Conversations with My Father

A recent conversation I had with my father did not go well. For the longest time – at least since I decided on what I wanted to do with my life – my father has always insisted on following one career path, and that is, nursing. Now let me be clear, this is not about bashing the nursing or the health services field. After all, we depend on them to heal and provide us with care – which they do excellently – when we get sick. 

The conversation between my dad and I went thus: I called to check on him and find out how he was doing, as well as keep abreast on Nigerian and Imo politics and its intrigue. It was great to hear him sound well, and he reminded me of the in-season vegetables and fruits that I don’t get to eat in the U.S. My obsession with Nigerian fruits, vegetables, and foods is another topic for another day. 

The conversation took a rather uncomfortable turn. My dad asked me how my job search was going and how my siblings were faring. I recently graduated with my master’s in public policy in May, and have found it difficult to find a decent job in the D.C. area. Instead of words of encouragement that anyone would expect to hear from their parents, my father blindsided me by saying that I should have gone for a career where the jobs would look for me, instead of vice versa. Now, I should have been prepared for this, but nonetheless, it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at THAT particular time. He has mentioned to me before of going into the home health care business, and in this particular conversation, pointed out the successes his wife has had as a nurse. To me, that meant, go back to school and study to become a nurse. 

I tried in vain to convince him that not all is green on the other side. In light of obvious advantages of being a nurse, there also exist many disadvantages. My father did not want to hear any of it. Now, to give you a little background on why I and my sisters continue to get this nursing lecture from my dad. The assumption that many people make in Nigeria is that nurses in the U.S. make a boatload of money. Nurses who live in the U.S. and travel home for the holidays flaunt their “wealth” which many attribute to the title of being a “nurse” while being naïve to the tasking nature of what being nurse entails and how these nurses who it seems are put in the same category as Nigerian politicians who have money. 

All my dad said to me was, “they all have jobs”. At the end of the day, that is the goal, to have a “job”. To say that I didn’t feel like I had just wasted two years of my life studying public policy, and racking up to a hundred grand in student loans, would be a monumental lie. I know a Nigerian friend who graduated with a bachelor’s in criminal justice with hopes of going to law school. She ended up becoming a banker. A couple of years later, she’s now a, you guessed it, nurse! Although she said she changed her mind on her own, but I have a feeling she was seriously persuaded to become a nurse, given that all her female siblings and mom included, are in health services. 

The question now is, should I abandon my goal of possibly becoming part of the new generation of policy makers in Nigeria, only because I am looking for a “job”? Hardly. I have strong convictions in my ability to perform in my chosen career field, find a job that is satisfying, and allow me to contribute positively to the development of Nigeria. I know that sounds like such a cliché, but it is the truth. I am not cut out to being a nurse. If we all became nurses, then who will be left to do all the other “jobs”? At the end of the day, my dad’s advice comes from a good place. We had to agree to disagree. I am the last of his kids and I know he wants me to succeed in life and do well. Will I have succeeded in life if all I want is to just get a damn job!?

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