Do Parents Make Better Decisions For Us? Or Do We Make The Best Decisions For Ourselves?

Growing up as a second-generation Vietnamese daughter has not always been the easiest or smoothest, especially in regards to the difference in cultural upbringing (being raised in America vs. Vietnam like my parents were), which ties into the differences in values, beliefs, personal philosophy, and decision making.

The other day, my Mom mentioned that a lot of the choices she would have chose for me are very different from what I have chosen for myself; for example, the college I went to. When I was younger, I thought USC was the path for me. I had the option of studying abroad in London for a year as a freshman and then transferring into USC as a sophomore. That was the choice my Mom had urged me to go with and in fact, would still insist years later (like just a few months ago) that I could have been happier there – and fyi, the worst is that she denies that she (has) said that…we all know that’s the worst, when someone forgets the very own words they spoke.

I always wondered…what kind of metric was she measuring happiness on? Her own happiness and ability to brag to her Vietnamese friends, relatives, and peers that her daughter (little princess) attended a “top” university? Or genuinely believing that because it is a highly ranked school, that ultimately, I’d be happier there regardless. I guess I can’t blame that framework and way of thinking – as far as I know, it is rather common amongst first-generation immigrant parents (regardless of ethnic background).

The ultimate path I chose was different, one that she thought she could say “aha, told you so!”. But funny enough, if I knew what I knew today at the age of 18, I would still choose the same exact path.

I embarked on my college journey initially at UC Irvine, one of the top UC schools and located in the beautiful, sunny, and affluent Orange County, CA. While I did not end up staying there for the entirety of my 4 years, I would not trade my experiences I had there. I really feel that without that experience, I would not be the person I am today (one of which, I am extremely proud of and happy with). 

During my Junior year of college, I transferred to a nearby university known as Chapman; just about a 15-minute drive away. The summer before transferring, I remember having the difficult conversation with my parents at this local restaurant in my hometown called Garfield, where my Mom felt that it was a “dumb” decision to transfer, as from the external perspective, it looked like I didn’t know what I wanted with my life, that I would graduate late, and waste tuition money. I have to say, that is surely valid from a parent’s view. If they are paying for tuition, of course they are concerned – I guess I felt that the concern was just evidence of lack of confidence and belief in my abilities (and that thought is also valid, despite a natural instinct for a parent to deny having doubts on their own child).

Gosh, my decision to attend Chapman was one of the best decisions I made in my adolescent years. I could write many paragraphs on why it was such a pivotal moment in my life, but ultimately, it came down to a few elements that really propelled me into an upward, happy, and fulfilling trajectory.

  • I made lifelong friendships and relationships with likeminded individuals whom I know will be in my life for a very long time (if not for life) – Avery, Nicolette, Sarah, Anya, amongst others…relationships are irreplaceable. There are certain people that are meant to be in your life and some of these young women are certainly those people for me.
  • I genuinely felt as though I left a mark and made an impact on lives at the school, particularly through The Strong Girls club, an organization on campus focused on mental and physical wellness, in which I had the honor of serving as President my final year of college.
  • My lifestyle at this school allowed me to continue to grow and scale my passions outside of academics, such as figure skating/coaching, blogging and photography, podcasting, and helping others (as a mentor, coach, etc.)
    • I mention this because I really know and believe deep down that if I attended another large sports-focused school like USC, Penn State, etc…that I would have been enamored by the “college lifestyle” such as football games, tailgates, nightlife on campus, and etc. And prior to college, I was really looking forward to this experience, especially seeing my brother have the “time of his life” at Penn State – but looking back in hindsight, I see the many unconventional choices I made that have shaped the unique person I am today.

Another “big” decision I made in the more recent months was moving from Orange County to Los Angeles – yes, in the middle of the pandemic. This clashed with both of my parents, but primarily my Mom again. Some of the core reasons were the following: cost of living, not being local to my office (despite the remote environment), her personal unknowns about LA and simply having predisposed notions of what LA is like. It came to a point where she even said she would rather gift me some money to travel the world than for me to move to LA on my own – I was like, “Yeah…travel internationally..during the pandemic? Yeahhhhh, ok…haha.”

Moving to LA was a different decision for me; I always told myself and my friends that I’d never move to LA. I loved visiting, but didn’t imagine myself living there…until time paused during the early months of the pandemic and I realized I had been living in Irvine/Newport Beach for over 5 years. And I asked myself – what’s next for you? Where do you want to be?

And ironically at the time, I had this unique draw towards Los Angeles, even though it was “shut down”. I felt this internal alignment with being there, particularly in the Venice area. There was this eclectic energy about the city, even during COVID. I loved the artistic elements, entrepreneurial spirit, and large metro city attraction that it had in regards to the global view of LA. I knew that I wanted to pursue podcasting, brand building, and my personal brand full-time once I felt the financial capability to. Living in the residential (and much slower) streets of Orange County felt very stagnant for me, especially after being there for many years. And just like other times in life, we can feel when a chapter is closing, and that is exactly how I felt about leaving Orange County, CA.

While there are many other examples of decisions and choices I have made that are different than what my parents would have preferred for me, those two examples have stuck out to me the most. Perhaps, because those two decisions have made a marginal impact and improvement on my life and the way it has shaped my trajectory.

I write and share these thoughts with you because I have seen many other young women and individuals out there that have and/or currently struggle with the lack of acceptance on one’s personal decisions from parents; especially if they are also a second-generation child. 

But seeing how well my decisions have played out in my own life, despite the initial strong disagreement and pushback from parents, I encourage you to consider how well outsiders (like parents) actually know you, versus how well you truly know yourself.

At the end of the day, parents and elders can advise you and believe that they see the next best steps for you. But, the reality is…they can only see it from afar and through their own filter of how life should be. Only you can see the actual next step and the course of action it will take to get to where you want to be – so remember that. And don’t doubt yourself or your own choices, just because others don’t believe in it.

One day, you will thank yourself for making your own decisions. Just as I have.


Emily Duong

Born and raised in a small town in Pennsylvania, but currently residing in Orange County, California. Emily Elizabeth is an entrepreneur, athlete, and lifestyle blogger sharing her everyday lifestyle and healthy mindset.



  • Julie

    Have you tried working through your relationship with your mother in therapy?

    • Emily Elizabeth

      It has been suggested, but rather as to “change” me (to fit her narrative and ideals) versus the classic approach of mutual growth. That is part of the culture, which many others have experienced as well if their mom/dad is born and raised in a very different culture than American culture. In America, parents and children are not thought of so much as to “above” the other, whereas other cultures like Asian, it certainly is believed as such, so the idea of therapy would be rather to “correct” me into agreeing more with what they see. Nonetheless, I (and others I talk to on this topic) have agreed that keeping it as a neutral and distant (not revealing much) relationship is the most optimal choice because the cultural differences and personal philosophies (the main clash) will be extremely unlikely to overcome in this lifetime.

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