Written by Evi Idoghor
I finally came out to my father. It was an emotional experience, but one which needed to be done sooner than later. I remember at 17 years old, sitting in our home office in Ulsan, South Korea, my father and I ran through the list of majors on The University of Louisiana Lafayette’s website. We considered Chemistry, some other science related courses and engineering. “You will study Chemical Engineering,” he said, “this field in engineering is broad, so you can work in a variety of industries.” I remember agreeing with him, after all, he was an engineer himself, with years of experience under his belt, surely, he knew what was best for me.
What he didn't realize was how much I would struggle in school—organic chemistry was hell, while process engineering was the angel I didn't know about. My school years were riddled with tears; even the smartest girl in my class, a Haitian girl, cried at some point; who was I not to cry a river of tears every time chemical engineering presented a challenge? I wished, like David in the Bible, to grow wings and fly away to a place where no one could find me. I remember in 2010, watching CNN, and it seemed like the world was imploding. In my mind, I thought, the world is about to end and these people are stressing me out over our senior design project.
My head of department asked me one day, “what do you really want to do?”
“Write,” I said to him, “I want to become a writer.”
"Well, I can tell you are good at it, however, when compared to engineers, writers make little to no money.” What? Had he heard of J.K. Rowling? Even if I could care less about her at the time, I knew that this path for engineering wasn’t for me. Regardless, I graduated and faced a new type of challenge, that of finding work in a foreign country.
A recruiter from a chemical company contacted me two weeks before graduation after seeing my resume online. She informed me of a job opening at their company and invited me to an interview. I immediately contacted my colleagues in the same field, who had already begun working to assist me in preparing for the interview. My father, an industry veteran, also prepared me for what was to come. I was happy to make the two-hour drive from Lafayette to an area not far from New Orleans.
On arrival, my stomach began to churn. I was a nervous wreck. However, the warmth of the recruiter quelled every consternation I harbored. She showed me to the waiting room, assuring me all will be well. I waited on the edge of my seat, until my name was called. I walked into a room with two interviewers, who began grilling me with questions. When I left their custody, I thought, “there is no way I am going to get this job.”
My performance immediately put an end to my dream of balling out of control. Then it was time to move on to the next round. This group of people asked more questions about behavioral skills, which I was happy to answer. After one more round of interviews, I was escorted back to the waiting room. After a few moments of deliberation, the recruiter dashed into the waiting room, ecstatic. “We just need management to approve your work permit, they all loved you!” she said.
Me, little ole’ me? I was out of my mind with joy. I couldn't wait to tell my family the good news. The recruiter said it would take two weeks for my permit to be approved, after which I would be whisked away. My life was about to get started. At the age of 23, this girl who had struggled to get through engineering school was about to be rewarded for all of her hardships. In 2011, $60,000 a year was a good starting salary.
As the second week following my interview approached, I kept a close eye on my calendar. I hadn't heard from my favorite recruiter or my soon-to-be bosses. I started calling her phone frantically, but she didn't answer. After a few days, I received an email from her. “Management was unable to approve your work permit. I wish you the best of luck in the future.” I was in shambles. What a lovely story it would have been if I had gotten a good job only two weeks after graduating!
My father would have been overjoyed. My self-esteem would have risen as a result. I would have been financially self-sufficient. But, no, it wasn't in the cards for me, at least not exactly ten years ago, when this event occurred. There would be several close calls, including an interview with PZ Cussons in New York City and numerous phone calls from the UK stating that they are working on my approval. Another interview with Honeywell in Baton Rouge, where I was staying in a five-star hotel, with no results. Thus, I finally laid to rest my dream of working as an engineer. I had to find another way.
I was too afraid to tell my father that I was no longer interested in the industry. As the years progressed, I hid. I knew I wanted an unusual job but couldn't quite put my finger on it at the time. Even if I did, no one would get it. Guilt was weighing heavily on my shoulders. After spending thousands of dollars on my education, it was as if I tossed it aside. Internal conflicts arose, and my insecurities did not help. When people asked what I was doing, I was hesitant to tell them I was a writer until I found paid work in the field. Then my self-esteem grew a little. Yet, in the year 2020, I resigned from my job. Both the stress and the pay were insufficient. Despite the fact that I grew tremendously as a writer while working with them.
My father, like any good father, expressed concern and began tossing job applications in the oil industry my way, after my brother blew my cover that I had quit my job. Although I had began working with clients as a freelancer/ghost writer. Then a few days ago, he called to tell me about another opportunity. “I sent your resume to them, and this project is scheduled to begin in early 2022.” My heart was broken. He just wouldn't let this engineering thing slide.
So, while he waited anxiously for me to send him additional information to propel the job application further, I mustered up courage to craft an email where I poured my heart out to him. Sealed with a prayer to God. His response melted my heart— “What can I say as father other than wishing God’s guidance and blessing on your chosen career path. I love you.” It was a bittersweet moment for me.
Bitter because I still feel like I let him down, sweet because I have finally received the permission I sought all those years to become who I am. I don't know what the future holds (who does anyway?), but I am committed to this gift that God has so generously blessed me with, and I am excited about the current projects I am working on. Who knows, maybe my name will be in the news the next time you hear it.
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