FROM THE UNEMPLOYED GRADUATE

You are not in competition with
anyone”.

These words resonate with me at a deeper level than any other mantra. I come from a generation where people are chiseled and naturally drift to compete with the next person.

You are not doing well unless you have outdone the other person. Your success can only be given validity if another person has ‘failed’. The era of who finished first, who finished better and who didn’t finish at all. But who cares? Honestly!

In your 20s you care what other people think, in your 30s you start wondering if people are thinking about you, in your 40s you don’t care if people are thinking about you and in your 50s you realize nobody was thinking about you to begin with.

It’s terrible how we have been accustomed to always work within other people’s thinking parameters. So when my mother told me that I’m not in competition with anyone, I believed her. I also believed her when she said I bring the slippers she just wants to wear them. Choose your battles!

When a couple of friends reached out to me about graduating, I was thrilled that they made it to the list. I didn’t bother myself to check if I was on it or not, probably because I thought it’s a guarantee.

6 years had taken a toll on me and I didn’t picture myself going back to campus any time soon even for my graduation. It wasn’t until a classmate and a dear friend who reached out to me to ask whether I was graduating that the anxiety kicked in……

It’s mid-July, I am seated on a metal chair tapping nervously on the pool of water. There about 400 students around me with pens, handouts, mwakenyas and old notebooks. My friend Chris hasn’t arrived yet, he probably changed his mind I thought.

The student center feels like a mausoleum when seated, the towering walls, the constant brush with lecturers and the hundreds of students chattering can make you a Zinjathropus. My phone is five missed calls deep.

Hey Chris, unakam bado?” (Are you still coming?)

Eeeeh umekaa wapi?” (Yes, where are you seated?)

Niko hapa kwa maji…..errrr.. niko katikati ya hall” (I’m on water…..in the middle of the hall)

Eeeh! Ungenishangaza!sawa nakam nishikie seat” (You surprise me! Hold a seat for me)

Chris has never been the one to arrive on time so I wasn’t quite alarmed until the supervisor walked in first. Ever so often a student would ask if they can take the seat.
Dialing tone……..

Chris, ameshafika, kuja mbio” (The supervisor has arrived, hurry up)

Ebu inua mkono” (Raise your hand)

His hand goes for my neck as he secures himself on the adjacent seat.

I don’t feel like doing this exam bana! Huyu Lec lazima anipee marks zangu” (This Lecturer must give me my marks)

Instead of kusumbuana na yeye na kumaliza credit, fanya tu alafu usahau story zake” (Instead of distressing and wasting your airtime, just do the exam and forget about him)

Ah! Sawa” (okay)

There is nothing worse than doing exams with half of your classmates and an annoying supervisor called Ghost. Yet there is no better feeling than completing all of them. Missing marks are like fries without salt. The first one tastes okay but you can’t quite finish the whole pack. Ni Krimino.

I recall the number of phone calls I made, the lecturers who were livid and insane, the ones who failed me because ever so often I change my hair and let’s not forget those who were blatantly and constantly lying about their whereabouts. It was synonymous to Golgotha in terms of emotional pain.

You’d be lucky if a friend was sitting for the same paper as you were, that way you would help each other get notes. The worst bit is that neither of you will study those notes.

Waking up early to go sit for an exam was absolute torture. The Odyssey from the residential to the center was an eyelash in the eye. Eventually it got easier and I was done with after 5 days. The following week I was to start my last exams at the campus; a complete Steve Mbogo challenge. I was craving for a break but all I ended up catching was flu.

When I received the call telling me I wasn’t on the list I was furious, not that my higher education is valid. But simply because I couldn’t imagine the stress I went through to make sure everything was ironed out.

The following week when the second list came out I still wasn’t included and I still didn’t bother to check what could have been the reason. I wasn’t on anyone’s list even Santa bailed on me.
When the final list came out; I didn’t check whether I made the cut or not.

After 6 years I was sure if I don’t make it, I will resign to conducting my business which was doing horrible at that point in time. I finally resided to calling one of the officials, I was notified of the confusion that had happened and they apologized.

I do not come from a great institution but who can I blame apart from myself. JAB students played themselves the wrong hand by choosing that campus. RIP to the Parallel students who pay real money.

There are several people who didn’t graduate on the 20th, it’s quite unfortunate one might say. But let me ask if nobody graduated on the 20th, would you still be sad? Are you breathing any less or more? Does it affect your thinking process? Are you less human? Is there a handbook of life that dictates when one should graduate? Can you loan me so I know when I will get a job?

We have been reduced to goals, achievements and status. All of which don’t make us truly happy, they barely define who we are. Someone can have all these three things and still be a prick.

If you didn’t graduate and you probably think that life is better on this side of the spectrum, you are in for a rude shock. We are out here broke, suffering in the January sun with nothing but Msupa S in our ears.

You’ll soon realize that life is a vicious cycle of deadlines, musts and self-sought pressure. We went from class 1 to having the need of joining class 4 then got excited being in class 8 only to realize being senior is short-lived.

We went to high school happy that we have left primary school only to be underdogs and wish that we were in form 3. Became form fours only to be anxious that we are to sit for a final exam that will determine whether we will go to University.

We managed being admitted to university and were happy and relaxed; young dumb and drunk our way to the last year only to realize we have 2 extra years to go. Graduation comes and you graduate only to sit at home wondering if you will ever get a job.

We are doing the same things our parents did, our elder siblings have done and probably what our kids will do. The sad part is that very few of us realize we are being institutionalized.

We are living in the industrialization era. You will soon realize after 17-20 yrs of education, the school system did not make you a better person; it didn’t teach you how to be the best version of yourself; you don’t know how to deal with depression; you are lost and don’t know your talent; and stutter when asked ‘tell us about yourself’.

Yes you like a particular car or house but do you know how to get it? Did you acquire any skill that will set you apart? Probably the only thing Moi University taught you was that you didn’t belong and even if you did, you only know how to trek through mud.

Being on that list does not set us apart, no added advantage in life per se, just another hurdle in life to get us to the next one. The point is not to finish the race, the point is to enjoy it and walk if you can..

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