I sat beside my younger sister while she filled in the registration form for the upcoming Senior School Certificate Examination. She needed my assistance with the registration because there were some technical terms that she didn’t understand, and also because she wasn’t sure which subjects she should choose.
The little time I spent assisting her with the registration reminded me of the time I was registering for a similar exam (UTME) two years ago. I was fresh from high school at that time, and I hadn’t decided on which career I wanted to pursue yet. However, I knew for certain that my heart wasn’t in any of the sciences. I was sure that I would feel fulfilled with my life only if I pursue a career in the arts, but my father would hear nothing of this.
He wanted me to study medicine and surgery, or whichever science course that promised a respectable title and a huge salary. So I applied to study medical laboratory science, and to be frank with you, I didn’t know what the course entailed at that moment I registered for the exam. I only chose the course because I thought “medical laboratory science” had an exciting ring to it.
Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t successful at the first attempt – my application was refused because I didn’t make the cut. So I tried again last year. I applied to the same university, and this time, I gained admission to study biochemistry.
It wasn’t something I was excited about, though, for obvious reasons. I felt like I had been sentenced to four years in an emotional black hole; I was worried that I would lose my mind and go to pieces if I wasn’t careful. My parents, on the other hand, couldn’t contain their joy and excitement when they learnt that they now have an undergraduate in the family.
In a few years, their son and first child will be a biochemist. It was a cause for celebration.
It is reasonable to assume that seven out of every ten young adults can relate to my sad experience. I mean, this is something that the majority of us face today. Almost everyone of us have parents who either want us to follow in their footsteps, or achieve a dream that we have no interest in.
I haven’t been to a mortuary or a cemetery before, but I think the saddest place here in Nigeria (and perhaps on earth) is a UTME registration centre. It is there that I watched myself and many others sacrifice our happiness, our future, our dreams and goals so that our parents can be happy. It is also there that I witnessed the death of many talents, skills, and bright ideas.
I learnt that two of my students went there last Thursday to register for their UTME. I only found out yesterday. If I had known that they were planning on taking the exam this year, I definitely would have advised them against it.
I would have done so because I know those kids are confused about what they want to do with their lives. While most of them swear that they have a deep-rooted passion for the career they say they want to pursue, they are only deceiving themselves.
One of the two students who registered for the exam opened up to me yesterday when we were alone in the classroom. We talked for quite a while, and I learnt a lot about her from our conversation. I learnt that her parents, like my parents, want her to study medicine and surgery so that she can become a doctor someday, earn a huge salary, and sponsor her siblings through university.
And when I asked her if she was willing to sacrifice her dreams and happiness to make her parents happy, she replied that she had no choice. Now, a part of me wanted to reassure her that we always have a choice, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that. If I had told her that, she probably would have asked, “If truly we always have a choice, why then are you studying a course that you have little interest in?”
I don’t know if I have an answer to that question.
You know, there’s a reason the movie, 3 Idiots, will always be one of my favourites. That movie opened my eyes to the truth, taught me many valuable lessons, and gave me the courage to stand up to my parents the next time they tried to dictate what I should do with my life. It is only a shame that I saw the movie after I had already signed up for the science department. Perhaps if I had seen it earlier, I would be telling a different story today.
I suppose it is normal for parents to want their children to follow in their footsteps, but parents should realise that it is also their duty to listen to their children. They shouldn’t wait till their children, out of depression and frustration, resolve to take a drastic action such as attempting suicide before deciding to let them follow their dreams. They shouldn’t push their children to the brink of collapse.
Naturally, our parents are expected to know better than us because they have lived longer than us, and they have learnt a lot from experience. However, when they feel that our passion for our dreams is misplaced, when they feel that our plans for our lives aren’t the best plans for us, they should tell us why they feel that way. They shouldn’t just order us to follow another career path, simply because they don’t like the one we had originally planned to follow.
If our parents explain their reasons to us, and they manage to convince us that pursuing our dreams is a terrible idea, that is all to the good. Likewise, if in the end we are unconvinced and adamant that we will pursue our dreams no matter what, then all the best to us!
Sure, we will probably make mistakes along the way, but mistakes are meant to be made. It is how we learn, and how we gain the knowledge needed to guide our children so that they can avoid such mistakes in the pursuit of their dreams.
I would like to share this message (directed to parents) that I picked up from Kahlil Gibran’s book, The Prophet. It is what actually inspired me to write this article.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies, but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but do not seek to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
And with that, I think I’ll drop the mic.
Did your parents ever try to force you to pursue a particular career?
What are the reasons you would force your child(ren) to pursue a career they have no intention of pursuing?
Your comments are ALWAYS welcome!
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