It seems only like yesterday that I stood in your shoes, on the verge of turning twenty-one. My mind was a maelstrom of feelings; not all of which I could understand. On the one hand was nostalgia for all the memories of growing up and on the other trepidation. I had just left the University and I was going to miss the ‘mountain top experiences’ – the uninhibited exuberance of worshiping together on a Sunday afternoon, the wonderful friendships that had been developed over the tenure of my stay, the nights spent in raucous laughter as we talked about everything under the sun – everything. I felt some trepidation, a nagging concern at the monstrous changes that I was on the verge of undergoing. Lots of issues swirled around my mind – what final grade would I make? Where would I be deployed to serve the nation? Would I get a job? Was a Masters’ Degree the ultimate coup de grace I needed to launch myself into my chosen career? Had I learned all I needed to succeed in life? I had plans, that had me doing things I had only seen in my dreams.
You too, my dear, face these issues today. Rather than relenting, conventional wisdom seems to suggest that these pressures have increased from my time till now. You will be required to perform at peak levels relationally, spiritually, financially and in your chosen career. Thankfully, you do not tread an unbeaten road. So many years ago, a motley of ex slaves and their children also faced a test of courage – The Exodus – leaving the known however uncomfortable, for a promise of a greater tomorrow. Like them you too have spent a significant portion of your life in training – lectures, tests, exams, managing conflicting schedules, finding time to connect to other people, spending money you haven’t earned, engaging stakeholders and customers and learning to honour the women in your life. Like them too, you stand on the verge of crossing a major milestone, beyond which everything changes. Be warned, that anticipation and excitement often mask the requirement for hard work and concerted effort.
Young man, I can call you that, truly succeeding will require a major effort to flesh out the details of your future. The man who does not sit down and count the cost of a venture runs the risk of getting stuck mid-stream. You should therefore consider this a time to count the cost before stepping out into the world. Also remember that Society has expectations of you – to get or create a job, get married, have children, and then in the African context, provide for family – parents, siblings etc. May I add, that in addition to all that, you as an individual have unique skill sets that will enable you to do something different for your world; using your influence and abilities to hold the fort and speak up for those who are less blessed than you. Each passing year will lead to an increase in the level of these expectations, something you must be prepared to shoulder.
You, my dear must show your maturity by learning commitment and demonstrating responsibility to succeed at this. I consider “commitment” as the acceptance of a responsibility for something or someone and “responsibility” as taking definitive action to fulfil those commitments. In my experience I have come to find out that commitments define the frame work on which our value system is built as well as define the intrinsic premises that characterize the extrinsic qualities of our lives – how our lives are to be led on a day to day basis. You cannot afford to be wrong here, or else all else will be fatally flawed.
Kindly consider five critical dimensions where you will need to commit to – a balanced world view, family, the larger society, your future employer as well as the mentors that will come in and out of your life. You will also have to take responsibility to take ethical decisions at some stage of your life, whether in a personal capacity or on the behalf of others, function in and provide for a family and serve at some level in the society. Take these five categories to heart, study them, seek out information on them, and continuously improve.
As you stand on the verge of manhood, let these words ring in your ears. Go.. and make a difference in your world. Me…