It is often funny when one wishes to write a story about their journey: a journey in most cases at the beginning. In this short write-up, I wish to share with you the concept of limited scope. This is about my transformation, how it came about and how chance changed my life forever.
I remember clearly as day being grade 12 -high school- learners, with my friends discussing future plans of futures bright. Secretly, I did not know what I wanted after high school. See, I grew up in a system that says, go to school, go to varsity, get a job and be successful (whatever that means). At the time of being grade 12 learners, there was a new wave of thinking, leaning more towards doing what you love. The thing is, I am one of those people with many "loves". Long story short, my friends and I all wanted to become engineers, myself being great at chemistry, felt chemical engineering would best suit me. Plans were made, UNI’s applied to and final exams are written. I failed Physical Science dismally, well is there any other way? let's just say during the time of my exams a lot was going on.
Let's rewind a little, during exam time, my dad whom I have lived with since grade 2 fell sick, this was literally my best friend, father, etc. Once, I got home and he asked how the first paper went, I just broke down and sobbed telling him I failed. In true dad fashion sick as he was, he said the following words I hold dear to-date "So, you failed? now you are crying!? you have more subjects to write, get over yourself and take all that shame, disappointment and channel it into your next subjects and papers". I looked at him, frail as he was, his face with a look of optimism and no care in the world. I listened and tried to do the best I could. One thing was sure; I was not getting into any engineering program!
I have always been one of those people that had sureness about things. I knew I failed Physical Science and passed all my other subjects. I qualified for varsity admission but not engineering. Mom came and took dad back home with her. I followed shortly after my exams. That was one of the longest holidays of my life, but much like many before this one, I buried myself into village life, tending the fields in the early mornings (3-4am until 8-10am depending on cloud coverage) and took the cattle and donkeys out graving in the afternoons. The latter was my favourite part of the day, I could dream of all I wanted to do with my life and the pivoting I had to do. Though, I still did not know what I wanted to do with my life after high school. Holiday ended and I got a letter saying I got admission into pure sciences at one university and Information Technology (IT) at another. Guess where I went? IT, of course, the only reason being that there were low pass rates in it and I figured if people are failing then this meant I would be one of the few to graduate. I never backed away from a good challenge and to-date-and-some-extend still don't. I just choose my battles’ that is all.
The first year came, none of my friends, in-fact nobody from my science class came to the same university as I did, time to make new friends. I took this in stride and found amazing friends early on. However, I was still unsure if where I was, was where I wanted or am supposed to be. I went into a mini depression (self-diagnosed) that year, I told nobody and kept on keeping. It even came to a point where I was using my dad as a scapegoat not to attend outings. -Oh, dad got better and returned to the city-. I somehow got myself out of that and started to feel at home in my new environment. A new dream was born, half-baked, and now looking back, I was still lost. My new dream was to graduate, get a job, buy a car, live in a flat and enjoy life. That was my dream!
In my last year of studies, I saw an advert for an internship in Germany, by this time my grades had tanked, because as I mentioned before, I was one of those that were sure of things, so I only studied half the content and only answered half of the assessments, because I figured I only needed half to pass, so why waste my time on the rest (boy was I wrong!). I got called for an interview, then an in-person interview then two more phone interviews. By the end of that year I had secured an internship with Daimler AG in Stuttgart Germany. I felt pretty over the moon about this, as it was more time for me to figure out what I wanted to do. Fast-forward and we are in Germany, some Namibians, a Motswana and a South African intern. One day we were having a discussion and the topic of varsity grades came up, I was so embarrassed as it seemed everybody else had overall grades in the '80s to 90's even. I felt so ashamed at how I intentionally dimmed my out light and half-assed my way through varsity. It was at that moment that it came to me that most people do not know what they want in life, but simply do well with what they have. I made a decision to give what I was doing a try and a chance for me to love it! It worked! I have been in love with my field ever since that day.
Upon my return to Namibia, I enrolled in an Honours postgrad programme, by the end of that year, I was awarded the best Honours student in my year for the said programme. A far cry from my previous performances, now, granted I was paying for my own studies at this point so the motivation might also have come from the money leaving my wallet. Before I could complete that programme an opportunity for an MSc came up and I took it up with both hands. This saw me back in Germany at the prestigious University of Mannheim. Referred to as the Harvard of Germany for its excellent reputation in business and economics by the newspaper, Die Zeit.
I was overjoyed, but still unsure of how I got in, the imposter syndrome kicked in for a while. My first semester there was filled with partying, chilling (I became an expert at this) and being an international student in Europe, doing touristy stuff :-). By the end of the first term, I had only passed 1 module and failed all other modules.
Another wakeup call came to me in the form of a friend that sat me down and asked if I traveled thousands of kilometers just to fail. She gave me some studying tips and in the following semester I took extra credits, my grades improved. Even with the extra workload, I managed to escape being kicked out (German unis do not play when it comes to this, Ordnung muss sein). Since then, I have made the effort to remind myself that it is I that is responsible for me and to always do the best I can because regret hinders living in the moment. Reflecting and regretting, are not the same thing, one enables you to improve and the other allows you to wallow in your past failures.
I now no longer aim to be okay nor be average, because that is not who I was born to be. No one is really born to be average; it is self-doubt that causes us to aspire to be such. I AIM TO BE THE BEST I CAN BE. Granted there are times when I reflect and think I could have done more/better.
This piece has been long but through it all, I wish to tell you to grab opportunities that come your way, sometimes simply trying is all it takes to propel you to the next chapter of your life. I now believe I have the best job ever, I teach, interact and do research and get to build tech communities in Namibia and around the world, how cool is that!
I am still not sure if this is what I want to keep doing forever, but for now, I am having fun, after all, we are metaphysical multi-dimensional beings! I have just taken the first few steps on a very very long journey. I look forward to it.