By Hina Shikhani

We all have experienced a time in our life, when we struggle to choose between “What seems right” and “what feels right”.  Here, I pronounce it, “Following Passion vs Fulfilling Expectation” and I noticed this theme when I interviewed Jalil* – a refugee student from a university in Peshawar.

Jalil is a smart student but he hates studying! Yes, you heard it right!   He says, “I have no motivation to study. I am here just because my parents want me to get a degree and earn a good salary –I think, that’s what a responsible man of a family should do”.

 I was surprised, yet very keen to learn what his life purpose was.

So, I stretched the conversation a bit more and asked him, “Dear Jalil, what you really want to do in your life?”. As he began to answer my question, I could see the sparkle in his eyes and the excitement on his face. He says, “I have been passionate for becoming an athlete since childhood. I love playing football with my friends and I really want to chase my dreams”

As he was talking, I went back to my own experience in college, when I was told by everyone around me, including my family, friends and teachers, to choose Medicine as a profession. According to the majority of people in my society, if you are a brilliant student with good grades, you must become either a doctor or an engineer.  Or else, you are a failure.  But I knew, that my heart wanted something else – to listen to the voice within and follow my passion. Unfortunately, there are many more people like Jalil, who sacrifice their dreams to fulfil their family’s and society’s expectations and who struggle to fit in, which could ultimately lead to depression and other psychological issues.

As I continued the conversation with Jalil, I realised that lack of passion and motivation for studying is one of the challenges in continuing one’s education, and most of us shut our eyes to or are not even ready to talk about. I believe that education is important, but so is the motivation behind it. The true purpose of education is to learn and grow; to become better and do better in what we believe. As Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Every human is born with a unique talent. Instead of comparing each other, we should embrace our diversity of thoughts, ideas and capabilities.

Therefore, let’s be courageous enough to live our true purpose. Let’s encourage and support everyone around us to follow their passion. Let’s initiate a tradition of acceptance!


*Names have been changed to protect the identity of research participants.