When Culture Interferes With Your Dream Career

One day, I had this discussion with my colleagues while we were having our lunch break. We discussed how our culture greatly interferes with our dreams in life. Four of us came from the same tribe but we were born and grew up in different places. Two of us grew up in Manila while I and my other friend were raised in KSA. We were all raised away from our culture minded relatives and culture bounded hometown however no matter how hard our family tries to raise us in Islamic way, we just can’t escape the mentality and tradition of our tribe. Personally, although I was raised confused what my culture really is, because at home in KSA we just do the tradition that we are used to based on the place and situation we have and we try hard to eradicate the culture that are against Islam, still my family can’t avoid to be culture minded sometimes due to the influence and maybe cause they were once practicing those.

So, we talked about how choosing our courses were a big deal. My culture is a lot similar to that of Chinese culture, family and relatives play a major role in choosing which course we should take in college and because adding honor to the family’s name and entire race is of great value. We are made to believe that to have high quality professions we should be Medical Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Pharmacists and Accountants. These are the top courses that every family from my tribe works hard to have in their families. That once you graduated and passed the licensure exam a big banner will be hanged outside your home and if you fail then you are a big shame to the family. Lately, having a child who studies to be an alim is becoming a trend in my tribe too. Of course, it’s a great blessing to have a child who wants to be an alim. But, forcing your child to be an alim just for family’s honour or fame is not a good idea.

One of my colleagues wanted to take entrepreneur course because she’s been in love with business. At an early age, she’s been doing her own business while studying. But, her parents forced her to take Pharmacy leaving her with only one alternative which is to study to be an alima in Malaysia. But, she chose Pharmacy because she can’t live away from her family. I witnessed how parents are eager to have a child who will take up Pharmacy, making them force their kids to be a pharmacist even their kids don’t want to. I was also once encouraged by my family to take up Pharmacy. One of my friends also takes up Pharmacy because her relatives want her to, she feels that it is what will make her have a worth, to follow what they want for her to take. Her elder sister being successful in the Pharmacy field adds pressure to her. But, she’s having a hard time in her course because she doesn’t like it, I asked her what she really wants and she wants to take up either Nutrition or Food technology but she is afraid to tell her family because she’s been studying college for too long and shifted to different courses and transferred to different universities. She’s spent a lot of years in college because of choosing courses she really doesn’t want to take.

My another colleague was taking up education, she chose it because she really wants it which is contrary to what her parents wants for her to take. Her parents and relatives wants her to be an alima and because she chose to study education she was accused to be a bad kid by some relatives for leaving Saudi Arabia and study education here in the Philippines. She really felt sad hearing negative feed backs from relatives. She never fails to read Quran and pray. In fact, I always see her in the prayer room and she’s active in our Muslim organization. But, her relatives thought piousness can only be achieved if you study to be an alima. However, her parents support her and that’s way more important. What other people say doesn’t matter. I can see that she is happy studying her course that even during exams week she was just cool with it, because she loves what she is doing and I can’t see any tint of regrets on her face because of her decisions. And there was me, who was in the field of Biology as pre-med course because of relatives and parents choice. I never felt happy in that course, except having good friends while studying Biology for 2 years. But, each day I spent doing what I did not want was like hurting my self . However, after a long decision making and long story, I am now doing the course I love which is Nutrition and Dietetics. I don’t know anymore what people say about me taking this, because I don’t spend time to listen to what their comments are. But, even my course is not that “high-quality” for their eyes, I’m very happy choosing this. I’m not closing doors to continue my MD plans, but my concern now is to be an effective Nutritionist and Dietitian one day.

Each of us has different roles in the society and this is one of the things I want to tell the people who think that success is only for those who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists and accountants. Each of us has different roles in the society. Just imagine how this world will survive if we only have doctors or if we only have engineers. Success in career chooses no one, it can be for everyone. Success depends on the capabilities and skills of the individual no matter what course she/he has. Don’t be scared of choosing what you really want just because your culture is controlling you. Your culture won’t feed you nor will it make you happy. Islam is what you should hold on to, and Islam doesn’t forbid you to learn and practice your role in the society. Just choose the course that won’t make you away from Allah SWT and that won’t make you earn haraam income. Inshaa Allah, you will be effective in whatever role you choose to be in the society.

Najmah is a Clinical Nutritionist, Med student and Writer. She is the founder of The Muslim Bricks. You can also find her blogging on her blog, By Najmah, where she writes about wellness, personal excellence, and her journey to white coat.

4 Replies to “When Culture Interferes With Your Dream Career”


    Family wish is not Almighty Allah’s wish . So also your own wish may not be correct . Advise is that child should do Duahu Istikhar when he/she is at dilemma on what to do . Whichever profession he chose, GOD will make it easy for him/her to succeed .

    • Najmah Bint Nasr

      Of course, everything happens by the will of Allah and everything should be done for the sake of Allah. The youth choosing their career for the sake of satisfying their parents won’t make their happy. Only to satisfy Allah SWT should be the goal of everyone. Jazakallahu khair for dropping by, Jamiu.

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