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:
- Networking is ESSENTIAL. In life, it is not about WHAT you know but WHO you know to advance yourself.
- Growth does not occur within comfort zones. You cannot change or grow by repeating the same actions daily. Learning comes from discomfort.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.