A friend is being pressured by her family to marry a guy that she’s casually dating, but doesn’t love. Another recently-married couple is being urged to have kids. Some of my undergrads are being told by their families that they absolutely should - or absolutely must not - consider grad school.
When we’re faced with a big life decision, we often solicit the advice of friends and loved ones (and some contribute unsolicited opinions, too). Unfortunately, all this (often conflicting) advice may just muddy the waters, and make a tough decision tougher. It’s hard to go with your gut, and choose what’s best for you, knowing that some of your significant others are going to disapprove, or feel that you’ve gone against their advice.
When I considered going to grad school to pursue my Ph.D., there were a lot of naysayers. Some of these were people who love me very much, and play significant roles in my life. They expressed concerns that I was “too old” (i.e., not in my twenties?), that the job market was too difficult, that I’d be too far from “home.” I went anyway. Some of my “advisors” have admitted, in hindsight, that they were wrong, or that they should have kept some of these opinions to themselves. But it was hard for me to move forward, knowing that I did not have their approval or support.
It’s difficult to make a big life decision, and I think part of the challenge is putting this “Greek chorus” in its proper place in our heads. Yes, our friends and loved ones will bring up important issues that we should consider, but they may also have their own motives. In the end, we are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of our decisions.
It’s tough to say “I’ve considered your input, but I feel this is the right decision for me.” But you know, my friend doesn’t see herself marrying that guy, and the young couple I mentioned might be ready for kids someday, but not now.
As for grad school, it might just be something that can’t be understood from the outside. And we can support each other.