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I would avoid talking to my father about my career choices.

It was a regular Sunday afternoon for us; my father was at home on Sundays like most working parents, and I wanted to have a serious talk with my father about my career choices. But somehow, I could not gather the courage to speak up. I had been struggling to express my feelings to my parents for a long time, but could not figure out how to do that. In my family, all my decisions were taken by my parents, including what I would pursue. The only option I ever got to choose was either being an engineer or a doctor.

Both my parents excelled in academics, so naturally the same was expected of me. I was in my ninth standard when my parents started pressurizing me to score well and take up science. However, I wasn’t too sure about what I wanted to do. But I knew that I wasn’t interested in becoming a doctor or an engineer. I just knew that I wanted to do something in the creative field. I used to avoid the topic of my future with my father because I was too scared to say what my heart really desired. I felt I was being chased by their expectations of me. Additionally, being exposed to new career choices and constant discussions among my friends about taking up different streams started making me feel anxious. The pressure grew to be unbearable.

My mental health was negatively affected by being in a constant state of tussle between my desires and their expectations. I became easily agitated, confused and constantly anxious. The changed behaviour of mine was thought to be a “teenage-phase” for some months, but as the year went by, it was evident that something was not right. Due to all these new changes, my friends said that I was acting differently than usual. My friends started moving away from me. I felt angry and helpless as I was losing people who mattered in my life. It felt as if no one understood my pain.

My grades were declining, and my teachers noticed that I could not be attentive in class, which was not usual for me. After a couple of interactions with my school counsellor, she called my parents. My school counsellor suggested to my parents that I seek professional help. My parents were so desperate to ‘fix’ my unwelcomed behaviour that they gave therapy a shot. They agreed to take me to a professional counsellor.

This was a big turning point in my life. Even though my parents sent me to therapy, thinking that I would be “mended”, but in reality, I found myself. I realized I didn’t need fixing, I needed someone to talk to. My counsellor lent me an ear, made sure I was comfortable, and slowly delved into my neglected emotions, which had been pent up for these long years. I learned to see patterns and became more aware of myself. I was slowly starting to heal and my unhelpful behaviour subsided. I started to look forward to coming to therapy.

As the sessions went by, I felt more comfortable knowing who I am and what I want my future to look like. I felt more joyful and confident. This reflected in my academics and also made my social life better. Slowly, I was able to make peace with the burden of expectations that I had been a victim of and realized that it’s okay to not live up to expectations that others have set for me because, in the end, I’ve only got one life and all I need to do is to be the best possible version of myself, one step at a time.

But there was still something left to do. The challenge of talking to my own father about my future career decisions. Towards the end of my therapy, I felt ready to tell my father that I don’t wish to take their pre-decided career path, rather I want to carve my own path. So, with all the strength I could muster, I told my father that I wanted to talk to him about my future and my career. He agreed, so when I politely but assertively opposed the idea of becoming what he had chosen for me, he was visibly disappointed. But he wanted to know what I had in mind. I sensed a bit of curiosity, so I decided to steer the conversation in a way that he would find reassuring and patiently answered his concerns. And rightly so, my father, when he heard of my future plan, was convinced and also started to believe in me.

All this could happen through counselling, as counselling helped me learn more about myself, gain more clarity on my life choices and fight the fear holding me back from communicating with my father in a convincing manner.

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