Hello people!! Welcome to today’s post on The Graduate Monologues.
I missed putting up posts here! But…. *drum roll* we’re back!
Today, @ifemmanuel will be doing the talking. He takes us through his post-school life, wielding the sword of prose, deftly striking us where it hurts most. I hope you guys recover- I’m still reeling…
> Where do you want to work after school?
At fifteen, your dad arranges for you to work as an apprentice to a mechanic. A workshop is chosen on the roadside in Apake, Ogbomoso and a start date is set. You dad gives you a stained overall that smells of camphor to use as work cloth. The night before the start of your apprenticeship, your mother walks into the house with a scowl on her face.
“My first son will not work as a roadside mechanic.”
You bend to her will, despite the fact that you want it and think you’ll learn a lot from the experience. You do not question motherhood logic.
You start work at a pharmacy instead, dusting shelves, cramming drug brand names and working as a cashier. You leave the pharmacy after three months and start to sell phones. You go on to work in a factory and intern in one of the country’s top engineering firms. In school, you design magazines and posters as a hobby. Working is not a problem for you. It’s always been a matter of choice between options.
Then you graduate.
> What will you do after service?
You think of NYSC as a waste of time, although, to be fair, it serves as a gap year that gives folks who are clueless about the direction they’re heading an opportunity to align their rudderless lives. For you, it is going to be a time to recharge and prepare for life as an adult. A month before leaving for Anambra, you travel to Lagos to meet your former employers to enquire about work.
“Hey man, don’t worry. Just drop your CV with the HR manager and come back once you’re done with service. We’ll have a place for you”.
Three months before the end of the service year, you return to the office. The air is still as cold as it used to be. There are well-dressed bodies in white cubicles, bent over black HP screens. One of them looks up, smiles and offers a handshake.
“Welcome. Are you done with service? It would be good to have you back.”
You used to be a whiz kid as an intern.
You see new faces—lots of new faces—in the cubicles as you walk to the office of the managing partner in charge of recruitment.
“Are you done with service now?”
“No, I’m not. But I’ll be done in three months.”
“I’m sure you saw a number of new faces in the office”
“Yes I did.”
“See, we’re careful about taking in more people now, because of the elections coming up next year. But do come back once you’re done. We’ll see what we can do.”
March, April, May… five months after service and you’re still waiting to see what they can do.
This is one of the first lessons life as a graduate teaches you: learn to search, ask and wait; and never put your career eggs in one corporate basket.
> What are you doing now?
At the start of your service year, you begin to write as a way of making sense of the changes around you. Some of the writing finds their way online and friends like it.
“You’re good at this”, they say.
You decide to make learning the craft of writing one of your goals for the year. In the process, you rediscover your love for literary fiction. You also take Stephen King’s write-a-thousand-words-daily advice. In a land so different from home and among strangers who speak a strange language, your love for the written word blossoms. You learn that, in writing, you are a late bloomer, so you read a little more and write a little more every day.
“I’ll like to write something and probably get it published”, you tell an elderly person who wants to know your future writing goals.
“But isn’t that just a hobby?” he says.
This makes you stop talking to people about your writing.
Writing is still your way of making sense of the world around you, but sometimes, the desire to put words on paper starts to feel like the death of you. Well, it’s now the death of your bank account; after five months of focusing on writing more than your search for a well-paying job.
> Where are you now?
You never share details of your life on Twitter. It is where you spend the bulk of your unproductive days, but they are a strange lot. They all graduate and fly out of their parent’s nest into an exciting independent life. Living alone is expensive, as you soon learn. You eat two meals a day and almost never leave your table, but even that life costs a lot of money. Your family lives in three cities, so you’ve chosen a place where you’re always alone on weekends. It’s perfect for brooding over your under-achieving self. Your parents don’t mind. If they had their way, you’d spend the weekends—and every other day—with them.
You now believe anyone who graduates and returns to his father’s house will always be a failure. This is what ideas and opinions like the ones bandied on Twitter do to you. They are like venom. You can try to resist their influence, but they work their way through your psyche, poisoning your mind, killing your innocence and tainting your decisions.
> What is happening to you?
Your friends have made it their duty to keep tabs on you. At moments when you question your intellect, they’ve remind you of how smart you used to be, how smart you still are. With them you can be open, sincere, yourself.
“So, what’s up with you?”
“Honestly, I don’t know.”
Sometime in May, you read Coetzee’s Disgrace and Plath’s Bell Jar, in that order, in three days, part of a week when you do not even open the blinds. You start to stare at a dark place when, out of nowhere, one of your friends calls you. You hesitate and let the phone ring twice before picking up. She is worried. It is like telepathy.
“Perhaps writing is bad for you” she says.
You agree with her and decide to take a break. You go out, meet old friends, watch movies and smile a little. You feel better at the end of the week. You realise, once again, that friendships are the greatest form of love.
> Are you back for your masters?
When people see you in Ibadan, they ask if you’re back for your masters.
“The contract I signed with UI is non-renewable” you reply.
Graduate studies have become a way to lessen the effect of unemployment and you think it’s a silly development. During your service year, you lost the desire to school abroad because GRE was cancelled in the country.
You have now changed your mind about graduate studies.
Within an hour of paying for TOEFL, you meet a dude who wants to apply for an MFA in creative writing and another girl who has UK visa issues. “UK people dey fuck up” she texts to her friend on BBM. Everyone wants to escape from the filth that is Nigeria.
You talk about your new found verve for academics with a friend and she says, “This is the you I used to know”. Yeah, this is the you you used to know too.
> Who are you?
Employment is not your greatest problem after graduation. You even turn down a few offers. Your problem is finding a definition for yourself.
Sometimes you think about people who don’t believe in God. They must have it tough in life. At moments when things stop making sense, closing the eyes and saying a word of prayer is your saving grace. Of all the things you are, being a follower of Christ seems to be the only constant—the centre that holds the falling parts together. You still can’t answer the question of identity without tripping over words, but you’ve become deft at answering the other questions people ask you.
“What is happening to you?”
You start to talk about your migraines, ulcer and other aspects of your fragile, ajebota health.
“What are you doing now?”
“Eating, sleeping and waking up”
“Where are you?”
“In my father’s house”
“What about work?”
The answer to that used to be a rambling story; now it’s simple: you’re a gainfully unemployed graduate.
You see! Did I not tell you? You haven’t recovered yet, right? Please I want to know, leave your replies and feelings in the Comments section below. I’m sure you had such fun reading this piece, you just want to follow our blog, to do so, click on the Follow/Subscribe buttons (so you won’t miss any post)
The writer, Nihinlola IfeOluwa has a degree in civil engineering, spends his time reading and trying to write. Read more of his work on ifenihinlola.wordpress.com