By: Najd Ayari
Life is full of choices. What kind of music we like to hear, what kind of food we like to eat, where we want to go to school, and of course, what we would like to do as a career. We have the absolute freedom of making these choices, or at least we think we do.
Some of them are harder than others, but for millennial’s the career choice is the most challenging. This decision comes with a lot of pressure, family expectation, social pressure ratings, and of course the security of our future. It also depends on their parents’ mentality and their level of education.
While I was writing this, there was a guy with his little daughter sitting next to me in the school cafeteria, I asked him randomly about his major and what he wants to do later.
“I’m studying engineering,” said fellow Grand Rapids Community College student, Rayan Janson, 23. “I hope that I can get into Grand Valley State University to the industrial engineering program … I chose this field because I always liked to build stuff, and it also pays good so I can provide for my daughter.”
And I thought, “Woaw!” That’s a very practical answer. My dad would’ve loved this. And it was true, the guy liked that field and he also needs to think about his family’s safety. Then I asked the kid what she wants to do when she grows up.
Noelle Janson, 4, Rayan’s daughter said, “I want to make toys when I grow up. I am good at making toys already.”
It was obvious that the choices that we make when we are kids, when we don’t feel any social pressure and parents are okay with that, we really look in our hearts. But as we grow older, then a little while after the grooming starts. I wanted to share my story hoping that it can reach someone who is in the same spot that I was before and tell them what I needed to hear four years ago.
I was born in Tunisia, North Africa, in a family that encouraged me not only to succeed but to be the best. In high school (in Tunisia) we choose a major, and the options available were: natural science, technical science, computer science, mathematics, economy and literature. Based on that choice, you’ll get a specific university option.
I felt like the closest thing that I can study was I chose computer science because it was the closest option to my area of interest. While I was in school, I was obsessed with watching movies like all millennials, and I was fascinated by the feelings that media can deliver to the audience and its influence on behaviors and beliefs, so I started showing my interest in photography and video making as a hobby.
There was no way I could do any of these “cool” activities in school since I was a computer science major. I thought after I graduated high school maybe I could find any opportunities to do photography.
Soon after graduation the job subject was up for discussion with my family, and of course my parents wanted me to be the best like any other parents, and I get it. So out of fear of the unknown future I chose to obey expectations and roll over into a safe computer engineering job, and I did.
I went to university to study computer science and majored in software development. I convinced myself that I still could do photography as a hobby. I volunteered for a few associations as an event photographer and promoter. During my second year in university, I got contacted by a small magazine that wanted to use some of my pictures that I took at an event as a volunteer. This magazine ended up offering me a job as a freelance photographer. They used to send me to events and concerts to take pictures, and they would pay me if they liked the pictures (just like Peter Parker from “Spider-Man”).
It was my first experience of getting paid for money out of my hobby, and you will not believe me when I tell you that I didn’t care about the money, but I didn’t. In fact, I was ready to pay the magazine for letting me do this.
I stood in front of my favorite band and took pictures of them. I ran after a police officer who was trying to beat a civilian and took pictures of him. I watched people draw a smile on a kid with special needs’ face and took a picture of that. I for sure didn’t work as much as an engineer, doctor, architect or an airplane pilot, or got paid like they did, but I felt true joy in what I did as a part time job. I knew that this job suits me, and I can do this even for free.
This experience made my school days really hard. Everyday I knew that I didn’t like what I was studying, but I was almost done with it. It was wiser to finish one more year and get a degree for all the effort that I have not put in it.
Senior year was the most complicated at my Tunisian university. The first semester you go to school and take exams about everything you’ve learned during known for the last three years. The second semester is an internship where you only get your diploma if the internship was successful.
I got an internship in the airport of Tunis Carthage with a school partner, and we started working on an application for them. At the same time I was applying for schools in the U.S. I was studying English because high school and university are in French and working two jobs to save because I didn’t have any college funds since universities are free in Tunisia.
After a long five months, I graduated with a degree in computer science and that made it harder for me. I got two job offers. One of them offered the possibility of taking night engineering classes and getting a promotion after graduation, and of course, you can imagine how my dad was feeling about that. I was so sure of what I want to do, and I already made my mind to go through this beautiful experience.
Now, I am trying to finish my bachelor’s in photojournalism, and I am planning to go to a grad school for a master’s in communication and media production so I can get the necessary experience and education for me to start a production company in Tunisia that covers events, trains people who are interested in this field and produces visual art for young talent. My dream is to create the opportunities that I never had before.
I can’t even explain the support that my family is giving me right now. They saw the truth and the depth of my dream and that was enough for them to feel that I am safe. I am not a hero or anything, I just didn’t give up on myself and people around me changed their minds when they saw that.
Think about it, having a job means that you will do whatever you’re doing for around 40 years of your life, maybe eight hours a day and five to six days a week. Some people are not really sure about what they want to do, and I was one of those people.
All I did was exposing myself to a new experience and it captured me. Your career will become how you are identified, it’s not something that I would accept other people to choose it for me, or something that I would just do to be safe.
Here is my portfolio.