Hello, world! So, one of my goals this year is to write a novel. I'll be posting excerpts on UpNaira for encouragement and feedback. Here's the first bit: Her Parent's Choice.
Looking back on my life, I can trace the beginning of my career as a psychiatrist to my early fascination with identity. As early as my secondary school days, I loved to open up glossy magazines and take quizzes that promised to tell me more about myself. Who am I? What should I do with my life? Who should I spend my life with?
The first question, on the surface, was easy to answer. I knew my name. Mary Anastacia Chukwu. I was the only child of Paul Chukwu, (an engineer in Shell) and Ifeoma Chukwu (a stay-at-home mother). I was from the Eastern part of Nigeria and (as is common in those parts), Roman Catholic by religion.
At thirteen, I was taller than most of the girls my age – almost as tall as my father, who was easily 6 feet tall. I was conscious of my looks – my long, gangling limbs, my tiny eyes, nose and mouth which sparsely populated my long face. The only feature I was proud of was the long, lustrous hair which hung in shiny braids to the middle of my back after every visit to the salon.
Dissatisfied with the obvious, I explored horoscopes. I was born on September 8 (the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, hence my name). From the horoscope, I learned I was a Virgo. I liked the way one magazine described us ‘’The Virgoan woman is very discerning, a natural critic, and a sharp analyzer of everything and everyone. ‘’ So that made me an ‘’Analyst.’’ I tested the sound on my tongue and I liked it. ‘’Mary the Analyst.’’ It had a nice ring to it.
One of the quizzes I had taken told me that I had an IQ of 125 (5 points away from being eligible to join the elite Mensa society). I announced this proudly to my parents at dinner that evening.
‘’Dad, Mum, guess what?’’ I said, halfway through the egusi soup and pounded yam which I had helped my Mum prepare that day.
‘’What?’’ my Dad responded, smiling at my obvious excitement. His grey eyes crinkled behind large, tortoise-shell glasses which were almost a replica of those I had on my tiny nose.
‘’I took an IQ test today. Guess what my IQ is?’’
‘’Err … 50?’’ said my Mum, tucking a strand of silver hair behind her ear. Her hair was as long as mine but it was lined with silver strands. ‘’Marks of wisdom’’ she had told me once.
‘’Mum!’’ I remonstrated, glancing at her in dismay. ‘’I’m not an imbecile.’’
‘’Okay, I’m sorry. What did you get?’’
I paused for dramatic effect. ‘’One hundred and twenty-five.’’
There was silence around the table. ‘’Is that a good score?’’ Dad ventured to ask.
‘’Of course!’’ I burst out. ‘’It’s only five points below the minimum required to join the Mensa society. Mensa is a society for people who have an IQ in the 98th percentile – that’s 130.’’
‘’Hmm! ‘’ my Dad exclaimed, giving me the tilted smile that lent him a rakish air. My mum always said that it was ‘’the smile’’ that had charmed her first. ‘’My daughter is a genius.’’
‘’Well, we’ve always known you were a smart girl, ‘’ Mum responded with an indulgent grin.
‘’That settles it, then,’’ Dad said in that tone that brooked no further disagreement. ‘’You’ll be a doctor.’’
‘’A doctor? Why?’’ I asked, making a face. Hospitals were dull and depressing places that reminded me of illness and death. I couldn’t fathom spending the rest of my life chained to the bedside of dying patients.
‘’Because, my dear, medicine is a noble calling. Only the best and brightest graduate from medical school. Once you’re a doctor, you won’t need to join Mensa. Everyone knows that doctors are intelligent.’’
Upon hearing my Dad’s pronouncement, a part of me wanted to say that English was my favorite subject and that I barely tolerated Biology. I wanted to teach and write English. But, taking in their proud grins and admiration, their wonder, their cries of exclamation and their laughter, I couldn’t bear to argue. So I acquiesced meekly. After all, going to medical school was almost like joining the Mensa society. Wasn’t it?
And so it turned out that, my parents , and not the horoscopes, answered the question of what I was to do with my life.