An Uncompromising Position

by Jennifer R. Peters | 11/19/97 6:00am

I spent the last two terms off-campus, living with my family at home. Though some people groan at the thought, I consciously planned this so I could spend quality time with my parents and younger brother before I go off to who-knows-where after graduation. I cherished the time with them, yet I couldn't wait to get back to campus to regain my independent identity. I spent the six non-Dartmouth months soul-searching and trying to see into the fog of the future where I might be headed next.

Only recently has the fog begun to lift to show the previously hidden path before me. Since it is my senior year, my parents have made an effort to engage me in dialogue about my future -- my upcoming post-Dartmouth plans and my long-term goals and aspirations. These conversations highlight some of the differences between our similar though not identical values. For example, my father is a businessman and an engineer who has worked hard and done well in life. He and my mother strongly value hard work and they have taught me to do the same. Of course, if someone works hard, they should receive an amount of money that reflects their value to the company and society in general. The occupations to which I am drawn do not appear to be valued by our society. My parents do see their inherent worth my mother herself was a teacher. But they see so much potential in my abilities and my freedom to choose my next step in life that they wish it to be something that allows me a materially comfortable life as they have had.

These discussions place me in an awkward situation; I cannot change who I am or what is important to me. This is at the core of what makes Jen truly Jen and is not something I am able to compromise on. I am willing to listen to the desires and goals they have for my life and how they see them being accomplished. However this does not mean I can accept their goals as my own. I have gone through almost 21 years of my life leaning heavily upon my parents -- as a support, an impetus to push me toward what is best, and suppliers of the material with which to form my dreams. I have needed this support and they have given it to me; for this I am grateful to them. The time has come when I am formulating my own dreams and plans for how to achieve them. I still need their support; I won't collapse without it, but I want them to continue to be involved in the important parts of my life.

This last transition to adult independence has not started smoothly. I feel incapable of sufficiently explaining why I want and need to follow what have become my dreams. How does one explain the heart's desires? It has taken years for my heart to decide what it longs for; I can only trust that after taking so long to search and decide, it knows what it's talking about.

I am not excited about returning home for December. I know I can look forward to heated exchanges between my heart and theirs. I pray that the past couple months of me again living away from home has helped them as it has helped me. My vision has been cleared of the cluttering dreams that are not mine; I hope it has helped them begin to let go and recognize my need to live as myself and not as their young, dependent, and dreamless daughter.