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24 March 2022updated 22 Dec 2022 10:30am

My dreams were deemed “unrealistic”. But your background shouldn’t determine your future

We all have aspirations. We must to reject the idea that certain opportunities are only for certain kinds of people.

By Mayo Agard-Olubo

I was 16 when I walked into the careers office of my secondary school, brimming with excitement about my future. I had decided on what I thought was my dream job: a videogame designer. Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved dreaming up new worlds where I could go on adventures, and designing games seemed like the perfect way to bring those worlds to life.

I went to meet my careers adviser armed with a plan about how I was going to make my dream a reality:  a course in the US that would give me the education  I needed as well as links to professional games studios. But the conversation did not go as I expected. I was told quite simply: “Well, that isn’t very realistic.” That was it. I left deflated, frustrated and confused.

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We are all world-builders in a sense. We all have dreams and aspirations, and try to create a world in which they become reality. To do that, we need people in our lives who will help us gain the knowledge needed to achieve our goals. Too often, people from a working-class or marginalised background lack the support network and professional contacts to help bridge this knowledge gap. Sometimes, they might not even know their dream job exists.

Speaking with my careers advisers that day might have made me feel that my ambitions were unachievable, but I was still determined to make them a reality. It can be easy to let a dream die simply because you don’t see the path forward. I didn’t want that to happen to me.

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Ultimately, I didn’t become a games designer. But that’s because my dream transformed, and I realised what I really wanted to be was an author. Now, I want to write stories that empower other children, from backgrounds like mine, to follow their dreams. For that to happen, we need to reject the idea that certain opportunities are only seen as being for certain kinds of people. Your background shouldn’t determine whether you can access a path to your dreams. Together we should build a world where those paths are open to everyone.

Mayo Agard-Olubo is supported by A Writing Chance, a UK-wide project from New Writing North designed to discover new writers from underrepresented backgrounds whose voices have historically not been heard in publishing and the media. You can read work by other writers in this initiative here.

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A Writing Chance is co-funded by Michael Sheen and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and supported by the New Statesman and the Daily Mirror. The project is delivered by New Writing North and literature organisations nationally, with research from Northumbria University.

This piece is published in Michael Sheen’s guest edited issue of the New Statesman, “A Dream of Britain”, on sale from 25 March.

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This article appears in the 23 Mar 2022 issue of the New Statesman, A Dream of Britain