I would like to apologise in advance for any references that I have made that may offend readers. I think little of no one. Some references were purposely made in a somewhat harsh way to bring a sharper visual understanding of the points made. This is also part one of a three-part series called ‘Living Your Dreams’ so look out for part two soon called “Listening To Yourself.”
I made a conscious decision to stop pursuing formal or rather academic education two years ago. I left my Associate degree without notice and despite the irks that I had with the institution in question, that was not the reason that I left. I have been going to school since I was four years old and two years ago with twenty years of ‘schooling’ under my belt I was getting blasted tired of it and I was also realising that what I wanted to learn, school couldn’t teach me. I mean after twenty years, that’s enough time to make an impression and even though I didn’t yet know exactly what it was that I wanted to learn, I knew that I couldn’t get it from the current school system.
This was hard. People who know me may not think that it looked particularly hard because I literally just got up one day and decided not to go to class and never went back, but it was hard. Hard on my ego. You see in my country, I’m sure it is in others as well but I can only speak of what I know, being an academic brings prestige. It is looked at with awe. I have always been good at academics. My first profession that I aimed at in school was to be a doctor. I love science and I love to learn about the way the body works. It is fascinating how the body knows exactly what it’s supposed to do and what it needs and people take for granted just how good their body is at taking care of itself and compensating for the stuff we put it through. I also at some point in time wanted to study psychology. Being a writer, which I believe is the only natural talent I have, I have a knack for placing myself in someone’s shoes, thinking how they think, feeling how they feel which is what I draw on when creating characters in stories, so being a psychologist felt like the natural ‘academic’ profession to pursue.
Now for a young lady who grew up in a neighbourhood where the norm for young ladies are to have your first child by eighteen to a young man who has no means to help you take care of his child because he is also eighteen, jobless and oblivious to what it really takes to support a family and the heights of success (legally) is to secure a permanent job with the government by twenty years with albeit meagre salary but with the chance of promotion every five years for the next forty-five to fifty years with a small pension and maybe a token engraved pen at the end of it all. In an environment like this where the bar was basically set very low, being a doctor or a psychologist was a lofty and ambitious and celebrated idea.
I met my cousin a few days ago. As per usual he asked how all the family were going, my mother, my sisters, my brother. To how my brother was going I responded, “he’s good. He’s in his first year at UWI (University of the West Indies) doing Engineering, so you know is pressure for the next few years.”
To which his response was, “That’s great. First person to go University in the family and first Engineer.”
If anybody knows me, reeeeally knows me, they know that half the time I don’t really mean things, I just like to test people to see what they’ll do. I’m a writer, I like to watch people and observe how they respond to situations, so I then casually openned my jacket to reveal my tights and loose top, while saying, “yeah, that’s great. We’re proud of him.”
“How you dressed so casual?” he asked, “you just came back from gym?” Caught him!
“Gym, no. I just came back from dance practice. We had to stay back an extra hour. We have a show coming up in a week and then I have another one the week after that so is pace, boy!” I said to him and waited for him to prove me wrong.
“Oh, that’s great, you’re dancing! You’re the first dancer in your family. When is your show?”
Forgive my wishful thinking, but no. He didn’t actually say that. He said one word, “okay.” which spoke volumes in itself.
It is times like these that I hear that little nagging voice which thank God over the years has begun to get softer and softer and speaks up less frequently that says to me, “why in the world did you leave school? You’re wasting time, everyone is doing something that matters in society and you’re just playing around. Get back in before it’s too late!” Now I finished secondary school early. I started my advanced level at sixteen and was poised to enter UWI at eighteen which would mean that if I had stayed the course and if all went well, meaning if I didn’t fail too many courses and have to do them over, I would have probably begun my first year as a resident in a hospital by now and upon meeting my cousin I would have had something quite different to tell him and no doubt he would have squealed with delight the same way he did for my brother.
But every time that little voice pipes up about where I could have been if I had stayed in the game, I ask myself, prestige aside, would I have been happy with that? And I always come up with the same answer. If prestige was all I was giving up my soul for then it’s not worth it. So that I can impress the people around me who most likely would throw scorn at me from jealously behind closed doors, anyway? I am proud of my brother but I remind myself that I am proud of him because he’s doing something with his life. He’s fighting the young, black male tendency that I see everyday around me to think that the only thing you’re good for is to lime on the block all day feeding off of other people and doing the easiest, most un-challenging work to survive. My cousin is a teacher, and by God I think that’s great, not because he stayed in the game and did what was expected of him in society but because after all the horror stories I hear in schools of bad teachers, we need more good teachers and from the way he talked about his students and his work I can tell that he cares about what he’s doing. Does he think what he’s doing is just as great as being a doctor or an engineer? I really do hope so because I think it is.
So, back to my original thought. At eighteen I left being a doctor/psychologist behind. I knew that I loved sciences, loved to learn about it and I still do peruse the scientific journals from time to time but I realised that I didn’t love it enough to do it as a profession. It was a long road and quite hard to shake off academics totally. At that time, I choose instead to study something that was more on the arts side. I always liked to learn languages and I was good at it. My sister decided to sign up for an associates in spanish and business so I thought what the hell, why not. That was my first mistake. Doing something that someone else wanted to do and not really thinking about if I wanted it. You see I still could not get past the thought that society has fed me since day one that you cannot be successful without a degree. Without a degree you are no better than the regular, non-intellect on the street selling honey roasted nuts. I was still considering the thoughts of those around me and all I could see was one or the other. The ‘educated’ intellects, the public servants who settled to have security and the young mothers. Looking at it that way I can see now why I choose what I choose.
But if anyone has struggled with identity and finally found it they know that it is only when you are true to yourself and what you really want that you succeed. So, I failed. I fought it. I wanted to finish. I soon realised though that it was okay not to finish sometimes. It was okay to just rest down your tools and walk away. I realised that the tools society was giving me were not working for me. Maybe for someone else but mines were getting duller by the moment and not helping me get where I wanted to go. Sometimes it’s okay to leave the secure fields and jump the fence into wild country and part the way with your own hands instead of the tools someone else gave you. Sometimes you just need to feel the blisters on your hands from pushing aside that bush and find your own way through the wild of the world.
So two years ago around this time I jumped the fence. I’ll tell you about those two years in my next post, but for now I ask you to take deep breaths and listen to yourself. “The heart wants what the heart wants” Woody Allen said. I would also like to add though that you may feel confused right now, but I am telling you the heart also knows exactly what the heart wants. You may not know it now but if you just listen to yourself long enough you will find it. The problem people have is with the waiting and listening. They see everyone moving forward as it may seem while they are still waiting. I’ll tell you what to do with that time in my next post as well. Society cannot tell you what you should be. I didn’t see it then either, I had no real idea of what I wanted but I had the faith and the courage to go looking for that fourth option. I ventured into the wild and the unknown.
You can find part two ‘Listening To Yourself’ here.
– Written by Travesaou
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