Held Back by Others’ Expectations

“To those whom much is given, much is expected.”

This quote echoes through my being as I discuss potential changes in my life direction with my parents. Currently, it holds me back. Their opinion of what I am doing and how I measure up carries enormous weight. For it is true — they have given me so much and I should use the gifts that they have provided to create a meaningful life. But what if our definition of meaning is different? They seem more interested in titles, money, ensuring that I can live an American Dream…

What happens when my dream is so much different than theirs? Historically, it has led to a middle ground — I will succeed in the current system, but I will do it in my own way.

But these gifts: education,  critical thinking skills, a desire to do what is right, an impetus toward spiritual growth…they have led to different realizations about the way that the world works and my place in it than what they had hoped. They want me to live the actions of these realizations “on the side”, as my hobbies, which is what I have been doing, but what if that is no longer enough? I need real skills, I need to create change, I need to feel free…and I don’t know if that’s possible  in my current situation.  Maybe “on the side” will be enough as I finish 3 more years of a PhD (isn’t 4 enough?) because maybe this degree will open more opportunities to bring about the change I wish to see, and the title is certainly appealing. But why is this even appealing? It’s just some ego-feeding nonsense that creates a false hierarchy in society. While having a PhD is a good indication that a person can work independently on a project and probably possesses a certain type of intelligence, it does not say anything about one’s character, moral outlook, and ability to perform intelligently in a variety of useful ways. Of course, this is not to say that this is always the case. I have just been surprised by the number of supposedly intelligent people (PhDs and the like) I have met that are not more inspired to create change in areas outside of work (and how much impact will our work actually have in the world at large?).

As I look at the world and all the new directions that could be taken to create a more sustainable way of life (and how urgently they are needed!), I have to wonder if my academic course is truly the best one to impart change. I began this path believing in the conservation and education mission of the zoo (or at least believing that these stated missions might be a possibility) and that I could learn the skills and get the qualifications I need to live my truth through this course of study. It seems that a more radical plan of action is needed…

Will I break free?

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