JAMES’ JOURNAL (Episode 39)

JAMES’ JOURNAL (Episode 39)

June 13

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

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  1. #TeamKizito
    June 14, 04:24 Reply

    Dear Jemima,


    This your lamentation is hilarious sha… We’re looking forward to this change. *winks*

    JJJ!!! Change!!! :s :p

  2. pete
    June 14, 05:27 Reply

    Nigerian parents & the craze for professional courses. Chimamanda Adichie & Chinua Achebe both left medical school to pursue their hobby.

    • MagDiva
      June 14, 07:23 Reply

      I wouldn’t exactly call it a hobby. They had a passion and they pursued it

    • Ser Loras
      June 14, 07:34 Reply

      Pete are you suggesting he should up and leave Vet. Medicine? James is gonna make a fine vet. doc. Our parents only have good intentions, however they must learn to let us find our own paths through life.

      • pete
        June 14, 08:27 Reply

        no,Mrs Adichie said she would have been a very sad doctor if she had continue

  3. Sinnex
    June 14, 07:00 Reply

    If there is one thing I give to my parents is the fact that they allowed us to study what we wanted. I remember I joined Arts Class because I wanted to be an artist. Everyone at home supported me and my dad even bought some art stuff for me. It was when I bought UME form that I decided to switch over. They were not happy, but it is my life and I would live with whatever decision I make.

  4. Oluwadamilare Okoro
    June 14, 07:41 Reply

    Hmmmmm… that “course of study, it’s commercial value and your passion for it” Dynamics.

    I do agree with you when u said something like if it’s what u chose then u will smiling through it if it’s boring you this much.

    I grew up wanting to be a lawyer (mostly the annalise keaton type OR Olivia pope type fixing issues)… but for some “long story” reason I settled for another course ( seemingly with more commercial value) but then I know it’s still my choice… NOT with all the jargons I was hearing from every1 :ow I should be an engineer or a doctor! Mschewwwwwww

    Nice write up!

  5. trystham
    June 14, 07:49 Reply

    Four pennings now and I’m really beginning to think you and DM should switch headings. He, the Journals, you, the Rantings. It only might make the rhyming titles sound off.
    Its my mom who was pretty much laid back on whatever we decided to study. Her interest borders on adding value to life with whatever u choose. Not so with daddy dearest. Being even an MD might not be enough o. Be Dr. Prof. Aliko Dangote (MBBS).with gazillions of money in a wide profit making hospital business venture. I guess that’s what Nigeria has been reduced to. Change IS coming, I’d best work towards it too.

  6. Gad
    June 14, 08:40 Reply

    “Anything your hand finds to do, do it diligently…”

    • Lanre S
      June 15, 17:00 Reply

      Why does this suddenly feel like it’s referring to Wanking?

      • Gad
        June 15, 23:17 Reply

        Are you not scared of your hand getting pregnant?

  7. Francis
    June 14, 09:42 Reply

    Na so dem blackmail me emotionally to study medicine. It wasn’t easy in med school but the curriculum of the school made things a bit easy. Theatre Arts was my desire.

    Years down the line, I still crave exploring my artistic side but I’m immensely grateful for the medicine as its paying the bills and helping me take care of the folks small small.

    James just endure small. It will soon be over and then you can proceed to do whatever your heart desires if the chance arises.

    • Max
      June 14, 11:54 Reply

      Oh you’re a doc… 🙂

      • Francis
        June 14, 15:46 Reply

        @Max yeah

        @Keredim lol. There’s nothing desirable about being a doctor in a Nigeria unless you’re one of those crooked cutthroat docs. Gone are the glory days of being a doctor. Na the professors and consultants dey run things now and them dey frustrate boys lives to prevent them from getting to their level 🙁

  8. sinnex
    June 14, 10:45 Reply

    If there is one thing I can never forget my parents, is the fact that they allowed us to study what we deemed fit. I joined Arts Class because I wanted to be an artist. My father was totally in support and he was the one that even encourage me to study it in school. All my sisters were in support. In fact, I told everyone that my ambition was to be an artist. Everyone was surprised when i filled my UME form and put a totally different course. I don’t regret studying the course but i have forgotten everything about Fine Art, I can’t even draw or paint any longer.
    What i am saying is that, if you don’t like your course, you have to change it. Don’t waste your time studying what you don’t like.
    Reading your story, i just remembered a film I watched, forgotten the name, about a girl who could speak to animals and understand them. She decided to study Vet Med but it was totally different from what she expected. She loves animals but hated the course.

  9. Chuck
    June 14, 14:18 Reply

    Is vet medicine that respectable in Nigeria?

    • Francis
      June 14, 15:48 Reply

      @Chuck there’s money in being a vet to awon money miss roads that have exotic pets.

  10. Francis
    June 14, 15:49 Reply

    @Keredim you go church today? You just dey shade everybody. You for chill till tomorrow. Lol

  11. Francis
    June 14, 16:21 Reply

    @Keredim modest wetin? Nna shift biko. I’m saying it as it is. Anybody wey dey spread leg for doctor these days and that doctor no get side business Na one chance he/she dey enter. Lol

    Awon colleagues of mine chop plenty girls during service year especially for camp. Doctor doctor doctor. Lmao

    Reminds me of one that clung fast and wouldn’t let go. To commot house sef became wahala for me as I had to be moving cautiously to avoid bumping into her.

    June 14, 17:33 Reply

    Interesting as always….

    I believe every career is a calling and no one is better than the other…

    As far as I’m concerned there’s no difference between a cartoonist and a doctor if they are both doing their work right…

    • Gad
      June 14, 18:43 Reply

      I wish this position is practical in our world and psyche.

  13. pinkpanthertb
    June 14, 18:27 Reply

    Hahahahahahahaa!!! I noticed it too o. Max’s thirst suddenly seemed real after Francis said he’s a doctor. 😀 Ok bye. *fleeing from KD to Kafanchan*

  14. Francis
    June 14, 19:10 Reply

    @Keredim I don’t know about dumping their relatives for one corner but I know some people pets for Naija no dey chop garri and rice. Na strictly authentic cat or dog food with all the vitamins to keep them looking as tush as possible.

    Na for Instagram I dey see some of them in passing. Mumsy sef don dey add special dog indomie to her new dog diet and the vet fees no be small thing when the thing sick.

    • keredim
      June 14, 19:21 Reply

      Nde beké set up trust fund in their will, sometimes they leave everything to the pet.
      As for the pet food, the pets get obese and diabetes due to the excess sugar content in the pet food.
      Some bekés have caught on to this and now cook separately for their pets.
      But you know we now. We get to show say we get, so we have to import (probably EU banned) pet food for our pets

      • Francis
        June 14, 19:47 Reply

        @Keredim hmm I wonder if NAFDAC dey issue number for pet food sef

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