In the little rural town in Lagos, Nigeria where I grew up, children had to create their own entertainment. After school, they would gather together to play sing-a-long games and create frenzied contests. I was the child who preferred to sit alone in a corner, engrossed in a storybook. The fables about Mr. Tortoise and his near fatal fall from heaven or how he challenged the hare to a marathon; these were the tales that whetted my imagination. I would make up my own stories: about an old woman’s lonely tooth, or Okon’s bicycle tires that quarreled and refused to move in the same direction.
I was drawn to the western sitcom reruns on our tiny black and white TV. I was intrigued by the unusual people I saw, and the strange things they talked about. To me, they belonged in a far, far away reality, one that felt utterly inaccessible. And then one day, a new program came on: Tales by Moonlight. It dramatized my favorite folktales; this time, however, the people looked and spoke like me. Suddenly, the stories that were confined to the pages of my book came magically alive. I knew, instinctively, that this was what I would do for the rest of my life.
Holding tightly to this dream, I worked hard enough to eventually receive a full scholarship to an American university. It was one of the happiest days of my life. It was proof that there was nothing I couldn’t achieve. Being a female child from a community like mine, however, meant that such a golden opportunity came with hefty expectations. My father said to me, “Now it is time to do something useful with your life, and forget all that childish daydreaming”.
I soon realized that every international student in my school was reading about Medicine or Engineering. Careers in the Arts were considered irresponsible. But, against the wishes of my family, I became the first international student I knew to choose a major in film. Staying true to this dream has been intensely challenging. There have been times—when looking for another couch to spend the night on or struggling to raise the money to survive—I have wondered if it was worth it. Were the naysayers right, after all?
The answer to that question came about a month ago when I received admission into the best film program in the country. I am in complete disbelief that a little girl from an unknown town in Africa gets the chance to study in the same institution that produced filmmaking giants like Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas. It is more than a dream come true; it is a story for every woman, every African: truly, if you can dream it, you can achieve it. Receiving this scholarship will bring me closer to fulfilling this dream, this unfolding tale that has the potential to ignite a fire in the heart of every dreamer; it is a fire that no obstacle or adversity can quench.
We are proud to announce Tracy Egbas is one of the current JustJobs Scholarship finalists. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘heart’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process