Education, Careers and the Journey of Life

Friday, October 23, 2020


 A girl I knew once was a straight-A student with so much potential for her future. She was doing so amazingly well in high school, especially excellent in math, that I was in awe of her. Where I could barely concentrate on reading my textbook, she would burn through her work with a steady focus and drive. Once she set her mind to something, nothing could stand in the way of her accomplishing her task. She decided she wanted to become an engineer during her IB class years and set her mind to it. In grade twelve, she excitedly told her parents she wanted to attend a prestigious university known for their engineering program. Her father waved her off saying "engineering is a boy's job, pick something else, I don't want my daughter butting heads in a male-dominated career." His decision was final and her world shattered. She was lost. She did not know where to go from there since she was so sure of her purpose and understood where her talents lay. Her parents did not want her to go outside the city for university, so she dismissed her dreams and joined a college near her home. She flitted from one subject to another, distracted by everything around her, slowly losing her confidence, her drive, and her passion. She began focusing her energy on finding something that would make her happy. But there was nothing around her that sparked joy in her heart. Even studying advanced mathematics and calculus became a challenge for her because she knew spending so much effort in learning this subject will not lead her anywhere anymore. Slowly, depression began clouding her journey and she began giving up. The indecision and exhaustion of living a life that was not truly hers broke her down. Fate brought her another chance to delve into a career that she enjoyed, but it was also short-lived because she became pregnant. Once again, she left her interests behind so she could focus on her child and she became an amazing mother but this was not the life she picked for herself. No matter how well she did with what she had, I could not convince her that it was enough. For her, nothing was enough and she continued to feel empty. She began to believe she was never good enough at whatever she did. That beautiful, confident girl became a shell of her previous self as her life became a self-fulfilling prophecy for her of failed attempts at getting back on her feet with all the responsibilities she continued to bear. But I still consider her so strong because she continued to fight despite it all. She stood by her sister's side when she picked a challenging, male-dominated field to study in and make a career from. She fought with her father for his support, and she won that battle. This woman became my greatest supporter and strength during my challenging years when my own mind faltered with all the pushback I would receive in pursuing medicine.

Figuring out what career we pick is one of the most important decisions we make in our lives. It is up there in those major life decisions such as choosing our marriage partner or deciding to have a child. A lot of thought and effort goes into deciding what we want to do with our lives in a world where life never or rarely follows linear patterns. Some of us know from an early age where our interests lie, but for others, their path remains elusive and ever-changing. Then there are those external factors that influence their lives such as parental decisions, financial issues, and cultural and religious boundaries. This is especially true for girls. 

    From the moment we are born, our paths are generally predetermined and we are trained to think that way ourselves as if we are the ones who made those decisions. In some cultures, who we marry may have been decided a few months after our birth to someone we have never met and will never meet until a set age. In that situation, the compatibility of those two humans is considered a secondary priority over family ties, parental friendships, and financial stability. It is as if the main goal of a female being born is to be placed in servitude of a family and bear children. 

    When young girls ask me for advice about their future the first question I ask is what do you want? The response I usually receive is "my parents wish for me to become a lawyer or doctor" or "my parents want me to get married within another year or so." Neither of these statements answers the original question I asked. The girls hesitate and fidget with themselves when I repeat my question because they already have been given answers to the questions they truly want to ask and they know nothing will change their parents' minds. Their needs become obsolete and unimportant. They are told they do not understand the grand scheme of things and to leave the most important decisions of their lives in the hands of their parents and other elders around them even as they approach adulthood. The parents know better. To some degree, wisdom can be achieved with age, but one person's priority is not necessarily that of their children's. It is very difficult for parents to understand that those children are their own entities and person. Sure, they can be moulded a certain way, but only for so long. After a while, they will either bend too far into submission or break in other ways. 

    In choosing a career, there is no wrong answer. This is something you will be doing for more than half your life. When you wake up in the morning, as sleep continues to beckon you and your blanket coaxes you to succumb to the sleepiness weighing your eyes, your purpose should be clear and motivating. I understand that after some point, work becomes work but where there is passion, that flame will continue to burn and bring clarity and peace to your life. Sometimes, we are held back from achieving our goals due to financial instability, but if you have a goal in mind, it can still be reached with patience and proper planning. There are so many resources available to help you reach for the moon, literally, if your dream is to become an astronaut, or figuratively for anything else. The first task is to decide and then focus all your energy on that one goal. Feel free to make changes along the way because nothing is static. Interests can change along the way as you grow into yourself and learn more. 

    Finding love along the way does not have to be a hindrance. Clear communication and boundaries need to be set so that both of you can continue striving and moving forward professionally while you grow intimately. This will mean making some sacrifices or compromises along the way or dealing with distance. But for the right person, it will be worth it.  Think twice before giving up your dreams for someone just because you have fallen in love. Love changes with time and there will be trials and struggles within the relationship. Having something outside the relationship will help maintain your sanity and independence. The two of you should align as parallels, two paths burning alongside each other and be each other's support as you chase your dreams. 

    Everyone travels at their own pace and there is no competition or finish line, so don't worry about who is "ahead" or behind you. Just focus on yourself, your responsibilities, and priorities. There are limitations and individual struggles that can hold us back from achieving things as well sometimes. We are all given a set of circumstances and we have to make most of what is in our hands but nothing is completely written off. You never know where or when the right opportunity comes and opens the right door for you. Until there are no more doors left to open, there is always a chance. This is easier said than done sometimes. Even I struggle to motivate myself to keep moving forward with every setback that comes my way. Sometimes, I think maybe it is time to just let go and give up, but then I ask myself, what then? What will I do with my time? Will I truly be able to let go of it or will my surrender continue to haunt me in the years to come? One of the reasons I am able to continue my pursuit is because I have a supportive husband who is willing to compromise and work while I try to find a job in my field. It would have been difficult otherwise, and I would need to succumb to the responsibilities of helping pay the bills. It does put strain and pressure on me and my timeline shortens with every passing year. I know it isn't always possible to keep fighting. 

    But for you young girls out there, use your potential to the best of your abilities. The goal of life is to find a sense of peace within us, share some precious moments of laughter, and shed a few tears on the shoulders of those we love. There is also more to life than any singular aspect. Career is just one component, love is another. There are shows waiting to be watched, places to travel to, books waiting to be read,  and people to be loved. Life is an amalgamation of everything it offers, a quilt in which you patch all your life experiences and create a unique piece of art portraying everything you are, who you have become, what you have done, and what you have felt.  


Until Next Time,

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash

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