Parents often just want what's best for their kids, right? That's why they make us go to bed and teach us to read and send us to school. But often times I feel like parents see their children as the chances they never got, or the chances they want to relive. They want their kids to get a good education, a good job, a stable life, and these wants and desires can clash with a child's dreams and their own version of reality.
I mention these things because, while I love my parents, they aren't open to dreams that don't follow a typical structure. They are so proud of me for getting an engineering degree and gaining internships during college and scoring a great full time position at a good company close to their home. They don't want me to give that up. To them, that is the dream coming true. They have expectations that I will work hard, make more money, climb the corporate ladder, and have a long and successful career. They see a husband and kids and a single family home.
They don't see my dreams through my eyes, but through their own, and to be completely fair, I've never really told them my dreams. I've given them goals, things I'd like to do someday, and I've given them responses, things they like to hear. My actual dreams haven't really been shared with them, mainly because I know they either won't take them seriously, or they'll crush them before they can fully develop.
I've always planned to tell my parents about my dreams, my genuine ones, the ones that keep me up at night and staring off during the day. The ones that fill my soul with passion and my heart with glee. These are the dreams I live for, the ones where I put in research, create spreadsheets, and imagine the possibilities. These are also the more unrealistic of my dreams, the ones that are scary and out of our (as a family) comfort zones.
Today my sister decided to share my dream of living in a van with my mother. Needless to say, I wasn't really ready for her to find out. It went pretty much as suspected. She [my mother] first laughed, then said "you'll never live on a van, you're too attached to your stuff". She's kind of right, I love all of my things, my knick-knacks, my clothes, and my books. But I don't think she understands what I'm willing to give up to create a lifestyle that doesn't involve sitting at a desk every day and driving through rush hour every day at 5 pm. I had the distinct pleasure of doing that for two summers of my college career and it was plenty of time for me to realize it was not what I wanted.
I took time them to tell her some things I had been thinking about, the kind of job and life that I want to pursue. You could tell by the look on her face that she wasn't buying it. The life that I described lacked the creature comforts I grew up with, a small space, limited hygiene capabilities, a toilet you have to empty manually. I could see that she was having difficulty seeing me living like that so she kind of just brushed it off and asked about her and my father's favorite topic of conversation, my job.
How was I going to make money? What would happen to that great full time gig I landed with an engineering firm? I told her I still wanted to work and gain experience, and that's true. I want to get my PE (Professional Engineers) license and work for a non-profit, such as Engineers Without Borders, to bring clean water and basic sanitation to low-income and impoverished areas of the world. Living in a van would allow me to get up close and personal with these communities and figure out what they really need or want. Growing up as an American with many advantages, we often don't realize that many things we have are extraneous and unnecessary for life.
Anyways, going back to my mom, I talked her through some of my career changes I hoped to make within the next 5-10 years and how I didn't want to abandon working for a firm, after all, I would need experience that only a real job could get me, but that I would like to work remotely as an engineer or even a CAD technician. Our conversation ended soon after and it wasn't really brought up again.
I think what threw her off was the fact that I have already started to consider what needs to happen to make this dream a reality. I was looking into ways to make money, continue my passion for service, and the reality of removing many "things" from my life. Slowly and surely I have started purging things out, allowing that empty space to be filled with memories and goals rather than more stuff. De-cluttering my life has started to bring me peace. I know that I can achieve my dream, as silly as it is, and be successful in it. Creating a meaningful life means creating something with life. While my goals and dreams are different from others, I believe they are no less important and no less impossible to achieve. With this conviction I'm now determined to get my parent's on board with my own dream and to show them that my reality can create something beautiful.