I fondly remember my childhood days, when an uncle, a family friend, or any random older person visiting the home would, in an attempt to strike conversation with the little one, innocently ask the dreaded question: ‘what do you want to be when you grow up Caleb?’
On one occasion, my spirited reply was that when I grow up, I want to be an uncle. Looking back, that was not the most informed of answers. As it turns out, I was actually an uncle years before I was born, by default, and in turn I now have an uncle somewhere who is turning five years old. That is Kenyan extended families for you.
Consequently, this question has followed me my entire life up until this point. Just as it has almost everyone else in this day and age. For any millennial or older gen z, the odds are pretty high that those who raised you belong to the post-independence era, where career defined and radiated everything there was to know about a person. That one’s whole identity could be derived from what they did for a living.
There were ‘highly respected’ professions, which came with their own levels of prestige. A medical doctor was known from valley to valley, the teacher was feared across districts, and the veterinarian was in demand like the 10 cent shilling of the day. All the while, the local photographer had a new bunch of family photos to take every other Sunday, and the chief belonged at the top, all respect accorded to him as a match for his power.
The result of this environment, in its own way, translates into the pressures thrust upon us growing up. A preconceived notion that one job beats another, which is purely wrong. I remember for one, expressing a boyhood desire to be a mechanical engineer, and work with cars. A desire that was met with disapproval. We find ourselves impelled to pursue the Big 4 of careers in Law, Engineering, Medicine and Aviation. For many, your passions might fall into the aforementioned categories. To you, congratulations and good luck.
But what of those with divergent interests? What happens then? Or even further down the road, what of those who have had their interests dictated for them, to the extent that they cannot really decipher what makes them tick? I hold the opinion that no harm is intended by those who impel us to certain interests, and one only realizes the influence they hold, or have been held by, when it is already done.
No one should tell you what to do with your life. Even I cannot answer the question. Only you can. Through meditating over your life, and what draws you in. Discovering what makes you tick. Identifying what makes you bubble over with joy. Is it a feeling? An effect of an action you took? Or is it a change you have brought on someone, something, or the world as a whole? These are just some of the questions you need to answer on your journey of discovery. Does this article throw you into utter confusion? Good, welcome to step one of your existential crisis. It gets better.
Finally, have I discovered what makes me tick? I don’t think I have, but I will. Meanwhile, to those who asked me questions over the many years, my answers began with neurological surgeon, civil engineer and many fancy engineering disciplines.
Ultimately, I settled on computer science because working on computers and fixing gadgets came naturally to me. I faced some external urges to try something else, but I am glad to have stayed the course and currently specialize in Cybersecurity. I do not have it all figured out, no one really has. If you would like a take home, funzo la leo ni rahisi “sisi wote tunaguezz”.