Continuing the TedPosts with one by Tolu Talabi. I met Tolu at the Farafina Creative Writing Workshop last year. I literally have no words to describe him but for an idea on how his mind works, follow him on Twitter @naijarookie or get on his blog http://naijarookie.wordpress.com. Seriously. Check out his blog.
I don’t know if you saw this a few weeks ago. There was a two leg soccer match between the Under-17 female teams of Nigeria and Kenya. At the end of the first leg, which Nigeria won, the Kenyan team complained that Nigeria cheated because they had players that were over the age of 17. The Nigerian sports commentator reporting said (very smugly) that Kenya should stop making excuses for losing.
I found the whole episode hilarious (Nigeria using under-aged players? No way!) but it got me thinking about age and how much we expect from people at a young age.
You see, at 16, even if you’re not being called upon to play football for your country, you’re probably finishing up secondary school and making one of the most important decisions of your life about what you want to do after.
Actually, if you think about it, you already made the main part of that decision two years ago in SS1 when you decided whether to be an art, science, commercial, or social science student.
So you start making this important decision at 14, and two years later you put the finishing touches on that decision by selecting what field of study you want in University.
If you’re fortunate, you finish secondary school and roll right into university. And then if you’re doubly lucky, swept on by the rushing wave of your genius, all that studying gets converted into a job as soon you graduate. Of course, there are some of us, who have hitches in between, a few years waiting here, a few years waiting there, but we all get spat out into the same pool at the end.
Now you’re an adult and you’re kicking off a career and life based on a decision you made at 14.
A decision that was either made for you by people with your best interests at heart, or one you made yourself with whatever wealth of knowledge you had back then.
That is like having to select your spouse at 5.
I know it is cute, and sounds romantic to say that you have always wanted to be a doctor, an accountant, or an engineer.
But years later, when you know yourself a little better, you owe it to yourself to re-evaluate that path you have chosen. I think at every point where you learn a bit more about yourself, you should sit back and find out how this fits into the picture of your life that you are currently drawing.
While we all want our lives to go well, the truth is, if everything went smoothly, there would be no time for reflection. The hitches, those tough waiting periods between schools and while waiting for proper jobs, allow us to drift to what naturally interests us, and should force us to find what we are absolute best at.
Sure, it might frustrate your friends and family to have you chase after every whim, but you have a chance here to be a more fully fleshed out character than if you had stuck to your day job. The thing is, very few of us are “pure” anything, pure business administrators, or pure lawyers. You are a mish-mash of a million things. An estate surveyor, with a quick head for numbers, who took some computer lessons, loves music and trained with the choir, has a critical eye for art, writes a little, likes children, has a mild interest in sustainable development and alternate energy sources and remembers every episode of Voltron.
All this knowledge you have amassed is a part of you, so don’t dismiss it. Everything you touch should be coloured with this rich brush that is uniquely you.
Somewhere between the skills you have acquired and the innate passions you discover over time, is a sweet spot that gives you the most satisfaction. And until you find that spot and tap into it, everything you do will be generic. You will merely be following someone else’s footsteps and chasing someone else’s dreams.
“Every man is born an original, sadly most die copies” – Abraham Lincoln.