Monday, September 15, 2014

Calling in Relationship

Before you get to far into this post, I wanted to introduce myself as a friend of Elaine's who will be sharing this blog for the next couple of months. My name is Virginia and I belong to the same cohort as Elaine. The purpose for us sharing this blog is to offer insight into the various articles we will be reading for a course on career theories. With that said, I hope you enjoy my first post!

"There's a lot of pressure being the child of immigrants."
"Why's that?"
"My mother is Thai, my father is from Chile. They met while working at a restaurant. There's a knowledge among first generation immigrants-- that they aren't going to be the ones to achieve the American Dream. They have to work hard and struggle so that their children will have a shot at it. So they educate their children and pass the Dream along to them. And now I have an obligation to make more fucking money than them, to live the American Dream, to validate all the risks they took and everything they went through. And that's a heavy burden.”
(Humans of New York, Facebook, September 9, 2013)

    As a young adult, my dad used to go out most nights to work as a backup singer and guitarist in four local bands, playing with a different one each night. He describes this period of his life with pride, often throwing around monetary figures to emphasize how successful he was and claiming that had he continued in this business, fame would have soon followed. Despite this, I can’t remember ever hearing him play an entire song.

    The quote above was originally posted onto the Facebook page “Humans of New York.” I too am the child of first generation immigrants. My dad first emigrated from Mexico in 1980 and my mom followed in 1988. Since then, my dad has been employed in the restaurant industry, as a musician, and in several foundries. From him, I’ve heard about the struggles it took to get to and support a family in the United States. I was also, at first forcefully, sent to school and have been given guidelines for finding my first “real job.” According to my dad, my first employment will pay a minimum of $30/hour (those exist?). Suffice to say, I can relate entirely to the person quoted above.

    Despite my childhood indifference towards school, I currently find myself in a graduate program interested in what constitutes a “calling,” among other things. Having read a few articles I have formed two preliminary conclusions about “callings”: 1) “calling” includes the self and others, and 2) “callings” are interdependent. In this post, I want to analyze calling in connection to the immigrant parent/child relationship.

    For anyone looking for a brief but informative piece about “calling”, I point you to Zhang et al (2014) who studied conceptions of “calling” in Chinese culture and compared those to Western idealizations. Interpreted in their findings was the participants’ interest in serving their families and communities. They note that many of the participants glorified jobs that serve others. However, I argue that calling is not entirely related to the position held by the person, but rather to the application of benefits gained from the job. In other words, who is benefiting from an immigrant parent holding a job?

    I assert that the answer is the child. My parent’s work has lead to my well-being despite never having experienced a job as labor intensive as I imagine their work to be. Sharing these benefits with me has forced my parents to push aside their hobbies. In my dad’s case, having a family forced him to quit musical night gigs and apply for more stable employment. However, he did more than just quit a few bands, he stopped playing. What fore fronted his decision to stop doing something he enjoyed? One possibility is that he separated aspects of his life into serious activities and pleasure activities. While creating that separation between serious work and pleasure work, he never attempted to marry the two.

   This brings me to my second conclusion, that “calling” is interdependent. My dad’s goals have always changed when mine have. He plans to one day return to Mexico, making this the only part of his plan that remains unchanged. How long it takes him to move back changes depending on my plans. Right now, he plans on returning to Mexico in a year, but when I announce my plans to pursue a PhD I can accurately predict that this time frame will change by about four years. Although I cannot speak for him, I assume he is motivated by family practices, which involve younger family members providing for older members. Both of my parents are eager to enter that phase of their lives but are heavily influenced by the hopes of my attaining the high-paying employment that is expected of someone with higher levels of education. My failure to do so would break this chain of “callings” and would invalidate all of their efforts.

    To end this long post, I ask for any suggestions, comments, questions, etc. For any immigrant parents or their children, what do you perceive your “calling” to be? For the parents out there, is there anything you gave up to pursue your “calling”?

Zhang, C., Dik, B. J., Wei, J., & Zhang, J. (2014). Work as a calling in China: A qualitative study of Chinese college students. Journal of Career Assessment. doi: 10.1177/1069072714535029

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