, while your son or daughter may be a doctor, living in a 5-
bedroom Toorak house, driving a Mercedes Benz, they are mentally unwell in this seemingly happy

I believe as generations pass, this stigma is slowly phasing out. From what I have seen and heard, it
more or less comes back to clear communication between parent and child. Being able to
passionately defend your course or even in general, defend yourself. I’m not saying a rebellion
against your parents needs to begin but more voice your opinion, your true feeling. It is easier said
than done, but it is completely worth it, to have your freedom, health and wealth in check.

Written by Vinuga Caldera. Illustrated by Upeksha Galappaththie


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