A few months ago, all my social media pages (and I guess yours) were taken over by pictures and posts of fresh university graduates. Thousands of pictures were accompanied with tags like #wemadeit, #freshdoctorsintown, #onlyGod and so on. Those things just piss me off. Quoting the amiable Betty White (who is 94 years old at the moment), “In my days, seeing other people’s vacation pictures was considered a punishment.” Stop punishing me with your pictures. Maybe I do have some anger issues, but anyway, I digress.

I am a graduate myself, but graduation didn’t feel like such a big deal to me. Even though I was made to almost single-handedly organise the graduation ceremony for my set, while everybody else was busy picking up their suits, dresses, and shoes, I didn’t care. I didn’t buy anything new, as it wasn’t a priority. To me, graduation was simply the end of the beginning. What do I mean?

I did a year of pre-degree science and another year of Microbiology before moving out of Nigeria to study at the young age of 15. I was fresh, naive and couldn’t cook to save my life. I remembered my first meal, a rice and beans concoction that had enough oil in it enough to make three other meals. I was on top of the world, roaming up and down the campus, going for night classes even though I didn’t need to, joining NGOs, skipping church, learning to play football and getting food poisoning and typhoid fever within my first six months. It was a steep learning curve for me.

I went on to have a lot of ups and down during my time in med school. One of those downs meant I had to miss two consecutive academic sessions, which would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. I eventually moved to a new school in a new city to get a fresh start. During my academic hiatus, I took up writing. I started a blog and regularly updated it. This sole decision to start writing literally changed everything for me. I started to live in the new city, rather than just existing and waiting for the day I graduate as if that will suddenly change everything. I met  a girl who eventually became my wife, and everything started falling into place.

Why were those two years a blessing in disguise? I wouldn’t have taken writing serious, or learned to live, or met the wonderful woman I have in my life if I had just done my time and left like most of my colleagues did. Those two years gave me ample time to plan for the future, the future that becomes a reality after you graduate. Soon enough, writing started earning me an income, and then the income became regular. I started writing so much that my resume could compete in the labour market by the time I graduated. I also took some time to volunteer and do all sorts of jobs just to upgrade myself and update my skills. In total, I spent ten years in the university environment at three different universities in two different countries and three different cities.

Why didn’t graduation mean much to me? By the time I graduated, I had already been married for almost a year, and I was becoming a ‘man’ and caring for my family, I had also been working for almost the same amount of time while concluding my final year of school. So while many were jumping and celebrating, I was just like “Eh, can we just get this over with? I’ve got some work to do!”

As it turns out, having more than one area of speciality helps you to stand out. I got the first job for which I interviewed and had to turn down other offers in a country where people say there are no jobs. So while many were celebrating the end of university, I was already deep into the reality that lay ahead. University education does not prepare you for the reality of life. For that, you have to teach yourself.

I’m not saying I’m wiser than my peers, even though the  stupidity, childishness, and ignorance of many of them baffled me a lot, and still baffles me. I’m just saying I thought ahead and planned ahead, so the transition was a lot smoother. I hear my colleagues telling their horror stories of the rude awakening they got after graduation. Can I tell you something? University, even Medical school is not the hardest stage of life as  students tend to think. Look at it this way: most students are basically being paid to study, when you consider that they receive pocket money, food and so on from parents and guardians. Then, every year, you get at least two months of holiday.

Compare that to life as a full-time worker. You pay for your own food, accommodation, medical care, clothing among many other expenses. On top of that, some family members, relatives, friends and people you don’t even know are constantly asking you for financial aid. You might even be combining your job with another degree. You only get two weeks of holiday in a year if you’re lucky and there’s no room for complaints. That’s the life of an adult. Now, look at both sides of the spectrum while you’re in that graduation gown and get a glimpse of the future. This is just the beginning, and it doesn’t get easier. No more living in a fantasy world, forming swag with your parent’s money.

My aim is to help open the eyes of those who are yet to get to the bridge. You’ll definitely cross it when you get there. I just hope you’ll come prepared. Graduation is only the end of the beginning, not the end outright. If you’ve recently graduated, your life starts now. Start making the best of it and plan for the future.

So, over to you guys. Did you experience a rude awakening when you first entered the job market? What was your transition from fresh graduate to “real life” like? I would love to hear your stories so share them in the comments below.

Responses

  1. Miz
    Now now…you can’t really compare yourself to the fresh graduates! I mean, if you’re spending 10 years in school you’ve basically done your first degree, a masters and a doctorate! It’s not their fault you became jaded because you spent over twice the time most of them did! 🙂

    Then for some of them, they’re celebrating more than just graduating. People’s stories are different – looking at the majority of Nigerian students, not everyone has that picture you painted of having food and pocket money ready from parents and guardians, swagging with their parents money, two months holiday doing nothing.

    Some of them, their families sacrificed a lot to get them through and now they’re just happy that there’s a chance they may get to give back and change their families lives. They know it will be hard, every Nigerian knows once they enter University that the job market isn’t for the faint of heart…most Nigerian students know that graduation is just the first step on a long journey but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating that step, is there?

    It’s like when you get a promotion at work..you don’t say “Oh no, I’m a Manager now, more responsibilities, sigh”; you’re excited even when you know it’s more work because it’s the start of something new.

    Personally, I started thinking of what I want my life to be after school when I was in JSS2! Yup, before choosing Arts or Science in secondary school I was planning for when I’m out of all educational institutions. I don’t think I’ll be moved by any graduation till it’s for my doctorate…then I’ll probably get in a boat and float away for like a month!

