Owning Your Hopes

Jessica was a Chinese-American student who chose to pursue a degree in engineering, largely because of her father’s hope for her. The problem was that she really struggled in mathematics. To honor her father’s wishes, Jessica put forth an incredible effort to learn math, but she wasn’t successful. Because many of her other classes depended upon math concepts, she really struggled. The result was a GPA that landed her on probation.

But Jessica persisted. While she was able to get off probation by taking some general education classes, she had still not completed her freshman engineering classes after three semesters. Her advisor had been encouraging and even arranged a tutor for her, but it just didn’t seem as if Jessica would make it in engineering. He decided to discuss a change of majors for her when she came to register for classes.

Advisor:          Jessica, let’s talk about your future, what do you hope to do with your college degree? 

Jessica:          My dad hopes that I will be an engineer, but that’s not my hope. I want to do art.

Advisor:          Have you thought about changing your major to Art?

Jessica:          Yes, but I want to go to an art school.

Advisor:          You know, Jessica, art schools are tough to get into. Do you have a portfolio of your art?

Jessica:          Yes, I brought my portfolio because I wanted your advice on what I should do. Would you like to see it?

Advisor:          (After looking through her portfolio) I’m sorry that we never had this conversation before. I wish I would have known about your talent before. You really need to pursue your own hopes, not your father’s.

The advisor then worked with Jessica to find an art school for her. He wrote a recommendation on her behalf, and Jessica was able to enroll in one of the top art schools in the country.

One year later, he got an email from Jessica saying: “Please check out the homepage for my school.”

The homepage featured a story on Jessica and what she had accomplished. She had won a major art competition and was the feature young artist at an exclusive art gallery.

Jessica’s story left an indelible memory with her advisor. Since he taught the freshman introductory course in engineering, he decided to include a lecture on fulfilling hopes. While he wanted to be encouraging to students and tried to be help to them through a tough major, he also didn’t want more Jessica’s.

After class, a student came to his office. He was huge, 6’8” and 280 or more pounds. The advisor asked him: “How can I help you?” The student sat down and said: “I’m Jessica.”

One of the great barriers to hope is when we try to fulfill the hopes of others. If we are to be successful in achieving our hopes, they have to be ours. And they have to be ones that we are passionate about. Hopes must be realistic. Jessica’s hope of being an artist could not have been achieved if she did not have artistic talent. Also hopes cannot being something you make up. They have to be real or you won’t have the dedication to achieve them. Finally, you may need someone to talk to about your hopes to guide you in how best to achieve them.

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“All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them.”
– Magic Johnson (Hall of Fame basketball player)

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