Educated out of Creativity. Where are they now?

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Do you remember that fella from art class who did the best paintings and sketches? He was so good, his Japanese-styled animations should have been featured on TV, and everybody just knew he’d become some famous artist. Or how about the girl who showed off in clothing and textiles class because she could consistently make couture outfits from bits of cloth, and bragged to everyone that she was going to be a fashion designer? What happened to the girl, the writer, who knew the meaning of practically all the words in the dictionary, and was always at the top of the class when it came to essays?

Most of them, (and I’m sure some of you can associate with this) are where most of us end up, in an eight to four, wearing a tailored business suit or a striped tie, and not exactly miserable, but no way near satisfied.

During childhood, people believe that they can do anything – that their dreams and aspirations are completely attainable. A young girl will twirl around in her leotards confident in the thought that she’ll be the world’s greatest dancer. In Trinidad though, that phase usually ends when primary school does. It’s time for ‘big school’ after that, and the transition into adulthood and responsibilities begin. This is the time when dreams can be confronted with the harshness of reality; and in that battle, reality usually puts up a stronger fight. Instead of hearing stories of success, we are bombarded with tales of failure. Instead of believing in our skills, we are told that we aren’t special enough to make our dreams come through.

Career goals are drilled into most children’s minds, and demonstrated in their everyday lives so much so that from early childhood every child hears the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Having a career goal is instilled in kids from the moments they start forming sentences. When they are at a young age, some children are told, “You can be anything you want to be”. Others hear their parents foretell, “My son is going to be a doctor or a lawyer?” The fact is that we all know that being a child won’t last forever, and eventually we will all need to ‘be’ something.

In the early teen years, children may exhibit special skills or specific talents. Some may excel in sports or the arts; some may be especially crafty with their hands. Others may be politically motivated or have naturally sharp business acumen. Once exposed to a variety of subjects, almost every child has a favourite or a particular skill that they enjoy more than any other, and usually shine in this area.


“Between parents and the school system, some people’s dreams and talents don’t stand a chance”


Between parents and the school system, some people’s dreams and talents don’t stand a chance. In Trinidad and Tobago, the educational programmes in most schools are tailored towards academics. Classes like art, cooking, woodwork, and sewing are usually dropped in favour of business courses by Form Four. Why is Math and English the only compulsory subjects at O’ Levels? This suggests to me that these two subjects are more important than all others. The implication is that some courses are more acceptable than others. However, there are many people who simply aren’t interested in focusing most of their attention on these areas. Boys who want to become craftsmen or contractors or architects are sometimes pressured by their parents to pursue other areas. It’s my belief that all children should be exposed to a well-rounded education and that each subject area should be given equal attention. This is not usually the case. Let’s face it, there were some classes we were alert and serious for. Art, music, and clothing and textiles classes were usually for liming. The option of doing Physical Education wasn’t even available at my secondary school despite the fact that there is a wide range of career paths in that field. At very few, if any career fairs, would you see the art booth or the clothing designer giving an encouraging lecture. Business professionals, the police, army officials, teachers, lawyers, and doctors are the ones who are most seen. There is nothing wrong with these fields; what’s wrong is the glaring absence of the arts.


“Children are basically taught that there are certain paths in life that are safer, and more stable, and despite the fact that their talent may be impressive they tend to give in”


Children are basically taught that there are certain paths in life that are safer, and more stable, and despite the fact that their talent may be impressive they tend to give in, thereby giving up. Instead of being taught to attempt and learn from mistakes, the education system teaches them to avoid the chance of failing, and to avoid taking risks. Most kids then have to deal with the additional pressure from their parents when it comes to career choices, with some parents even choosing which subjects their children opt for at for O’ Levels in attempts to guide and shape their career choices. What we have then, is the aspiring musician, packing up his violin because ‘it’s so hard to get into the industry’. The artist then discontinues his passion in favour of entering the saturated field of business. The writer becomes discouraged by parents, or by friends and when he or she is told to be realistic and choose a stable career path, he or she settles for a desk job (when it’s not that there’s anything wrong with a desk job, but it’s not what they truly want). Such people settle for becoming an interchangeable part of something else when all they yearned to do was make it on their own.


“When did chasing our dreams become a taboo topic?”


