Choosing Your Career Path in an African Home

Today, I’m going to tell you a story. Whether the story is true or not does not really matter, what matters is that we all somehow relate to it.

A man has three sons. Handsome boys, the usual tall dark and handsome, eligible bachelors. They are gentlemen, well-spoken, the pride of their father. This man is a successful businessman, and well-liked in his community. He has a wife, but she really doesn’t matter in this story; she is a non-entity. I don’t say this to be crass or rude, but stating the facts as they are. He is the man of the house; ndivo baba. What he says goes, what he wants done is done, and what he does is not questioned.

The first son was meant to take over the father’s reins when he retired, so he was sent to the UK for University, and enrolled in Business Administration. Yes, the father chose the degree programme. He was paying fees of course. The first year, the son failed and had to repeat the year. He passed the next year, but the 2nd year, failed again. The father thought he was “playing too much”, removed him from the school, and enrolled him in South Africa. While there, he started work part time for a PR firm, and he realised that he loved it. He dropped out of university, and got a job there full-time, much to his father’s consternation. A few years later, he got married to a Xhosa woman (his father hated Xhosa women), and they had a gorgeous son, whom the father refused to see. Fed up with his father’s pettiness, he called him, and this is what he said:

You may not like what I chose to do with my life, and that’s okay, but you will respect it, because it is my life. I am living my best life, and I will not apologise for that.

No one knows if they still speak, but he is living his best life. He travels with work, has a loving wife, and another baby on the way. And yes… he is making money.

The second son was the spoilt son. Everyone knew he was destined for great things. He was very attractive, a gentle soul, and principled. He was the creative one of the three, and was an excellent dancer. He was a strong Christian, and loved to preach the Word, so his father concluded he was destined to be a pastor. He was sent to Bible College in the United States. While there, he decided to switch majors to Choreography, but he did not tell his father. He was doing very well, choreographing dances for the church as well as a side hustle. He was doing so well. His father found out unfortunately in his final year, and refused to pay fees for his final year, so he dropped out. With his money exhausted, he was flown back home by his father, who told him to finish Bible School. He refused.

All we know about this son is that he jumps from house to house, doing odd jobs to make ends meet. He has not spoken to his father since refusing to finish Bible School, though he still preaches from time to time.

The third son’s story is a sad one. After fighting with his father and somehow winning, he went to South Africa to do what he wanted to do: Social Work. He had a heart for children, and wanted to make a difference there. In his first semester, he got into the wrong crowd, and started doing drugs. He missed his first year of school in rehab. Once he cleaned himself up, he went back, but had trouble concentrating in class, was skipping classes more and more, refusing to get out of his room. His parents flew him back, and he was diagnosed with Clinical Depression. Instead of letting the doctor put him on meds, the father refused, and said, “What will the community think, knowing we have a crazy son?” So he was taken out of school, and now lives with his parents.

Let’s discuss: how much of an influence should parents have over a child’s career? How much leeway should a child have in choosing their career path? Is it possible for an African child to truly say, “I have chosen my career path”? I’d love to hear your views in the comments.

Until next time… your Quarter Wife.


11 thoughts on “Choosing Your Career Path in an African Home

  1. I do relate to it. As an Áfrican woman I am supposed to aspire to be great but not so much as to intimidate men “potential husband”. I am supposed to study in order to get a well paying job. My parents never really told us what to do but they have always mentioned there were others who had taken better career paths than mine. otherwise they are very supportive but I value their imput because they are wiser.

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  2. Some are fortunate enough to have parents that allow them to choose their own path but some are not so fortunate. At times your career path is not exactly chosen for you but you are told of the responsibilities awaiting you after college (for most first borns it means taking the rest of your siblings through school) so you do end up settling for a career most suggested to you and go after the money more than the passion and your desire.

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      1. A psych friend shared yesterday about a case of hers: young girl is severely anorexic and her problems stem from being forced to study medicine by her parents who won’t let her switch fields. It’s heartbreaking

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      2. Wow… that sucks. I really hope the parents will come to their senses before it’s too late. I hate this thing where people start saying, “If only we listened” looking at someone’s grave. Like, what will that change now?

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