In Debt to Parents

About a month ago, I had a conversation with a friend from China, a fellow international student. She told me that, being a lesbian, someday she would like to come out to her parents. Five minutes later, I got a rough idea about how strict her parents were – in making sure she followed their “life guidelines.” Having read quite a few opinions about coming out to the family, a friend and I tried to advise her that she should come out when she is financially independent. She laughed and said that even if she has her own place, her mom would come and drag her back and lock her up in the house for three months (of course, this was a hyperbolic joke on how restrictive her mom is). Finally, she said that she hated how her parents controlled her life with money.

At this statement, I shut my mouth up. This was exactly how I felt several years ago, and I still do occasionally. The culture in which I grow up is different than the one here. Children don’t have to get part-time jobs to get pocket money or save up for college. Parents would make sure they have enough money to pay their children’s education and lifestyle fees, even to support the children after they have their own jobs, buying their first cars or houses. In turn, children should be obedient to what their parents say.

For international students like me and my Chinese friend, the matter is taken way worse. My parents told me that the fee for a year of my education equals to the amount it took for my sister for her four-year schooling in one of the country’s most expensive universities. I need four years too – at least (of course, I could take courses in summer, but it doesn’t contribute to reducing the fees). That doesn’t include other fees for rent, groceries, etc.

I’ll have to confess: I dislike getting in contact with my parents. Whenever we Skyped each other, my mom would ask, in her intentionally-innocent tone, “So, have you thought about your future?” I would tell her my plans for the fifth time, then she would say, “Are you sure you’ll get a decent payment?” Afterwards, I would be reminded – and evoked to feel guilty – on how the fees for me to study abroad is not cheap, that I should at least take a major that promises definite future. Then she would ask – again, with the innocent tone – why I didn’t choose to take Psychology instead, because “You like it, don’t you?” Every time this question rose up, I had the strong temptation to remind her that three years ago she told me I wouldn’t fit into Psychology, that I didn’t have what it takes. Now that I have decided on a major that, I hope, would support me in reaching a future I have always dreamed of, she would rather opt for the better-than-nothing unfitting major. But no, I shut myself up to avoid an argument. Only by God’s miracle – and Dad’s compassionate intervention – that I’m still studying what I’m passionate in. But it’s not over yet. My parents – yes, Dad included – would like me to stay here, find a job, and get myself a Permanent Resident card. Because it would be useless to pay for my extraordinary university fees if I don’t get one. What I want is to get a job somewhere abroad because I want to see the world, not to get privileges for later years. Also, I’ve read a lot of news about people who abuse their newly acquired Permanent Resident status – and I’d hate to be one of the jerks.

On the other hand, I dare not say what my friend stated. I feel that children do have responsibilities to listen to their parents who obviously want only the best for them, even if what they define as “the best” is different from ours. Contrary to how it may seem, parents are not being controlling just because they like to. They have the good intention of making sure we live comfortably, and, due to our young age and lack of experience, feel that it is their job to guide – or perhaps lead – us. And to control with money… Well, they work hard for their children and give what they have to their children. The good intention comes even without the extra amount of money. They are two different subjects that happen to come together – and can be used to support each other.

Knowing this, yes, I would be in debt to my parents for all the fees they paid during my whole life. This is the downside of not getting a government loan, with signed legal contracts and exact amount to pay. What makes my debt indefinite and innumerable is because it comes with the good intention and care, which will always be priceless no matter how much I pay them in money or obedience. Coming out or not coming out, it’s hard enough for me to turn from them and say, “No.”


One Response

  1. I feel you.. but we are totally in debt to our parents..especially when she occasionally mentioned the 9 months condition…

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