Paper or Passion. What should we chase?
It is quite a conundrum, this question. How do we really strike a balance between our need for money and our desire to feel fulfilled in pursuit of our dreams? Most people end up self-sabotaging. By most people, I mean the youth; who are the backbone and engine of the world. Brimming with ideas. Drowning in school debt
and struggling to please their parents by making something of themselves after struggling to get-by, through the education system. So much is expected of them yet, so little opportunity is offered to them. A fresh graduate from school will almost ran berserk from the pressure to get a well-paying job, just one week after clearing from school. In this world of who knows who those who know nobody end up feeling like failures. On the other hand, their counterparts who dropped out from school seem to be doing so much better in the businesses they delved into; while others just got jobs working on certain skill-sets they had and are earning big-time money. Still, question remains, how do we transform our passions into paper?
Mike is a 24-year-old recent university graduate. He studied BSc. Operations Research in one of the prestigious Universities in a third world country. As is the norm, jobs are hard to come by and if they do, they either pay peanuts or they simply are not related to his field of study. Mike claims that he loves doing what he studied in school because it set him apart from the rest (an intellectual), but he secretly wishes that he could be a cellist. He played for the school orchestra in high school and was going to get a scholarship in art school but his parents advised him that, in his country, he would never make it as a cellist. Despite his reservations, he still goes on to pursue what his parents chose for him, hoping that everything would turn out well, since his parents are wiser and know better. After 4 years of being a diligent student and attaining a second class upper division (he attains very high marks even though he didn’t love what he was studying), he goes back to his father’s house and asks him to call those uncles that promised to get him a good job once he completed school. Little does he know that their promises were as fleeting as dust in the face of rainfall?
The uncles just made false promises to encourage him to work hard, and he did. But now this is his life. What is he supposed to do? Who should he turn to? He decides that he will take whichever job comes his way now but none ever comes. They have all been taken by those with less qualifications who deemed it a great opportunity for them, while he was pegging his hopes on his uncles’ empty promises. He is now back to tending his family’s 1-acre field of maize. He feels wasted. He is wasted. Every morning he wakes up to the sound of the cock crowing, goes to milk their 2 cows, feed and water them, before heading out to field. Where he farms with the young men who dropped out of primary school while they were in the same class. They tease him but he takes it in good humor and laughs with them. At least that is what everyone thinks. He has formed a mask. A mask of deceit. Not that he loves lying, but in this case, the circumstances do not allow him any other option. He cannot show his parents his disappointment in their advice to him. He cannot speak up lest his siblings hear of it and decide that school is not worth the effort. He cannot dare to frown lest their envious neighbors see him and begin spreading rumor and spoil their tiny peaceful haven at home. He cannot do anything that may raise question, since he is the firstborn son. The light to lead the path for his siblings to follow.
But how can one be a light when you are so broken? How can you genuinely laugh when all your heart knows is sadness? How can you smile when your teeth simply gnash in pain and remorse? Mike WhatsApp gets daily status updates on his phone, that crushes a part of him daily. On this day, 10 months after graduation, his classmate finally gets a job. In the U.S.A. Chris (the classmate), was never serious with his studies. He even partied through exam week as if it was just another CAT. Funny enough, he got first class honors and wasn’t very keen on even using his degree since he came from money. Chris was now a Deputy Executive Manager in a top world-ranking organization. Mike was very happy for him and even congratulated him. The world was proving to be uninhabitable for Mike, His parents’ home began feeling smaller, even more unwelcome in his sight. People started looking at him funny. Not because he did anything, but because he did nothing.
He knew it was time. It was time to do something. At least anything since it was imperative that he did. One morning he made the decision to end all his pain. He was tired of living such a life of turmoil. At least, he knew there were minimal chances of this plan failing. It was a sure ticket to an end and peace and some sort of fulfillment.
Mike took his dusty long lost friend, the cello from the storage locker in the store and a few of his clothes, packed them as well as some of the money he had saved up from working on people’s farms. KES. 5,000 in total. He boarded a bus to his old high school. He wanted to speak to his old music teacher but he did not even know if he would find him, after losing all his contacts when his old phone got stolen. All he had with him was the most microscopic glimmer of hope and a rough idea of what he would say to see if he could do something about his current situation.
When Mr. Mbone saw him, a young man, distraught, tired, beaten by the harsh reality of life, he took Mike in his arms and told him that he was HOME. Everything would be okay now. Mbone knew what had to be done, so he made some calls and the next day, Mike was set to have a performance/interview with the music school board, from the school that he had failed to attend around 6 years before. Mike felt that he was a bit rusty and when he tried to practice, Mbone declined and said, “Do you feel that pain that is inside of you? The same one that was inside of you when you decided to come to me? Use it tomorrow. You will need it to convince the Board that they need you and not that you need them.” And with that, he went into his room to sleep, leaving Mike to muse over his words.
Notes and chords. String and bow. Heartache and tears. All worked in perfect symphony to create the first ever piece of music that was never practiced or heard in the face of the earth. On that day, even the angels of heaven stopped singing just to hear this amazing feeble creature play his cello from the depth of his heart. They would learn a thing or two about passion and devotion. Mike was offered a job, a house, 3 cars (a Rolls Royce for official events, a G-wagon for off-roading and a Ferrari F8 Tributo, just for leisure), and an 8-figure advance for the music he played on that day and a 7-figure monthly salary for his work as a tutor at the school, not forgetting a record deal.
If anyone considered the idea of sleeping poor and waking up filthy rich a lie, then he was the living testimony. He had moved from being a struggling youth with 200/= between him and poverty to being a multi-millionaire, in a matter of minutes.
I think the idea of pursuit of passion is highly underestimated. The power of love in what we do is absorbed and annulled by our need to earn a living. Make ends meet. Not wasting your degree. Yadda… Yadda… Yadda… I think that the youth need to disappoint those who matter most to them in their lives in order to live a self-fulfilling life. We all know what we want and desire out of life. Why settle for less or push ourselves too much, just to achieve averagely, yet we could end up with so much more if we followed our dreams? In these time we live in, it is said that, “follow your heart, but take your brain with you.” I totally disagree with this saying. As a writer you would think that maybe I am inclined to living a wayward carefree lifestyle, but I assure you, I am, like many of you, similar to Mike. I say, “Follow your heart, your brain will catch up with you.”
Let us chase the paper, and let us chase the passion. Nobody ever said that your dreams were too small. Trust your gut. Let nobody tell you otherwise. And for those like us who are in the same situation as Mike was, no mountain was too high to climb, nor adversary too hard to fight, that man is yet to conquer. There is always a solution. Find it and you shall find peace. If you think you are not as talented, why not give it a shot. You might yet, surprise yourself.
The greatest adversary, yet of mankind is his mind. Give it knowledge and it will give you results, but give it doubt and it will swallow you whole with pessimism.AK. Stine