57531165I will never forget the moment I realized I wanted to be a writer. It was my junior year in high school and as far back as I could remember I was TOLD that I was meant to be a doctor. Believing that this was true, I made up in my mind that I wanted to be an obstetrician. On the contrary, I was horrible at math and hated science. The only thing I loved to do was write. I would write about any and everything that intrigued my young mind from world issues to wondering why all the girls wanted to date the basketball players. It was my way of releasing any and everything I held within my teenage mind and heart. I always received straight A’s in all of my English classes, including anything where I had to express myself in words rather than numbers or measurements. When deciding what my major would be in college, I made the decision to pursue my passion and major in journalism. I thrived on asking questions and writing features and editorials on topics that touched the heart and ignited a spark in the mind. Little did I know that following my dream would come with so much opposition from both friends and family.

When I made the official announcement of the new path I would be taking in life, my parents were less than thrilled. Growing up in a West Indian home (my parents are from Trinidad) the only jobs that were acceptable (and worth bragging about) were corporate or medical careers. I immediately began to get hit with the rapid fire of questions, “Why would you do that? How are you going to support yourself? There is no real financial security, Writing is NOT a real career.” Instead of getting the support I needed, I was ambushed with negativity and doubts about my future. I almost felt like a disappointment and they reminded me of this every year in college. At the beginning of every semester, my mother would ask me the same thing, “When are you going to change your major?” It was frustrating to say the least and when friends began to be “concerned” about my career path, I too began to question my own abilities. I was told that I was pretty and should be on T.V. “…Broadcast journalism is a more lucrative career and your parents will be happy to see you on television.” So I tried by getting an internship at a well know television company and I noticed that people cared more about what was on my head than what was in it. At that moment, it became apparent to me that I was meant to write because I am SOOOOOOOOO much more than just a pretty face. My words were my brush and with it I was going to paint a masterpiece that would rival that of the Mona Lisa.

I turned all of that negativity into fuel to drive my ambition. The tenacity to inform through the written world reached new heights. I realized that to be great is to be misunderstood and in order to reach the pinnacle of success, I had to use the doubts to help me climb higher and higher. I landed internships at well known publications and my work was being published. Coincidentally enough, once I began to receive praise from others, my parents quickly jumped on the bandwagon. All of a sudden it was, “Gyal Risa is writing and her name is in de paper.” Friends began to ask me to write features on them or projects they were working on. When I was at the lowest of lows, it was that hate that kept the love for writing alive. It was the thrill of knowing that one day I would prove them all wrong.

Trust that I know the importance of love and support. The thing is that at times, too much love and support can push one into a state of complacency. In order to keep the fire burning, it is crucial to embrace the hate. The nay sayers can love it or hate it, but as long as you know the TRUTH about all the greatness inside of you, one day they will definitely FEEL it. This is when all the “concern” will turn into “congratulations”. Today when someone is quick to dash salt on my dreams all I do is smile and think, “You think you know, but you have no idea!!!!”

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  • Thank you so much for this. I went through the same thing with my father (both of my parents are also Trini). But my mother was the supportive one. I ended up spending so much time in college because I started with a major in computer science, but eventually changed it when I saw it lacked creativity. While at Howard, we had to pick a classmate to profile for a journalism course — this required us not only interviewing the person but also speaking with that person’s friends and family members. I asked my partner if I could read the profile she had written on me. That’s when I learned that while I majored in computer science, my mother thought I was making a big mistake. She was happy to see me return to writing. I get some resistance from my dad, but my family is pretty supportive and dig that I’m making my own path (a family full of computer science or tech heads gets boring after awhile).

    I’m glad I read this post because I still get some hate on my career decision, and it doesn’t help that I was recently laid off. But I’ll take the criticisms from my dad and turn them into rungs on a ladder I’m climbing, with my dream within reach.

    Thanks again for your post, and congrats!

  • FT

    Thank you so much for this! I went through the same thing with my parents actually even after finishing my studies and now working and getting my promotion I am still going through the same thing. They dont understand what it is I love about advertising!

    I’m inspired…

  • Great article Risa.