Economically anxious, many parents see their children's accomplishments as a sort of insurance against the financial challenges of old age; high-achieving kids, this logic goes, will become high-earning adults and therefore be better able to help Mom and Dad pay for the assisted-living facility in a few decades.
I definitely think my ancestry has something to do with my politics. And I think being deeply suspicious of government and communists is implicit in a lot of first-generation immigrants, particularly from Eastern Europe. My mom came over from Romania when she was a kid and they fled the commies who took their family hemp farm.
I had a mild case of polio - not enough to put me in an iron lung, but enough to keep me bedridden for weeks. As I came out of it, my mom wanted to do something for me. She realized that, growing up in the city, I'd missed out on a lot of nature.
My mom just wanted me to do anything that was academic, whether it was become a doctor or be a lawyer. Engineering suited her... then I dropped out. It was not what I wanted to do at all; it just felt so unnatural, and I couldn't put my finger on why. I just knew it wasn't for me.
I remember the first time seeing myself on TV, when my family was watching the documentary 'Eyes on the Prize' for the first time. There were pictures of people going up the school stairs, and Mom said, 'Oh, that's you!' I said, 'I can't believe this. This is important.'