They say that clever people are cursed by the expectations of those around them. They are convinced by parents and teachers that any other career apart from Medicine or Engineering (and a fancy type at that-not the ‘common’ engineering courses, no; the aeronautical, or the biomedical, or spatial), is a meaningless endeavor. When I was young, I was told, with brains like mine, I should become a neurosurgeon ( oh, the beauty of pun). I was thrilled; I mean, who doesn’t think a neurosurgeon is super cool? I knew nothing of the demands of the course, but I did get stares of admiration from my classmates in Standard 3 when I solemnly declared that my future career plan was to get a PhD in Neurosurgery, and then start my own practice to rival Agha Khan Hospital. And then, of course, I would be swimming in money.
But time passed, and I immersed myself in activities that I found a genuine interest in, I discovered that there was so much more to life than neurosurgery. I grew to love Music, Physics, Literature and art. When the moment of reckoning came, I informed my parents that I didn’t want to pursue Neurosurgery- in fact, I didn’t want to do Medicine as a field.
Anyone who has ever had such a conversation with their parents will understand me when I say that they reacted as if I had told them I wanted to drop out of school. I was coaxed, threatened, lectured, and advised before they gave up on me. “Fine,fine, waste your grades then, go do whatever you want, and tarmac forever. Go become a pauper.”
Now, my parents are not bad people. They only want the best for my future. But the thing is, should we have jobs solely because the chances of becoming unemployed are low? No career is financially safe in Kenya, after all. Junior government doctors earn about 10000 shillings per week, and by the time the ‘good’ money comes in, they will have to have worked relentlessly. And not every doctor will begin a private practice. So if you go into a career with only salary and prestige on your mind, you are in for a rude shock. About 100 students either repeat or drop out of medical school by the end of the first year. Why not then, pursue what you truly desire, and make a career out of it? If we all decided to play safe, what would life be?
So I decided to become a pauper. I am going to pursue Music, and computer technology, because that is what I enjoy. I am not saying that I will disregard all advice given to me and only ‘follow my heart’. With the unemployment rates peaking at almost 40% in Kenya today, I cannot afford to slack off in my fields. But I can’t ignore my heart; it protests.
In 10 years time, I might be ridiculously successful, or a spectacular failure. But I’m not going to willingly to let the latter possibility become a reality. And I know I won’t regret my decision.