My Dear Africana Woman,
How many times have you heard that education is the key to your economic freedom? A slogan often used in my country is, educate the girl child. Therefore, for many parents the goal is to ensure their offspring complete secondary school, thereafter, move on to a higher education institution. However, the most coveted achievement is for a child to study in another country. More often than not the true unspoken measure of success is that said child settles abroad. Dare I say it, for women it would be even better if she married a foreign national. Then she would have truly made it in life.
Studying abroad is not a new phenomenon. Many of our founding fathers who fought for our independence studied abroad and came back to fight for the freedom that we are enjoying now. As far back as the early 1900s notable figures have walked the halls of prestigious foreign institutions. The likes of Seretse Khama, Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah to name but a few.
So what happens when someone studied abroad, but did not end up living abroad? Why is it that as a society we are not experiencing the trickle down effect of this foreign wisdom on a larger scale. I myself have studied abroad for 6 years, eventually earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree. Yet when I found myself back in Zambia (living the undocumented life is not my ministry), I suffered from what I call, Failure To Launch syndrome. For so long my eyes were on the prize of education, however, no one had actually spoken to me about what life could be like if I came back to Zambia. It is as if that was not spoken about because our parents wanted us to believe living abroad was the only option available.
This implies any other result is labelled as a failure. In my case my mental health suffered with negative thoughts and grief for the life I was meant to have but lost. No one gave me the blueprint for what success can be like in Zambia. When I came home I had no social networks, and my degree could not be translated in the job market. The heartbreak and lack of support was debilitating. Simply put if you believe there is only one road to success and you just happened to miss the mark, then you immediately accept a lesser life as your normal. You do not aspire for better, you accept anything even if it does not serve or benefit you.
I am sure we all know that aunty, uncle, sister, brother or friend who you say to yourself, this person had all the opportunities to be successful in life. They are eloquent and highly educated yet have Failed to Launch. Truth is, the battle is in the mind. Many of us have not been trained to believe that failure is NOT a destination, instead it is a life lesson that informs us of what not to do on our next attempt at success. Furthermore, success has many iterations and just as many paths to achieving it.
Do not get me wrong, I am not bashing anyone that lives abroad. However, what I do want my young female African scholars to know is that your country will always be home. No one will question you on what documents you have to live there or make you jump through hoops just to stand and breath in your motherland. As you amass knowledge abroad, continue to maintain networks back home. Thank goodness for social media that makes this so much easier now. Find a mentor back home who can help you navigate through your early career. I also believe in Africa you need to be streetwise. Keep up to date with local trends and economic shifts in your home country. Look for opportunities to invest especially in real estate. Honey, make a plan. Be warned this is not meant to be smooth sailing. The concept of the easy get rich quick lifestyle is a myth promoted by pop culture. All good things require hard work and as a result you can have a fulfilling life in Africa. I hate to say it, but why do you think our Caucasian and Asian brothers and sisters rush to immigrate to Africa? We have unpolluted air, abundant resources, organic foods and a family centered culture. All of this is your natural birthright.
Do not be like Esau and give it up for a short lived gratification. If you do happen to find yourself back home then you have been placed there for a purpose. Use your experiences and knowledge to raise your community and sphere of influence. I believe there is greatness in you wherever you are.
Have you ever seen or experienced the Failure to Launch syndrome? I would love to hear your views and experiences. Please comment below, or on my social media. Let's continue the conversation. Remember my desire for you is that you fall in love with yourself, flaws n all and attract the life that you deserve. Stay safe and healthy.