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For most of human history, what we did for a living was decided for us by our families.
We would either directly copy what our parents did, or else we would reverentially accept
their suggestions for what we might do. Only for around the last 200 years have we been
choosing jobs for ourselves – and we're still at the beginning of learning some of the
complexities of doing so. On the surface, most families claim to have no interest in their
children doing any job in particular. The standard line is that they simply want us
to be happy. But we are not as free as this sounds. We are always hemmed in by what can
be termed "family work scripts", that is, scripts that guide us – often very subtly but also
very heavily – towards certain occupations and away from others. Part of properly growing
up – which may sometimes happen only in one's 50s – involves learning to find
a way around the scripts we've been handed. At the most benign level, our family work
scripts are the result of what our families understand of the working world. Every family
has a range of occupations that it grasps, because someone has practiced them and in
the process brought them within the imaginative range of other family members. Yet it isn't
just a case that our families might not know about certain jobs and so might cut us off from
them. They might also be positively hostile or suspicious of other jobs. We're liable
to received many little messages indicating that certain careers are inferior – and
therefore beneath us, dangerous, phoney or not quite right for our sort of station in
life. Whatever lip service might be paid to gender equality, families are also highly
talented at sending out covert messages about what a "real" man or a "real" woman
should honourably do. Yet more darkly, families may say that they want us to succeed, but
would be highly threatened if we actually did so. A choice we make might remind someone of one
of their failed ambitions. Our success might make them feel like a failure. We might try
to sabotage our chances of winning so as not to leave a loved one feeling crushed. Often
without realising it, we are being heavily controlled by our families. Controlled not
by harsh words but by something far more poignant and yet far harder to extricate ourselves
from: by our ongoing desire to be a good child, to please those who brought us into this world,
by love. Love can control us as much as force or the law ever could. We are liable to try
to be good children not just because we feel love but because we fear losing love, because
we live in dread of being cast out if we were to dare to say what we want. But here is
the good news for the timid good children. Parents very, very rarely disown their progeny. It certainly
seems they might in our imaginations forged in childhood. But the adult reality is that
families are extremely good at threatening to break apart, but then also forgiving one another,
and accommodating the most extraordinary challenges and tests. We don't know your families, but
we can guess that you could do a lot more than you think, a lot more that
might be a bit "bad" in their eyes, and still be forgiven. We owe our
parents respect and kindness. We do not owe them our lives. We should dare, when the pressure
has become unbearable, to leave their scripts aside.
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How Parents Get In The Way of Career Plans

105 Folder Collection
Evangeline published on May 7, 2018    gahui yu translated    Evangeline reviewed
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