Art as a Hobby, But it Better Not Be Your Career
Vietnamese parents are strict when it comes to education. They have good reasons to be strict when it comes to their kids. Many parents do not want to see their kids go through what they went through as immigrants. They don’t want their kids to know what it feels like to be truly poor.
Education is an important factor; without an education, parents believe their children would not be able to get good jobs. Without good jobs how will kids support themselves in the future?
On the other hand, what are children to do when they are not interested in being a doctor or an engineer? But somehow these students still study hard to please their parents. Some Vietnamese parents like their kids to be exposed to art, yet they don’t support the idea of it as a lifetime career.
Some Asian Americans grow up with parents who encourage them to do art as an extracurricular activity as they see some intrinsic value in it, yet others do not encourage at all.
A friend of mine, Ken, talked about his experience growing up: “My mother was too busy working and providing for us. She was also not knowledgeable enough about the American culture to push us toward sports, music, art, etc”. As someone who grew up in a Vietnamese family, his words resonates with me. My parents are too busy working to provide for us so we may have the best future and can buy the best things. But, are they really too busy working that they don’t have time to take us out to enjoy a trip to the museum?
Photos by Jackie Huynh
In a typical Vietnamese American family, parents often push their children to do better in school as compared to their counterparts. These kids end up fulfill stereotypes given to Asians students such as being good in math and science. They are also expected to attend prestigious universities. Going to a well known college is a way to ensure their kids will have a successful financial future.
Parents urge their kids to go into fields such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). STEM is understandably important in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here, you will not see many Asian students pursuing a full-time career in the arts. “Parents want the best for their children and they think STEM is a guaranteed path to security," says Ken. It definitely is an important factor because we live in Silicon Valley. These fields are perceived to be the future.
I discovered my passion for photography at an early age. My parents seem very supportive of my passion. They allow me to do my art as much as my time outside of school allows. They always praise me for being able to create beautiful images and for being able to develop film on my own. I am doing well with photography as compared to my classmates. I even placed first in many art competitions. My work is recognized by my teacher. He offered me a job at a photo studio. The idea of having a job as a photographer appeals to me more and more, because I love doing it so much.
When I proposed this idea to my parents, they objected immediately. The idea of having photography as a career is not encouraged by them at all. They believe it will be hard to find jobs and photographers do not earn a lot of money. I always wondered why they objected my idea even though I have received paying jobs here and there to take photos. I am getting mixed signals from them. I am allowed to do something I love, yet I am not encouraged to pursue it full time. Their objection confuses me still.
Art is something we all do in our daily lives especially with photography. Do you remember snapping a photo of your food with your smartphone? That's you creating art.
I am still contemplating why my parents act this way. With their approach, we cannot and will not reach our dreams. Many of us become discouraged as we are forced to find the next least boring subject to study in school in the hopes of earning more money.
I believe chasing dreams is something we all should be able to do. At the same time I do understand why Vietnamese parents want their children to choose the safest route.
It all comes down to the question of which route will you choose? Your dreams or your parents' dreams?
If you like stories like this, subscribe to Chopsticks Alley.
Additional Resource for Artists:
Chopsticks Alley Art: Chopsticks Alley Art promotes Southeast Asian cultural heritage through the creative shared expression of art by underserved Asian artists to foster greater understanding, acceptance and support among individuals with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and youths.
What is STEAM? (Science, Technology, Engineer, Art, and Math)
Jackie is a student at San Jose State University majoring in Business. He has a passion for photography and film photography. He likes to capture everyday images to create tangible memories from his Vietnamese American perspective.