Two Weeks and Timeless Advice

Two weeks ago, my cousin suggested that I start a blog. That suggestion was met by numerous excuses by me, one of which was:
“Who’s gonna read it? I don’t have 3000 plus followers like you.”
She simply responded: “Do you think I started that way?”

The internet and social media is saturated with writers, inventors, free-thinkers, and radical renegades. There is always an account that is better designed that your own, with a more engaging readership, a better equipped vocabulary, more knowledgeable and abundant resources (Wi-Fi, anyone?). I sat mulling over her suggestion…what was more terrifying: the possibility of success – however moderate – or failure, however devastating?
My cousin’s suggestion took me back to another suggestion, or rather advice, that I had been the recipient of three years earlier.

On the last teaching day of the first semester of my first year at university, my Anthropology tutor stopped me as I was walking out of his class. He asked how I was finding university. I considered giving him the generic “fine” but decided against it. Talking about ethno-nationalism and rites of passage during 8 a.m tutorials for three months must have created a certain level of comfort for me to blurt out that I found it extremely impersonal. He considered my answer for a minute. I was expecting him to exhibit the trademark academic apathy I’d so far experienced.
Instead, he offered me some advice: “You have to take this impersonal space and carve your own personal niche into it.”
Although I would go on to drop Anthropology the following semester, his advice stuck with me. And continues to stay with me now that I have completed the degree that I began in his class.

When we leave our comfort zone, the instinctive reaction is one of discomfort and unease. Like turtles, we want to retreat back into our shells and flee from the shore. One must not politely seek acceptance in a place cynical towards newcomers, because so many before have come and disappeared into oblivion.
I went on to get involved in university-led projects that involved mentorship to prevent or at least lessen the alienation that I had experienced.

Last year, a first year student I didn’t know broke down into tears in front of me in the library when she had neglected to save her completed assignment and it was due in an hour. I could understand the frustration with dealing with new systems and the general sense of being overwhelmed by looming deadlines. I patted her back awkwardly but spoke with as much confidence as I could muster: “two years down the line, this assignment won’t even matter. It is one assignment out of many, one course out of how many? If you do happen to remember this, you might even laugh instead of cry. You have your whole undergrad ahead of you and this won’t be its defining moment.”

A few days later, the same girl smiled when she saw me and thanked me for the previous incident.

Many of the recent matriculants and graduates are stuck in limbo, either waiting for replies on applications and anticipating beginning a new chapter. These two incidents are a reminder for people in similar scenarios as well as myself that our struggles are not things to be ashamed of.

This post is both a celebration of my milestone of reaching 14 followers in 14 days (!) As it is an ode to the people who don’t give up and encourage others to persevere as well.

Thank you.

And peace and blessings upon you.

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