I remember when I was still a child, I had this lofty dream of some day becoming a medical doctor. In fact, my dream made my dad feel really proud when I came home from school and he saw those good grades shining off of my report card at the end of the term.
I had so sold this dream to myself, romantically embraced the idea in my mind and perceived it as my future reality. I so much believed that I was going to become a doctor that my dad too bought it! If someone had told me that several years down the road I would not eventually become a medical doctor, I probably would have cursed the person and my family may have had to have several all-night prayer sessions to terminate the plans of any “devils” against my destiny in life.
The fact is, back then as a kid, I had observed the prestige that medical doctors had in society-the cars they drove, clothes they wore, respect they were accorded at occasions and that people generally expected that a very brilliant child should and may eventually become a doctor in the future-and I had craved this prestige so much, i did overlooked my gifts, natural talent and passion in my quest
I didn’t write the mandatory University entry examination (JAMB) as many times as some people may have done, but I did write a couple of times. I recall writing the exam even when I was already a student in my second and third years after gaining admission to study Biochemistry which I did by what I would call a mistaken “twist of fate”. I had thought–perhaps this once, my pet dream of becoming a doctor can still become a reality–but it was never to be.
In the exam hall of the post UME test of my then school, I sat beside a much older guy who I thought should be approaching thirty or so. This guy told me that the year before; he had gotten admission to study Physiology–which was one of the paramedical/premed courses being offered in the Medical College–but that his dad vehemently refused him to take the admission, insisting that he must study medicine and become a doctor. This exam both of us were writing together was not his first, second, or even third but his fifth! And there was no guarantee that we were going to be admitted – I wasn’t and I do not know about the young man.
A lot of my colleagues back in the medical college studied medicine not because they had always wanted to be doctors or had dreams and aspirations to be doctors and save lives, but because their parents wanted them to study medicine and become doctors. Some parents did so because of the prestige of the profession, others because they were themselves doctors and wanted their kids to follow in line so they could perhaps take over their private practices when they eventually retire.
I ended up graduating as a Biochemist from the university, but I realized a few years after graduation that this prestige thing has caused a deep fracture in our thinking and in our society. I have classmates who are doctors but hate the hell of the work they do and wish they could do something else but feel trapped. I know of others who graduated and went on to do other things besides medicine. I still know yet some who realized early enough that it wasn’t their calling and moved to study some other courses and today are doing very well in their endeavors as entertainers, designers, etc.
The Problem of Prestige today has made our kids when they think about what they want to become in the future their brains subconsciously feeds them the stereotype thought of becoming a Doctor, or Lawyer, Accountant, Engineer, Pilot, etc. Rarely do kids think they want to become musicians, fashion models, designers, footballers, basketballer’s, comedians, etc. in the end, our schools churn out lots of graduates, “professionals” in their fields who are misfits in society. The truth remains that not everyone would be a professional-doctor, pharmacist, engineer, lawyer, etc. our society would be completely dysfunctional. Today we are in dire need of artisans, skilled workers, craftsmen who would spark up our own industrial revolution. But that is far from becoming a reality, when we have millions of unskilled graduates seeking white collar professions because our school system has manufactured people that fit its stereotyped mould.
I never regret the day I discovered my true self, my passion, and chose a career path that suited that passion. I am glad I resisted the temptation to go back to school to study medicine as a second degree. What a waste it would have been! No offense to the doctors, I admire what they do and I respect them a lot. They save lives on a daily basis–for those who really save lives.
Who would have thought about a decade ago that today, making people laugh with jokes or acting movies, could make one a millionaire and earn one celebrity status. It took years of hard work and strong inner convictions for these guys to make their profession earn enviable status in society. Sadly yet, a lot of parents would still strongly discourage their kids from threading the unconventional path for fear of their kids not becoming anything substantial in society. Many parents would rather kill their child’s unconventional dreams preferring rather that the child meets societies prestige expectation even in the face of the glaring unemployment reality.
I have two classmates who were at one time studying medicine, but at some point had to change their course of study. They were initially derided, scolded, looked down on, some people even thought f them as failures. Today, one of them is a very well known comedian and entertainer; another is a designer and has several outlets across the country. I see people like this in society who have the will and courage to go against the norm and darn society's prestige expectation and follow their dreams.
Sometimes I wish I knew what I learned in my third year a few years earlier, I probably wouldn’t have delved into the sciences. Oh the usual hype and folly that every child who makes good grades should be in the science classes and is most likely to become a doctor, engineer and the likes while the not so scientifically brilliant child is seen as dull and should be in the Arts classes. As a matter of fact, the Arts classes back then were looked upon as the classes for academically less serious, unintelligent and unfocused kids who just wanted to get by. What a tragedy!