Sunday, October 25, 2015

Out of the Box



I spent my first 18 years immersed in an educational (and social) system that did little to encourage creativity. What subjects did I take for A levels? Economics, Chemistry, and Further Maths. That's not to say that I didn't do well in these classes, or that I didn't enjoy them, because I did. Heck, I loved Economics, and that's what I got my degree in, despite having the opportunity to change my mind (and the wisdom to know that it would be okay to).

It was expected that our degrees and the careers we chose would follow certain paths that all those before us chose; thinking outside the box wasn't really encouraged. This wasn't just a problem localised at my school; indeed, it was a problem that was facing a larger community in Nairobi. Looking at my secondary school graduating class, I can't think of anyone who chose to pursue further education in something like art, creative writing, or philosophy. That's not to say that no one was interested in these fields; rather, if present, this interest wasn't cultivated or encouraged, and as far as I know, if people expressed desire to pursue their passions, they were told to pick something more 'realistic'.

How many brilliant creative minds have we shut down because we forced them to pursue maths, sciences, or similar fields? Because art is not a 'real' field? 

I'm very fortunate that I'm still writing at this age. While we didn't do much writing for school, I did choose to pursue it personally, from quite a young age. Was this encouraged by my educators and peers? No, not really. Would my writing be at a different level if it had been? Maybe, but I don't think there's much value to be derived from regret; rather, it's best to move forward and see how we can change.

When I came back to Kenya this year, I had somewhat restricted myself to similar in-the-box thinking. I know that I want to be an entrepreneur eventually, but I also know that to be ready for that, I'd like to have more experience and skills. However, what I wrongly assumed is that those experience and skills would be gained at a typical 'desk job', and so that's what I went and found.

There was nothing wrong with the job itself, but I realised that it wasn't the best fit for me. I was trying to make myself conform to a standard I had no business conforming to in the first place. I was trying to live someone else's reality, a reality that I'd been raised to think was right for me.

It took me a while to make the decision, but I quit. In typical Roshni fashion, I did a lot of thinking about this decision, consulted a lot of people, and tried to listen to my head, which told me that change could always come later. Why rush it now? In the end, I did what was right for me, what I probably should have done in the first place; followed my heart now.

Why is it that we force ourselves into these boxes now, so that we can enjoy ourselves later? Here's something we need to realise (to a certain degree of course); later never comes. The excuses we make now can easily become the excuses we make tomorrow that prevent us from stepping forth confidently in the direction of our dreams. If we keep living for tomorrow, how will we ever enjoy today?

So what am I doing now? I'm working (full time) as a consultant. Primarily for a company in the U.K., but also on some independent projects. The work I'm doing is challenging, but I love it! I can officially call myself an intrapreneur. I have creative freedom, the opportunity to learn a lot, and autonomy over what I do. I have the opportunity to learn from a fantastic and hard-working entrepreneur. I now have the time and the flexibility to do more writing and to travel; two things that are very important to me, that I had told myself I would do 'later'. I already feel like I'm growing by leaps and bounds. Will things change in the future? Most probably; change is constant. But for now, I can confidently say that I'm in the right place, at the right moment, doing the right things. 

What have the past few weeks taught me? It's okay to stand up for yourself, to step out of the box society says you should be in - it's okay to follow your heart.



3 comments:

Rachel said...

Both of my parents went to engineering school, and they gave me the sort of high school education that was incredible preparation for engineering school, expecting me to do the same thing...however, I'm really glad that I was allowed to pursue a B.A. when college time came--how two engineers raised an artsy writer, they'll never know...

Cheenar Shah said...

This so brilliantly captures the sad reality of the high school experience in Kenya. I am sure you have watched Ken Robinson's TED talk 'Do schools kill creativity?', if you haven't - DO SO! By far, one of my favorites on education today! I am sure it will resonate well with you.. Thanks for the insightful read !

Roshni Walia said...

I'm glad you were allowed to pursue your B.A. too, Rachel! :)

Thanks for sharing, Cheenar! Surprisingly, I haven't yet checked it out, but I'll be sure to!

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