By Meg Awunti

I was raised in an African household. Like any typical African kid, my life path was laid out for me. Go to school, make good grades, find a job, and start a career. Both in the continent and the diaspora, we are raised on the assumption that good grades results in success and financial stability. But is this the absolute truth?

I was the kid who did everything right. Took my parents advice and did well in school. I started taking college classes in high school. That academic success propelled me to start pharmacy school a couple of weeks before my nineteenth birthday. In the US, pharmacy school is a graduate program. Most people attend pharmacy school proceeding the completion of their bachelor’s degree. In pharmacy school, I kept a job, held leadership roles, passed all my classes, and gave up parts of my social life.

So, when did the shift in mindset occur? During my last semester of pharmacy school, I never got an interview for a pharmacist position within the company like my other classmates. I also happened to be one of the first to be laid off from employment the summer after graduation. I started applying for jobs and like many of us going through the job-hunting process, I received multiple rejections despite hiring surges.

At this point, self-doubt set in. I started questioning myself and my abilities. I tried frantically to figure out where I went wrong and why my classmates were succeeding without me. I felt empty. I saw myself spiraling into depression. With encouragement from my parents, I decided to take a gap year. I needed a break to reset myself in many aspects of my life. It was during this gap year that I learned permanent lessons about life.

Here are few:

  1. Networking is ESSENTIAL. In life, it is not about WHAT you know but WHO you know to advance yourself.
  2. Growth does not occur within comfort zones. You cannot change or grow by repeating the same actions daily. Learning comes from discomfort.
  3. Do not compare your journey to those around you. There will always be people who have it better than you and others who have it worse than you.
  4. Identify the fears that hold you back from becoming the best version of yourself. Many times decisions are made based on unconscious fears. Those fears could be limiting your growth.
  5. Take time for self-discovery. It is important to discover yourself, inner passions, purpose, and goals. It will give your life and work on earth a greater sense of meaning.
  6. Seek mentorship and guidance in ALL aspects of your life. There are people who have walked through your current path, reach out to them to prevent avoidable mistakes.

I use these lessons and many more to guide my life daily. I have observed tremendous growth within myself in the past year. I still believe education sets us up for a better life, but that narrative is incomplete. I have learned that life is really about people and purpose. Looking back at my teen self, I would have advised her to make out the time to identify her purpose in life and work hard on her networking skills alongside academics.

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