You’re not ambitious. Those were my friend’s exact words to me a year ago. What do you mean you will resign from your job to do a Masters in Communication Studies? Are you okay? Do you even think about your choices? I could tell that he was disappointed, a little upset even, and I tried really hard not to feel like a child being reprimanded for soiling his Christmas clothes.
But I totally understood his position.
We were Nigerians, bloody, thirsty, and hungry Nigerians. It was bad enough that the country was doomed to hopelessness. Able graduates comb the streets of Lagos every day with transparent plastic files and several copies of their resumes. Basic infrastructure fail and fail us over and over again. The economy is bedridden with chronic cancer. And the most senior of the demons, corruption, has bewitched our politicians and blinded them so that they do not see the staggering disparity that exists between them and the ordinary Nigerian. They just do not care.
Who wouldn’t be frightened? There was no hope. A First Class Honors degree in Economics should be some sort of pride, some sort of earned pride, a ticket to a better and more secure life. But no, I was going to risk everything and go out there, trusting only my passion for reading and writing.
My friend could not understand this silliness, this refusal to be realistic, to see things clearly, the way they truly are, and I did not know of any better way to explain.
I, myself, was struggling to understand my choices, my inclinations, my preferences. I did not know why, but when I looked into my future, I did not see an economist. I was not even sure what exactly I wanted to be, but I knew it was not an economist. Silly, you see.
I was scared. Scared and confused. And later, I stopped discussing my life and career plans with people, even friends, because I thought I would disappoint them and I did not want to be held back by their opinions. At some point, I contemplated destroying my phone and SIM card and moving to Ibadan or some quiet, safe place, to start life on my own terms. It was best to bear the burdens of my confusion and fear alone.
Yet, somehow in the middle of my anxiety, I applied for a Masters in Media and Communication (with a focus on Writing for the New Media), because I thought that was the only thing that defined me in a complete way, and I got accepted. Communication: verbal and non-verbal transmission of message. Communication: life.
It’s a little over a year now, and I am sitting in the school library, reading Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera’s All The Devils Are Here. It’s a 10-point assignment in Business Journalism, and I’m supposed to write a 15-page review of the book, and it’s all so exciting that I have to read and be awarded marks for reading and analyzing a beautiful story about the history of the 2007/2008 financial crisis.
So far, so good. Nine courses. Heavy assignments. Frequent tests. Group projects. For my core course in advanced creative writing, I have a long reading list that includes Ngugi wa Thiongo’s A Grain of Wheat, Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and A Day, Chinua Achebe’s There was a Country, Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, and a host of others. I am happy, and excited, hopeful, and fulfilled.
But I am also afraid, although it’s a different kind of fear.
It’s the fear of studying in an unpredictable country where you have to stop working or reading because your laptop’s battery is dead, and your phone too sometimes, and there is no power, no fuel, no money to buy fuel for the generator.
It’s the fear of imagining what will happen if something happens to your laptop, if you become sick, knowing that you can neither afford to buy a new laptop or a new phone (at least not yet) nor be able to take yourself to a good hospital for treatment or even something as basic as a health check-up, things you could comfortably afford when you were working a few months ago.
It’s the fear of watching your savings deplete, the fear of watching the prices of things double and triple overnight because Nigeria is in a “technical” recession, the fear of a ghostly country that scares you and yet expects that you do not grow wary of it.
More importantly, it’s the fear of not fully living, or simply put, the fear of not affecting as many lives as you should. And sometimes, you pray and hope that as each day unfolds, you find enough reasons to stay happy and alive.
Writer: Munachim Amah