Legacy by Force

June 1, 2022

Ugochi Guchy Kalu (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer

 

The question of legacy over happiness is a forbidden question in a typical African home. You are not allowed the boldness to choose happiness over succeeding your parents’ legacy and continuity. Growing up in a 100% African home, I would know that.

 

When it comes to career choice, there are only four options. A medical doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or a “disgrace to the family.” How laughable that any pursuit outside the first three options is considered demeaning, inappropriate and delusional. Many parents of the 80s and 90s had careers centered on engineering, medicine and law. It is no wonder there were thousands of law firms, family clinics and private garages that required the first son or daughter to step up and take over when their parents retired or passed on in my community. The pressure!

 

I vividly remember being dressed in a lab coat during career day in my primary school and everyone calling me “Doc.” I excitedly recited the speech my mum wrote about neurosurgery, and everyone looked at me with pride and applauded. I felt like a real life hero that day. Shockingly, in middle school, I showed up as an “actress” during career day, delivered a very powerful monologue (if I do say so myself) and, much to my amazement, there was little clapping and more mumbling. Then came the speech from my parents afterwards. “We want to  believe today was just an act. Let it just end as a display, do not think ‘acting’ will take you anywhere in life.” That mild warning that came off as a threat changed me beyond recognition. All the decisions that I would make moving forward were centered on it. 

 

Changing the narrative and doing the exact opposite of my parents’ desires became a life goal. I wanted to prove a point, I craved liberation, I fought to become my own person, to study whatever made me happy and fulfilled, or simply do what made my parents unhappy. This rebellion was a more powerful drive than the demands of obedience. Looking back, I became everything opposite that was expected of me. From dropping out of medical school to study physics, to abandoning science to get an MBA, to escaping into creative writing, I would say my parents were forced to embrace my journey, give little accolades where due and accept that even though I “disappointed” them, I did not disappoint myself. 

 

Conversely, there have been children who showed great interest in family business, tradition and belief. These interests are usually obvious from childhood, in a child wanting to follow in their father’s or mother’s footsteps. In this case, it becomes easier for such a person to transition smoothly into the expected position. There should be a time where a parent explains why it is important that their legacy be inherited by a child; in this instance, the child should be given the chance to think thoroughly whether they want to step into such big shoes. 

 

Succession planning in a typical African home, especially in Nigeria, is a hard and fast law. Facing a range of parental approaches, from unyielding rigidity to downright forcing a career down one’s throat, is a right of passage for every young African child. And oh, I will not include the legacy of marriage of convenience when it comes to tribes, clans and social status. That in itself is a different legacy being fought over in most African homes. The millennial parents have become somewhat more flexible than their predecessors, however, career stratification is so genetically enshrined that emancipation remains a continuing fight. Isn’t the most important thing the happiness, fulfillment and purposeful life of one’s child?

 

I dare say that the consequences of forcing legacy down the throats of children have often resulted in children who became distant, disowned, dysfunctional, manipulative, unhinged, unhappy, cold and recalcitrant. And of course, the cycle usually continues.

 

While we cannot fault parents who want an assumed best for their children, we can all take a clue from parents who have tried and failed. Are legacies important? Of course they are. Is family heritage and preservation important? Yes, that goes without saying. Be it the handing down of business, property, religion, belief or practice, we can still keep legacies in our families without force, threats and manipulation.

 

Good news! Some 21st century parents are on a mission of breaking the bias, thereby giving Gen Zs the freedom of choice they deserve. I am not a parent yet, but I do know better than to shove my desires for legacy down the throats of my children. I believe good parenting is handing children tools, encouragement, motivation and assistance to become what they want and not what we desire of them, and being proud of every little achievement, cheering them on, gently pushing them back to the right when they err, and praying with fervent hope that they succeed no matter what.

 

Indeed, parenting is hard and daunting from every angle and there is no general rule book on what works and doesn’t work. However, when it comes to succession, I am of the opinion that individual legacy is far more fulfilling than legacy handed down, particularly when it’s handed down by force. 

 

 

My name is Ugochi Guchy Kalu, I am a creative writer, business administrator, physicist, idealist and advocate for good governance. I like to look at life from various colour wheels, knowing that perfection exists only in our fantasies. Succeed anyway!

22 thoughts on “Legacy by Force

  1. I love your rational understanding about life and trying to institute that to us your followers, there’s no waste in updating knowledge and no waste in adjusting what we’ve already done or know
    Thanks for shading more wisdom
    The future is better in knowing better

  2. “As the scripture teaches, `Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. ‘ (Prov. 22:6.) Is remains my favorite bible verse because I have seen it work in my over 4 decades on earth. I believe our parents (esp mums) are the very first people that help us through our very formative years. They pick up “signals” from those years but parents should help a child discover interests and provide support directly or through coaches and or mentors to become successful. My dear, the African environment makes it hard for a nobody to become a somebody in one life time. It’s common to see a successful pastor or lawyer pass on to a son because they can provide the needed support to help that child learn the not just the trade but also the “tricks” (secrets) of the trade to become successful.
    However, I believe the family legacy could be more important than the personal one and chances of success is many times higher for the child and for the family.

