Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Career Talks: Don't settle for anyone's definition of you and your capabilities

Hey lovelies

Even if you cannot read today's long post (I couldn't make the story any shorter), I want you to understand that you are not disadvantaged. No matter the situations you find yourself in, understand your struggles and defend them; never give into them.

I decided to start this 'career talks' addressing the issues that may be found at the very beginning. Every successful career usually begins with you knowing what you want and going for it.
One of the struggles that you may have at that stage is people telling you why you are stupid for not settling for something easier.  You have no idea how powerful a deterrent this could be. It could lead to self doubt and a change of focus.
I almost heeded the Seligman theory at some point in my life.
Someone put in a lot of efforts, trying to make me understand why I shouldn't want as much as my colleagues, because of certain things he considered limitations. I almost acknowledged them as facts.

The seligman  theory:
"Learned helplessness is when people feel helpless about overcoming negative situations because previous experiences has shown them that they do not have control over them." M E Seligman

It all happened during my academic sojourn in Hungary. It didn't just happen in one day, it was like I had to constantly fight to prove a point. My dad taught me to study and when you study, NO MATTER YOUR ROOTS AND IGNORANT STEREOTYPES, you should be able to pass your exams excellently. That is supposed to be the principle, right? 5 was the highest grade and seriously, whenever I spent time to cover the entire syllabus of a course, it was almost inevitable to hit it until I stumbled on a few ignorant sorts. At some point, I felt like it pained some of them to see that.
It was like study or not study, these people always looked for a way to bring me down. Just imagine when you stay up the whole night trying to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts because you are looking at the big 5s only for you to realize that if I knew everything, the teacher will look for just something, anything just to make sure that I don't have my full mark, almost like they always felt like that for some reasons I didn't deserve it. I felt like crying when I felt like a teacher was just trying to go out of their way to frustrate my efforts. It was frustrating.

So I heeded the seligman theory somewhere along the line. 
Let me be honest, I felt so stupid with myself but I did not care anymore. I remember how unmotivated I felt to even study. I didn't bother to put in as much efforts as I used to because then I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. I just made sure I knew enough to make me pass and I believed my life was a lot easier because when we had the oral exams, I just took whatever grade the teacher offered me and it didn't even bother me at all, esp when I knew I didn't bother to cover the whole course material and there were some questions the teacher would have asked and I would have had something even worse.
But I wasn't really satisfied at the laid back lifestyle I was forced to adopt. It was a coping mechanism.  It was just a means of trying to stay sane. The whole fight was draining me.
I returned from school one day and I wanted to hit myself for succumbing to them in the first place; For ever letting myself to believe whatever bullcrap they had to say. I wanted to even retake those exams. I beat myself up for letting those racists get to me. I kept asking myself  "What was I thinking?" The good thing was that I recovered quickly so it didn't affect my overall grades too much. 
I made a decision that day not to care about whatever people had to say, whatever they had to dole out for me, whatever they made me pass through, but one thing that I should never compromise was to let them determine who I was, my abilities and who I knew I could be.

