Speech for the graduating classes of 2013
“It is a cold, wild world waiting for you”
By Silas Nyanchwani
Congratulations to the graduating class of 2013. I don’t know between your lecturer and aunt Google, who should take the credit, but I will let that pass.
I know you all wish we could skip to the part where we call your names; you throw your caps up, take pictures and go for the party. You will need that party, it is probably the last you will have for a long time. So I will cut to the chase and tell you what those professors and others on the dais earning undeserved honorary degrees will not tell you.
First, I do understand the certain and expectant attitude of those who have been in blue-chip courses; the medics, lawyers, engineers, planners and architects. I can feel the insecurity around those in business, economics and their unrealistic expectations in the job market. I can sense the palpable anxiety of those in Arts and Anthropology who are wondering where they will find jobs. It is only natural.
The first thing you will learn in the next few weeks is the depressing gap between fantasy and reality. Start by forgetting that Ksh 80,000 job you have been dreaming about. It is for the extremely few and the luckiest. Luck only favours a certain minority, and the least you expect. So you will have to periodically adjust your expectations. Soon or later even a Ksh 20,000 job will be good enough.
Another thing you are about to learn is that some of your female colleagues will never have to work hard in their lives. Their beauty and voluptuous bodies will guarantee them good jobs, instant promotions and generally good lives. Such is life, deal with it.
So start by regulating your expectations. Higher expectations breed more disappointments and disillusionment. If after a year, you don’t have a job, self-loathing and reproaching will set in. This often coincides with HELB reminding you to repay that loan, that they are fining you Ksh 5,000 monthly, anyway. Some will have to stick with bad and unsatisfying jobs. Some will quit. Life will be harsh on you so much you will wonder why you were born bright. Your colleagues who went to tertiary colleges or joined the military are buying houses, getting married and having a life. You soon discover we don’t author our own lives.
The excitement you have today will wane as days go by and you realise no one is calling you after dropping your CVs in 103 organisations. It will take them so long to get back to you until you get the point: they don’t make more jobs today than they churn out graduates. Most of you will know what it means to be an adult and broke. For men for instance, having date will become a luxury, unless you have a very understanding girlfriend. Good luck with that.
For men, today, don’t impregnate a woman or marry too soon after college. Family and children will blackmail you to conform with societal expectations, essentially sticking up with a bad job, because bills have to be paid. A married man who borrows money to pay rent is a sad case study. Don’t be intimidated by societal norms, peer pressure, pressure from your girlfriend or anyone. Be your own man. Nothing stifles creativity than conformity.
For women, timing will be crucial in all your endeavours. That Masters, that child, that marriage will give you nightmares in the short run. Those from poor backgrounds or without means will find marriage an easier option. It is an experiment that proves wrong when motherhood slows down personal progress. You have to be careful on what you give in to first. Choices have consequences. Don’t be complacent.
Don’t compare your life with that of your friends. Comparison is the death of contentment. From here, life will play much more differently. Out goes the herd mentality, in comes the capitalist individual. Some are coming back for their postgraduate in the next intake. Some will move into business and be rich at a miraculous speed. Some will get plum jobs. It doesn’t matter. Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead. Sometimes you’re behind. The competition is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.
Times will be tough for the majority. But don’t lose your cool. Be calm. If you lose your cool, you harm yourself. Some will take longer getting that dream job or any job at all. Or even getting into business. But eventually, with hard work, belief in self, things have a way of turning around.
Those who will succeed, remember to be humble. Life is short. Be good to those around you. Reward those who make your life easier every day. Your spouse, your shopkeeper, your newspaper vendor, your mechanic and your security guard. Anyone. Remember relatives who are less fortunate and pull them up. Education serves its purpose when we all do good to make our society more equal and equitable.
The theses you have written, the highly esoteric term papers and your erudite arguments that you hold daily count for zilch if they don’t bring any good to the less privileged.
If you mess things up, you have to pick up yourself. Whether it is at the workplace, in relationships, family, anywhere. Ladies don’t stick in toxic relationship. Men avoid women who might ruin your life. But should you fall, hold your feet on the ground strong. Cry. Regret. Move on.
Remember the world can run without you. Osama bin Laden is gone. Hosni Mubarak and that other dictator from Tunisia are gone. Muammar Gadaffi, for all his supposedly noble Pan-African ideas, is gone. Mugabe will go. Putin will go. Nothing lasts forever. We are all dispensable. And yes, the world can run without you.
Nothing is definite. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is given. All you need is preparedness to deal with whatever life throws at you. It is a cold world out here. Just find your way and whatever that brings you happiness. Be patient.
What will be your place? Wherever it is, find it. And be patient. God’s time is the best.