  3. Growing up African and in Africa I can relate with this. Our future professions were planned with little or no input from us.

  4. This absolutely beautiful, I am glad I read this. There are lots of adjustments and changes that should be made in the family when it comes to forcing down careers on the kids. I had same issues when my folks wanted me to be a doctor. Later decided I should do engineering. I ended up a fashion designer because I feel happy and more free with it. Thanks a lot for this article, I am sure it will make a lot of positive impact.

  5. Yes, I Agree, It’s so insightful…
    In some part of nigeria, it’s absolutely true though it differ, I think they were driven by this primitive ideology that says ” What a Father/Elders sit down and see, nomatter how high a child climbs the ladder he will not see” ..

    My own experience parentally wasn’t that ugly as compare to some rooted traditional areas in nigeria.. In my own opinion, I believe it was a guide to an upbringing aspiration towards thier children, imagine a child at age five (5) wouldn’t understand or visionalized what his or her carrier destinity could look like.. I always grow up to be a technocrat in the field of engineering, despite my dad’s background as a mechanical/Fabrication engineer;
    My ongoing achievement today is absolutely what I’ve always desire in my field of carrier and not tie to any parental wishes or dreams/Inheritance.. though the ancient land make is encourage traditionally but We can still do more for this generation to pursue Thier dreams in accordance with Thier passion and Not family/generational inheritant

  6. Awesome,you points are damn simplified and explanatory,you did justice to every aspect of this article dear,I stand by you that individual legacy is far fulfilling than legacy being hand over with much pressure.

    More grease to your elbow dear, remain blessed cheers.

  7. Very well written Ugochi. I loved reading and as a Nigerian immigrant, I felt seen. Little wonder I studied Law for my under graduate degree. Hopefully we can change the narrative for our children and the younger generation.

  8. Very apt description of what is obtainable in a typical Nigerian family. I can relate to exactly what you wrote. I am the “rebel” in the family because I choose the unconventional every single time. Nothing matters the most except your happiness. I have never regretted my decisions. My parents now see me as the “best” child because my unconventional ways have brought me immense success, even more than my siblings that were “obedient”.

  9. Good one Guchy, Some parents are still adamant on making their children doctors and lawyers, these discussions need to be had as many times as possible for this to stop. A lot of unhappy and damaged adults in their 30s are roaming the earth because they are not working the jobs they love.

    1. Lovely piece . However I am an advocate that some economic viable academic career choices can be shoved down children’s throat if they have the mental capacity and Grit, while grooming their creative ability and talent on the side..Our parents are supposed to be our guide if we are lucky to have those who can guide because because between 13 and 16years I didn’t know what I wanted..i am sure a lot of children in this same age bracket also suffer identity crisis and confusion as regards career choices.Subsequently as the child matures a niche can be carved for one’s self

  10. I understand, perhaps more than most, the challenges faced by families during periods of transition or conflict regarding this issue…The child’s choice or other paths to success are ignored. Then, the constant pressure to live up to the parents’ expectations takes a toll on the child’s mental health. Burdened with the pressure to excel in a field in which one may have no interest hampers the true potential of the child…..parents should be aware that the child’s happiness matters too …thanks to the 21st century and thanks for this article

  11. Oh my goodness. I love that you wrote this out of personal experience. Alot of us passed through this and of course it’s still happening in most African homes as we speak. Kudos honey.

  12. This article is very educative, inspirational and encouraging. Nothing can be compared to carving our own niche than living in another man’s castle. This is the best article so far.
    Thanks Ugochi

  13. Ugochi your writings have always inspired me and this one right here is very enlightening. Thank you for sharing and continue to be a blessing.

  14. BIG CONGRATS UGY! I agree with you that the consequences of forcing legacy down the throats of children have often resulted in children who became distant, disowned, dysfunctional, manipulative, unhinged, unhappy, cold and recalcitrant. And of course, the cycle usually continues.This must stop and parents should allow their children fulfil their destinies in grand style while they are being guided. Thank you.

  15. Very practical and relatable, straight to the point. Great character in complex situations requiring courage to solve! I can relate with the writer to this end. Well worth reading, I liked it.

  16. This is lovely. It’s funny that these things still happen in this 21st century. Nevertheless, it’s also good to know that parents are now awere of the importance of letting children go for what makes them happy. Thank you for sharing dear.

  17. Congratulations Guchy. This is so amazing and so thoughtful. May you succeed in your field by God’s grace. Nice write up. This is kemi

  18. We all have had our share of this, especially growing up in an African home. Am super proud of you and how well you have turned out. This is inspiring, I just wish most of our parents can read this article and learn.

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