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Learning

I believe one of our primary abilities as human beings is to learn. We evolved into what we are by learning and adapting to our environment. Yet we still make a lot of the same mistakes and take life lessons we have gathered over time for granted. I therefore want to mark the end of the academic year by chronicling in each paragraph of this post, a few lessons I believe I have learnt in this time. And hopefully in time I can reflect on the significance these lessons have had and If I have in fact ‘learnt’.

Deciding which university to go to was a big deal for me (as it is for a lot of people), especially as I had already experienced the effect of being thrown prematurely Into a sub standard west african university for a year, and flunked out hopelessly. I bounced back remarkably in the following two years and was in a unique position to pick between three of the top ten world universities. I had all but made my mind up that going to a university with more black people will be more of a priority than going to one that is widely considered as the best university in the world by most reputable rankings. My interview changed my outlook completely. I found myself feeling completely at home. I met in one day, some of the most impressive students I’ve seen in my life. Then I started to realise how lucky I was to get an offer and be considered good enough to compete with these people. It was a challenge I couldn’t refuse, and completely trumped any issues I had with race and all the stories I had heard or read about. And as I expected, race has been almost a non issue.

I have never found it easy to be myself around people, and over time developed an arrogance that judges whether people are worthy enough to know the real me, which I believe to be a defense mechanism against not getting hurt. I didn’t realise how much of a disadvantage it was  until someone told me point blank ‘you will never be happy if you don’t let people in’. This type of brutal honesty usually has 3 stages with me, the obvious shock, then the anger that comes from someone assuming to know me, and finally rejecting or accepting that it may have some credence. Over time, it sunk in and as regards to myself, the statement has proven to be mostly accurate.

As someone who has more or less always been at the top of their class at every stage of their lives, represented their country in academic competitions, and won a few, I had come to believe that I had somehow earned that privilege, and if others do the same amount of work that I do, they can too. I believe this to be false as I have seen people grasp the most complex mathematical and physics problems in minutes, and use them in real life applications as though they had studied it for years. Of course our brains are our only experience of a mind that we’ll ever be privy to. As usual my mind dealt with this reality in 3 stages, the denial came first, trying to do what they do how they do it, then I was envious of these incredible learning abilities, and finally I have learnt to accept that just performing to my best was enough, and by doing that, I can do some things that other people will struggle trying to do at my level. I want to believe this is true for most people.

The last of my teenage years have been eventful to say the least, and these are just a few that I surprisingly have been able to remember even through a hangover from celebrating. And as I sit at my desk blogging this early morning and reflect an eventful night while listening to the light snores coming from my bed, I can only imagine the future being bright.

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