I have wanted for some time to talk more about myself in an open manner. I recently read Paper Tigers by Wesley Yang and it got me thinking about myself, my peers, and our parent's generation. According to my mother, I have not been the ideal Asian daughter because it is not filial to talk back and to do what you truly want to do in life. I have tried my hardest to do what would please her the most, to the point of sacrificing what I wanted to be in life, but there is a point you reach where you cannot be yourself and be who your mother wants you to be. The two cannot be reconciled and I have learned there is this important division between my generation (first born ABCs) and my mother's (recent immigrants).
To my mother, when my family and her friends say that I am "too American," it is something to be ashamed of; but I cannot change the influences in my life, of being in America and of being Asian. I am, and so are those like me, stuck in this no man's land of being Asian the way your parents are and being American like everyone around you.
As you know, I'm a first year resident and most of you would assume that being a doctor I have fulfilled my mother's grand ambitions. Because what more does an Asian mom want from her child than professional success, the highest level of education, and a position of prestige? Except I am doing my residency in Psychiatry and my mother could not be more displeased in me being becoming a shrink, i.e. not a real doctor.
I struggled for the longest time, during high school when everyone I knew was telling me to keep my rank, to go to the best university, to go down the pathway of pre-med and achieve the goal of being a doctor. I guess, I have accomplished all that. I am, in a way, a fairly generic overachieving Asian that my Tiger Mom raised. I graduated at the top of my class, went to a top 20 ranked university, and got into medical school without much of a hitch.
Except, and this is a big except, I am not a science or engineering major. I have a degree in English Literature and if I could be anything, do anything, I would have gone for a Masters in Creative Writing and been a novelist or at the very least, gone on to a masters in Journalism and become a reporter for a magazine or a copy editor at a newspaper. But when I disregarded all that my mother wanted for me and flew off to England for 6 months to study abroad in a liberal arts university, I discovered that while I loved to write, I wanted to do more than just write. Writing a 20 page paper on the idea of taste mirroring estates and gardens in Jane Austen's complete body of works, I realized I needed some touch of practicality and I've always enjoyed as banal as it sounds, to help and affect other people's lives.
I only realized after I got into medical school, following along on the pathway that my mom and my family had firmly dictated and encouraged since nearly infancy, that medicine might not have been the ideal choice to reach my idea of a meaningful life. I hated my life for three long years, going through multiple bouts of mild depression, before I found something within medicine I truly enjoy doing. I'm not sure why or how I came to the epiphany that Psychiatry - the medicine of crazy people - was such a perfect fit for me.
In my writing, I am most intimately curious to know and to understand my characters to the fullest extent. Psychiatry puts that into practice and despite my mother's great reservations and multiple attempts to get me to change my mind, to go the route of Internal Medicine or Pediatrics or Family Medicine, I finally said NO to what she wanted for me and said YES to what I wanted for myself. If you ask me now, more than halfway through my PGY-1 I can honestly say, I have not made a mistake.
If my Tiger Mom had not pushed me into medicine, I would not doing what I'm doing now. I might have been a writer, a reporter, a copy editor, any of those things, but I'm not. I'm a Doctor and I am learning to be a Psychiatrist. And the best part is, I have not compromised who I am. It's hard in residency to write. Writing requires a vast amount of thinking and my brain is often exhausted after dealing with frustrating and annoying situations that plague a resident's life (Please Remember Doctors Are Humans Too!, but that's another story).
I am writing now, as I write this blog, as an expression of myself, of my likes and my style, and in the middle of the night I'm still creating fiction when my muse decides to tickle my mind.
Thanks for reading and Happy Easter!