Dear Auntie Chambu,
I'm about to graduate from high school and I want be an actress. It's my dream but my Mom and Dad have been a nightmare. They're really traditional Nigerian parents who want me to go to college and be a doctor. They think my acting dream is a waste of time. But they came to this country and raised their kids here so we could dream big. What should I tell them and what shall I do?
Temi, AtlantaDear Temi,
I'm sorry you have to go through this. Please consider this dilemma as one of those "growing pains" of life. Trust me this will all pass away sooner than you think. I understand where both sides are coming from. Your parents are viewing life from their own hard won experience while you, their American-reared child, have different ideas. First of all, you have to understand that they love you and have your best interests at heart. Secondly, I think I speak for most parents when I say that we generally just want our children to do better or achieve more in life than we did.
Poverty and suffering is rampant in Africa. Many older generation Africans found success- money, careers, and new lives abroad- through education. They learned that higher education was the key to open many doors. Your parents only want those doors to be open for you. Hopeful, they wish you a good life full of silver and gold (smile).
But naturally, you as a Millennium generation girl-well armed with computers and World Wide Web information- think you know best. Not so? You are choosing a non-traditional and difficult career path which is wrought with uncertainty. Can anyone blame your parents for being apprehensive?
I went through a similar situation with my four kids and I think they all turned out fine. They have all "landed" well as I call it. I will give you the same advice I gave them. Life in America offers countless choices and things are not always an either/or situation.
What stops you from going to college and majoring in acting/theater and minoring in something practical like English (studying great play wrights) as a compromise. You'll earn the degree that will make your parents happy even as you work towards your acting goals. Your English minor could then be used to pick up a steady job that supports you while you're waiting for your big break in Hollywood.
If you really want to skip the college scene for now, show your parents yours is not a pipe dream. Educate them on the many successful actors & actresses of African descent out there: Djimon Hounsou, Idris Elba, Sophie Okonedo, and Thandie Newton. Give yourself and them a game plan that is well thought out. A plan that outlines details like how you will support yourself, lists acting classes and programs you have applied to, and sets a deadline on when you'll reconsider college if things don't pan out with acting.
My dear, you are young and not only do you have time but you have countless possibilities to build your life. I encourage you to follow your heart, your dreams but also give your parents dreams for you some thought. Good luck.
Auntie Chambu, 52, was born and raised in the grasslands of Cameroon. This sheltered nineteen year old, boarding school girl came to a rebellious 60's United States to pursue a college degree and her dreams. She garnered degrees in social work and counseling, got married, and had four kids who constantly put her education and home spun wisdom to the test. After over twenty years of living on the two continents, her advice has a great mixture of traditional African insights with a spirited American independent thinker streak.
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