• Omar Waheed

Opinion: Subvert expectations from your (minority) family to chase your passions



Practicality, a high paying job, job security and relatively close to their home. All honestly reasonable requests from your family.

What if that is not what you want? You went to college, maybe from family pressure or maybe for personal goals, regardless of the question that floats around always is about jobs.

Which brings it to what is expected of you. Maybe you come from a line of doctors or lawyers, so the pressure is on to follow through on that. Keeping the family legacy strong as you pursue something you know you can accomplish with ample support and understanding from your family seems like a cake walk. Get a cushy job with the family practice.

Maybe there was none for you. You might be the first to go to college in your family and now the pressure is on. You had to come up with your own life’s path to satisfy them.

You might come from a family of immigrants and the expectations of what you are going to do in your life is laid out with no room to be yourself.

Did you take the time to consider what you want? What is truly best for you? Eighteen is a horrible age to have to choose your life path because the truth is that you are still a child no matter how much you refute it and claim “I’m grown.”

I could pose a 100 hypothetical questions, but let’s dive into me and understand the importance of figuring out you and what is best for you despite any expectations.

I am the child of a Pakistani immigrant and a mixed race American high school dropout. I was born on the north side of Milwaukee with poorly funded schools and my parents decided to bus me out to Greenfield to attend Elmdale Elementary, a very well-funded public school in Wisconsin.

Time went and that was it. Finish primary education and then secondary then go do whatever. There was no expectation for me, so I drifted between things I liked. My mom went back to get her GED and then her associates after a mid-life crisis and then encouraged my older brother, who like me did not have any expectations, to do the same — reluctantly he did.

When it came to look at myself and figure out what I wanted out of life, there was not much. We moved to a nice suburb in West Des Moines after my father started a business in Valley Junction. His expectation was that I should go into business eventually and start my own. While to some degree I did want to do that, it just was not the same as what he did. I did not want to franchise convenience stores and buy property. It seemed too narrow and safe to me.

What I did find myself interested in was software engineering, animation, advocacy, comedy, spirituality, finance, literature, writing, film and arts. I applied to a lot of universities and got into almost all of them but segmented my interests to each application. The results were me being aimless again as I was encouraged to go through with the field I was most reluctant of: animation.

I attended the program for a year and then dropped out. I hated the program and realized I did not want that but still was unaware of what I wanted. I took some time to work and travel to discover myself only to realize that I could chase the thing I have loved, and suspiciously what my father wanted, business. After two years of taking time to find myself, I went back to school to get my associates. I realized in that bit of time getting my first degree, I wanted more and knew exactly what it was—everything.

I did not want to be in a box, so I decided to chase all of my passions and congregate them into one goal. My problem was never a lack of vision, it was a lack of focus. I was never unable; I was just too unsure of myself. Now I am.

Now in getting my bachelors, I felt behind from my peers I graduated high school with in 2015. I was essentially starting my life three years later than them.

I felt some type of loss in time but knew that gap was what I needed. I went for Marketing and Journalism and while I do not care for half of what I studied (the marketing one), I saw it as a necessary portion of my goal.

Now I’m about to go work on my masters. I am doing things I did not know I wanted because I took time to listen to myself.

After my mother went back to school, she encouraged me to chase a career in medicine and I seriously considered it. My father wanted me to follow in his footsteps and grind until I can afford to start my own business comparable to his. I do not mind the grind of it all. The pressure, the stress, the sleepless nights, the anxiety, etc., but I would rather die than do anything anyone in my family has already done. My family is filled with successful businessmen, doctors and engineers. I do not want to cop out and follow something I know would work out.

I want to start my own publishing company. A way I would be able to use all of my passions. A way to use my drive for art, business, literature, films and more to help others show the world their passion. I never cared for myself as much as I appreciated seeing the works of others thrive.

On the flip side, sometimes I wish that there were some expectations for me earlier on. I wish someone had told me what I should be doing, where my goals should take me. Some formula from my family on how to be successful and make them proud, but I do not play with “what ifs?”

The point of this, well, is to lead into our next podcast episode, and to make you think about yourself while reading another story about me, a 25 year old (goodness I’m aging) former drop out.

There is not a soul on this planet that can tell you not to follow your dreams but you. The only person in your way is you. Not to sound like some cheesy finance bro, but no one can stop you from being who and what you want to be. If you fail, then try again. Put all of your eggs in one basket and if the eggs break, get some more eggs.

Listen to “Just a Feeling” this Friday to hear more from our hosts, me, Max Lisowski and Caden Washburn.

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