By Guest Author: Suma Saeed
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even when we are five years old, this is a question exhausted during most family gatherings. Back then, it was okay to say that you wanted to be a princess or a ninja. However, now that I am 17 years old, people look for a more ‘serious’ answer. Up to this day, my answer remains simple yet complex – “I don’t know” and I believe most teenagers of today would give you the same answer. Here is why –
- In this society, even at a young age, we are always told that we should either be a doctor or an engineer because these two jobs come with “a high income” and are considered a “respectful job”. Hearing this continuously pressures you to fixate your mind on one of these two things, which prevents you from keeping an open mind to all the other career paths you could explore.
- When I say arts, the first thing that comes to your mind is probably a paintbrush or some sketches, right? Most government schools in the Maldives do not even provide proper education in the field of arts, there is always either science or business. We, Maldivians fail to educate the youth about the opportunities provided by this particular field. We fail to acknowledge that arts are more than just drawing and painting. By the time I realized what it truly meant, I was already a science student.
- We are always taught that we get to choose ONE career path (traditionally). The fact that you can’t pursue something else if you feel unhappy or unsatisfied puts a lot of pressure on the decision. We as a society have this idea, that a person must walk in “one career path” for the rest of their lives.
- After finishing our O-levels, we are asked whether we wish to do A-levels. If we answer no, we are asked to choose a degree immediately. We are not given a moment to sit and think about the decision, or asked to take a gap year to gain work experience, etc. Instead, we are forced to make a rushed decision which most of us end up regretting.
- Work experience plays a huge role when choosing your career path. Gaining experience at a young age gives you more ideas on what it will be like in the real world. However, this is where gender becomes a barrier. Young women are told no “because they are women” while young men are told yes “because they are men.” Do we women not deserve to have the same level of confidence as a man when choosing our careers?
- The fear of failure is something that comes naturally for most of us. We grew up around parents who compete for their children to be the best, where we are pressured to win first prize and to bring home no less. We are never made to understand that it is okay to fail a hundred times as long as we are doing our best. We are never encouraged to make mistakes as long as we don’t repeat the same ones. How can we choose a career path without being ABSOLUTELY SURE that nothing will go wrong?
As a teenage girl, struggling to decide what she wants to do in the following years, I believe that the main problem is, society has more control in my decision than I do. How do you expect us to choose a career path with all these ‘rules’ that have been normalized within our community?
About the Author: Suma Saeed is a 17-year-old teenager, currently doing her A-levels in Villa International High School. In the future, she hopes to simply become a successful, happy, influential woman.