My daughter went through college applications and applied to many of the top colleges. She wants to study film and we are happy to support her pursuit of her dream. However, she was not accepted to many of her choices. She was devastated. She was disappointed with the outcome and in some ways with herself. She felt she was not smart. She went through serious self-doubt during this period.
As a mom, it hurts to see her down. As Asian parents, we tend to want our kids to get to top colleges so we can brag about their accomplishments to friends and family. Academic success is still seen as a highway to success in life and a ticket to wealth. I realised this is my ego talking and this is us, as parents super-imposing our hopes onto our kids. Whatever is the outcome, my role as a mom is to support her and it is during this difficult time that she needs my love more than ever.
First of all I would like her to know she is a smart young lady. Not getting to her ideal college is one of many challenges she would face in life. What I want her to remember is that when you fall, you have to pick yourself up. People around you can cheer you but it is up to you to get up, shake off the dust, wipe those tears, and continue to walk towards your destination. Simply giving up will not help you reach your goal. Staying put and not wanting to try again because you are afraid to fail will not help you fulfil your dream. We all go through ups and downs in life. What matters most is to keep trying.
That said, there are many ways of trying. It takes a combination of working hard and working smart. It takes setting a goal and making plans to achieve those goals. It takes good time management and focus. It may require reaching out to others for help. It may require listening and learning from others. It may mean reading and researching. Simply working hard without a strategy is not impactful. And it took me decades to realise my own mistake of believing that simply working hard will help me with my goals. Combing dedication and grit with a strategy is far more impactful.
It is important to be forward looking; put aside self-doubts, self-pity and just move on. Yet I feel it helps to take a peek over our shoulder and reflect on what we have not done or what we have done that resulted in us tripping over. The purpose is not for us to indulge in the past, it is for us to learn from the past so we can avoid making the same mistakes going forward.
What I want my daughter to know is not to give up on her dreams. Dreams are precious. What my primary school teacher told me when I was still this little girl in pony tail and pinafore is to aim for the stars. Even if you do not get those stars, you will come close enough.
My daughter, I will cheer you throughout your journey and I am excited to see how the future unfolds for you. I am sure with every step, you will become a stronger and better person.