“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”-Zen Shin
Around this time twelve months ago or so, after I had just come back from school having made the decision that I’m not going back there even though I had not finished my degree. I remember one day slowly walking to my grandmother’s bedroom, my throat bitter with pain welled up inside me and my eyes extremely heavy with heart-wrenching tears waiting to break through. Finally, I stepped into my granny’s bedroom, dived for her tender chest and comforting arms- and everything I had long held in poured out. I couldn’t hold the pain anymore, the anguishing disappointment with myself. My granny held me tightly, as if instinctively holding the little pieces of self-worth and self-esteem that I still had. I finally found the words to communicate my inner anguish, with heart-shattering sniffles in between and said, “Koko, all my friends are making it and I’m nothing- I feel like I’m a failure.”
I finally had the courage to admit, not just to my granny but mostly to myself the truth that lingered whenever I found myself scrolling through my Facebook timeline and seeing all these wonderful graduation pictures shared by friends. Or the celebratory status updates that friends would happily write about their great achievements. And what did I Katlego Llale have? Just remnants of broken dreams.
And it’s that time of the year yet again… When others are celebrating their significant milestones, some of us are crying heavy tears of feeling unaccomplished, asking God on bended knee, “When is my time coming Lord?”
So, this post is specially dedicated to every young person who feels like they keep drifting further and further away from their dreams, to every person who feels estranged amongst their friends because they are the only one in the group who is simply just not getting that greatly envied degree or qualification, to every ambitious individual who questions if their life is worth anything because their life seems to have more sorry’s than congratulations. I write this for every such person.
I want us to remember that we are not bad people for feeling a tinge of envy when our friends are graduating and we are not. It simply means our dreams are important to us and we always thought we would attain success hand-in-hand with our friends and achieve things together, and never ever thinking that we would be the ones who fall behind. Yes, we did not expect the detours and delays that we encountered in the journey to our dreams, but we need to always remember that is all they are- detours. We will still get to where we desire to be. We did not fail, we just took longer to getting to our aspired destinations and that is perfectly okay.
I know first hand the depression that hits you when you feel left behind, when friends are getting the stuff that you had hoped for, for yourself. It hurts and it’s important to acknowledge that. The only way that I was able to gain control of my feelings was embracing how I was feeling and why I was feeling it. It was only then that I was able to replace the feelings of disappointment, unworthiness and failure with something more empowering. And for me, this has looked like reaffirming myself as many times as I possibly needed that, “Katlego, you are great, you are doing great”. I had to remind myself that in as much as we are told to “Stay in your lane”, it is equally quite important to say we should focus solely on our own lanes and not dwell on what others are doing with their lives. This is where the 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Younger was inspired from.
It is crucial that we remind ourselves of these as many times as necessarily possible. We might not have anything worth applauding to the world, but as an individual you know your struggles, you know the things that you have overcome that nobody knows of and that have led to you being the person that you are today and all of that is worth applauding and celebrating even if it’s only you who does that. And perhaps, maybe success is not only the degrees that we get, the jobs that we score for ourselves, but encompasses so much more than what people can ever be able to see on the outside.
So to you, the so called “unaccomplished”, I want you to know that you are great and you are doing great whatever your path may look like right now. You will get to where you want to be and I have no doubt you have the capabilities to get there.
I would like to leave you with the words my lovely grandmother, Rose Llale left me with in the story I started this post with:
Katli, forget all that’s happened in the past. Forget about what your friends and everybody else is doing. Focus on you. It’s okay to try again and re-figure out what you want to do with your life. I’m not phased by you not finishing your degree because in my heart I know that there’s something big that God has specially set in place for you. I have never doubted your greatness and neither should you. I love you.
May you find something in there that tenderly speaks to any part of you that feels let down by the trajectory that your life has taken. Twists and turns, we will emerge victorious and awed by the power of our own potential to still rise amidst all our downfalls.