Being a teacher gives me the privilege to witness human behaviour at close range. It is a humbling experience and sometimes has me wishing myself super powers to prevent the young people in my charge to disappear down life’s rabbit holes, but I have come to see that despite my deepest desires, there is little I can do to prevent people from going down paths that may lead to their destruction. We all have to go through our own fires and all I can do is hope that when they find themselves in the pits of despair they may hear a distant whisper similar to my voice that will remind them of who they are meant to be.
I don’t know what it is about giving up that seems so much more attractive than reaching your goals. I recall a teacher of mine in high school who said, “It is easier to stay down, than to get up”. She made the example of a common flu: when you have one, it knocks you down and you have to stay down in order to heal. But once healed, we should be looking to pick ourselves up from our sick beds and face life where we left it; so few of us can do that when we have tasted the joys of being looked after and having our needs taken care of by someone else. The temptation to stay sick is so much more appealing. But when your body and mind are stronger, you should kick yourself back into gear and get up to face the business of living. It is exam time, so ‘tis the season (if I may) of runners dropping the race; so many students want to give up at this point. They are faced with the choices they have made throughout the year: not waking up for classes, not paying attention, not completing or submitting tasks and with what may seem as the insurmountable task of hacking at this mountain of work that they need to complete before the year’s end. It’s like this: just as there are consequences for every action you take, there are also consequences for every inaction. Giving up is so much easier, but you have to face yourself and your lack of commitment; it’s time to recommit to your goal and begin the task as though your life depended on it – you may think that it does not, but you can never be too sure that what you will want to pursue in the future does not require the energy, and skill that you are honing at this very moment.
You have to be strong, to achieve; and trust that although you are unable to see exactly where you are headed, what you are cultivating will bear you fruit in seasons to come. Students are offered jobs by unscrupulous employers who want them just as they are about to finish their qualification. In the business of the visual arts many have “made it” without that pesky “piece of paper” called a qualification and the employment industry will say that you don’t need it. Sure you don’t need it to land this entry-level job, but what of three to five years from now when you are no longer entry level? How might you move into a mid-level position in another organisation without the paper work that proves that you are educated? A few years from then you may wish to study for a higher qualification, without an under-grad qualification you have no options: no MBAs or tenders in your future, you can kiss all your “I can be”s goodbye. An entry-level R3000 a month salary is attractive for one who has not had anyone in their family who can claim to have ever earned a salary, but that money doesn’t stretch too far when you’re twenty-seven years old trying to make your way out of the hood and hoping to drive a fancy car (even one with a little less fancy).
Exams are life’s tests; you can’t go around them and you can’t go over them – you simply have to go through them with as much determination as you had when you walked into your first lecture at the beginning of the year. Certainly you began the year believing you knew everything, this time of the year shows you that you know nothing; but that is the test of life – it is in going through the test that we gain knowledge; we know we know. And we are forever changed by that knowledge. The race is not over – it is just toughest before it ends. You have to dig deep and bring out the stuff you’re made off; how will you know if you don’t do it? In the race towards become-ing spare yourself pause during this time. Recommit to the struggle. It is worth every sacrifice in the end.
Writer: Tebogo Serobatse