With my heart racing and insecurities pounding away at my mind, I met with the school’s headteacher to find out my chances of securing such a prestigious position. He comforted me with the assertion that they weren’t looking out for applicants’ weaknesses, but rather to identify their strengths and get a better understanding of how they could contribute to the lives of the program’s students. His reassurance gave me courage and the strength to believe I deserved this opportunity as much as the next person. I reminded myself of my academic standing, my work ethic and ability to lead my peers, regardless of the circumstances I had previously found myself in.
I want you to read what I am about to say carefully because it is good for a young man to understand the difference between being humble, being confident and being a fool. It is powerful to exercise humility and recognize your own shortcomings, but it is not right that you should limit yourself by pretending you are not good enough to try. This false humility renders humans useless because it allows them to give up while sparing them the guilt of doing so. It allows snakes to crawl into our minds and hiss, you cannot do this and poison us against ourselves and the actions we need to take to better our lives. Overconfidence is just as deadly because it too prevents us from achieving success by allowing us to rest on our laurels and forgo the improvements, we need to make in order to achieve things greater than we can imagine. So, my son, try never to become a fool – a man who builds up his own limitations and chooses to live in them. Instead, exercise humility, while also being strong enough to assert you are capable. That way, you will have enough drive to do more, without losing your head, heart or soul. This too, this admittance of your weaknesses alongside your capabilities, is how you earn respect because it shows you are a human who works, and works hard, to earn goodness.
While we’re on the topic of lessons, and I am making a habit of pointing them out – rather than giving you the space to figure them out on your own – I want to speak to you of discipline. My grandfather is the one who taught me the great study of discipline by always encouraging me to exercise restraint in all I do. He often reminded me that it is discipline, above all else, that helps a person achieve their goals – it is the necessary ingredient that transforms the hope for success into the real thing.
It’s funny because, as I reflect upon the different values I hope to instill in you, I feel something akin to a chill. Maybe not quite that, but do you know when a person claims someone has walked over their grave? That is how I feel speaking to you, my son, about what I hope to teach you. Although I am far away from the stagnant refugee camp where little grew (including people) and so much was perpetually lost, I feel gripped with fear that I, myself, won’t be here to teach you about discipline, respect and endurance. Perhaps because I come from a fatherless place, it seems too good to be true that I will have the privilege of raising a son of my own. I need you to know it’s a privilege I take seriously and, unless God Himself chooses to take me from you, it is one I will work hard to earn every single day.
Now, as I was saying – before I got distracted by the ruminations of a man who has so much to say and a nonsensical fear he won’t have enough time to say it – I completed my application process for the teaching assistant position. And, a few days after making the acquaintance of the Headmaster at Dzaleka Secondary School, he phoned me to inform me I had passed all the necessary components and was being recruited by JRS to become a TA.
Little did I know how much this opportunity could mean to me. There is not a hint of hyperbole or overinflated positivity when I say I enjoyed every second of my experience. I was able to work with my former teachers, which was a great honour. Being with them again reminded me how much they had influenced my development; how much they had gone beyond what was required of them to do right by their students; and how much I was willing to do the same for my new pupils.
After months of interacting with my emotionally-void uncles, who were satisfied with menial work, as long as it meant good money, I was now in a place that prioritized learning and growing! I was surrounded by people who, like me, recognize that education is the medicine to most of society’s ailments. Despite my demanding schedule as a university student and TA, each day, I felt energized to wake up and go to work. What’s more, my grandparents were so proud of me, and I was relieved I no longer pained them with the stress of my very uncertain future. Now, although I had not achieved great success – in the monetary sense – I believe my passion and progress showed them, I would not settle with a life not well lived. I would not go hungry, I would not sell my soul, and I would not remain within a refugee camp to live out the remainder of my days. These things, at least, I believe became more clear to the two people who cared most about me in the world.