Failure To Launch

Updated: May 16, 2021

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.