Passion Versus Career: A parental conundrum, by Osmund Agbo

Dr Osmund Agbo.

Passion Versus Career: A parental conundrum, by Osmund Agbo

I am sure you haven’t heard about the young girl from my neck of the woods who just graduated from high school and is heading to Arizona to study Ichthyology at the university. Well, it’s been causing quite a stir because her Nigerian father is less than thrilled about her chosen career path. The tension between father and daughter is palpable, and the rest of the family is caught in the middle, forced to take sides. The man himself, though a degree holder in psychology, earns his daily bread as a livery cab driver in the city, thanks to the post-covid economy that got him laid off from his job two years prior. He’s convinced that he made a terrible mistake in career choice starting out and is not prepared to let his children follow in his footsteps. The family drama has become a spectacle to watch.

Not that I am in any way, remotely connected with the family but this one friend of mine, known for his impish ways, approached me with a rather mischievous question. He just couldn’t resist prodding me for my opinion as though I would be the one responsible for footing her tuition bill. I chose to remain silent this time.

The idea of staying silent if one has nothing good to say is a philosophy I’ve come to embrace with fervor lately. I knew it was the perfect opportunity to put this belief into action. Just to be clear though, I love all types of fish, especially when they’re served with a spicy chili sauce. But the thought of this young girl spending four long years, studying these delectable aquatic creatures and in the process, raking up huge debt in student’s loan, gives me pause.

I just can’t help but wonder how this knowledge would serve any practical purpose in a scenario where we are forced to fend for ourselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Okay, maybe I am being overly dramatic, but I believe one has to consider the unpredictability of life and the importance of practical skills when making career choices.

I would have to admit that this mindset is embarrassingly parochial, and I recognize that my perspective might be different if I were fortunate enough to inherit a mega fortune. However, that is far from my reality and the reality of most people I know. Of course, I totally understand the idea of giving one’s child a free hand to decide of on what he or she wants to become. Nevertheless, let’s consider this issue more closely.

In the United States for example, secondary school, otherwise referred to as high school ends in twelfth grade, with an average age of 17 for its students. This age is four years shy of the legal drinking age of 21, and scientific research has shown that the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain, may not reach maturity until age 25 or beyond. Despite this, choosing a career path remains one of the most significant decisions that individuals make in their lives, and society deems it appropriate to entrust this enormous responsibility to a demographic that is not even considered mature enough to consume alcohol.

It’s worth reflecting on this incongruity, so we could reexamine the assumptions that underlie our current approach to career decision-making. Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that we are asking too much of our young people and that we need to rethink our approach to supporting them in this critical process.

But I get it, parents have also, on their part, played some role not particularly helpful. Some parents have a tendency to push their children towards particular career paths for reasons they consider prestigious though less than germane, while totally ignoring their child’s interests and aptitudes. We have all encountered parents who narrow their children’s career options to fields like medicine, engineering, and law, without considering whether these are actually the best fit for the child. This approach is deeply flawed and can have far reaching negative consequences for the child’s future.

Parents have a crucial role in shaping their children’s future, but by imposing a narrow view of success, they could be doing more harm than good. When parents limit their children’s potential and undermine their natural passions and talents, they risk creating a sense of disconnection and disengagement. This misguided approach can force children down paths they’re not truly interested in or suited for, leading to missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential.

Moreover, it’s also important to remember that the world is rapidly changing, and the career landscape is constantly evolving. Fields that were once considered prestigious or stable may no longer be as secure or desirable, and new opportunities are emerging all the time. By restricting a child’s career options, parents could be closing doors that could lead to exciting and fulfilling paths.

That being said, as parents, most of us want the best for our children, and part of that involves envisioning their future success. We imagine them excelling in careers that utilize their unique talents and abilities, like becoming a brilliant lawyer or world-class engineer. However, our children’s passions and interests may not align with ours as they grow and mature, leading them down a different path, like pursuing a career in the exciting world of Nollywood or becoming a disc jockey. It can be a challenging dilemma for parents

How do you choose between letting your child pursue his or her passion versus going to a career that puts food on the table? On one hand, parents want their children to be happy and fulfilled in their work, and pursuing a passion can surely provide that sense of fulfillment. On the other hand, parents also want their children to be financially stable and secure, and a career that puts food on the table can provide that security.

I believe there is need to make a clear distinction between a hobby and a career. While pursuing a passion is commendable, it’s crucial to evaluate whether it can provide us with the necessary skills to survive in the face of unforeseen circumstances. We must be strategic and pragmatic in our choices, especially in terms of education and career paths, as they have long-term implications for our lives. It’s time to start distinguishing between our hobbies and careers and prioritize practicality and preparedness for any situation that may arise.

So where is the sweet spot in all these?
One approach to this dilemma is to help the child acquire both practical skills and knowledge that align with their passion and are in demand in the job market. This can be achieved by exploring internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering opportunities in their desired field, while simultaneously encouraging them to pursue formal education or training that complements their interests.

Another way to address this issue is by having a heart-to-heart conversation with the child about the reality of financial independence and the need to have a stable source of income. You could discuss the challenges of following one’s passion while also making ends meet, and the importance of balancing these two aspects. This could also help the child gain a broader perspective and appreciate the value of finding a middle ground between pursuing their passion and practical considerations. Parents should certainly feel very comfortable giving their opinion.

It’s my sincere wish that the young lady pursuing her passion finds immense joy and fulfillment in her chosen path, and that the knowledge she gains serves her well throughout her career. Pursuing a passion is an incredible journey that enables individuals to derive genuine satisfaction from their work.

However, not all passions can easily translate into a career. While pursuing one’s passion is important, it’s vital to approach it in a pragmatic manner that sets one up for success in the long run. With the right balance of passion and practical considerations, individuals can achieve their goals and lead a fulfilling life.

Osmund Agbo writes from Houston, Texas and can be reached via Email at


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