Imagine living in an immense world of struggles in a thick forest with no end in view. With a melancholic mood, I usually raise my head to see the end that never seems to exist. It was so painful that no matter how hard I tried to navigate out of the struggle, life challenges tend to swallow me more. During my days as a student of Sacred Heart Catholic College, life appeared to be miserable as all my efforts evolved around “more work, little or no result.” Throughout my three years in Junior Secondary School, I led my class gallantly from the rear. My father was so harsh on me, so much that he threatened to disown me.
Strangely, when I was about to transit to higher institution, my parents could not fathom the fear that overwhelmed me. All they were clamouring was for me to embark on the next phase of my educational journey in a forest. I thought it was a dream when they whispered it into my hearing. I never saw such coming as tears rolled down my cheeks perpetually for weeks. I was to join a conglomerate of over 26,000 intelligent and bright organisms in a forest. My classmates were dumbfounded, my teachers were shocked, and my secondary school principal was stunned by my parents’ decision. “Could that be realistic?” They kept asking, while I kept weeping with no one to console me. Not even was anyone ready to offer me a shoulder to rest my head on and cry unnoticed.
Being the direct opposite of my brother’s superiority in academics makes me feel bad. Without sympathy, people showered words of mockery over me. In shame, I had to start preparing enormously for the annual Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) as my faith hangs on it. My mother who had been my only source of motivation made her intention known to me that once I fail this exam; she is ready to give me the red card I have been pleading to avoid. However, what could a half-witted boy like me do in the face of this peril? All the initial mock-exams I wrote came out disastrous. I barely struggled to have 180 out of the possible 400-score. Regardless of this, my vision to become a renowned civil engineer was unshakable.
In the face of all the ups and downs, I was still persistently studying my books for at least 5 hours a day. I did not allow the storms of life to distract me from my vision and dream. I burnt midnight candles ceaselessly for weeks. My body system could not pity me of the cumbersome stress by going willingly on sabbatical. Maybe my brain knew that I was in dilemma with my only lifeline resting on a 90-minute exam. Luckily and interestingly, I had 252 in the main UTME exam and proceeded to the forest my parents were envisioning. My classmates extended their bogus congratulatory messages and openly told me that I cannot escape being advised to withdraw from the forest due to poor performance.
In no time, for 24 hours each day, seven days per week, I started to live in a forest. Not the type dominated with trees, shrubs, or different species of plants, but the forest composed of buildings of various kinds. Not a forest saturated with diverse animals like fox, beer, snake, and the likes, but the forest with intellectual beings, people of vision, passion, and desire to make a difference in the world. University of Ibadan was the “forest” I found myself toiling like a lost soul.
Even though many of my teachers in secondary school had also discouraged me that I will not be able to achieve my dream because of my perceived slow learning, nevertheless, I never discounted the undiluted aspiration to climb any mountain on my way to greatness. Just like other animals in the forest, I leave my comfort zone every day to hunt for knowledge, skills, and the necessary expertise required to survive in a bigger forest we are likely to face – the labour market.
At strategic periods, we were tested to know who had amassed the maximum mastery essential to be the king outside the forest we currently inhabit. The first year was full of tug of war in Use of English, Trigonometry, Physical Chemistry, Engineering Drawing, amongst many other courses. I was left chasing shadows as my performance was far below expectations. I almost disappeared into the ground when one of the princes of the forest – my undergraduate coordinator, showed me my first-year result. It was a reflection that my teeth were not yet sharp at all, my jaws were immature, and my speed to run after gaining first-class knowledge needed an upgrade. Amidst these turbulent circumstances, I was resolute never to give up.
Before I knew what was going on, many students began to avoid any offer of friendship from me. No one wanted to associate with an average student like me. In fact, I started to gasp for breathe every time I set out to leave my abode. Anytime I take a glance at the whole forest, my heart bleeds. For five years, I will have to quit some pleasurable things I love so much. No more watching football, no more playing video games, just in pursuit of increasing my level of intellectualism. I had to perpetually position myself for success as my potential is determined by series of tests, exams, projects, practical, and most importantly, the figures in my sessional grade point.
Amusingly, at the beginning of my second year, meeting higher animals christened Orioke John, Omoare God’sFavour, and Kowobari Israel brought out the giant in me. I never knew I could roar like a lion to attain my dream, I never knew I could screech and fly like an eagle to fulfil my ambitions. Remarkably, I increased my reading time from 5 hours to at least 10 hours a day, and in some situations, I got engrossed in studying for more than 15 hours.
As my reading became more profuse, the joy within me was unexplainable. I started to envisage a majestic departure from the forest with a wonderful result. Not just result in figures, but that which speaks of my capabilities, competencies, and potentials to take the world to the next level of greatness. “Eliminate all hindrances and never forget this: YOU are capable!” I habitually recapitulate this into my hearing interminably, day and night. The Engineering Industry should await the valediction from the forest of an innovative student and a young scholar.
At the end of my fourth year in the forest, I found myself crawling to the top of a keenly contested ecosystem. Not an ecosystem filled with species, but one with soon-to-be civil engineers. Not only was my reading, intensive, but also, I started to represent the school in structural design competitions. The latest of which was held in Dubai before COVID-19 brought the entire world to a standstill. Many students now ask me for adaptive features that I used to scale through to the top of the ocean of my chosen course without having scales like the Shark.
The boy that was almost disowned by his father some years ago is now making his university proud at the international level. If I had surrendered to the discouragement showered upon me when I was in high school and during my early days in the forest, a talent would have been lost. I had to put on the garment of perseverance, consistency, and determination to ensure that the mockery of people over me miraculously transformed to praises after a few years. Presently, not only do my superb grade points speak about my dexterity at doing things in the forest, but also a reflection of relentless efforts to keep going when the road seems to be unfavorable.
To end with, Eleanor Roosevelt once said “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams and do not allow the failures of the past hinder their prospects for a glorious tomorrow.” What more of a future can I desire than one in alignment with my dream? A life that brings joy to my inner man! My dream of acquiring first-class skills in civil engineering, and become a force to reckon with is gradually becoming a reality.
I will like to use this opportunity to dish out words of encouragement to someone reading this article. Even though you are feeling like giving up at any point, never adhere to that feeling. The end result of not being strong-minded and resolute can be more disastrous than you can imagine. The suffering endured should sponsor your motivation never to stop moving. Reflecting on my past experiences, it is evident that determination will surely find expression despite all odds. Key into that reality and you will thank me later.
About the writer
Folarin Oluwatimilehin wrote in from Abeokuta via email@example.com