Remember all the Disney cartoons and fairytales growing up? And all the folktales and stories that aimed to make children believe in happily ever after? Well, one of the most focused upon things in all those stories was a child’s imagination. The ability to be anybody in the whole entire universe that you want to be.
It’s a beautiful concept really. The thought that if I dream and believe hard enough I can go anywhere, be anyone, and do anything I want to with my life. As a child, adults would fuel that drive even more by asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Resulting in gorgeous, innocent responses like, “an astronaut,” or for a girl, “a model” some who fell in love with their teachers at school would say something like, “a teacher” others “a pilot, a singer,”and so on.Then we all grow up, and the reality sets in that our childish fantasies have to be put aside and we reach a point in life where we have to make that decision… What am I going to do for the rest of my life?
In the African culture there have been two main careers that have always qualified as prestigious. That is a doctor and a lawyer. A parent would always be super proud of a child of theirs who got into medical school or law school… Other careers started rising up slowly as well, such as architecture, accounting and things that ‘bring you money.’
There were still others, though,which were unfathomable. In our parents’ generation, when they were growing up there were some things that if they said they wanted to do their parents would just slap some sense into them. Think about it, can you imagine your mum who being taken through primary and secondary education,and getting to the point where she is supposed to go to university. She decides to have a talk with her parents, so she sits them down and tells them, “I have decided that my passion is singing, and I want to pursue music.”
Ha! Back then that was probably as bad as saying, “Mom and dad, I plan on running away with this man I met and having his babies.” Because according to our grandparents both involved throwing your life away. As time has gone by though we have become more open to other career opportunities. For example the other day my mum was telling me about how when she studied communication as an undergraduate no one understood it. To them it was a matter of why are you going to university to learn how to communicate? Isn’t that something you naturally learn as you grow? It seemed like a very useless subject, at the time… Today communication is one of the largest fields in Kenya career wise. Literally half the students at my school study communication, and it does have a large job market.
The list of careers you can study have grown almost limitlessly in our country due, especially to Western influence. We have stuff like International Relations, Community Development, Nursing, Psychology, Forensic Science, Electronic Media, PR, HR, Education, Music, Journalism, and so many others but the question is have we opened up ourselves to the possibilities? Is this generation being allowed to explore and discover for themselves?
Truth be told, a lot of the times there are some subjects that are still looked down on. For example my friend who is studying in a university that is known for its law and business schools was telling me the other day how anyone who is not doing law or business commerce is basically looked down upon in the school. That does seem quite childish but it is the way it is.
In my case for example there are times when people ask me what I am studying and I say English Literature. They look at me in surprise and ask, “Oh you want to be a teacher?” I literally have to refrain myself from rolling my eyes each time as I reply, “No, actually I want to be a writer.” I thank God I’m passionate and not ashamed about it because there are those comments that can bring you down.
You know those phrases? Stuff like,
“You are limiting your potential”
“Your hobby doesn’t necessarily have to be your career”
“Why don’t you study something that will provide for you financially later in future, then you can do what you love on the side?”
Even though people may not necessarily say it, you do know that they are thinking it.
Then there are the few who are brave enough to make like their Disney role models and follow their dreams. It is possible, in this reality to be successful and at the same time do what you love. I have seen it with my own eyes. People like a successful Kenyan writer I met the other day, Kinyanjui Kombani, another friend of mine told me his story of how he fell in love with photography, decided not to go to university, had a huge fight with his dad about it but pursued what he felt he was called to and several years down the line he is super successful, traveling around the country for business. I also have quite a few amazingly talented friends studying music and I know they are going to be successful because they are pursuing their purpose.
I love the idea of such childish wonder that lets us see the world with eyes that are open to possibilities. We should set the pace so that by the time the next generation comes along they have nothing to fear because they really do get the choice to be anything they want to be.