I have always been eager to please my parents. One of my earliest memories was me coming home with a painting I had worked on for all of 20 minutes during recess and I would eagerly wait around my mother’s legs, hoping to see that my painting had made it on the fridge.
Even as I left for college, nothing had changed. I was still waiting around my parents waiting for their approval.
I had always been aware that my parents left everything and everyone that they knew when they moved to Canada from Nigeria. They wanted my siblings and I to have the best and they gave everything up to make that happen. And for that I owed them everything; including my happiness.
They wanted me to be happy, although we had very different ideas as to what my happiness entailed. They never wanted me to go through the struggle that they went through, they wanted my future to be secure but as far as things go, it’s never that straight forward. They were afraid. They were afraid that being both an African American immigrant and a woman, I was already at a disadvantage, the only way that I could stand out was with a degree in my hand.
In many ways, I think their fear of what the future held, transferred to me. I wanted to be successful first then happy second. I never thought it could be possible to have both. So, I made a plan. A sure-fire plan, in my opinion. I would go to school and study biochemistry, then attend medical school and become a doctor. Once I was a doctor then I could begin my search for happiness.
That was a plan my parents could be proud of. That was a plan they could hang on the fridge.
I remember eavesdropping on my parents’ conversations and hearing them tell their friends that I was on my way to being a plastic surgeon. There was so much pride in their voice and that assured me.
“Your parents are happy,” I told myself. “You’re definitely doing the right thing.”
Everything changed when I got to my third year of college after I binged watched all thirteen seasons of Grey’s anatomy. I watched as every one of those residents scrambled for surgeries, gave up 40+ hours, as well as their social lives all to perform a surgery. That made me realize. I wasn’t passionate about medicine. I didn’t love it enough to do half of those things, and not to mention; I am extremely squeamish at the sight of blood. I could barely watch a medical show.
Suddenly, my parents’ happiness wasn’t enough to keep me on this track. I began asking myself, could I seriously do this for the rest of my life? It was astonishing to me when I realized that people enjoyed their time at college, sure they were stressed out, but they loved what they were learning and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. While, I on the other hand, I could have thought of a million other things that I could be doing other than studying the pathway of glucose in the body and one of those things included; jumping off a high place, even with my deathly crippling fear of heights.
So, I sat down and I thought about it. What was holding me back? Why couldn’t I just be happy? I sat down with my parents and I told them how I felt. Let’s just say that with me being a year away from graduating, they didn’t take my new-found journey towards self-discovery well.
“You have one more year,” my mother said. “Just one. You don’t have to be a surgeon; you can be a dentist.”
“Finish what you started,” my father said.
That was what everyone was telling me. I felt like no one could hear me. I had become depressed, and I felt like everything that I did was pointless. I hated every day and I never wanted to get out of bed. There was the financial aspect of it all. I was completely dependent on my parents, therefore, they called all the shots. In summary, my life was trapped in a box.
I couldn’t imagine feeling like this for another year. Call me selfish, but I just couldn’t feel like this for another year.
It wasn’t until I got the opportunity to work for an amazing group of girls at Lala did I realize that if I wanted to be a writer, I could be a writer. The only thing standing between me and the New York Times best seller list was myself. It took me much too long to realize it, I could be whatever I wanted to be. I don’t know when I forgot that, but it was about time that I remembered. It’s scary to go ahead and chase your dream, no doubt about that, but honestly it’s worth it.