So I got into the PhD program in Epidemiology at UNC last week. For years I’ve wanted to do research, write papers, get credit for being smart and all that jazz. And UNC’s public health school is ranked #2 in the country, so there is that. The thing about PhD-ness is that it’s sooooooo competitive to get a professor position afterwards (not to mention nearly impossible to raise a family with two profs in the house). I’m not the most competitive person in the world- I think my mom beat it out of me because she’s so over-the-top about winning.
Typical conversation from childhood:
Mom (1st generation korean immigrant): You get good grades. You go Harvard.
Me: k. If I get good grades, can I have my own pac-man machine?
Mom: yes yes. Anything. Good grades. Harvard.
Typical conversation from highschool:
Mom: You grades not good enough. You only ranked second in class of 530 people! You be first! You number one! What is number two crap!
Me: <eye roll> whatever Mom
Dad: Second is good enough. Good job getting such great grades, Melissa
Mom to Dad: <death stare>
Dad: <defensive shrug, palms up to ward off mom’s possible physical attack> She’s ranked second out of 530 people!
And then, when I decided to apply early to Duke:
Me: Mom, I’m going to apply early to Duke
Mom: Okay but you still go Harvard
Me: Mom, i’m not applying to Harvard. (By this age I had already developed my firm sense of anti-establishment and anti- elitism. Nothin’ against Harvard — i’ve met some wonderful people who went there. But it was too…um, well-respected, for my taste. I knew I’d never fit in.)
Mom: WHAT! MY DREAM! OUR DREAM! HARVAAAAAARRRRRDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!
And then she shot disappointment bullets directly at my heart. They’re still lodged in there. Right next to the disappointment bullets about not becoming a doctor, not being a multibillionaire by the age of 25, not being the world’s greatest pianist, not having 30 Catholic baby saints yet, etc, etc, etc.
And so. My mother of course thinks I should get a PhD. It’s one of her (many) life dreams. And when she found out UNC was ranked higher than Harvard she almost shat rainbows. My dad, meanwhile, thinks I should stay at home and focus on raising babies.
I, on the other hand (this whole thing IS about me, right?), want to stay at home and write fantasy stories, raise babies before my limited supply of eggs morph into unrecognizable sacks of mutant DNA Teratomas, and maybe get a job that requires max 50 hours a week. But it means walking away from my own dream, my own realistic dream. And I have to wonder if the only reason I don’t want to go is because my mom so desperately wants me to.