By Amandla Karungi
In school, we did not study because of a keen interest in the intersections of sets and the Pythagoras theory. We studied to pass our exams with high marks. It took me a very long time to finally realise that education goes beyond exam papers. School and the real world are often and surprisingly detached from each other.
Going back to school for a diploma after a two-year hiatus since University is like being back in High School. We wear a [corporate man’s] uniform and follow the rules. There are no bells, but they follow a strict timetable. And though we are all older than we were in High school, most seem to have Benjamin Buttoned and reversed in age. Maybe it is the setting or the entire idea of “school” that makes us all feel like children again. It is a place where we argue with ghosts and fight moot battles.
However, in the real world, the working world, we get bruised by every deficit that our country bestows upon us; the steep taxes with no accountability, a high cost of living, the glaring lack of good affordable housing, laws that ever more tightly squeeze the blood in our veins, taking out of us even the autonomy to choose our own destinies. But when we are here, we can hide.
When I first became employed, there were many days when I woke up and tried to grasp at something that would make me want to get up. Most times the only thing I caught was the need for the purchasing power of money. I wanted to feel fulfilled and purposeful every day. I contemplated quitting and taking up a career which promised passion and contentment but little, inconsistent or no pay. I was later advised that it is better to make a living because a well-paying job will cater for any un-salaried passions.
MAKING A LIVING
Living without your parents’ financial help means making sacrifices and taking up a high level of responsibility. It’s SINK or SWIM. Suffice to say that, if you spend all your salary, it WILL get finished.
Also, the grades you get are based on a different criterion. It becomes increasingly difficult not to feel left behind when every time you check your Facebook, one classmate is getting married and another one is having a baby.
Being a single woman today is much more acceptable and doable than it was in the past but sometimes hearing “the wives” talking about home decor and pregnancy makes me feel shut out from that part of life.
An article on marriage whose author had just recently got married, pronounced that marriage was not an achievement and that as much as the writer was now happily married, she had not achieved anything in the same way as one would receive Academic honours. She made a good point there but to many, getting someone to marry them still feels like getting an A in class.
It is true that independence from parental control for most women does not mean independence and happily ever after in their marital homes. For some women it means more authority and subjugation. Indeed, some traditional aspects of marriage relegate women to minors.
Being at home in my mid-twenties does sometimes feel like being dropped off at the school gate in primary school all over again, checking for my hankie in my pocket and pulling up my socks. Except that this time, I have tasted independence on my tongue and it feels like blood to a tiger. It’s difficult to fit into that tin once you’ve popped out.
BACK TO SCHOOL
In my first week back at school, I felt that I could win again, even though the competition was in the toddler’s pool. It felt good to not have to worry about elusive goals and earlier timelines which have been pushed forward a thousand times. The only thing to do here is to listen, study and remember.
Winning here is not without benefit. It gives you a higher chance of success in the real world, even though the real world has so many more waves and ripples to surf.