I come from a family where education is THE most important thing. My father is an immigrant from South Sudan who achieved the American Dream thanks to his education. My mother is an African American with a rich history of generations of hard work and upward mobility because of education. Which leaves my sister, brother and me with the incredible gift of two parents that have loved, supported, and allowed us to reach for the stars academically. So, no surprise I am weeks away from entering business school.
I’m Type-A, eager to please my parents, and always follow the rules. As such, grades and achievement have been my focus for as long as I can remember. In kindergarten, I was the kid that shushed the other kids when they were being too loud. And being named “Teacher’s Pet” was my crown of glory. (To all my grade school classmates, I apologize.) Later on in high school, I developed an interest in studying business and kept my sights on a marketing career. This was parent-approved, and thus b school is in my future.
It was not until later in life that I learned my mom had been approached on multiple occasions when I was growing up about making me a model. She turned down or ignored these suggestions, believing that modeling emphasized the wrong values, and that my self esteem as a young lady could not withstand it. She was probably right.
Perhaps most importantly, pursuing more artistic careers like modeling, painting, or acting was not encouraged by my father. Sure, he paid for dance lessons, violin lessons, singing lessons; anything to make my siblings and I well-rounded people who understand and appreciate the arts. But his number 1 priority has always been to raise us as self-sufficient adults with solid careers.
In so many ways, my dad is right. He did not come to America for his kids to risk becoming starving artists. But there has always been this restless artist inside of me, hungry for something more than 50 years spent accumulating personal wealth as a corporate employee in a cube farm. I have an appreciation for beauty in the world, and in others. I possess a deep desire to return to my father’s homeland and make my life worth something for the millions of people in war-torn societies there. I’m creative. Music is my lifeblood. And the direction my life has been headed cut these parts out of me. I have been stifled by the rules of the capitalist game I play so well: lifetime success as defined by the size of my financial rewards from a “good job.”
Dabbling in modeling has awoken the artist in me and a desire to do something great. Like I’ve been living life inside a box, seeing everything in black and white, afraid to color outside the lines with that fuchsia colored crayon I love so much. Afraid to have dreams bigger than the cubical I spent the past 2 years working in. Education will still be the most important thing in my life, but the way I choose to wield it has officially changed. I’m dreaming now, and taking action every day to make those dreams come true:
- I will do something creative with my life, and feed my artistic soul.
- I will go back to Africa and positively impact my father’s homeland.
- I will live with no regrets.
So here goes.