When I grow up I’ll be (and do) whatever I want?


My Big Fat Greek Wedding made me think of another dilemma that Nigerian children are sometimes faced with: what to study in school and what career path to select. For some children this isn’t a dilemma because the choice has already been made: these children grow up knowing exactly which professions are acceptable for them to pursue, because their parents have been drilling this into their heads all along, be it law or medicine or engineering. Others may have had freedom in their choices, but were told that they had to get at least a Bachelor’s degree, or definitely a Master’s degree; some were told that a PhD or MD is the only way to go.

This is hardly a scientific observation but the number of Nigerians I know from various online things who are in the science field or heading to or currently in medical or pharmacy school is mind boggling!

To my parents’ credit, they never told my siblings or I what to study but once we picked our areas of study, we were expected to stick to it and be the best we could be at it. Um, I won’t tell you how well that worked out.

Once the degrees are complete and you’ve started working, the fun begins, or so you would think. If, however, you have a father like mine, you’ll be encouraged to keep your eye on that higher rung of the ladder so that you’re ready to climb it when the time comes. Or you’ll be told to make sure you take full advantage of the opportunities available at the job, from volunteering to receiving paid training or moving laterally to gain a wider range of experience. Some of you don’t need your father to point these things out because it’s constantly on your mind. This is all good advice but most of the time I just want to be able to say “I am gainfully employed, hallelujah” and sit back and gbadun (enjoy), without having to think beyond that.

Nigerians aren’t like they though: if there is a “better” way to be, they will reach for it.

I’ve noticed that my lazy laidback attitude is in the minority. A lot of my Nigerian friends, both those I know in person and those I’ve only talked to online or on the phone, are far more driven than I am. Many have post graduate degrees. Where I want a car that doesn’t rust, they want a luxury moto (car). Where I want to own my own (smallish) home, they’re describing abodes that sound more like palaces. Where I am content with a five figure income, I’m hearing people talk about when they make their first million. Million ke? I can barely count that high!

(At first I thought this attitude was purely materialistic, but I see now that for many, it’s this act of dreaming big and reaching for the moon, so that even if you fail you land among the starts, that allows them to make their dreams come true. I’m hoping that by this same token they take my um, laziness laid back attitude and put a positive spin on it.)

But yeah, I’ve become happy with a lwer status quo than most, and that is so not the Nigerian way.

If a position that I am qualified for opens up and offers a bit more money, there is no guarantee that I’d apply for it, kia kia (quickly), especially if I like where I am at the moment and feel comfortable. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even know about the opening because I’m not regularly checking to see what job opportunities are out there. Sometimes I just want to be in an environment where I’m not overly challenged or stressed. Tell me there’s nothing wrong with this?

I won’t deny that I’m jealous of my high-achieving, non-slacking Naija brothers and sisters out there (not my biological ones, o!). You all seem to be intelligent people who are going places. I want to be more like you, but at the same time I sort of like the way things are.

So tell me: What drives you and keeps you reaching beyond the status quo? What do you have to achieve in your life before you’ll consider yourself a success?


7 Responses to “When I grow up I’ll be (and do) whatever I want?”

  1. 1 Abbie

    lol Status Quo is the Nigerian way (We’ve always been materialistic over acheivers and that’s never going to change)

    I tend to think I’m different from the mainstream, my goals and definition of success is simple, where other people want the degrees, the big house and the million dollar (triple that in naira) accounts to keep up with the jones, I just asked God that I experience true love before I die. That’s all I want. And me being great at that is going to be my biggest acheivement ever.
    Also, I think beyond this world (I’m weird like that) after all is said and done, we all die, I always wonder what happened when we die, and that dictates they way I live my life now. Because if this life is truly temporary, I don’t want to have lived and wasted all this life instead if investing in the life I’ll live after death which is permanent.
    And that life has nothing to do with status quo, degrees, money, friends and family or good works. Just trusting God’s plan for your life and knowing that you were born to serve him because he paid that ultimate price to make sure you get to live beyond this world is what that life is about. And how do you show you are grateful for the price he paid, not by demanding more from him that’s for sure, but actively seeking what it is you are here for (which is usually for the advancement of his kingdom), follow that path and do the best you can at that.

    Okay, I’m done now. See why I say I’m weird?? My perspective on life is definitely not status quo, quite the contrary.

  2. I have to confess I liked this post. I hope all is well with you and yours.

    BTW, Happy Nigerian Proclamation Day to you! Not sure what that is? Visit NIGERIAN CURIOSITY to find out.

  3. 3 sting

    Did u get my email?

  4. 4 sting

    I always wanted to be a Doctor for as long as i can remember. My parents never picked what they wanted any of us to study. My dad actually wanted me to be a nurse first, then go to med school later. I do have an older sister that is a pharmacist, my younger sister is a nurse and my youngest sister also wants to be a doctor and oh, my brother wants to be a pharmacist (he is purely motivated by money LOL). Besides wanting to help people, i think i’m so driven becos i saw how hard my parents worked and getting a good education is the easiest way i know to make a better life for myself. I’m sure my siblings feel the same way.

  5. Sounds so much like me…i want to be comfortable, and that means me being able to pay my bills and eat…nothing too much. life is what we make it

  6. 6 sherri

    i totally hear u on the pressure naija parents put on their kids.
    in my opinion,as long as it’s not detrimental to the child, it’s a good thing.

    looking back, i wud have loved to have the luxury of exploring the arts, but it wud be an injustice to my parents to blame or begrudge them considering the fact that i love what i do and i def can’t complain about the the financial rewards and, i can now afford to explore whatever the heck i want.

    as for ur laid back self, what matters really is ur happiness. all the money in the world cannot buy happiness o

  7. 7 a.eye

    That pressure is a Nigerian constant. I chose to become an educator, but trust that the parents are still on me to reach higher even in this field. I received my masters, not it is required by them that I get the PhD.

    All I require is that I work somewhere I like, doing what I like, and that I don’t stop liking it. I also like to have a roof over my head and enough to eat and clothes to wear.

    However, I am starting to really desire a little bit more money. Not necessarily to buy more, but just for the peace of mind. Especially with the economy here in the States starting to slide. I find myself saving more and spending less.

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