The Difference That Geography Makes: Part One
I remember sitting in a high school class somewhere in Kenya, some moment in time. There were about 80 of us. Our mission was simple: say what we wanted to be when we grew up. As we neared student number 30, one would have thought we were listening listening to a song that had the same beat repeated over and over and over again:
These were some of the most brilliant minds in the country (well, we were only the best in my first year there but we were always in the top 10..er….er…so the 10th most brilliant minds)
Finally it was my time to shine! I put the biggest grin I could on my face and said with pride:
“Idiot,”, must have been my nickname for quite a while afterwards.
Different Geography, Same People: Part two
I used to have a running script that I used to repeat over and over again whenever I met a new college student from the continent. I would think to myself:
“So, are you going to school to work in business, law, finance or to eventually work for some NGO?”
Whenever I met someone who did not fit into those categories, I would get very confused. Surely, there can only be one person who exists outside of the bell curve?
Then I would get very intimidated? You’re taking my spot.
Then I would fall in love? You’re abnormal like I am.
Seriously though, it’s remarkable how now many years later, the career paths that Africans chose can actually be recited by heart and described with such clarity:
A professional who has to wear some uniform or a suit of some sort. He/She wants to be relatively high up in the hierarchy but don’t want to be the ones who did all the grunt work to build it up. He wants a fancy job title with a fantastic salary that gives him a big house, a big car and the respect and love of his community as a “boss man/boss lady!” or ” they just want to make that paper paper paper paper”
Different Geography, Different People: Part Three
I didn’t even know some careers existed or were worth pursuing until I came down under.
“I want to be a sparky! (electrician)”
“I want to open my own brothel ! The licence costs half a mil but its still worth a go!”
“I want to make movies”
“I want to be a zookeeper”
“I want to be a park ranger”
“I want to be a drummer”
“I want to be a comic book penciler”
“I want to be a professional poker player”
The weirdest one of all, post high school, a HUGE chunk of Australians decide either before or during semester one of University that they want to:
“Take some time off, go backpacking and discover me!”
Now granted, discover me usually means go and have sex, drugs and rock and roll with a lot of foreign strangers but that concept of a “gap year” is blasphemy in Africa even among wealthy and middle class families.
What Does That Say About Us and About Them?
I think at the end of the day it says that human beings are smart creatures. We adapt to whatever circumstances and whatever roll of the dice God or this life gives us.
In Africa, most people can’t afford to take a gap year because they have no safety nets, or rather welfare nets, to support them in those years.
In the West folks can afford to go round the world sipping from goon bags and swapping spit with locals only to come back and open a costume shop because those who came before him fought for him to have those rights.
The only thing I implore you is don’t assume that other people’s rules are your own. The limitations that you have in occupation aren’t necessarily the same ones your father had or your sister has or your best friend has. Get to know you, what your passionate about, what you can do well and where you can have the biggest impact. Go there. Please don’t be a robot. We already have enough of those.
I end by asking:
So what do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
Are you becoming who you wanted to be when you grew up?
What does that say about you?
Be blessed and bless other people all around ya,