When you’re three, the only things that matter are sleep and play. When you’re six, your priorities now include doing well in school because mum said you’ll get a new Barbie doll or the latest Action Man action figure if you do. At the age of nine, you start getting into the spirit of competition; the survival of the fittest. Some of the rivalries built during this time whether academic or not often last longer than most, including the participating parties expect. Then the teenage years come along and distractions sprout up everywhere. This is when you fully realize that you have the power to control your destiny. You begin to daydream. You start to see the possibilities in everything. Your thought process is now defined thus “what if…?” . At these different stages of our lives, we’ve been asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Note that when puberty hits, the question becomes “What do you want to do with your life?” .
Personally, I hate that question. I don’t hate it because its a hard question. I hate it because its asked so often, the purpose is defeated. When you ask a person what he/she wants to do with their life, what you’re really asking is how they plan on affecting their generation. Ask a ten year old that question and their answer will come so fast, you’ll think the have their whole life planned out. After six years have passed, you ask that same ten year old who is now sixteen and most times you find that the answer doesn’t come as fast. Their views on life and living have changed. They are impatient. They want to explore and so on and so forth. I hate that question because it is asked so often that it pushes me and other young people like me to choose a career anyway, and not because we want to, but, more because that dreaded question comes up all the time and not having a ready answer makes you look unserious or mediocre. Many youth pick a career path that really doesn’t suit them because they were not allowed to explore themselves, but, were forced to say “oh, I want to be a lawyer”. They walk blindly down this path to law school or medical school to impress their parents, pass, serve for a year and then move on, get a job, and continue a long cycle only to wake up to a sudden realization that they aren’t made for the usual 9-5 job, but, its already too late.
In African society, a person’s paper qualifications are held so sky high, it scares me. I’m not saying its wrong for parents to push their children to excel academically. On the contrary, I believe there should be a professional side and a creative side to everybody. What is wrong is pushing that child to excel academically so that when he is done with school, he will get a good job. Most times you find that people excel academically not because they’ve acquired the skill they’re taught or because they understand what the teacher is saying. They pass because they have to. Nobody wants mumsy or popsy breathing down their necks about how Emeka that passed well doesn’t have fifty brains. Not every child is sure of what he wants to do with his life. Some are convinced that they have nothing to offer to the society. We need to be guided; to be shown our strengths and weaknesses and our threats. We need people to believe just as we do in the many daydreams we have about cameras and paint brushes and hair brushes and studio sessions and whatnot; to believe in our so called “pipe dreams”. This is just an appeal to anyone reading this post to stop killing pipe dreams. EVERY Fortune 500 company started as a pipe dream. If everyone was Donald Trump, then there won’t be any J Cole or Fela Anikulapo Kuti or Micheal Jackson or Salvador Dali or Gianni Versace or Yves Saint Laurent or Dimeji Alara or Yemi Alade or Missy Elliott or Ladi Kwali and so on. The notion that you MUST be a doctor or lawyer or have some other boring career is wrong, I mean just look at the Kardashians.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with school, but, I think while we’re being pushed to take math and physics more seriously, our creative sides should be nurtured as well. Ohimai Atafo of Mai Atafo Inspired is a lawyer by profession just like Kelechi Amadi Obi and Deola Sagoe. Not everyone is cut out to sit in the office for 10 hours or more each day reading company policies and such. Some of us just want to write till our fingers ache and others want to sing till their voice boxes are damaged. Some enjoy creating art, some just love to take pictures, some just want to cut hair. No ambition is pedestrian. Everybody is different. Would it kill you to see that?