11 May 2013

Have You Seen My New Skin? My University Didn't Make It

As the end of my incredible journey here in Ghana closes, I am forced to think of all the things my life has become. I think of the Barbie playing diva who promised to dig an underground playhouse, all the way to the little girl who cried her entire first day of junior high. I think of who I have been, who I am now, and most importantly, who I really want to be. As we university students, hopefully, creep closer to our graduation days, we all have to think about the degree we will obtain and how we want to use it. We have to look at what we actually learned and how we want to apply it in a money making way in the real world. The one question I think we all forget to ask ourselves, and one another in this world, is what do you actually care about? What good is your shining degree if it blinds you from the things you care about?

Chapter 9: Have You Seen My New Skin? My University Didn’t Make It

Many university goers start out dreaming big; we will all be astronauts and doctors in a few easy years and really make a name for ourselves. Unfortunately, reality hits that first semester and many students settle. They settle for a degree they can obtain in an easy four years. As they collect the official paperwork, they are panicked about the moment they have to change into their real world shoes. They forget about the things they always wanted and limit themselves to where their degrees can take them. Knowledge is power, one that can mold this world into exactly what we want it to be. Yet, people use their education to fall in line and collect a paycheck. What we all forget to remember is what life can teach us better than a lecture hall can, what the Barbie playing and crime fighting little girls and boys wanted for us. We forget that the simple pleasures in life are the ones that can dig us out of our disappointment, and we forget that money does not bring happiness. Money is simply a made up system used to pay our way through life, not to actually live life. Do all yourselves a favor, the same favor I am going to do for myself, and ask what truly matters to you. Ask yourself: how can I use my education to support everything I care for?

Ghana is a funny place; one may come here thinking, “I can really make a difference.” Yet, at the end, it is you who will leave much different than the difference you actually made. Being here has shown me the areas of life I care about. I have been blessed with the memory of how I saw my future ten years ago. This short-lived, four month adventure in Ghana has been indescribable. I have seen so many things that have created a passion in me that I never knew existed. It starts with the simple things. For example, I never believed in long distance relationships. Yet here I am, a year into long distance, enjoying everything about my life and the life of my significant other. We did not let the socially constructed ideas of what a relationship looks like hold us back and neither should any of you. It may not be Disney, but it sure beats the hell out of having annoying step-sisters and scrubbing floors until a fairy appears in my garden. It’s real life; it’s obtainable and exactly how I want it. These changes reach all the way up to my newly found passion for human beings themselves. I can’t even explain how much I love human beings. I don’t mean the kind of love someone feels for their Apple products or even their own mothers; I mean the kind of love that you can only feel when you finally learn to accept everything about the human race. The kind of love that makes you look at everyone that has wronged you or you have wronged in return and think, “We are only human”. I think that’s the best kind of love there is. When you can look at the Ghanaian woman who won’t scan your items at the counter because you’re white and just say to yourself, “It’s not me she has a problem with, it’s herself.”  I know this all sounds a bit soppy and tree-hugging, but maybe that’s exactly the kind of attitude this world needs. Maybe if we all got off our pedestals and accepted one another’s views and actions and showed one another love and respect, there wouldn't be constant power struggles or the need to exceed or outrun your neighbor. We wouldn't be killing villages of people, or rather hiring men to do it, to obtain their oil rich land. We wouldn't put or monetary or momentary gain before one another. Alas, we are only human beings. Not all of us do these things; many of us try to prevent it all in fact. It’s not the human heart that’s gone cold; however, it’s the biological fear in us that has taken over. Maybe if we showed a little bit more love to the people living in fear, they wouldn't feel the need to build an empire to protect themselves.   

My entire year abroad I have seen many young faces with big paying careers. When I ask them if this is where they want to be, they have all said the same exact thing: “It was just a good paying opportunity.” I have been very impressed that so many young adults have found success at such a young age. Here in Ghana, connections are everything. You could be a 20 year-old university student studying archaeology and run an advertisement agency for your parent’s friends. In Australia, you can be a fresh university graduate and be the events coordinator for Porsche (one of my friends there actually is). In life, you can be anything you want. If you lack connections, make some. You create your opportunities if they are not written out for you and you, importantly, strive to become that person you dreamed of being. If you never really had a dream, create one. Explore; see things. Go experience things that you can apply to your life, and educate yourself on the matters. Use your education to support your dream, not to dictate it. No matter how old or young you are, we have something in common: we are alive. We have all experienced doubt, failure, and non-believers. People who doubt themselves will always doubt others. We are products of our environment; once we all accept that, we can leave one another be and decide the product we ourselves want to become.

The degree I have applied for may not be the one I come out with at the end. I may decide that I want to be a famous singer at the end of all this and study music. Or maybe I will get a degree in Biochemistry and Anthropology, and I will become an anthropologist that supports her theories with science. Maybe I will tell the world that I’m good enough to have it all. The point is to educate our dreams, to find what we care about. I care about human beings; I care that different ways of life are seen as vulnerable or weak; I care that vulnerability is taken advantage of; I care that the world looks at how bright you look on paper rather than how strong your hands actually are; I care that people forget how important and relevant their lives are; and most importantly, I care about who we could all be in the near future. I care about our potential as a human race. Too bad there isn't a degree for caring and money for those offering hugs. The point I am trying to make is that education may be the key ingredient to expanding your mind and filling it with facts and ideas, but your own personal passions are what will gain you success at the end of the day. Passion is something the books do not teach you and the money cannot provide. Think of those things you care about, then educate your concerns and voila! Create. Play with your degree and education. Tell your resume that you are more important than how others may read you. Tell your university and world that your future is in your hands and that they work for you; you pay for their knowledge simply to gain insight into your own.  Go learn all the things your passions need to grow. We all hit dull moments; if you feel lack of motivation, maybe you’re in the wrong place. Maybe you’re trying to take on other’s cares because they seem more important, but if we all cared for the same things then too many areas of life would be neglected. Don’t be afraid of failure or rejection; be excited that a door that would have wasted your time has closed and the right one is sitting patiently. Be brave. Tell institutions that you will benefit from them, not become them. Find every little thing in this world that makes your stomach turn and mind race, and educate yourself to make a difference. Nothing is small if you care for it.

Nante Yie, dreamers.
Emily Chamberlain