This post is also available in: Kreyol
As little children, we start to imagine what we want to become when we grow up. We think about what career we would like to get into based on the examples in our surroundings, what we see on television, or stories the adults around us tell us. Veterinarian, ninja turtle, a bird, a street vendor…all these dreams, we used to say them out loud. We kept these dreams alive as we invented the story of our futures, as we played pretend alone and with our friends. As this happened, the adults around us watched us with a smile, a smile at our innocence and enthusiasm, a smile at how earnestly we believed in our dreams, and surely a smile at the memories of their own childhood.
Then time goes by…
Then we start school…
One of the first places they help us forget our dreams because in a country like Haiti, we learn that there are some careers that you cannot do. They teach us to not disappoint our family in what career we choose. They teach us that certain careers are for men, and certain careers are for women. They tell us we are crazy, tease us, and crush our dreams if we dare to decide a future different than the norm. How many young Haitians today who aspire to be things unconventional to Haitian society like: photographers, musicians, dancers, archaeologists, basketball players, soccer players, pilot; only to receive the response “Ou fou?! Are you crazy? Go to school to become a doctor or engineer instead.”
Tu seras un écrivain, mon fils. Mais dans cette chose ou nous sommes, apprends quand même un métier qui peut mettre de la nourriture sur la table” –Gary Victor
“You will be a writer, my son. But in this world that we are, learn an occupation that will put food on the table anyway.” – Gary Victor
“Can this put food on the table?? No!” the line with which most dreams are killed. I will not minimize the importance of being able to afford to put food on the table. I do understand that Haitian society tends to lack the structure to support out of the ordinary careers. I also understand that in a country with little economic stability, it is difficult to ask a parent, who has sacrificed so much, to support their child in a path that, to them, is not a certain one. We young Haitians often end up in a situation where we consider how we can please our parents (or rather, how to not disappoint them) instead of what it is that we truly want because we need their financial support. Familial pressure combined with a country that is not ready for what it is your talents have to offer kills a lot of dreams. It is a never ending cycle that has been going on for a very long time, and will not be broken anytime soon. Parents, many times make their children go into the careers that they themselves were unable or not allowed to go into, or ones that they think will lead their children, and themselves to a better life. In the end, you end up with a large number of miserable people living someone else’s unachieved dream.
Recognizing the importance of all career paths and creating spaces for them is a necessary step towards change in our country. Every field needs its own specialist; our country will never advance with a small group of people attempting to do everything. We need engineers, just as much as we need thinkers, just as much as we need economists. A lot of parents fear their children’s aspirations; they fear what their children’s future could hold if they let them pursue their unusual dreams. They fear that their children will fail, that they will be misunderstood for the unique career paths they may want to choose. So, support from parents for their child’s dream may not come until they really see the fruits of that labor, or until they see someone else succeed at it, or until the children choose to learn something more solid, and leave their talent as just a hobby on the side. And sometimes still, support from parents never comes.
Sure, you can choose whatever career you want, but first society must validate you. You can choose whatever career you want, but it must be a conventional one, and it must not disturb the status quo. Yes, your dream, your future will have to receive all of these stamps of approval before you will be able to pursue it. Just like me, a reluctant architecture student who believes in my heart that one day I will be able to study and practice fine arts without being told that artists are crazy. My wish for you is that no matter what sacrifice you will have to make, one day you will be able to pick up that dream that you had hidden so long ago in an effort to not be a disappointment, and that you and that dream will find your way.
“C’est simple : pour empêcher un haïtien de rêver, il faut l’abattre » – Dany Laferrière
“It’s simple. To keep a Haitian from dreaming, you must kill him. » – Dany Laferrière
This post was originally written in Kreyol
Photo Credit: Samuel Dameus