Happy new month people!
Sometime last month, I was invited to an elementary school to speak at their Career Day. The children were asked to come dressed as their future selves, and it was so heartwarming to see lots of beautiful children dressed as footballers, bankers, teachers and firefighters. It was extremely cute and I might have been in my feelings.
The highlight for me, after the food and money, was this girl dressed as a ‘police-girl’, saying she planned to transform the very corrupt police force.
Then there were those dressed as doctors and as I saw how many they were, I was filled with great anguish. For a moment, I wanted to walk up to the podium immediately, and give a speech titled ‘Please Don’t Do It Dears’. Seeing as I did not want to be ushered hastily out of the premises, I stuck to the narrative, with a little tweak.
Instead, I spoke about how I was once like them, emphasizing how impressed I was about their variety of career choices, because in my time all anyone ever wanted to be was a doctor, lawyer, engineer or banker. I told them it was very important that whatever choice they made, they made it themselves, and were not bullied into it.
Nonetheless, I was glad to see that most of the stereotypes I grew up with were changing.
The stereotypes manifested in different ways.
I remember that for a while, I wanted to be an astronaut and then a scientist and somewhere along the line I was convinced that medicine was just the right thing to do. In retrospect, I also find it convenient that there were so many copies of that Ben Carson book lying around, be it at home, school or church.
I have questions. Why this book? Why were there so many copies? Who was buying them? Where was ‘Think and Grow Rich’ or ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’?
In Primary 4, my P.E teacher once remarked that if we didn’t study, we would not go to the university, would not become doctors and therefore would not be able to travel abroad.
In secondary school, the Sciences were for the bright and the hope of tomorrow, while the Arts were for the truants and the few who wanted to be lawyers.
What about the look of pity in your teacher’s eyes, when you tell them you’ve been offered admission to study Geography? Some might even have the hubris to tell you ‘sorry, you can try again next year’.
The way adults beam when they hear you’re studying medicine, will forever be hilarious to me.
Regardless, I am most proud to be in a generation that’s changing the narrative, opening up spaces for those to come, and writing a story of endless possibilities. A generation that’s showing that desiring to be a doctor is as valid a dream as wanting to be a chef or a pilot.
And so that’s what I told the kids: that I had friends who were doing all sorts of things: from studying the art of movie making to enrolling in fashion institutes straight out of high school. I knew lawyers who were chefs and doctors who were pilots.
I told them that they really could be whoever they wanted to be, and they have people ahead of them who have opened up spaces for them.
So here’s to everyone who keeps opening up more spaces, who continues to defy the odds. May the odds ever be in your favour.