Between your own happiness and the expectations of others

, , Leave a comment

I met an African PhD student abroad a couple of years ago. We talked about the lack of quality education and home and the financial challenges of getting a good education abroad. We talked about the pursuit of knowledge over wealth and why the average African would rather pursue wealth over knowledge.

Let me summarize our chat: its been about 3-years since he left home, his childhood friends and family folks think he is living in luxury abroad. Everyone keeps asking him for some expensive watch, shades, clothes, shoes, bags etc., that they saw online. They forget that he is a student, managing, living in a shared apartment with other PhD students. Whenever he tells them that he doesn’t have money, they tell him he is just being stingy. In fact, some of those who wished him well and saw him off at the airport have become enemies, since he hasn’t “sent them any money yet”. Its not as if they are living in dire poverty, the issue has to do with their expensive requests of bling bling items found on the internet. His 2-female siblings have told him never to call them his family, since he doesn’t have money. His junior brother has been pressurizing him to buy a car and send home. As the first male child, he is pressured to dump his studies and look for work that can fetch him some money from which he could have extra cash to send home. His own friends have a longer list of demands.

My friend said that going abroad was like him climbing a very tall ladder high up for his childhood friends and family members to watch and cheer. He can’t come down from this ladder and he can’t fall off. He has to stay up there and meet everyone’s expectations. If he succeeds or fails in his academic pursuit, he succeeds or fails only for himself because they care less. They are just concerned that he has traveled abroad and therefore has found wealth. He will be forever judged by the amount of money he has and can shower on everybody at home.

When he goes back home, he cannot say he doesn’t have money – they will believe he is hiding it somewhere. Thus he has stopped taking pictures of himself for social media purposes.  I remember feeling sad for my friend. It seemed to him a great dilema: meeting the financial expectations of his family back home or facing his own future, his academics.


If you want to be happy in this life, you have to stop living to please other people. Your life, actions and inactions should not be determined by someone else. What you are, who you are and who you desire to be, what you want to achieve, should not be someone else’s responsibility.

You must understand that any forward step you desire to take means you have to leave someone / some people behind. Do not be so attached to anyone that they become clogs on your wheel to progress. Some want you to carry them along, rather than teaching them to walk by themselves. If you “carry them along”, you can’t move as fast as you should or want to.

You are the most important person who you should please and satisfy. Sometimes, you have to decide and do what is best for your own life first. Life is a battle for the survival of the fittest and no one has the right to be more-fit to survive than you.

You are not obligated to anyone more than you are obligated to yourself. You have to take care of yourself first before taking care of others. If you are sick, how can you take care of other sick people? If you are hungry, how can you feed other hungry people? Thus, the best and most legal selfish thing you can do is to take care, great care of yourself. When you are well taken care of, then you can lend out your helping hand to others.


Leave a Reply