When did chasing our dreams become a taboo topic? In life we find that stability is important and greatly sought after. We as a society tend to look at some career paths as riskier than others; for instance, a business field would be relatively easy to get into. There are always jobs for business professionals. New companies are opening their doors and they need accountants, marketing professionals and operations staff. These are jobs that are relatively in demand and more stable. You don’t usually see an ad in the classifieds for a singer or an actress. Choosing to make your living through more creative ventures just isn’t very stable, unless you’re one of the super creative, gifted few. The question here is who decides whether or not you are good enough. Do you retain your drive to pursue your own path, or are do you accept the miseducation that pushes you away from embracing your true creative potential?


Kalifa Clyne is a writer who spends all of her time writing or thinking about writing.


  1. Aarti Gosine

    May 24, 2010 at 3:14 am

    In Trinidad it’s very hard for creative people to get financial support from the government, community and organizations. Many of us have to take a 8 – 4 job in order to be financially stable. Many talented men have to give up their dreams and work a conventional job in order to support their families etc.

    I almost got stuck in the 8-4 syndrome but because of the support of my husband I was able to leave my job and follow my dreams.

    • Kaylee

      March 30, 2017 at 8:53 am

      ExeidssiD-nt–there is truth to what you wrote. There are no swans in the sewer, the natural habitat of rats. It's hard if we become too much like our enemies that will leave a whole lot of people confused and unable to differntiate the corrupt from the clean.

  2. Supernova

    May 24, 2010 at 6:04 am

    There really is no place for creative individuals in the school system. People usually pity you if you decide to follow your dreams instead of conforming, letting you know that dreams are for your childhood days

  3. Kiya

    May 24, 2010 at 6:14 am

    Really well written article. Enjoyed reading it and the fact that the author touched on the school sytems instilling the fear of failure in children.

  4. Kiya

    May 24, 2010 at 6:18 am

    So sad that people choose not to what they really want to do and get pressured out of what they relly love by their peers. Thought provoking article. Makes me wonder if I should have indulged my creative side. I guess it’s not too late though.

  5. cellie

    May 24, 2010 at 6:24 am

    Reading this article, when the author says
    ‘What happened to the girl, the writer…”
    I just wanted to shoot my hand into the air and say I’m right here and I am working in an 8-4 in a suit.

  6. passion

    May 24, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Your article touches many valuable points……..we live in a society where we all conform to the norms, because it is deemed “acceptable”. Yes, our parents do try to make our career path in order to guide us.. but,is it really to guide us or for their own self gratification to be a proud mother our father of a doctor or lawyer????…….why not be a proud mother or father of a writer or poet?? In other cases some children are not provided with the resources in order to pursue their passion because it is seen as “acceptable” career in the eyes of others. At the end of the day, its never to late to follow our dreams and passion.We would all grow to be adults and be able to make our decisions in order to live our lives. So, despite the fact growing up were handicapped by not getting a fair and equal opportunity to explore all subject areas, its never to late to to become that abstract painter,tailor,cook or writer. The skies the limit…….

  7. knycky

    May 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Childhood dream:
    Mummy: “yuh have tuh pass for a 5 year school, a convent!”

    Me: But I want to go to “Book” San-Juan Senior cause I want tuh sing in the band”

    Mummy: “YUH MAD OR WHAT!”
    Outcome: Sang in several bands, locally, regionally, AND internationally. I’m an Entertainer now. Thanks San-Jan Sen!

    Adult dream:
    Jacqui Koon How Model Agency Boss: “Yuh have to bring home the Miss T&T Universe title”

    Me: “But I want to go to the Miss Carival” (Regional Queen talent show)
    Outcome: Placed first runner up @ The Miss carival Queen Show.
    Still singing, hosting, and acting.

    Summary: If I wasn’t a stubborn little girl, later on woman, I wouldn’t be realizing part of my dreams. Next part being paid well! (LOL)

    Most of my family (society) and institutions didn’t encourage my creativity…SO I pushed myself!
    P.S I do the 9-5 now and then too eh. Just keeping it real. Shhhhhhhh.

    Great post.

  8. james

    May 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Thing is a lot of people do not see their creative work/ability as something serious and go through life as such. What happens is that most are not taught how to manage it. Something that is slowly entering our space.

