He left me feeling like a failure

By Akello Patricia

Finding the courage to understand and accept the realities of life shapes our personalities, values and beliefs. We become ourselves through it. Accepting reality sounds easy enough, but it’s difficult and often frustrating. Traumatic experiences can cause a person to become more guarded or cautious, while positive experiences can make a person more confident and optimistic. Many people hold on to a version of reality based on regret, disappointment and denial. Sometimes, people are just waiting for a promotion or a better job to come by. Failing to accept reality is why some have pants hanging in the closet that haven’t fit in years. More significantly, it may keep people trapped doing work that doesn’t fulfill them emotionally, or in the wrong profession entirely.

I always dreamed of achieving great things. I had many interests but struggled with self-doubt and often felt overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed. As a result, I found myself settling for mediocrity in various aspects of my life. I always stayed back home during holidays to help with house chores and other home activities. My mother carried out a small business in a nearby market but she preferred that I stayed home rather than helping her at the market. I was not given any allowance since I wasn’t working for pay.

When I was young, I had a friend called Hashim. He worked at his father’s business during the holidays, and he was given a monthly allowance. He got along just fine with all of the workers without drawing special attention to himself despite the fact that his father owned the business. He was a very humble young man. He treated everyone with humility and respect without discriminating and most people really admired him for it.

We recently spoke again, and our conversation changed my perspective on life. Basically, Hashim said I have become a bit too comfortable. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I have given up looking for new opportunities, thinking jobs are scarce, thinking you should know someone who knows someone in order to get a decent salary. And maybe I’m wrong to think that this is how the world works, and maybe this has caused me to stagnate. I realized that by not continually learning or growing, my skills and knowledge in my profession may become outdated, and this can make it difficult to keep up with the continuous changes or advancement in the economy, and that this can make it harder to find future job opportunities.

My conversation with Hashim did teach me the need to understand and accept some realities of life though. It opened my eyes, and taught me to be open minded and my biased mindset, aside because that’s the only way I can use them to my advantage. I wish he took on a different tone though, but I’ll give you some background first, before telling you about the conversation itself.

When Hashim and I both passed senior six, he tried to convince me to join Kyambogo University in the capital of Uganda, but I declined. It was too expensive for my parents, so I joined the nearby Gulu University. In my first year, I studied during the weekend so I could work on weekdays. I found a part time job as a sales person. I was paid on commission, but there were days when I didn’t make any sales so that meant no breakfast, no lunch and no pay. My income was so inconsistent, and it made me feel pressured and stressed to generate sales and earn commission. The opportunities for growth were also limited. Commission based pay is often focused on sales performance which may not necessarily translate to other aspects of the business, so employees who are highly skilled in sales may not have the same level of expertise in other areas of the business which limits their opportunities for advancement. After a while, I quit my job, and focused on studying first and getting a better job after because I was putting in a lot of effort and gaining so little which wasn’t worth it.

Years passed. Hashim and I went our separate ways. We both successfully graduated. He found a good job and married, bought a car and managed to establish his personal businesses using some of his savings from way back and from his earnings. Anyone could clearly tell he is a very successful young man.

I was not so lucky. I had to look for work. I volunteered for months with a number of organizations like Educate! Uganda, where I was a mentor for months but they did not employ me. I also volunteered with Advance Afrika, Goal Uganda but none gave employment contracts. I tried to start a personal business selling second-hand clothes, liquid soap and groundnut paste but it didn’t work. Maybe I lacked adequate business skills, or the family connections Hashim had?

At some point, I gave up, and got a job as data associate. It paid alright, and enabled me to take care of bills and daily expenses, though I couldn’t afford a car or other luxuries. It’s not like I haven’t been doing enough or haven’t worked hard enough, but to some extent things aren’t as they may seem.

When we spoke, Hashim made me feel like a failure. I told him how I’ve been managing so far. Instead of encouraging me constructively, he said I wasn’t doing enough to make my life better. He expressed his disdain for my current job, and blamed me for being too relaxed and settled in my comfort zone. He said he had the impression I wasn’t hungry for money, or else I wouldn’t be stuck at my current job. He also said that I’m too qualified for my current job, and that just because I haven’t found a bigger and better job, it doesn’t mean I should sit back with folded arms, because life goes on in the meantime. Money is the goal we’re all after, he said.

Maybe he has a point but I wish he brought it in a more constructive manner that didn’t kill my spirit and totally demotivated me.

23 March, 2023