Friday, November 20, 2009

The Accountant who would have been a Football Star

I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I am okay with that. For the longest time, I was convinced that law school was the place for me. There are lots of reasons why I thought this would be the case, and lots of reasons why I changed my mind, neither of which I plan on elaborating on today. The point is, things have changed, I have changed, and I am okay with that. But most importantly, that is not the point of today’s story.

One day after a long day of work at IJM, I was looking up different work options for after my year-long internship. Things got a little desperate, and at one point I think I even Googled, “what should I do with my life.” I wish that had worked. One of the few times that Google has let me down. I closed my computer in frustration and decided to ask a random question of my office mate, Preach.

Preach is our accountant and he does a wonderful job. In addition to Preach’s accounting skills, he is intelligent, sings beautifully and is incredibly articulate. When I look at Preach, I see someone who could have done anything he wanted with his life. Seeing as I would never be an accountant, my obvious question for Preach was: “if you could have done anything with your life, what would it have been?”

I learned that evening that Preach would have been a football star, a professional swimmer, or basically a professional athlete in any sport. So why not pursue this dream? Shouldn’t you just do what you love? Aye, there’s the rub! I learned in school that growing up in the developing world means you lack a number of basic rights or freedoms. If you are at the bottom of the food chain, you may lack access to clean water, food or basic healthcare. Yet, even the privileged are restrained. If you are lucky enough to receive a university education, especially abroad, you are expected to give back to your country and your family. As I think back, I see the trend of international students who studied law and engineering, practical studies for development and professions with the promise of a consistent income. Where were all the international students studying modern dance, Italian Renaissance art, or the effects of pop music on the national psyche?

As our discussion continued, Preach commented on the endless possibilities I have as a Westerner, particularly as an American. No matter how obscure a subject I want to study, there is a school (or a country) for that. I can literally do whatever I want with my life. And in that moment, I felt the tension. What a privilege, but for the love of God, don’t waste it.

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