We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

← Back to all stories
Photo ofSahasra Enjeeti

Who I "Want" To Be Sahasra Enjeeti

I woke up to a blast of sunshine. A smile spread across my face. It was my birthday! I finally turned 10. I opened my eyes to see my parents in front of me with a present. After I opened it, my mom’s phone started ringing. It was my grandparents. 

My grandparents had high hopes for me, my sister, and my cousins. I wanted to live up to them. But when they chose my life path, I didn’t know what to say.

“Happy Birthday, Sahasra! Make sure to study well and have the highest grades in your class. I hope for you to become a doctor.”

I replied with a half-hearted “Thank you.” I understood that they wanted the best for me considering that they couldn’t achieve their goals when they were younger, but I knew this wasn’t what I wanted. Whenever we went to India and when they called, they would repeat it again and again and each time all I could say was “ok.” I didn’t realize that this would make me feel guilty.

When other people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer with an I don’t know. When I said it out loud, I felt as if I was betraying them in some way. Because it was their answer that replayed in my head. I’ve wanted to live up to their expectations, but I guess I never thought that by doing that, I would be miserable. It wasn’t only in this situation where I felt like I had to live up to expectations.

My parents had always expected me to get straight A’s and to have the best grades in my class. Being in middle school, it seemed easy enough. After the first term of 7th grade, I had an A-. All I can remember about that day was the disappointment on my mom’s face. So, I tried harder. I studied for every single test. But, no matter how much I tried, I got scores that disappointed me. I didn’t give up because I knew I could achieve it. And my sister getting the award for having the highest grades in the 8th grade two years before me didn’t help. I wanted to live up to that expectation, but all I saw were the ways that I couldn’t.

Then, 8th grade started. I wanted to get that award to prove that I could achieve their expectations. The cycle started again and I studied every resource that we received, and that never was enough. 

First trimester grades came in and I got A’s and A+’s which was great except that other people in my grade did better than me. That changed me from happy to sad in seconds flat.

Thinking about how I could live up to their expectations, a question popped into my head. Who was I doing this for? As much as I wanted the answer to be myself, it wasn’t. It was something that I wanted to show my family that I could live up to the goals that they had set for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do good in school, I did, but it was the fact that I wanted to do my best for them when I should have been focused on what I wanted for myself.

When I went to India that February and my grandparents repeated their proclamation, I stood up for myself and told them that becoming a doctor isn’t my goal. The results of my life should either be excitement or disappointment for my reasons and not theirs. 

Telling them made me feel free, and the guilt that I had felt for a while was gone. I realized that setting goals for myself was something I needed to do to become a better me, and letting other people do it for me would only affect me.

© Sahasra Enjeeti. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.