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Three Things I Wish I Knew Earlier In Life by Bolaji Alade

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Just as I was about to pen down my thoughts regarding the titleNigeria at 60: Hope or despair? By examining the nation’s journey so far, where we are at present and what the future holds, I decided to first remove the beam in my own eyes to see specks blurring Nigeria’s vision and hampering her growth. 

And with the benefit of hindsight, I identified three fundamental things: had I known earlier in life might have made a tremendous difference in my past, how the knowledge of it now guides my present and its immense value for the future. 

First, I wish I knew early enough that to remain relevant, one cannot afford to slack. 

As a teenager, I wasn’t sure of many things, but I was certain of being at the top of my class. That was the least of my worry. I knew the first position belonged to either me or Joshua, my bosom friend—which is still a win for me. We rotate who occupies the first position but never was there a tie. Perhaps more interesting is that my school never misses an opportunity to celebrate excellence. The first three students after the continuous assessment (CA) and also examination receives warm handshake from the director principal. Always a moment to look forward to 

Until Jss2 third term. I did well in the CA, or so I thought. And, as usual, was eager for another handshake. But I got a rude shock that fateful Monday I missed out on the ‘first three’. Even the blind would read the disappointment written all over meBut the worse was yet to happen. I Walked at Usain Bolt’s speed to my class to avoid any sympathetic consolation. I was still settling down when I saw a classmate approaching me. Oh, “she must need help with her assignment…” I muttered to myself 

Alas! I was wrong. Although she needed help with her assignment, she wasn’t approaching me. She gently passed me by and sought help from Timmy, whose seat is behind mine. Well, Timmy is the new guy who took my place at the top spot—Timmy came first, Ola came second, and Joshua clinched the third position.  

And then I realized unwavering outstanding performances can only sustain my (academic) relevance. 

This lesson is now my greatest motivation in pursuit of excellence. I understand experientially that excellence is a journey and not a destination. And with this mindset, I’m excited about future challenges. 

In addition, if I could turn back the hands of time, I wish I realized earlier the benefits of investing one’s time in his or her dreams. 

Young lads are full of energy and I, in fact, had a double portion of this energy misdirected. I loved everything about football; kicking the round leather, reading about it in the dailies, passionate arguments and comparison of teams and favourite players. My loyalty for Chelsea is only rivaled by my love for Didier Drogba. Yet I knew I wanted to be a learned silk someday and not a football star. 

While in the boarding house, after the assembly, I had a fixed routine. I’ll lean towards the wall of the physics laboratory beside my classroom to eavesdrop on sport news aired on the radio of a lab attendantI wouldn’t miss this for anything. Sometimes, the teacher as  punishment for coming late to class would have me stand up for few minutes, but that didn’t matter. 

Looking back now, I could only wish I did better. Impressively, I have grown to understand that time is precious and irretrievable. Therefore, my typical day is not without a To-do list that captures my career goals, personal development, and service to humanity. At the risk of being immodest, I can now differentiate the wheat of dreams from the tares of distractions and invest my time solely in the former. As for the future, since we will also measure it in time, maximizing it I believe should guarantee a bright future. 

Last, if I knew then that failure is a feedback and not a summation of an individual’s capability as I Know now, I would have reacted differently to failures. 

 I loathe failure. I guess everybody does. so much hate it that whenever I failed at something, it was always hard to forgive myself. Thuswhen the debate team I led to  Southwest zonal debate competition couldn’t make it to the finals, it broke me. 

We had put in the best preparation any defending champion would and even some more. I personally had spent quality time, which sometimes ate deep into my sacred reading time, yet there I was on the stage before hundreds of students and brilliant judges stuttering. I knew I made little sense and zero applause at the end of my speech validated that. Sadly, my teammates didn’t perform any better. For this, I branded myself a colossal failure. 

However, now I understand that failure is a feedback mechanism through which we can assess our past actions or inactions and make a choice to either improve or chart a fresh course that will ensure success. In hindsight, I realized we failed because our debating style was out of trend. Not because we were not enough, we just needed to have approached it differently. 

Since I realized this golden truth, whenever I fail at an activity, contest or anything, I engage in sober reflection geared towards identifying what I could have done better to achieve my target and never think too lightly of my capabilities. This lesson I’m going to journey into the future with holding so dearly.   

As an aside, Nigeria has so much to learn from an honest evaluation of the past 60 years of which the least she can do is not repeat the mistakes that threaten our unity and faith, peace and progress.  

In conclusion, learning is a Continuum. There will always be something that if we knew earlier would have better informed our decision. Hence, it is only wise that when we come to knowledge of these things; we treasure and apply them.  

Bolaji Alade is a 400 Level law student of the University of Ibadan with a keen interest in International Criminal Law, Journalism and Media & Entertainment Law.  He can be reached through mobolajijames23@gmail.com