A mid-week dinner at Boy and Bird followed by the dreamiest ice-cream from Ben and Jerry’s (mmmm…. Cherry Garcia…). Sharing non-stop laughs with my two sisters and my little cousin. Yup, life doesn’t get much sweeter.
Yesterday my sisters and I decided to take our cousin Sene out to celebrate her successful completion of NCEA L2 (or essentially Sixth Form Certificate for the oldies out there). She has strong aspirations to go on to university so it was great to chat with her about how she’s feeling about the next few years.
What I love about my cousin is that she appears so composed and quietly confident about her goals. Her strongest subject is Maths with Calculus and she already has career ideas around architecture and engineering. She told us about about her scrapbook where she keeps her drawings and house designs. We couldn’t help but chuckle when we confessed that the maths gene definitely didn’t land with our immediate family!
We told her how we have a line of strong matriarchs in our family; women who are strong-willed, determined and able to rule the roost. Quite often at family get-togethers you will often see my mum and Sene’s mum calling the shots (code for bossing everyone around). The hard-work ethic is strong and in part we attribute this to our Grandfather John Ah You, a Chinese-Samoan man who used his smarts to manage plantations in Samoa. I see the glint in mum’s eyes when she talks about him.
Sene will be the first in her family to go to university, so I happily shared with her my experiences of being in that same situation. The pressure can feel immense and the expectations from family is high. For many Samoan families, being able to put your child through university is seen as the ultimate outcome for all the sacrifices that were made for coming to New Zealand in the first place.
The caution around this is that there is also a typical expectation that the child will end up studying a traditional course such as accounting, law or engineering. Yes, these are great pathways, but only if you’re that way inclined. I know that my initial foray into accounting study was always going to be short-lived, as my yearnings were at some point going to outweigh the desires of family.
I felt like such as sage when I told Sene that our parents “only know what they know”. They have the best intentions for us but at the same time it is nigh impossible for them to know everything about the range and raft of careers out there. I went on to tell her to share information with her parents and to let them know about all the great things out there. To this day I still do this with my mum and dad.
As fiercely protective cousins we want to make sure that Sene knows she has awesome support around her. We know first-hand that the power of having a strong education creates uplift and growth in a family. Through sheer hard work we have lifestyles that allow us to occasionally eat out in cool Ponsonby restaurants, but we can also treat our parents to things they may not do or get for themselves.
The drive to work hard is strong in all of us. Thank you Grandfather for paving the way.