Being top of the class and obtaining exceptional marks is great. It is probably every learner’s subconscious goal to perform well in school. It pleases your parents and paves the way for a brighter future. The parents of bright children and their teachers become over enthusiastic about shaping their children’s futures. They bombard the poor children with their “expert advice” and many opinions. The sad part is that their opinions are as contrary as north and south.

“Become a doctor!” “You’ll make a ruthless attorney!” “I already see an accountant in you, crunching some serious numbers like it is nobody’s business!” But what if what they want for you is not what you want for yourself?

Yep, that’s my life. I am one of the rare, bright learners who wants nothing to do with overly academic careers. You see, I am actually a “starlet on the rise” as my drama teacher would put it. I see myself as a professional live theatre performer. I am already imagining myself, slowly making my way towards a grand well-lit stage, acting my heart out, to lastly, taking a graceful bow, in front of my appreciative audience.

I have tried countless times to tell my mother about my passion. She proved true the saying that says, “There is none blind as those who will not see.”

“It’s not a bad thing to dream, my dear,” I knew her next words would wound me beyond imagination, “but face reality, your future comes first, always!”

My face dropped. Somehow, in her eyes, my greatest love is just a pipe dream – an absolute waste of time. It didn’t surprise me much, though. She envisions me as a world-renowned doctor who lives overseas and saves hundreds of lives. Even though I am only a ninth grader, she already has medical bursaries lined up for me! She, together with my teachers, decided for me that I would do physical sciences, life sciences and mathematics in tenth grade. I only want to do drama! It is quite a tricky predicament I am in. The year is slowly but surely drawing to an end.

“I just know you will make an excellent doctor. I know you would never sabotage yourself…” Here we go again. I’ve heard this story enough times. The story of how the neighbour’s boy apparently ruined his future by turning down a scholarship to fulfil his dream of singing. The record label he was under fired him upon discovering that he was using drugs. My mother has tried all tactics to dissuade me from choosing acting, with even emotional blackmail not being beneath her. I guess it worked, until my new revelation.

One day at school, I was sitting in solitude on the steps. My friend, Nobuhle, came along.

“Aren’t you coming?” she asked, surprise evident on her face upon finding me there.

“Coming where?” I asked back, furrowing my eyebrows in confusion.

“To the career expo, silly!” she giggled through that last part.

“No thanks, I’ve already chosen what I’ll do after school,” I said, drawing out the words.

“Oh, come on!” she said, pulling me up and dragging me to the school hall. I resisted though. “There’s no harm in just being there!” Nobuhle protested again.

I finally threw in the towel and allowed my body to be dragged along. I had nothing better to do anyway.

I was not listening much, but that was only until one speaker grabbed my attention by the horns. He was warning us of the reasons for pursuing a career. He spoke about loving what you do. I could swear that he was staring directly at me when his words left his mouth. Suddenly it hit me. At that exact moment I realised something that sounded absurd in the past, was true.

I could say no! I could say no to this medical career forced onto me. I could say no to being pressurised to do what I didn’t want to do. I could say no to letting outsiders make decisions about my future for me. I could say no to listening to everybody giving their two cents.

It is not about the brains or status. It is about a talent, love and passion for what you do. Every child has that inherent passion and talent. Therefore, it must be allowed to flourish.

My epiphany both overwhelmed and relieved me. It was the most welcoming bolt of lightning I could ever receive. It granted me the immense courage to say no, because I can.


Tell us: Do you think children should have the right to choose their own career path?