This post is not in any way meant to derive sympathy from anyone. This is my blog and part of what I do here is to share my personal experiences as I journey through life.
About three years ago, a friend called to inform me about my class’ convocation at the university of Lagos. His name was on the list along with most of my other classmates. Of course, my name wasn’t on that list. He was sad that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate the completion of our two-year master’s program and I understood how he felt considering that we had attended classes and studied together.
I don’t have a master’s degree. Some of my friends don’t know this. They knew when I started the program but I can imagine their surprise when they read this. Did it happen out of laziness? Was I just plainly unserious? You decide by the time I’m done with my story.
At the time I completed my degree in law, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life but I was sure of one thing, I was not going to practice law. The confusion surrounding my life’s purpose had been a battle since 300level. No doubt, I passed all my courses. I had to anyway but it had nothing to do with passion or interest. Just the fear of failing and returning to school for an extra year.
When I graduated, I reluctantly proceeded to law school. I just wanted to be done with the course and find something that’d interest me. So I joined thousands of other law students for the ten months rigorous training that’ll stamp us certified lawyers.
As part of our training, we were required to work in a chamber for a number of weeks, something like the Industrial training(I.T) you might be familiar with. I was posted to a law chamber in Benin. I resumed with the hope that somewhere along the line, I’ll be able to connect and find the passion to make good use of my profession. I figured that my six years of training to be a lawyer could not waste like that.
Nothing changed. I got to work daily and wondered if this was what I wanted to spend my life doing. Filing court processes, appearing in court, poring over law reports. I still remembered the day I followed one of the lawyers to court. For more than two hours we sat there and I asked myself, ‘What are you doing here?’
Years after I graduated, I returned to law practice but It was still within the time I was figuring out what the future holds for me. I got out eventually. I packed my wig and gown into my robe bag which I kept in a safe place hoping that somewhere in another phase of my life, I’d find the excitement to pull it out again.
It’s funny how even back in my secondary school days, I was indifferent when two lawyers gave a career talk at the annual success camp organized by the Deeper Life Bible Church. That day students screamed and shouted at the sight of their regalia. Art students were suddenly caught in the euphoria of studying law and wearing a wig and a gown. I felt nothing.
When I filled my JAMB form, I bluntly refused to put in for law and It wasn’t until I found out that the course I had chosen required that I pick Maths as part of the JAMB combination did I change my mind and settle for a course that had my best subject combination.
Armed with these experiences, why had I gone back to the University to do a masters program in the same field? What for goodness sake was wrong with me? I still remember how I walked into the bank to pay the fees for my master’s program. I left the banking hall shortly after I arrived with the money in my bag. After walking for some minutes, I turned back and returned to the bank. I was so confused and disoriented. I finally paid the money and comforted myself with the fact that at least I’d proudly boast that I had a master’s degree.
For two years, I pushed this. I made distinctions in almost all my course work. But when I got to writing my thesis, I met a roadblock. At this time, I had started exploring creative writing and I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. Every minute spent writing the first three chapters of my thesis seemed like punishment. I kept my eyes fixed on the number of pages wondering when my work would be bulky enough so I could drop my pen.
I had friends who encouraged and helped me stay focused. I’ll never forget the role Victor Brown played in pushing me to work on days when I felt really tired. The nature of my thesis prevented me from accessing some of the scholarly works I needed because the materials were locked out to Nigerian students. Since Victor was in a recognized university somewhere in Europe, he had access to those articles which he opened and forwarded to me.
All these happened without my supervisor lifting his finger to help me. He had rules. He didn’t want to see our faces. Drop your research work with the porter, he ordered. He’d pick it up from their station on the ground floor of my faculty and after making necessary corrections on our files, we could pick them up from the porter’s lodge. For a lecturer who had his second and third degree outside the country, I was rather shocked at this form of supervision.
One of the days when I went to pick my file, I noticed he commented on the chapters I’d worked on. ‘This is a beautiful read.’ That statement was like finding a stream after days of walking in the desert. It greatly encouraged me to move on. He included that I work on a certain area which I did and sent back to him. He returned it, giving me further instructions that I didn’t quite understand.
I decided I was going to see him, at least to understand what exactly he wanted. But the day I was lucky to meet him in the office, he chased me out. For months, I stared at papers and journals, downcast. Writing stories became a place where my darkness lifted, where all my academic problems didn’t matter, at least at those moments.
Then I lost my references in the process of transit to another location and I knew the only solution was to start all over.
I became depressed. Only few people knew about it. It’s funny how those times, I was already active on social media, writing stuff yet I was dying inside, feeling like a failure and disappointment to my parents and those around me. This was coupled with some other issues I was battling with at that time. I felt like life was gradually being snuffed out of me. Everything was so dark. God just seemed so far away.
Somehow, I came out of it. Then I noticed that every time I tried to pick up that research work, I felt a cloud of darkness spread over my heart.
One day, I decided it was time to let it go. I didn’t care what anyone thought about me. What they say cannot define who I am or what my future is going to look like. I considered It wasn’t worth sticking my neck out by starting all over with that thesis. I wasn’t enjoying it and it was more like a torture, so what’s the point?
I know what I want to do with my life now and even though it will require so much work, I am ready to focus on the things that interests me.
While I am very particular about finishing at least a first degree, I am of the opinion that no one is under any obligation to continue to follow a path they have absolutely no interest in. I understand the place of paying bills, but the truth is, if you have found your purpose and it is way out of line with what you studied in school, it’s only a matter of time before you become an authority if you sharpen your axe and get established in that area.
I still work as a legal counsel, although in an area of law I find tolerable. That’s what pays my bills. But I am vigorously developing myself in my area of calling where my future lies.
I believe with all my heart that there is always the seed sowing and harvest time. I encourage myself regularly with the fact that those who go forth bearing precious seed will doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing sheaves with them.
I have learnt too that, this life is too short to be envious of others. My friend has a first class with two masters’ degree and a strong plan for her Ph.D. I’m happy for her but that’s not my path. We are unique in our own ways.
I have met people who kicked off their businesses, while others yielded to the call of God to full time ministry.
I have a friend, a very talented graphics designer, whose father’s position can get him great connections but he told me he’ll never take a secular job. He works full time in a ministry.
I believe this world is big enough for us to carve out our space and dance to the music playing in our hearts. Before us lies that place where God has apportioned for us to thrive. If it requires that we take a pause and reflect on whether we are living or existing, won’t it be worth it?
To some, it may seem I’m making little or no progress, but I’m enjoying the path I’m on.
I am living.
To my friends who pleaded with me to pick up that course again after three years, I know you love and care about me. But this is my choice. I have decided to let it go. I have considered it one of the mistakes I’ve made in my journey in life. I have figured It’ll be profitable pursuing things I love and I’m passionate about. I’ve accepted this but I’ve moved on. There’s no going back.