For the love of culture… How do I justify following my dreams to my African parents?
A young woman reached out to me via Tumblr to ask me a couple questions that any African in America may have when making the decision to follow their dreams. I never got around to sharing it here, but after a sudden barrage of emails, I felt it poignant to do so, simply because I answered her much more eloquently. — Hope this helps.
How did you learn how to code & photograph so well? Also, being Nigerian, how did you tell your parents & family members this is what you wanted to do and not go the regular route of African preferred professions (law, medicine, accounting)? How did you get past the negativity and preserved to become one of the top ppl in your field?- Vera
Hey Vera! Thank you for reaching out. My answer is super lengthy, but I’ll do my best to keep it short. [No promises though lol.]
I learned to code because I initially started out wanting to be a popular blogger. I was a freshman in college, a nursing major with a pre-med minor, and I hated my a vast majority of my classes… I spent more time on the computer than I did with real people. I wanted to “make it” on the internet, but didn’t know how. I didn’t have the connects to make me famous, I didn’t know any rappers, I didn’t look like a super model (still don’t), but I knew I had the access to the tools and ability to make myself indispensable to those around me. So I did. I taught myself how to build my own site. I read crazy amounts of tutorials, downloaded adobe creative suite, asked a trillion questions to anyone who’d listen. I taught myself the ins and outs of everything that goes into making the internet. One gig, turned into recommendations, turned into friends telling friends, to me garnering my first client, then my first major client…etc. Blessings on blessings.
[Sidebar: In the process of all this made it my business not to overcharge people, but never undercut myself. Not sure if this is relevant, but I broke down what I would need to “earn hourly” in order to live modestly yet comfortably. And there are people who I haven’t worked with in years but still refer me because I didn’t try and shank their wallets.]
I took up photography because in building my repertoire with people I started gaining access to shows. I lived in Arizona [at the time], all these great concerts were happening, and unless some random attendee uploaded their cell phone footage on youtube, no one would know it happened. So, I took advantage of that. Concert photography taught me to stay ready and capture the moment. — Also, I couldn’t afford to hire a photographer (remember: I was a broke college student), and we all know desperate circumstances will lead one to do some advantageous things. lol… I am still developing my photo skills and perfecting them, daily.
As for telling your African parents you’re not going to be what they want: This is a tough one. I say this because I’m a little over a year away from graduating with my masters in Physical Therapy, and will eventually get my doctorate (like I promised my mother when I was younger). When it comes to our African parents, their biggest concern is that we are secure, for the rest of our lives. As an immigrant, America is not my birth country. My parents see that, meanwhile recognizing their own mortality and want me to have lifelong recession-proof career at my fingertips (lawyer, doctor, pharmacist…etc). I remember when I first told my mom that I worked on the internet, she didn’t understand how I got paid or how I would keep the lights on. But junior year of college, I was finally able to quit my day job, and still send her the occasional dollar, she got it. Then when I closed escrow on her house, she GOT it. Still definitely wants me to get my doctorate, but will always be my number one fan and supporter in everything and anything that I do. All it took was me SHOWING her, meanwhile still being respectful to my culture. Our parents have hopes for us, yes, we just need to show them that we hear them, are listening and will achieve that American dream they immigrated for—even if it’s not necessarily the way they envisioned it.
[My vision has changed greatly from when I first started blogging. I no longer want to be a popular blogger, but rather a digital maven with a lifelong business where I get to make money/create with friends, and continually make my own rules. I have no intention of working a 9-5 ever again in life, but definitely have not shied away from picking up odd-jobs when God put me in a position where I needed to humble myself. The road isn’t glittery or gold, but it’s worth it.]
As for getting past the negative and preserving in my field: Just a few thoughts…. Keep ambitiously amazing (older) people around you: they’ve lived life and lead by example. Never be afraid to walk away from something that doesn’t refill you emotionally, spiritually, or just happiness (this could be romantically speaking or business wise). I’ve said no to opportunities that I’m sure would’ve made me “rich and famous”, but I want my opportunity forever, not for-now. Never measure your success by anyone else’s standards. Define you or someone else will. And lastly, never be afraid to walk alone. God will always have your back.