This is simply the story of how pressure drove me to almost become a quack doctor. I was that child that loved to read. Recently, my aunt told me the story of how, while I was much younger, some guy was utterly convinced and repeated it on every possible occasion that I was going to be a professor. Why? Because I often used words ‘too big for my age’ and my tenses were mostly correct.
Anyway, being ‘too smart’ meant people already decided my future career. While this uncle (am I being mean for picturing him in a dark tan, but slightly over-sized suit and black pointed shoes?) chose professorship for me, many more others concluded I had to be medical doctor of-course. I, however, recall a few people saying I’ll be a lawyer because I was always talking. If only they saw what I did now – very very very little talk.
Anyway, so here I am, done with the compulsory subjects in Junior Secondary School, and deciding what path to take in Senior School. In Nigeria, you typically navigate towards the Sciences, Arts or Commercial class – the first being reserved for the ‘smarter’ kids and the last two for the ‘average’ kids.
Literally, everyone thought I’ll be wasting my ‘brains’ as an Art student studying Government and Christian Religious Studies (CRS). The pressure was real, so I succumbed. And I picked the sciences: Physics, Chemistry and Biology. I stood my ground on my love for Literature though. So I picked this over Geography – one of the few Science students to do so. This decision ended up being such a huge lifesaver.
Biology was cool – I mean we can all relate with the digestive and reproductive system (and the endless giggles during the teachings on the latter topic made the classes less boring). So maybe I could do this doctor thing after all. Surely I’ll get over my fear of blood at some point, won’t I?
Physics: My friends had to use a spoon to practically make me understand the difference between convex and concave mirror. They – Tonia and Shalewa, must have been surprised at the many times I bombarded them with some rather simple questions. You see, these girls understood Physics and Chemistry on a whim. I sorta understood it, but I couldn’t relate. How was the Periodic Table and Law of Thermodynamics adding value to my life?
I got straight As but it was boring to me.
Then, the last term of the first year of senior school (SS1) I got an F in Chemistry.
I was furious.
Imagine looking at your report sheet – ‘A’s all the way down and then an F. To make matters worse that F wasn’t my result. I had in actual fact got an A. But an F had been mistakenly put on my report sheet because the student whose name followed mine on the register had an F. It was a simple mistake.
But I stormed into the teacher’s office and fumed. He apologised and noted that it’ll be rectified when the new session began. I refused to consider the fact that he probably had less than two weeks to mark and record over 200 scripts. He may have been tired, or perhaps in an argument with his wife, when he recorded the wrong mark for me.
And then I dropped the bombshell. “I’m dropping Chemistry, Sir”. “How can you? You are one of our best students”.
But I refused to budge. That was it. My mind made up.
I returned to school over the holidays to purchase my textbooks for the Art courses. The Guidance Counsellor scheduled a session with me to ask if I was going to cope. “I’ll be fine Ma. I’ll catch up on what has been taught in the past year”.
I resumed the new academic year – SS2 and signed up for Government and CRS classes in place of Chemistry and Physics. I was going to be an Art student. Yes. Even with all the brains.
So that’s how I almost became a quack doctor. I may have pushed through high school, cramming and still getting As, get into Uni and eventually study medicine. Still cramming. Maybe even take the Hippocratic Oath, without having any real passion for it.
And perhaps, just perhaps… this lack of passion would have made me comparable to a quack doctor.
I’m thankful for that singular mistake. I’m thankful for that F in Chemistry. I did not bother to have the report sheet corrected, and I still have it that way to this day.
Please, say no to societal pressure in whatever form. Know what you want, and push through with it. Don’t force your kids to get the career that YOU want.
Do you have any similar stories? What kind of societal pressures have you had to deal with?
PS: Imagine if growing up, I told all these ‘career prophets’ that all I wanted to do was be a blogger? Hahaha.
*Quack in this post is used to mean someone who lacks passion. I do not intend it to mean a pretender. I would never condone pretending to be a Medical Doctor.