As the hype over the new year begins to fade, there’s another hype that goes into overdrive, unnecessarily.
This is an open letter to the matric class of 2017, and one that I hope their parents, guardians and families will read too. I am not an education expert. I speak from my own experience of completing matric 18 years ago, studying at tertiary level for 4 years and working for 17 years, and counting.
Matric is a culmination of 13 years of schooling. That’s a fact. Your matric results are not the sum total of your ability nor the sole determinant of how successful you will be in the future. Yet that is the perception that exists. It’s a perception that leads to a mountain of pressure that weighs down upon you. You may already be feeling anxious, depressed and there are some of you who may be contemplating suicide out of fear. Stop right there. Matric results are not worth losing your life. Nothing is.
If it’s as simple as that quote, why the obsession with matric results, year after year, I hear you ask?
That befuddles my mind too. Perhaps, on that front, society needs more time to evolve.
I’m not saying passing matric is not important. Certainly not. It is vital for entry to tertiary education if that is the path you wish to take. But there are many other paths too that you can take. Somehow, you or your family can’t see these paths clearly right now. It’s because of all the hype. But, believe me they do exist.
Once you receive your matric results, don’t act or become angry in haste. Sit down with a pen and piece of paper and write down your options. If you do not gain entry to the university or college of your choice, what are the alternatives? Are there bridging courses? Is there maybe another career you have since realised you would be better at? What career makes you happy? Not what makes your parents happy, but you. Do you have a business idea that you want to start with while studying part-time? Or do you wish to work overseas or take a gap year? If you did not pass matric, what are your options? What is vital is that there are options that exist. It’s not a dead end.
I want you to search online for your options. And while you are at it, search for famous personalities worldwide who struggled with high school and tertiary education but eventually created their own path to success. What stops you from doing the same? It’s your attitude.
Frankly, I think South Africa needs more people to do something different rather than follow the same traditional professions. We need people who think out of the box, people who can create jobs amid rising unemployment and add to the skills base of our country.
I am by no means trying to underscore the hard work of the many high-flying matric learners, those who will score As, those who were astute enough to take on more than six subjects. They must be commended. But they too have an arduous road ahead of them. They too must choose their career path carefully, or risk being unhappy.
And that really should be the ultimate goal. To be happy. A fat bank balance or major qualification is not worth it if you aren’t doing something that makes you happy. That’s the most important conversation you should be having with yourself first, then your family.
You really need to listen to your inner voice. Take risks, within limits but don’t be foolish. Listen to what the universe is trying to tell you too. You know, when people say that they were in the right place at the right time, it’s not just about luck. It’s about putting yourself out there, working hard and seizing the opportunity. There is no time for a pity party. Do not fall into that trap.
But yes, you will fall somewhere along the way. Because how else will you rise, if you do not fall? There’s an endless list of people who try over and over again until they reach their goal. Not just celebrities, but look within your own circle of family and friends, and be inspired to keep trying.
I recently watched a Bollywood movie. Tamasha is a 2015 release and even though I’m quite delayed, the timing could not be better. The message is poignant, and one that is relevant to you, the matric class of 2017.
The protagonist relates his life story to his parents whom he could never be open with about his true feelings.
Ved is the protagonist and Saathi is his friend.
Friend: Why are you running like that?
Ved: I’m running in a race.
Friend: In what race?
Ved: I don’t know in what race. I’m also running because everyone else is.
Take a moment to let that sink in.
By all means, chase your own dreams but don’t get caught up in the race. What is good for others, may not be good for you.
That’s in fact the bigger challenge that awaits you now that your matric year is over.
It’s called adulting. Or as your family members are likely to tell you, bluntly, “It’s time to grow up!”
You will have to choose the company you keep carefully. Whether it’s old friends or new friends, be wise with your choices. Don’t be so swayed by others that you take decisions you will regret later, academically or socially. But don’t stop yourself from having fun responsibly. Stepping out of school and into the world is indeed an exciting phase!
You may even change cities or countries. Living on your own or sharing an apartment comes with challenges. Learn how to cook, if you can’t already! You are literally going to have to make your own bed and lie in it. Be prepared.
This is just the beginning. Your matric results are a ticket to the trip of a lifetime. And if you don’t get the stamp of approval, you can try again or opt to fly from another destination.
The journey is what you make of it. And there will always be people to help you along the way, you just need to reach out to them. You are not in this alone. So, let’s do this! The world awaits you…
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