For as long as I could remember I never knew what exactly I wanted to do with my life. My parents love to joke about the fact that I would change from one occupation to another each week. I remember wanting to be a dentist, an actress, a minister, a gynecologist, a writer, a nurse, a pediatric doctor, a nanny, a superhero, a wizard, and an astronaut – I wanted to be everything.
I would see something or someone somewhere and, boom, next moment they would be my role model and I would obsess to be precisely like them – for a week, at least.
At school, I did not do that well. I was frustratingly average. I did not excel in academics, sport, or culture. I did, however, do everything and partook in almost anything someone brought under my attention. I was young, impression-ably undecided, and could just not find my niche.
All around me all my friends knew exactly what they wanted from life; where to find what they were dreaming about; how to get there. I felt like such a failure.
At fifteen-years-old (the beginning of grade 10) we were told to choose the subjects that would start us on our journey towards the career we were dreaming about. I stared and stared at the little form they gave us. It was just a quarter of a page in size and only had space for your name and tick boxes for the subjects that you wanted to take. But it was the most intimidated I had ever felt.
My head reeled. I saw my friends scratching away with their ball-point pens, knowing exactly what to leave behind and what to carry with them. My heart sunk. I swallowed and chose Maths, Science and Chemistry, and History.
And I regret that decision to this day.
For you see, I chose what I thought would look good to and impress other people. “Wow! You’re taking Maths and SciChem? Good luck!”
People’s compliments, ideas, and thoughts about the level of work I had to put in, made me feel like maybe I do know what I am doing with my life. Maybe I am not that much of a failure.
Needless to say, for the next three years, I cried through each study session for both Maths and SciChem. I had panic attacks each time a marked test was given back to us – most of which I passed by the hair on my teeth. I got violently sick the night before my senior year final for SciChem, so much so I swore to my mum that I will not write the exam the next morning.
And all of this, just to impress other people and to find validation in their actions and words towards me.
Today I am busy with my Master’s degree in Theology. I recently graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Divinity. I am well on my way to becoming a professor in Systematic Theology.
When I shared the idea of pursuing a degree in a Religion, especially at the university that I wanted to, many people were not happy with my idea. Some many people tried to persuade me to do something else; anything else, to be honest.
“Your faith will be compromised.”
“Your innocence will be lost.”
“You are on the path to your own destruction – spirituality, mentality, and emotionally.”
I listened and acknowledged each comment. I nodded my head and made sure to weigh all the options. Not because of their ideas, but based on my heart, my mind, and my ideas. I validated myself and my decisions.
I decided to study Theology.
In the sea of confusion brought on by all the various options that I could possibly have pursued, the only thing that shone bright was that I knew I wanted my life to mean something; I wanted my life to better that of those around me. I wanted to leave this world knowing that somewhere someone is sleeping better because of me.
It was with that ideal in mind that I disappointed even more people when I decided to become an academic instead of a minister. I just could not see myself in a church, ministering, and leading a congregation. I could, however, see myself teaching, imparting ideas and opinions, and helping raise a generation of critically-thinking, kind students. It was what I wanted. It was a decision that validated my existence, my mind, my heart, and my soul.
To be honest, I have never felt more in tune with what I am supposed to do, than I do at this moment. I learned from giving others power over my decisions and chose to do what is good and right for me. I learned that to validate yourself is much more powerful in building yourself up and building on your confidence than the validation you will find from the compliments, ideas, and thoughts of others.
From all the lessons that Life has taught me, this was one of the biggies.
It is my wish that this story, my mistakes, and the lesson learned empowers you to do what is good and right for you. Listen to those who love you and want the best for you, but trust your heart, mind, and soul when you feel like perhaps their advice is not the most appropriate for your specific situation.
You are allowed to think about you and about your future. It does not make you selfish, stupid, or senselessly shameful. It is what makes you survive and love life.
You are, indeed, the person you will share the longest journey with.