It is to the consensus of many that, as a single child, it’s an easy life. That we get everything we want. That we are “spoiled brats” or “daddy’s girl” or “mummy’s boy”. Often these thoughts are projected by those who do not identify themselves as single children and therefore, the concept of being one is most likely foreign to them.
The expectations that are put on single children are never spoken of.
We are expected to be excellent at everything we do. These outside expectations unconsciously put a whole lot of pressure on us – to do better, be better, to change our world and everyone else’s.
I expect myself to be perfect – the perfect daughter who can cook perfect meals, achieve perfect grades, be popular and pretty, study medicine or law or accounting or engineering.
I expect myself to not be distracted, to always be focussed, disciplined, get a good job and earn the bread. And because of this, I jumped straight into A-levels right out of high school because I thought it was the best pre-university programme out there. I found that it wasn’t the best for me. And then I found myself before my parents, declaring that I wanted something less “mainstream”, so I opted for another programme.
And then when it came to university, I had no clue as to what I wanted to do with my life – but of course, I had to be perfect, right? I had to know these things immediately. So, I enrolled myself into engineering at a prestigious school. A year later, I found myself home and before my parents yet again, a failure.
I was heartbroken with myself because I couldn’t fulfil my parents’ wishes.
My mother advised that I take accounting, but I didn’t want to sit and stare at numbers all day. I then took a gap year to try and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I’ve always loved animals, and so I volunteered at a local vet to test the waters. I learned more during that 1-month experience than the one year I spent at engineering school. I learned how to sympathize, empathize, care for ailing pets and their owners, and even watched a dog die due to poison before my eyes on the X-ray table. I knew then that I wanted to be a vet. And so, I did my research, but options were too expensive, or too limited.
Again, I felt discouraged.
But I was determined to salvage whatever time I had left, so on a whim, I enrolled into a dietetics programme. It’s been three years, and every day I’ve been haunted by the fact that I should be working now. I should be earning the perfect bread now. Everyday when I see my parents, I feel like a failure. I am the only child, the only person in this world who should be making them proud, and yet here I am, fumbling through my degree and being distracted by everything under the sun.
I’m learning new things, sure, and developing new interests, but do those things matter?
I don’t know.
I want to earn the bread to support my parents. To buy them anything and everything. To take them on month-long trips. To be the perfect child everyone wants. But it’s difficult. I want my parents to see me with a good man, to have a secured future, but I don’t know whether I really want to be tied down so soon.
But I can’t tell my parents that because I know they’ll be sad.
So, I’ve learned to play along with it. Play the part of the perfect daughter. The world is my stage, and although I’m fumbling through my script, I’ve learned to improvise as I go, all in the name of pleasing my parents, who make up the only audience I care about.
The only happiness that matters to me is theirs.
And when you’ve got your eyes set on that one goal, nothing else matters. Gone is the fear, the doubts, the second-guessing of yourself. It is liberating to be so sure of yourself, to know that whatever decision you make from here on out is another step towards that goal.