One night during my junior year in high school, Dad sat me down at the dinner table to discuss how my college search was going. Pulling out a notepad, he asked me to list the schools I was considering. He looked a little confused after the first school I mentioned. Then when I finished my list and he realized I hadn't included any engineering schools, he got upset.
"I thought you wanted to be an engineer!"
"Well, I changed my mind," I responded.
He then launched into a half-disappointed, half-angry reply about how I was running away from my strengths.
It was hard to argue with his logic. I knew I was good at math. A career in engineering would make good use of my natural abilities. But I'd already thought through that possibility and decided that working endless equations sounded dry and boring. That's why I'd switched the focus of my search from engineering schools to liberal arts colleges. The problem was, I'd failed to mention my change of heart to my mom and dad. Not a smart move.
For the rest of the evening, my dad and I argued. I tried to convince him of the merit in liberal arts. He told me bluntly I was planning to "waste" my education.
That night I couldn't fall asleep. I kept replaying the same stubborn questions: Who does Dad think he is? I'm choosing a college, not him. What's his problem? At the same time, I was trying to smother the empty, confused feeling in the back of my mind that said my dad might be right. I might be making a mistake.
Eventually, with a little help from my mom, my dad accepted my decision to attend a liberal arts school—but that didn't end the conflict. When the applications I'd sent for began to arrive in the mail, my mom would hand them to me and often comment, "We'd never let you go there." But I ignored her. Her disapproval actually made me more determined to stubbornly bull my way into the school of my choice. My attitude only invited more detailed objections from my parents. "That's too far away! That costs too much! That school isn't Christian!"
One by one they eliminated most of the schools I was considering. But I didn't let that phase me. I had worked hard in high school, and my grades showed it. So I thought I deserved to go to the school of my choice. Ignoring the obvious financial power my parents had over my college decision, I waited for them to come to the same conclusion.
For most of my senior year, my parents and I locked horns. I sent my applications in, two of them to schools that didn't fit my parents' rules, and ignored most of what they had to say. They kind of ignored me, too.
In mid-April we had to call a truce—the final decision had to be made. I found myself staring back at them from across the dining room table, feeling tense and defensive. They began by asking me to name my top choice. I was shocked to discover that their choice was the same as mine!
"When we toured the campus, I could just see you fitting there," my dad admitted.
Wait a minute. Was this really my dad talking?
"My only problem with the school is the price. I just think some other schools are a better deal financially."
I knew it! I knew this was too good to be true.
I couldn't hold back my frustration any longer. "I've done my part," I said to my dad. "I've done everything that could be asked of a high school student. Doesn't that mean I deserve to go to the school of my choice? I mean, isn't that what the American Dream is all about? For crying out loud, what more do you want from me?!" I left the table, awkwardly slamming my chair into its place.
Retreating to the basement, I left my parents to sort out their financial concerns. They're not being fair! my mind screamed. As I paced back and forth across the room, I tried to sort through my anger and bitterness. What was it that had made me so upset?