Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer

Art by @sarfogh_

Being African and choosing to follow a career that does not coincide with what your parents want is a struggle. These preferred occupations usually land with becoming a Doctor, Lawyer or Engineer. Yup, those three jobs specifically. Why? Well these careers represent a few things in the eyes of African parents. They feel that becoming a DLE (doctor, lawyer, engineer) equates to beaucoup money, a display of high intelligence and a career that they can brag about. Despite my super biased opinions about the way most of our parents feel, I would be remiss if I did not admit that as I have gotten older, I have begun to understand why most of our parents put as much pressure on us as they do.

They Mean Well
Everything aside, our African parents want the best for us...even if it may come off a bit — I mean a lot harsh. Majority of the time, they measure their success from the amount of success WE have accomplished. And as children of immigrants, we will inevitably feel an immense pressure to do well all because our parents do not want all of the hard work they invested in us to go in vain.

Prior to leaving their homeland, our parent(s) set these end results that must lead to a win and they make it clear that we must take advantage of the privileges they were not given. That is why so many of us have been told this common line on multiple occasions — “You have been brought to this country for a reason.” So, a response that coincides with not wanting to follow the path that they feel will set you up for success transforms into an insult towards their entire existence.

Different Perspectives
As young adults that may have grown up in an area with more opportunities, we have a completely different view of what success may look like in comparison to our parents, mainly because we are part of a completely different generation. Unlike our parents, we know that there are many ways to find success outside of the DLE spectrum. However, most of our parents believe there is no in between when it comes to career paths, instead they embody a tunnel vision mentality, because that is all they know. The thing is, our difference in upbringing has enabled us to comprehend that you can use your intelligence and leverage it in a number of other ways. But, when you have this immense generational gap, both generations are bound to clash when it comes to discussing what achievements look like.

My Two Cents
Despite everything I have just shared about why African parents put pressure on where we should take our career, I still believe it is important to do what makes you...happy (Aunties, please don’t come after me). Now, I do not want my message to be misconstrued. When I say do what makes you happy, I mean to do so in a strategic manner. I am in no way saying that you should drop out of college/university and pursue a career in hand-modeling. Instead, I am stating that if you are really-really passionate about something, you should go for it. In life I have noticed that the things you are most passionate and good (emphasis on good) at, are also the things you floursih in.

Let’s take actress Yvonne Orji for example, she shared in an interview that she pursued becoming a doctor to satisfy her parents when she had no desire to be one. She went as far as waiting years to tell her parents this, because she had not mustered up enough courage to let them know she wanted to move to another state and pursue acting. Long story short, when she finally faced her fears and told them, it was not the most pleasant outcome.

But, you know what was? The fact that she has now been nominated for an Emmy, the fact that she is on one of the biggest shows of our generations, the fact that she had her own HBO comedy special and the fact that she was able to pay off her student loans thanks to her successT. he point is, she followed her heart, took advantage of her gift, remained persistent and it worked in her favor.

The thing is, African parents will be kicking and screaming when you do the complete opposite of what they say in fear that you will put the family to shame. But, when success arises they will come back around...eventually. Although they have made sacrifices that we may never be able to repay them for, I know that we must take life’s course on our own. Because, at the end of the day this is truly our lives to live. This includes fulfillment in a way that is lucrative to not only our finances, but our personalized values in life.

In all, my life experiences have helped me understand the struggles that come from the pressures of needing to become a part of the DLE spectrum. But in the end, even I have chosen to pursue a career path that is the complete opposite of those careers. We have to understand that as hard as our parents may be on us, they truly are looking out for our best interest. In the end, just make sure that whatever you decide to do with your life matches that fire your parents embody when it comes to wanting you to succeed in life.

Quick Disclosure: If you are not an adult yet, please stay in school.




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