  9. kclyne

    May 26, 2010 at 2:51 am

    @ knycky- I applaud your determination and more people should be as brave and as stubborn as you are.

    @ James- I think you have an excellent point. Some people may have the confidence to pursue their dreams but have no clue how to manage their talent or market their skills. That has always been a problem with me personally.

  10. Desiree Seebaran


    May 26, 2010 at 4:03 am

    Really identified with the subject matter. It was hard the shake off the 8 to 4 pull and go freelance so I would have the freedom to do the kinds of projects AI want, but despite the low money, it is so worth it. I’d have like to see you talk to some people on both sides of the fence tho; people who got stuck in the rut and people who ARE living their dreams, despite the obstacles.

  11. Unknown Teen

    May 26, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Story of my my life!

    I’m about to leave secondary school and I’m the writer doing natural scinces because becoming a Doctor would get me paid at a steady rate, not to mention, make my parents proud.

    When I mention my dreams, my passion, my ideas; I’m told you CAN’T.
    Implication: it’s impossible

    Quite frankly, I’m afraid of failing if I choose to “rebel”.
    It’s not exactly encouraging when ALL I see around me, dreams and aspirations being traded in for an 8-4. It comes off as if there really is no other way.

    Logically, it seems as if I have no other choice but to do what comes in as second place – doing what is socially labelled as ‘ideal’, MAYBE I can attempt my dreams later on in life.

    However, I’m staring at the bleak reality of becoming a junkie once I do that – an 8-4 junkie that cannot be cured by that derire to attend, aspiring-my-dreams-rehab.

    Great article Kalifa.

  12. karel

    May 26, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Hey Unknown Teen

    You’re young. Try, because if you don’t you’ll go through life regretting it. If you feel you have to do your Nat Sci degree, do it. But you can write on the side. As you go through life, you’ll discover exactly where your path lies.

    The majority of people aren’t in an 8 to 4 because “there really is no other way”. It’s just that they’re afraid, so they’ve never really gone for it. I’m not saying it’s easier. But you have a greater chance of success if you’re determined, passionate and have a plan.

    I say go for it. You wanna be a writer? Go for it. We’ve got a spot at Outlish for you. Email if you’re interested.

    Outlish Editor-in-Chief

  13. kclyne

    May 27, 2010 at 2:34 am

    I think the question you need to ask yourself is what comes first for you. What do you want to do and do you believe in your writing skills enough to bank on it. I know it’s hard trust me, I’ve had parents and even some of my closest friends tell me in one breath that I’m such a good writer and then turn around in the next and ask me to be realistic about my future. What they still don’t get is that I am being realistic. If any body asks me What I am? The answer will be a writer and I say this unwaveringly, yet I do have an 8-4. I think you should try writing on the side or freelance and make it go where you want it to And if you also want to be a doctor go right ahead. The posibilities are endless as long as you don’t place limitations on yourself. Hey and as Karel says, write for Outlish.

  14. Tracey

    May 27, 2010 at 4:48 am

    I am, and we creatives around here are living proof that you can, despite the seemingly difficult times, do what you feel you must do in your life. I had to take drastic measures, as many people do in order to seek a better quality of life. It’s heart-wrenching, but when it’s your happiness at stake, I endorse taking the biggest (calculated as much as possible) risks of your life. There is no adrenalin rush like it. It’s worth all the crap you have to go through to get there. Totally. Worth it!

  15. David "Da Face" Hamilton


    May 31, 2010 at 7:52 am

    As somebody who is doing everything I’ve ever wanted to do currently I find it hard to understand why other ppl can’t but I would also note that it takes a lot of determination and hard work (both which luckily come naturally to me).
    Inadvertent self-praise aside, you only have one life to live so if you spend this life not doing what you really want to do then when else will you be able to?

  16. Nicole

    June 14, 2010 at 4:01 am

    This is precisely the motivation for the series we do on “Trinis with Passion” – to show that career doesn’t have to equal 8-4 pin-striped suit. We can absolutely find success and fulfilment if we follow our passion, but parental fear and Trini socialization can really drive it out of you.

    Young people often don’t know about role models who they can turn to, or avenues and resources they can use for guidance…

    I see my generation bucking that trend and using social media tools to take their future into their own hands. I hope we can help the young up-and-comers in some way to find the strength to follow their dreams.

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