Yesterday I graduated. Three years of university in the bag and I’m walking away with this piece of paper that has the ability to change a nation.To be honest with you, I can’t say that I am either ecstatic or elated as I’m feeling pretty neutral about it all. The words that best describe my emotions are ‘privileged’ and ‘grateful’. I started school when I was four, like the vast majority of us I guess. I finished school when I was 18 and everyone was soon ushered onto university where the next phase of their studies began. For myself and a few lucky others, we took a year off and worked abroad. 2014 marks the 17th year of my life that I have been studying. My studies will finally conclude in 2015 after doing an honours degree in branding and then according to everyone else…the real world begins.
I want to make it perfectly clear that I am most definitely not complaining or discouraging anything about school or tertiary education. In South Africa education is a privilege, it is a responsibility that is bestowed upon each student in order to help make our troubled country a better place, to instill hope in the lives of others & to eradicate poverty and promote equity for our deeply unbalanced nation. I loved school. Particularly high school. I was lucky enough to attend a top girl’s school in Cape Town which set a solid foundation for my future and certainly gave me a head start into being able to adequately cope with stress, pressure and a large work load. Although I would have considered myself as a hard-worker at school, I definitely knew the clear balance between work and play, sometimes a little too much. My chill factor would, and still does kick in when my stress levels go beyond a certain point often resulting in finding myself sitting on my surfboard in the ocean despite the conditions or the impending deadline. For some magical and unknown reason it all worked out and as of yet, I have never handed in anything late or failed an exam or test (*touches wood). So far my school years have been the best years of my life, they were care-free, provided a little bubble, a safety-net and I was surrounded by in my opinion, a pocket of people who have heavily influenced who I am today despite the fact that I see little of my school friends on a regular basis.
When school was nearing the end and university applications came around, I remember there being a panic about acceptance, marks, degrees, life choices and just general confusion. I’m not sure where my head was during this period as I don’t remember feeling even remotely stressed, I don’t remember applying for university and I don’t remember panicking about little more than when I next would see everyone. Shortly after celebrating the end of my school career, I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. I flew the nest to beyond Cape Town’s shores for a year abroad in a little town called Stamford in England, where I worked at a junior boarding school with some other amazing gap students from around the world. This enabled us to travel Europe during our half-terms and Summer holidays and as the number of stamps increased in my passport, so too did my confusion about where I wanted to go in life. Before I knew it, the year was coming to an end and I still had little idea about what I wanted to study. The more my parents would ask me on Skype, ‘Nicole, have you thought any further about what you want to do next year? You need to make up your mind.’ the more I had no answer. By broadening my world to places far beyond my little Cape Town bubble, the freedom and adventure that I found in these faraway places further put me in a predicament of confusion.
Nevertheless I got back home and started my orientation at the University of Cape Town enrolled in a Bachelor of Social Science in Psychology, Film & Media and Environmental & Geographical Studies. These past three years have been some of the greatest memories watching my friends turn into adults, get jobs, move out, move back in, move out, graduate and begin their lives in the real world. The friends that I have made at university and the friendships that I have rekindled since my first days of prep school are friends who have a large impact on my life today. Surprisingly a very large amount of acquaintances and friends that I have spoken to during my final year at university are still largely confused about where they see themselves and what the next step is after graduation. I was in exactly the same boat. Although I enjoyed the content of my courses, particularly psychology and environmental sciences, I could never picture myself going into any of those fields after I graduated. It was only towards the end of my final year at UCT that I have recently had a clear picture of what further field of study I want to pursue following my undergraduate degree.
I guess what I’m trying to convey in a very roundabout way is that it’s alright to be confused. It aids your creative & thinking processes. I regret none of my decisions regarding my university degree as my experiences during these past three years have shaped the way that I think, communicate, see life, provided new friendships and have opened up my mind to a new world of possibilities. So if you’re confused or doing something that you are not passionate about, don’t stress…hang in there!
Just remember one thing; you are in control of your own life, not your parents, not your friends and certainly not any celebrity or outside influence. It is all you. This is the real deal. I’m still confused and that’s fine, if not normal and very often I find myself in moments of clarity and moments of questioning my decisions but this is life, you live and you learn. If you feel like you are on the path of making a mistake, it will often turn out to further clarify your mind and teach you things that no one else or even the right path could ever have. It’s alright to make wrong decisions as we’re only human, and do you know what the greatest thing is? Those wrong decisions are probably doing you more good than harm. So if you’re about to make a large decision about your future such as mine with my studying choice, commit to it. Don’t look back. The things that you learn along the way are vital to succeeding in life. Your mistakes make you stronger and your wrong decisions lead you to the right ones.
We’re all on this journey of life together! Every single one of us, We do not know what tomorrow will bring us so why not grab life by the horns, work a little harder, play a little harder, get outside more and stop living your life according to someone else’s, decide on your own ‘relationship’ and ‘life’ goals and commit to them. Ultimately life is a blank canvas and we create our own artwork, it is up to us how colourful and vibrant we want to make it.