By Nicky Bantham
I often think of the many years I’ve wasted, allowing a specific school of thought to harness my responses to who I thought I was and the pre-conceived ideas which govern, who I have become today.
On the eve of my fortieth year on ‘God’s green earth’, I had not achieved what seemingly some would regard as ‘academic nirvana’, that so many people are fortunate enough to attain in life. Yet, the people who were part of my circles, whether in friendship or in a professional capacity, were mostly high achievers, who lived off the benefits of the ‘input’ they have made towards their scholastic lives and were excellent mentors. Their seniority mostly reflected in the positions they fill in industries, where achievement becomes a cesspool for ambitious relief and financial success, not to mention a deeper sense of personal pride.
I applaud anyone who positively contributes to a wider spectrum of things. Not only because they have worked hard at earning their rite of passage to be rewarded for doing so, but also because they have honed their lives in the highest way and in doing so, have honoured their higher selves. However, I often wonder, whether it makes my view a short-sighted one, when I think about the many people who have come across my path in this life, who are ‘uncertified’ academically, but highly capable and in many cases, who sometimes work harder than most, to prove their ‘position’s worth’ on the ‘rung’ of work-place hierarchy, but who never quite reach a fair equilibrium to that of their professional counterparts. I do of course speak under correction and only base this view on my personal experience.
On life’s playing field, our socio-economic advantage or disadvantage, fortune or misfortune, ambition or lack thereof, our enthusiasm or sheer laziness, usually determines where we place ourselves, in the ‘arrival hall’ of our existence. Some of us return to study later in life, when enlightenment hits us like a bolt from the blue, while others continue to spend their lives, bitter and with cynical dialogue, protesting their ‘lot’.
When I first realized that I had an ability to change my life, through what I believed I could achieve in my mind, my personal odyssey became such an enriching experience, which made my life a testimony of inspiration to many. The reflections of my mental creations, showed up as pictures which sometimes mirrored unbelievable chaos or left me in wide-eyed wonderment, depending on how I processed my thinking. I made a choice very quickly to use this to my advantage, and at a young age, decided not to become embittered because I was born into socio-economic disadvantage, in a country where my classification determined my residential influence.
Yes, it is true that the people who have been part of my formative years have strongly contributed to who I have become today, as is the case with everyone. The traditional family unit of, ‘mother and father-who in most cases work hard to adorn their children with a secure future- were clearly not meant to be part of my life’s journey. This ‘family- dysfunction’, along with all its social stigmas attached, has never been a crutch with which I’ve grown a belief in my thinking, that I would never ‘amount to anything’, as so many of us often believe, because our mores are not documented with prestige.
I love the following quote by Lebanese/American philosopher and novelist, Kahlil Gibran, who writes, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls: the massive characters are seared with scars”
I would like to and do believe that I have had the grandest and most phenomenal experiences in this life, despite being seared by a regime. My values were also increasingly strengthened by a lineage, which have helped to bevel my impressions of success, displayed in ways, contrary to what material success looks like in our world today, and the position this automatically gives us, based on what heralds our social or professional prominence.
My ability to have received a smaller education than most, in a politically-entrenched and racially decrepit country when I was a student, has instilled a deep sense of gratitude within me, purely because I was ‘endorsed’ through a set of unusual life experiences which became the nucleus of MY life, that no certificate or diploma, from any academy of learning could ever give to me. I am acutely aware that academic achievement is the cornerstone to success, but would like to argue that this is not always the only key to a ‘successful life’.
I have worked in many different countries, where I have had the ‘privilege’ to meet professionals who were masters at their craft, who occupy lofty positions within organisations, yet held the emotional intelligence of a chair, while others who may have had more restrictions within their life paths, possessed an adeptness at handling life, in ways that could never be learned from a book.
The above- statements, may appear to be controversial, condescending or bear undertones of impertinence towards the highly learned among us, but this is not what the essence of this article is meant to depict. It is in no way meant to infer that education is meaningless or not important and that those who seek knowledge are by any means not very valuable resources, who influence and shape global consciousness and life by and large.
What I am in fact trying to advocate is that, we are not all meant to function as paradigms of grandiosity. An enhanced academia, will definitely affect the quality of anyone’s life positively, but we are not all born into affluence, or circumstance which affords us that privilege and this should therefore not be the portal to our social branding. Neither should we place ourselves there based on what society thinks qualifies US. Life is not a comparative by which to live, but an illustration of that which brings the most fulfilment, happiness and personal contentment, whatever that may be for you! By Nicky Bantham-Copyright © December 2010