    Till then, let the kids enjoy and celebrate!

    17+
  2. Buzz
    Err me thinks I Have to agree with . I’ll be a graduate in 2weeks and it’s just a step I’ve conquered so celebrating that little victory isn’t a crime is it?
    4+
  3. Hephie Brown
    I had parents who sacrificed a lot to put me through private school and by the time it was graduation, I was already on the job market hunting because I could not afford to keep leaning on them. I had an interview same day as grad day and I did not go. I could sense my parents wanted to be there and take pictures, but that would mean 14k for graduation gown, fuel in the car, catering and drinks, invite the neighbors and the whole drama which would cost even more money I could survive on for the next 2 months if i didn’t get a job, and risk the interview for that? Naw. I would have loved to celebrate though and I would not judge those who did. It’s their reality. And it is different from mine. but that’s okay too. like said, a doctorate bagged would make me celebrate. But dont be angry eh?
    5+
  4. keiskwerd
    Though your message is with good intent, it comes across as rather condescending. Do you realise that you spent more time than the average person would spend to get on their feet(less than 30% of the population would need 10 years to be self sufficient)? If say, you got your medical degree in 4 or 6 years(not sure of the country you studied in), chances are that like most people, you’d have been sorted in 2 years or less. And even if not, you’d still have 2-4 years to play around with (going by your 10 year mark.)
    I take it that you are not aware that a good number of people were already writing blogs that churn in money, selling recharge cards, text books, soft drinks and what not while in medical school. And they still graduated in 6 years.
    Issue is, different people would have different paths. Just focus on telling people that they could start preparing for the outside world while in school. Who are you to tell one not to regard a milestone as one? Do not write off your classmates as childish when indeed you had to look at them through the eyes of one who was older and had seen more life. They themselves would look back in 10years and know they have grown.
    P.s…..If you r spending 10 years in school, ofcourse you know you are already old enough to propose to a woman and get off family support. You did nothing amazing my dear.
    7+
  5. Mr. 14
    I don’t get why ppl like to sort of expect everyone to live the way they do.

    Some parts of this post actually carry a good message but then most parts, starting from the title come off as if celebrating graduation is wrong which I absolutely disagree with. It’s the end of a phase of life, so yes if I want to celebrate I will and shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it neither does it say i’m not thinking seriously about the next step in life.

    For me though, the day I graduated I actually asked my close pal, “so is this it?” I actually expected to feel really special and all but really I felt normal.
    Looking back, i’ll say I shouldn’t have put pressure on my self to get a job immediately after service.
    I should have taken time to clear my head, live life and actually decide on what next. Mostly, I should have developed my writing skills and traveled and just lived when I had time on my hands

    0
  6. dafididafidiabi oh
    I graduated some 29 years ago and I still lap for myself especially for my mother who was solidly behind us after our father died when we were still small
    1+
  7. nadu
    I can relate with this.. althoughi don’t have a doctorate or anything but I don’t see graduation as celebration either. . I can’t judge those that celebrate I mean after all the stress of school graduation is worth the celebration but I see it as a horror story beginning. Not that I am not looking forward to paying my mum back for all her struggles but then I have started “hustling” at barely 16 years.. I see graduation as I am on my own now.. no more “aunty I am going to school, help the ministry”, no more side cash for being a student, no more of that barely visible money I even manage to get from my dad so basically I after graduation l.. hmmmm.. oh that scary thought. not to mention the stress of reading for exams like a 1st class student and your results show a tiny cross over avoiding 3rd class which is almost zero in the Labour market.
    But then I am happy for those who celebrate I won’t criticize them not everyone one can afford that “luxury” called education.
    2+
  8. JoyGirl
    Graduating from any school or college is a milestone abeg. You were a baba in medical school so please don’t compare yourself with the children.
    Even though I shake my head when I see them fresh doctors rejoicing (cos I think to myself ‘these ones have not even started life and they are happy’) it doesn’t stop me from being happy for them. I was really excited when I graduated too until life hit me. I’ve come to realise that nothing really prepares you for life after school especially in this our country.
    0
  9. Meshel!
    oh pls… I had 5 major surgeries between my 100 and 400 level… A few month suspension and life threatening infections and in all of these I still graduated within four years… I have a lot to be thankful for and a million reasons to celebrate pulling through with an amazing result at that! kindly bite me for celebrating….
    Might not seem like a bed of roses out there but that don’t even bother me… been through so much and the fact that I’m still here I believe there’s a purpose so I’m not letting the fear of the future eat into my joy today!!
    6+
  10. Johnson ifeoluwa
    I had the luxury of reading this article along with so many comments that I had to look at it from another angle. I wanna believe you meant well when you decided to write on this issue but started off on a wrong note even with the Title. I would be saying what everyone else has said if I say you kind of judgmental and expected everyone to live the way you did. I will rather take the positives.

    Posted from TNC Mobile

    0
  11. Uche
    I had expected some motivational speech for fresh graduates (who I think are really cute with their celebrations and dreams). Alas I didn’t get it.
    1+
  12. Bellaxtian
    This is like saying birthdays shouldn’t be celebrated, anniversaries too, even the birth of a child….if we all look through your grey-colored glasses, we’ll all have nothing to celebrate and the world would be one lonngggggggg death sentence….*smiles*
    1+
    1. keiskwerd
      Exactly o, because after a birthday, it’s the same Shitty life/Shitty job or unfulfilled life. forgetting that that person with those unmet dreams is probably just happy for that robbery she came out alive from, that accident she survived, that chance that tomorrow may be better.
      1+

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