When I was seven years old, I decided I was going to be a writer. I was fortunate that my mother encouraged my reading and writing habit. However, she also encouraged me to pursue other interests because my mother understood how difficult being “just a writer” was. As a result, I spent the rest of my childhood shuffling through “dream” careers that were more practical. And by the time I was 17, I had decided I was going to be a lawyer.
When I was 19, I was fortunate to attend a university that allowed students to pick more than one major, so I majored in Law and Journalism. Picking journalism was an ode to the 7-year-old who wanted to be a writer. Little did I know, the ambitions I had as a child would eventually overcome the career path I chose for practicality and financial safety. It wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in a Constitutional Law class, realizing how unfit law was for me. Sure, I would make a decent lawyer, but I’d also be miserable in that career.
So, after weeks of deliberating with myself, I tested the news of wanting to drop law as a career option on my sister. To my surprise, she was not surprised. My sister affirmed my decision and encouraged me to fully pursue a journalism career. The biggest challenge, however, was telling my parents about my decision. How could I explain to my African parents their beloved daughter no longer wanted to be a lawyer, a great career with a reliable income but wanted to be a journalist, a dangerous profession in Zimbabwe?
Thankfully, both of my parents took the news relatively well. They understood the importance of me picking the path that made me happy, but they were scared by the uncertainty and unpredictability of being a journalist. They suggested I finish my law degree and pursue journalism on the side. Unfortunately for them, I was all in. It was going to be journalism or nothing.
Looking back, I realize how important it was for me to drop law. What may have initially appeared to others to be a childish whim, was my way of choosing myself. My intuition told me it was time to leave what didn’t fulfill my needs. I doubted myself at first because I was taught leaving law would be like quitting and “quitters never won.” Additionally, how could I quit law knowing how much my parents had sacrificed for me? How could I leave a stable career behind? The truth is I had to quit for myself. I had to quit to preserve my mental health and to pursue something which better fulfilled me.
Correspondingly, last July, I left a three-year relationship that wasn’t inherently flawed or problematic. Whenever I broke the news of my breakup to someone, they’d ask if anything was wrong. People were quick to assume it was either a case of cheating, dishonesty, or betrayal. I struggled, and still do, to explain there was nothing wrong between my ex and me. It was just time to pull the plug. I didn’t know how to tell people we loved each other so much we had to break up.
As final-year university students, we thought more about the future and how our relationship fit now that we were in a different stage in our lives. We were both at a cross-road, and we knew we could no longer journey together. Although our love brought us together, it couldn’t carry us any further. This was all extremely difficult to accept, as it felt like we were giving up on our love and each other. But that wasn’t the case.
Zimbabwean culture teaches women to stay in marriages and relationships, no matter the cost. Women are told to look for reasons to stay and to fight for their partners. Most wives stay for their children or out of fear of the shame and stigma associated with divorce. So, the idea of leaving a relationship, a perfect one at that, was foreign to me. Initially, my instincts told me to fight for my relationship. But the intuition deep in my gut told me to let it go.
So I did just that, and I have not regretted it. I must admit there were moments I was tempted to go back to what I knew because, after three years, my ex had been my best friend and top confidant. It often felt as if leaving was a bad idea. However, I now see how leaving was one of the best choices I’ve ever made, as it was yet another instance of prioritizing myself in the long run.
All in all, I am now reaping the rewards of having left the things that no longer served me. I am working for a company I love, and I am on a beautiful and fulfilling journey towards self-actualization. Despite the norms of my culture, I do not regret taking the path less traveled. The skill of knowing when to quit is difficult to acquire, but it is also one with bountiful rewards. Trust me, I have no regrets.
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