My dad’s an elevator mechanic, and my mum’s an acupuncturist. Now that’s out of the way, and we can get on with the conversation. Can we, though? I’ve gone through life with a disproportionate sense of dread around people asking me what my parents do. It’s a question that tends to be asked less and less as I get older, but it was asked enough times in my childhood to put me permanently on edge around that topic.
See, it’s fine to have one parent with a mildly unusual career, but two? That’s grounds for (a) schoolyard teasing or (b) relentless questioning. Other kids would usually opt for (a), and grown-ups for (b). At the end of the day, it all gets very boring – especially the remarks about how life must never be boring for me. Um, of course it gets boring. I’m not the one who’s got an unusual job, and even if I was, what’s that got to do with the price of tea kettles?
I remember being at uni and attending a career consulting service. Melbourne universities are big on this sort of thing – supporting you to find your path and whatnot. For whatever reason, I waited anxiously to be asked what my parents did, but it never happened. Finally, I blurted it out, and the consultant just looked at me weirdly and asked why that was relevant. That’s when I realised I’d integrated into my identity in a somewhat unhealthy way.
Career coaching for high school students is kind of a different thing, at least in my experience. Maybe it’s different now. Maybe they no longer grill kids on what their parents do, trying to surmise if that might be a good fit. Maybe there isn’t an assumption that I must amount to an elevator acupuncturist. I’m not sure if that’s someone who does acupuncture on elevators, or someone who does it on humans while in elevators, but either way, it’s not my path.