Karthik Pasupathy (aka KP)

Are Middle-Class Families Teaching Their Kids To Give up in Life?

Are Middle-Class Families Teaching Their Kids To Give up in Life

A couple of weeks back, I wanted to eat chapati for dinner. My mom and wife decided to make dosa for themselves as they thought it would go nicely with the fish curry they made that afternoon. Since I don’t eat fish, I decided to get some ready-made chapatis and eat it with Mayo or pressure cook a small bowl of dal to go with it.

I went to the grocery store near my house to get ready-made chapatis, but they didn’t have any. I went to another shop on the same street, but the ones they had had expired the day before. So, I came back home to take my motorcycle so that I can go to the nearby supermarket to check if they have ready-made chapatis.

When I was about to step out of the house, my mom said “Why try so hard for a pack of chapatis? If you’re meant to have chapati today, you would’ve gotten it by now. I don’t think you’re meant to. Be home and I’ll make some dosas for you”

I nodded my head but told my mom that I want to give it a shot. I went to the supermarket and came back with a pack of ready-made chapatis. That evening I had chapati for dinner.

If I had stayed home and not made that extra effort, I would’ve thought that I wasn’t meant to have chapatis for dinner and ended up having dosas. A small incident made me realize the difference between giving up and going the extra mile.

When I look at it now I can’t help but wonder why we were always told it is okay to give up if something doesn’t go our way.

The Fox and the Grape – the Only Story We Remember

A lot of times we give up and compromise when we’re on the brink of achieving or getting something we wanted. Reason? Could be due to parents, relatives, or friends telling us that we’re not meant for it or we ourselves are too tired to try out even though we know that there was only one last thing that was left to do before giving up.

I think a lot of that comes from the way we’re brought up. A lot of the kids who belong to middle-class and lower-middle-class families often told that good things happen if they’re destined to happen to them.

Since our childhood, we’ve been conditioned to believe that. I guess even Paulo Coehlo said something along those lines. Maybe I saw a quote on the internet that said he did. Maybe Paulo Coehlo was brought up in a middle-class family. Who knows!

And, we cling to this specific life lesson because it indirectly tells us that giving up is okay. Even now, of all the stories we came across in our childhood, we only remember the “Fox and the Grape” story from Aesop fables.

The Middle-class Rule book

As kids of middle-class families, we were asked to put in all the hard work only when it came to studies. Nobody encouraged us to take up art, writing, or entrepreneurship. Starting a business is considered taboo but my parents always admired the hard work of billionaires and used to say “See! This is hard work” when they read about Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.  For some weird reason, our parents believe that one can become Bezos or Elon by working in a 9 to 5 job.

I’m not against a 9 to 5. It is one of the greatest inventions of mankind. Good money, great benefits, and predictable growth. Everything our family wants for us is bundled together in a neat little package.

As kids and young adults, we’re always encouraged to get jobs and asked not to think about anything else. You might remember them saying “Work hard. Get settled. And, then do whatever you want.”

we were never taught to chase our dreams, or go the extra mile, or give it our everything before giving up. We were quoted Bhagavat Geetha – “Do your duties and don’t expect anything in return – do your karma” or sweet proverbs like “do your best. God will do the rest”.

Looking back, I realize that proverbs like these are so believable they made us too comfortable and stopped us from taking risks. Maybe I am wrong.

As a kid, I strongly believed  “If you don’t get what you wish for, it the universe’s way of saying that you’re not meant to have it.” It made me give up one of the biggest opportunities in life.

A missed opportunity

In 2013, I quit my job as a junior software developer in a big corporation to pursue a career in photography. I was not good at being a software developer and I felt that I’m taking up the space that could use someone who is really good at frontend development. Also, I was getting some wedding and travel photography assignments that gave me the confidence to quit my job and do something on my own. My parents were hesitant about the idea and after a bit of convincing, they agreed to it.

For the next five months, I was busy. I shot at a bunch of weddings and was making decent money to justify my decision. One of my lecturers offered me money to help me set up my own studio and told me that I could pay back when I am making good money. But, I denied it as I strongly believed that I could pull this off without external support. Another friend sent me an external flash from the US and refused payment for it. People loved what I did and they supported me. Not long after that things started going downhill.

I stopped getting orders and the sales cycle got longer. In Tamilnadu, there are a couple of months where there won’t be any weddings. Wedding photographers usually prepare themselves by taking up other assignments such as baby photography, maternity shoot, and travel assignments. I didn’t know that back then. I was new and was trying to figure my way into the business. Two months without much income and my parents were worried about my future. They started convincing me saying they were afraid this would happen and this was the reason they were hesitant from the beginning. They started telling me to find a ‘secure’ job with a monthly paycheck. They said maybe I wasn’t meant to be in the photography business.

It made sense. So, I joined as an academic writer for a salary that was one-third of what I was earning at photography. I gave up photography because I believed that I wasn’t meant to succeed in what I decided to do. How stupid! Looking back, I would say this is one of the very few decisions I regret in my life. I should’ve stayed around. It was only six months since I started! If I stuck around, I would’ve figured something out. I would’ve bounced back. The sad thing was I was made to believe that I was not meant for it and what was even sadder was I believed it. I took the easy way out. I gave up. If either my dad or mom or a friend had told me to stick around, maybe I would have!

When to Give up?

Giving up is okay. But, it shouldn’t be your first option. As parents, you should teach your kids to exhaust all their options before giving up and as individuals, we should learn to follow your gut feeling. If something tells you to stick around even after exhausting all your options, you should. You may be right. It is time for us to stop teaching kids the Fox and the grape story and teach our kids the story of Robert the Bruce and the Spider. Always teach your kids to go the extra mile. That’s where life’s valuable lessons are hidden.