Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Rushing towards my parked car, pulling my woollen hat lower to cover my freezing ears one cold and windy afternoon, a man called to me from his car. Thinking he was lost and needed directions, I went closer, hoping to be of assistance. What he said to me did not only catch me off guard but it opened my eyes to a whole new world that I was ignorant of, and boy did I have a lot of catching up to do. He asked me if I wanted him to pay for my bonding, or hairpiece extensions. I declined his offer, got in my car and drove away, not without feeling a tat bit ugly of course.
I remembered this moment a few days later when my friend’s daughter and I had a serious heart to heart moment. I was listening to her vent her frustration. She told me how someone came to whisper something to her friends who immediately left her and went with this person leaving her standing alone. When the friends came back they told her they have been offered opportunities to meet “blessers”, and she wasn't offered because she did not have "the look". She was crying so much and was so sad that if I didn't know her well I would have misunderstood the tears and could have ended up wrongly judging her. "What is wrong with me, I would have really liked to have been asked and declined" she sobbed. You see, being asked would have meant that at least someone noticed her and her declining would have cemented her upper hand, so she was crushed because they did not give her a chance to prove her strength and power.
There is immense pressure university students are under to look, be and act and be a certain way. Many of them came to study leaving their struggling parents with hopes of going back with qualifications that would help change their lives and those of their loved ones. Many first year students arrive proudly spreading across their social media statuses that go something like "for you mum" with kisses and clutched hands emoji showing their love and appreciation for their single mothers who have been there for them through difficult times. So they have very good intentions to study hard to make their parents proud, to graduate, get that well-paying job, buy the desperately needed house and car they pledged to purchase before they went to university, as well as look after their siblings and everything else in between.
But nobody prepares them for the reality and the hardship ahead. High school doesn't prepare them to stand on their feet, nobody knows how to be an individual. Everyone wants to fit in and to be like the pretty, well dressed, fashionable girl, with the longest and the most expensive bonding, who gets picked up and dropped off in a fancy car on a daily basis. There is so much pressure on every side, exams, assignments, financial pressures, peer pressure this time is complex, it comes with thorns and knots. Some change courses because they cannot cope but are too scared to say that they are not coping because everyone is expecting so much from them to be doctors, lawyers, engineers. Truth is most of them have dreams that are totally different. Maybe to be in the entertainment industry, some just want to be in movies and on TV and be really famous and make lots of money.
To the parent who is hopeful and expectant, understand that university life is hard. Our children are not coping. The burden placed on them is really very heavy. We don’t know how to not expect things from them. Society expects it of them, they also grow up believing that they have to be somebody and perform in order pay back a debt of sorts. So they push themselves harder even though they are unable and they fail dismally, disappointing us as parents and making a laughing stock of us in the neighbourhood.
To the overwhelmed and weary child who is trying too hard to keep up with everyone else: compete with yourself and win. You are unique. You are not like anyone else. Trying to fit in is saying that you are ordinary when you are not. Stop being a follower, you have to stand out. No one has the same fingerprints as you - this proves your uniqueness. Refuse to be a cheap, imitation and distorted image of someone else. Stop blending in like a chameleon, stop allowing the environment to change you, change your environment.
This is not the time for you to be experimenting with drugs, sexual activity and potential harmful behaviours. Maybe you came to study to be a lawyer but now you are going home as a singer, your parents will be disappointed, yes, maybe they'll scream at you, call you names, and maybe faint a bit or have a headache and the neighbours will laugh for sure but they will live, so will you. You will be sitting for exams soon and thereafter you will have to go home and face your parents, be honest with them, tell them you have failed them, you were not able to live up to their expectations. Let them know that you would really like to pursue your own dreams instead of what is expected of you.
Thought: “Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers. Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way. Turn away and keep moving.” Proverbs 4:14-15