I have always been one to dance to the beat of my own drum. I was thinking recently about the risks that I am taking in regards to my work and career and the conversations that I am having with people as a result of it.
It got me thinking about the moment I told my parents, I was taking a gap year. My Dad was livid and my mum burst into tears, and she said something on the day that I will never forget. She said;
How am I going to explain this to people back home? What will people think?
And whilst I was concerned that I had made my mother cry, the one thing that I didn’t care about was the opinion of whoever she was referring to. Mind you, I decided to take a gap year not because I failed – Got my 2 A* and an A – but at the time I wanted to try and save up for university to avoid taking out student loan fees. Being the rebellious cookie that I was, by the time I told my parents about my decision, it was pretty much irreversible. I had declined all my offers with the exception of Cambridge because I had an interview offer. I decided that if I got into Cambridge I would take it as a sign from God that going to uni that year was the best decision for me and if I didn’t, gap year it is!
Whilst I didn’t fulfil my goal, taking my gap year was one of the best decision I ever made. Looking back, that wasn’t the first time I went against my parents when it came to my studies. I remember when I was chose Drama as a GCSE subject much to the dismay of my African parents who questioned why I wasting my time. But I loved Drama so I did it anyway! It’s so funny to me now when I speak at conferences or workshops and my Dad acknowledges the impact that studying Drama had on my confidence and public speaking skills.
Cue the beginning of A-Levels when everyone wanted me to do Medicine. I had the grades to do it, but nope rebellious Mahmoudat decided to study Philosophy, English Literature, Psychology and Maths. I am honestly laughing as I’m writing this because once again my parents’ dreams were dashed but I was adamant Medicine was not for me. Woodhouse is without a doubt one of the highlights of my life! I would choose that sixth form and the subjects that I studied over and over again because it was such a fulfilling experience.
The one time that I gave into fear and didn’t trust my instinct when it came to university, I paid four years for it. One of the best thing that my experience at university has taught me was that regardless of the factors that contribute to my decisions,
I am responsible for the choices that I make. And I have to live with the consequences of those decisions.
So for me, what will people think rarely factors into any decision that I make. Simply because if I have to live with it, my opinion matters the most (and that of God of course!), not that of others. By all means, seek advice from people, and there are a lot of mistakes that I have made that I could have avoided if I sought advice from the right people but also understand that not everyone will see the vision that you have for yourself.
It’s risky going against the grain, but the one thing it teaches you is to bank on yourself.
I have conversations with quite a few people who have built a cage for themselves over this one simple question – What will people think?- which is what I inspired me to write this piece. You will never be able to please everyone, and people are going to talk regardless of what you do, so choose you. Start asking yourself,
What do I think?
And in the words of Wes Moore,
Don’t let people who don’t matter too much, matter too much.