When I was a child I was often asked, as many children are, what I wanted to be when I was older. I remember wanting to be an Astronaut at one point. But like most children, I was naïve and oblivious to the limits of my circumstance; my boundless imagination allowed me to believe that even a child living in Nairobi, Kenya could one day walk on the moon.
The one thing that most clearly differentiates America from Kenya, or other less developed countries, is the abundance of opportunity. The children of America are allowed to believe that they can become astronauts, athletes, artists, presidents, singers, dancers, etc. because the infrastructure and development of their country have afforded them that possibility. The dreams of American children are backed by the necessary institutions and organizations which are imperative to bringing those dreams to fruition. On the contrary, 3rd world countries like Kenya (where I grew up) quite frankly do not have the same systems or infrastructure necessary to facilitate such opportunities for their people.
A few months ago, my parents came from Kenya to visit me for my college graduation ceremony. Around that time, I had performed a spoken poetry piece for my University which went on to be their biggest media project ever, reaching roughly 150,000 people and getting up to 40,000 views.
When my mum watched the video she was undoubtedly impressed and proud as ever. However, I distinctly remember her response, because it changed my outlook entirely. After she gave it some thought, she regrettably told me “it was great Kim, I loved it… but in Kenya, you will never make any money doing this… perhaps you should focus your talents elsewhere”. Her words hurt, not because I felt belittled or unappreciated but because I knew she was right. The likelihood that I could make a living as an artist, poet, or writer in Kenya is extremely slim. It hurts to know that the talents and skills that I’m revered for in the United States are unlikely to yield the same fruit at home in Kenya.
Not only is Kenya lacking in infrastructure and development, but also the necessary culture of mind and freedom of thought to consider being an artist, writer or poet as credible professions.
To explain this one must understand that Kenya’s society is heavily layered with traditional beliefs that are rooted in a lack of opportunity, which is a cultural trait that is difficult to break away from.
For many Kenyans, there is a high impetus placed on education. Education is the ‘key’, our ‘way out’,‘our road to success’. We are supposed to study, do well, and become the likes of doctors, lawyers, politicians, and entrepreneurs—as my parents would say “…that is how you make money”. The people that veer too far from this tradition are often vilified by society. Rarely do Kenyans aspire to untraditional professions—like artists, actors or writers—because our circumstance has simply not afforded us the freedom of thought to make such dreams fathomable possibilities.
On the other hand, the United States is drastically different, and I love it!
Here a man can be whoever he pleases because the culture, infrastructure, and development of the country have afforded him that right.
This is the Land of the Free where no one is bound by a lack of opportunity.
I don’t love America because it is more beautiful than Kenya, or because the people are nicer, or because the weather is better—In fact, Kenya would win that contest hands down. I love America because here I can become an Astronaut.