creating a path suited for me
by blessing ikpa
I always tense up when I hear the dreaded question, “What is your dream job?” Honestly, I feel as though that question is invalid. How does one possibly know what job they want to do for the rest of their life? I’m never able to genuinely answer the question because I wouldn’t be honest if I said I knew what my dream job was. I have goals that I want to reach within my career. I would love to have a job that allowed me to travel the world and engage in public diplomacy. Working from home is a goal I also want to reach because having a work/life balance is incredibly important to me. I could tell you exactly how I would decorate my home office. Yet, I couldn’t tell you what that job title would be or what the position would even look like. The only constant in my life is the fact that I am still figuring out exactly what I want.
"The only constant in my life is the fact that I am still figuring out exactly what I want."
When I graduated from high school, going to college was a complete no-brainer. The tough decisions came when I was actually in my college coursework, still figuring out what I was hoping to do with a Sociology degree. The field itself was incredibly interesting to me, but I already knew I had zero desire to become a Professor or pursue a career in the realm of academia. Yet, I never had any moment of panic because I always knew I would end up exactly where I needed to be. How was I going to get there? Not incredibly sure, but I knew my path was being created right in front of me.
Clarity on my future came to me in the form of a study abroad opportunity to Arezzo, Italy during my junior year. My decision to study abroad in Italy was purely for my own personal gain and my huge love of my favorite carb: pasta. While abroad, I interned with an amazing NGO that opened my eyes to the field of International Relations. I didn’t know I could pursue a career in a field that genuinely excited me and could connect my interests with the world around me. I was intrigued. The bubble I created for myself in the college town of Norman, Oklahoma had finally burst. I could connect with people who were different from me and we could still work together to achieve goals for the common good. As a Black woman, I knew entering into the space of International Relations would be difficult. The world of IR is defined in the ideals of the “Boys Club” where people who looked like me were not fairly represented. This proved to be true as I developed into my graduate experience, but I was determined to find a way. I finally found a career interest that made sense to me, so I was going to pursue any opportunity I could get my hands on.
I got into a Top 10 International Relations school in the entire world. Sounds fancy, right? For a young Black girl from Oklahoma to make it to the “big leagues” of Washington, DC, I basically was your average fairy tale. But my grad program was incredibly difficult. I went straight from undergrad to grad because I know me and I knew I wouldn’t go to grad school if I took time off. I was feeling burnt out from all of my classes and hearing the same White men preach about other White men theorists we should know in our field and how they are credible and have paved the way of our thinking and just more ideas that I was tired of having instilled in me. What about the People of Color who also participated in our global community? What about their ideas of how we should be productive global citizens? World issues were happening all around us such as Black people dying at the hands of police, endless fighting in the Middle East, refugees and migrants leaving their homelands to find safety. WHERE WAS OUR REPRESENTATION IN THE GLOBAL SPHERE? I couldn’t stand learning about a history and culture that was not reflective of people like me. With looking back on my collegiate and graduate experience, I realized that I had to take my learning into my own hands.
"I couldn’t stand learning about a history and culture that was not reflective of people like me. ...I realized that I had to take my learning into my own hands."
I have had countless opportunities that have led me to DC, took me on travels all over the world, and helped me to land my first “big girl” job. These experiences were not easy. Nothing worth having is ever easy. I cried, I doubted myself, had various mental breakdowns, shamed myself and felt at many times that I simply couldn’t achieve my goals. Yet, every single thing I have experienced since college has brought me full circle to understand more of who I am. Can I say that I 100% know what I want to do later in life? No. My dream job may never be figured out fully, and you know, that’s also okay. I’m turning 25 this year, I still have so much more of my life to figure out what my dream may be. Sometimes, dreams change. Our goals change. What we want right now may not be what we want 10 years from now. It’s okay to change and grow. But I feel good. I am on this journey for me. I am carving out space for me and reaffirming the belief that I deserve to take up space. My path may not be the most traditional path, but that’s what makes the experience even more worthwhile.
At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.
Author, Blessing Ikpa
Blessing is a native of Norman, Oklahoma but claims the Washington, D.C. area as her new home. She is a child of Nigerian immigrants and holds her Nigerian/African-American heritage closely. She’s currently finishing her Master’s degree at the School of International Service (American University) in studying International Relations. Blessing has a love for travel, journaling and attempting to replicate recipes from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook. Feel free to connect with Blessing on all of the social medias.