I read a book while I was in Secondary school. The name was My Family And Other Animals. I remember picking it up from a bed in my granny’s house. The first few and last few pages were torn but I managed to see the potential in it, especially with the title. And I began to read it and I’m so glad I did because it transported me to a world where even the most ordinary of nature was made to seem like a wonder. The author painted a picturesque world that I imagine in chalk pastels or watercolour images. His use of imagery was so fantastic I just needed to close my eyes to actually be where he was talking about and hear the cicadas chirrup or feel the stifling heat or whatever.
It also awakened something in me – my love for learning how animals behave and observing them in their natural habitats. Growing up, I’d always loved animals. Most animals. Even the ones I feared or detested, I still liked to learn about because they were so fascinating.
I believe it was this love for animals that made me decide to be a vet doctor, especially since my parents didn’t seem so keen on me using my artistic talent to make cartoons. “How will you eat?” my mum would always say.
However I think my love for animals was a bit misguided. Sure, a bird with a broken wing or a starving dog or an injured goat would break my heart to pieces, but it is one thing to care and another to want to do something about it.
I picked vet medicine expecting to be exposed to a world that would feed my wonder and thirst to learn about how nature worked just like when I read my A-level biology textbooks from cover to cover. Alas, it’s not the case. I think the course system in Nigeria has killed that thirst for knowledge or at least subdued it to the point of only wanting to read because one wants to pass exams, and not because one was thirsty for the knowledge that comes with studying.
I can’t really place a finger on why my own thirst is gone but I feel like it’s because I wasn’t put in the right environment to let it flourish. We spend our days cooped up in a classroom, being all theoretical, when we should be doing, and everything seems so mechanical it’s almost lifeless. Very, very, very few lecturers are able to instill that excitement I feel I should be feeling. I spend most of my days in class in a daze, idly drawing on the back of my notebooks, oblivious to the names we are constantly being bombarded with as if we are nothing but computers where data should be imputed and stored. It’s stifling. I wish I could get out.
Or maybe I didn’t understand what my love for animals exactly was. I feel tempted to blame my mother. She’s so worried about our future that she wanted us to pick the big things to do. I wanted to be a scientist. More specifically a biologist, just like Mr. Chuks from secondary school who was a wealth of wonderful knowledge on the things of nature. But she said no, I’d be better off a doctor. There’d be a better likelihood of me getting a job than as a biologist. Did I want to become a teacher?
I hardly talked to my dad about these things because then it was frightening to strike up a conversation with him. He’d riddle us with questions and we often dreaded it. I remember him talking about wave-particle duality and I wondered how on earth a wave could also be a particle and it was only till after secondary school that i finally got it, with the help of a very big textbook of course.
I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have minded me being a biologist now that I’ve gotten to know him better. He’d just want me to be the best biologist there is and be full of knowledge and wisdom and be happy with what I’m doing (key ingredients for greatness, by the way, not the course you studied). But I didn’t know. If I’d had his approval, nothing anyone would have said would have mattered.
But I’m not blaming my parents. No. They are doing their best to be the best they can be in the ways they know how to – my mum worrying so much about how comfortable we’d be when they pass away, that she doesn’t care if we are happy with what we are doing. Just pick something that will bring in money; and my dad with his tough questions that made me wonder what he was asking them for when I had no interest at all in the first place. Lol.
I’m not saying I think I’d have been happier choosing biology or animation. I just feel like even after choosing them, I know it’s a cross I picked up entirely on my own and I’d carry it smiling all the way and not wonder if I’m facing a future of passionless work.
Currently, the only thing I look forward to with being a vet is the ‘Dr’ I would have in front of my name. It means I’d stand very comfortably next to my cousins who I vaguely feel I’m in competition with or at least live up to the standards they have.
That was brought on about when I’d hear remarks on their successes, like how the pharmacist had a very high grade upon graduation, and how the other is now a doctor (even though I’m sure he’d rather be playing football). Another just finished schooling in a British University and another graduated with a law degree. It would be ridiculous to say, “I’m a biologist, or I make cartons.” How would I show me face at family gatherings. I’d basically be a failure, wouldn’t I?
I wish I had known in secondary school that the above paragraph is utter bullshit. I wish I had grown up realising that as much as I’m supposed to please my parents, they would die later and I would have to be the one to face the consequences of my own actions. I wish I realised that it isn’t the course you study that makes you successful.
I want to be successful. But above all, I want to be sure I’m happy with whatever I choose to do as a job. I don’t want a situation of staring at the clock every time, just because I can’t wait for closing hours. I want closing hours to sneak up on me and leave me anxious for the next day. And if that’s too much to ask, at least I shouldn’t leave the classroom feeling drained.
Maybe I’m complaining too much. I’m sure Vet Medicine is a great course. But I feel very dissatisfied at the moment and something needs to be done about it. I don’t know what yet but I know I’m not ready to put my life in auto pilot to what I feel is the wrong destination.
I still draw. I still sing. My recent rereading of My Family And Other Animals has made me realise I still have that thirst to learn about nature. It’s time I do something about all of this instead of sitting down and lamenting. A plan is being formed. I hope I will be able to execute it when it’s done.
A change is coming, I can feel it. I just need to make sure I work towards it.
Written by James