“Your mates are already university graduates, but here you are.”
“Who told him to run for that office? Look at him now he couldn’t even win after all the noise.”
These are a few of the criticisms I have heard people hurl around. They have been used to remind people that they failed to achieve certain goals at the age the society set for them.
In the Nigerian society, people believe that at a certain age, some things have to have been accomplished. One should be done with school by 22, married with a career at 25, and at 30 an individual is expected to have at least a solid home and children. What no one talks about is what happens when your life doesn’t go as planned?
What happens when you fail at achieving a major goal, and what happens when you never had a backup plan?
A lot of us graduate from secondary school with the expectation of getting into the university immediately, even if we are not sure this will be the case. No one prepares the Nigerian child for failure, even if we all know they will occur.
Parents tell their kids to work harder, pastors tell their congregation to pray more, and teachers tell their students to read more, but no one ever tells us what to do if we fail. No one ever tells us about the emotional and even physical effects of disappointment. We are pushed so hard, but no one holds our hands when things don’t go as planned.
You are expected to succeed and failure is never an option. If a child fails a class, parents believe he/she has been influenced negatively. If a woman isn’t married by 25 people throw snide comments her way. If a young man doesn’t have a job and a house at 30 he is viewed as a lesser man. I have seen people who would rather put themselves through hell than fail. They would rather study courses they have no passion for than appear as a failure to their loved ones.
I think that we fail more when we try to avoid failure, and I don’t blame anyone who is going through this because our Nigerian society at large has attached shame with failure. I really don’t mean to encourage failure, all I am saying is that we need to do more to help ourselves and others around us know that failure is a necessary part of life, and there are ways to make a more positive comeback after it happens.
We need to be able to hug our friends and let them know that they are not a failure just because they couldn’t pass one class. We need to let our children know that it is okay to try again; if possible, try something new, if their plans don’t go as expected. Religious leaders need to remind their congregation that failure and setbacks aren’t spiritual attacks, and teachers need to encourage students, let them know that setbacks are to be expected in life.