When degree is not where your heart is

Tension is: Telling dad you don’t want a career in what you studied for

In Summary

• An encounter with the bossy floor manager prompts thinking about my choices in life

• Four years toiling for a degree yet your passion lies elsewhere calls for a chat with dad


You just learnt that the floor manager at your place of work actually cares about things — like the planet and other people. Because for the past two months that you have been here for your industrial attachment, this narcissistic son of a gun has proven to care more about his receding hairline than the fact that he doesn’t know his job description.

Your first day here, he said to you, “Young man, there is a lot of tea in this office, but sadly, none for interns like yourself.” And yet the said tea tastes like donkey’s piss. You drink it only to defy him. But he is one of those guys who imagine themselves as God’s gift to the universe. And as such, everyone should be bowing in supplication to their mere existence. Like those Neanderthals who comment on YouTube videos with stuff like, “I’m 70 years old and love Billie Eilish songs,” or “Can you believe it? It is 2021 and I still enjoy listening to Abba.” As if the planets should stand still on their axis and marvel at the fact that these humans actually breathe.

The other day, His Awesomeness the floor manager walked into your workstation, the ICT department office. You were not doing anything IT because you never really do anything here without being cajoled. And that is because you hate being here. You will be graduating with a degree in computer science, but you have known for some time now that an IT is not what you are. It is not what you want to spend the rest of your life doing. This industrial attachment just confirmed that all you want to do is write, creatively. And that is exactly what you were doing when the floor manager walked in.

Now, he wasn’t exactly irked by the fact that you were doing something outside your job description, no. How can you expect someone who imagines his sole duty as a floor manager is to walk up and down the building being an ass, to understand what an IT should be doing?

It would be preposterous, right?

But nothing spikes your creativity more than comfort. And therefore, whenever you are banging away a story on your laptop, you like to have your headphones strapped on, your feet on the table and some snack rapidly disappearing into that bottomless pit you call a stomach.

And so, when Mr Bigger Than Life walked in and found your leg on the table, he suddenly developed a soft spot for other people. The guests who might walk in and freak out in horror at the sight of your feet on the table. That because of your appalling behaviour, people might develop complications like cancer, high blood pressure and STIs. How he cared about the dangers your leftover snacks would pose for the planet. Global warming. World economic crisis. World War 3. Annihilation of time. Name it. His eyes bulged in fury.

You want to tell him just how much you don’t want to be here. How much you do not even care about the degree. You want to tell him that you have not even the faintest idea of what you will do with your degree certificate once you graduate. Who knows, anyway? Life is better when it is filled with mysteries. Perhaps you will buy it a nice frame and festoon it on the wall of your living room, along with the paintings of Picasso and Noah Davis that you plan to purchase when you become like Jackson Biko or Magunga. Or maybe you will bury it under the briefcase with other unimportant things, like that photo you took in Form 2 with your girlfriend from Asumbi Girls during the music festival.

But you know, campus has not been in vain. It is in campus that you met people who inspired you to write. Some gave you a shove at the right time and the right place that saw you get better at this craft. Heck, it is through banging stories about computer science students that you landed writing gigs, which saved you from starvation in campus. So no, it will not be in vain. This computer science degree will serve as a stepping stone to other things, things that you actually love.

Outside of your friends, no one else knows of your plans to ditch a career as ‘lucrative’ as computer science. Not even your family. Well, till the other day when you gathered the courage to break it to your old man. And this courage only came after you landed what is perhaps your first serious gig. You will be starting a month from now, after completing your attachment. And you are excited not for the money but because this gig involves the one thing you love above all: writing. So you told your father that after four years studying computer science, you’ve decided that it no longer lights your eyes. It does not lift your spirits anymore. It can never wake you up in the morning. It does not hold your interests. You told him that you want to write even if it kills you.

He obviously was not buying it. No one ditches a decent career in IT, which is the future of the world, for something that is not even a real job. But you tell him, you tell him that you tried to make this computer science your thing. You did all that was asked: studied for the exams, sat for all the CATs, attended every class, completed your assignments and projects. You tell your father you have never scored an F on any unit, and even though you are yet to graduate, you are sure you’ll be graduating with a good grade.

But you just cannot do it; you cannot imagine living your life writing codes and fixing bugs. You want to write words and fix lives. To you, it is not all about the money, you tell him. Life is so long that you are going to live this life hating it just for the money. That is not what you want. To persuade him further, you mention a few people you know who ditched their ‘prestigious’ careers to follow their heart. You tell him about Magunga the law graduate and Oyunga Pala and Biko and Tony Mochama and Ted Malanda and Khaled Hosseini. Your father does not recognise any of these names.

In the end, he swallows hard and asks you, “This job you’ve got, how much will they be paying you?”

Edited by T Jalio

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