The truth is, when you look back at those moments, the opportunities you lose trying to fit into someone's expectation of you, you will regret them.
And the next semester when I finished writing one of my exams, this time I had resolved to putting in my best again. I was astonished at my grade because I knew what I wrote and there was no way that could have fetched me a meager '2'. I sent the teacher a message that I wanted to see my script. He kept trying to avoid it and I remember one day when I was fed up with his avoidance, I turned up at his office and told him I wasn't leaving until I saw my script. He knew I wasn't joking so he brought it out. Mehn I was shocked. There was no indication that someone took the time to read and grade my paper. It only had a bold '2' on top. Grade '2' was the satisfactory mark. Sorta a 'pass and go'. Apparently he thought, I was one of those students that would just be alright as long as they didn't fail.
I flipped through the paper and I looked at him and couldn't understand why the heart of a man could be that wicked. I looked at another paper and it was filled with red ink while mine sat there looking as bare as ever with the blue ink I used. I told him to bring out a marking scheme and start marking my paper or I was going to do something we would both regret. I was mad Jeez!
Apparently, he didn't  have one and kept telling me that the grade he gave to me was fair.
This is the same teacher that told me that it would be ridiculous for a black person to top a class filled with white people. He said research showed that based on our brains, background, experiences and available facilities from our different countries, it would just be impossible. 
"What do you describe as 'fair'?"
I asked him a few times and he said he just couldn't describe it.
I tried to outsmart him so I said "fair like that is what you think I deserve?" (I made sure I had a face like that wouldn't be a problem).
And he nodded.
I almost lost it at that point.
I just couldn't stand the whole crap again. I kept my cool and did not bother asking him anymore questions because I was too sure he would get me even more pissed. I brought out my notebook and told him we would refer to his notes from the class to mark the paper. I told him I just reactivated my selective hearing skills and whatever had to do with what he considered my limitations were being filtered in my ears, so he should just stop wasting his time with saying them, all I needed was to ensure he gave me what my work was worth and leave the explanations. (Sometimes, you just have to quiet all the external voices trying to tell you what you can or cannot be). Luckily for me, I had my note book with me.
By the time we finished, he upgraded me to a '4' but I know '4' was still less than what my work deserved. He picked on every slight mistake that wasn't even logical, including a spelling error that a million teachers in the world would have overlooked. Maybe one or two scientific terms he said I spelt wrongly. For instance there was a case where I wrote 'multiplex' cause that's what I heard when he was teaching in class, ESP with reference to English language, but he said it should be 'multiplet'. Since I got the whole definition right, I know several good teachers would have basically crossed the letter and gave me my full mark but this guy basically gave me a zero for that question even when I showed him in my note that it was multiplex. I told him but you should understand that we try to make these notes from what you say in class and as you can see, that is what I have in my note. Apparently, I wasn't even the only one that wrote multiplex 'cause he said "I don't know where most of you heard multiplex from because I said multiplet. Hello, the word should be multiplex, check your dictionary and if it's so important to you, deduct some marks and not cross out the entire thing.
He kept looking for excuses and excuses and at the end of the day, it was a 4. Imagine, from a 2 to a 4 in a matter of minutes. When I left his office, I thought of walking straight to the school authorities especially as he was still trying to be mean after I clearly caught him in the act, but then my good mind knew that was a very good case that could cost him his job. I don't know why I stopped to pity him but when I left his office he knew he was in for some trouble. He called me and started to talk and was like "if you want the 5, tell me and I'll give it you". No, don't try to make it seem like you're doing me a favor and secondly, this is more than you trying to offer me some marks. You said I made a few mistakes and because of that I don't deserve the 5, that's ok. Give me what I deserve and please, not what you think I should deserve. 
I was ready to take on the fight to give him the lesson that would help fix his judgemental brain forever. I requested for him to update my grade immediately on the school's system and emphasized that I needed my data to reflect my real grade in the next one hour, or I'd truly run out of patience.

I wanted him to change my grade on the school system so I could hold that against him. I didn't want him to say I was fabricating the story and he fell for it. I knew he'd have a lot of explaining to do why he had to enter my grade 2 times when it wasn't recorded in the school system that I registered for a retake of the examinations. 10 minutes later, I was checking for something else and I realized he had already changed it. When you finish writing your exams, it takes the teachers a couple of days before they  update the results on the school system. It was so evident he was so scared. He couldn't even hide it when he was talking to me. I sat down and thought about all the consequences of reporting him and later made up my mind to let it slide. My friend kept telling me "You should! You should". I just kinda thought about how pathetic he would be if he lost that job. Anyway, if you're wondering why I let someone put me down like that and get away with it, I'll let you know that I am not usually quick to fight my battles. I have someone else who watches my back and handles situations for me. He didn't stop at me, he went on a roller coaster with talking and acting ruthlessly to students and he had a lot of reports piling up. From what I heard after I left, he got his hands really full.

After that incidence, I told myself a million times. You can turn the table around if you really want to.
You aren't disadvantaged. You aren't helpless.
If anybody dares to actively try to put me down, they better understand that there's a chance of them going down instead. Before they embark on it, they better weigh it out if it's really worth it. Ever since I reassured myself of who I wasn't and why I shouldn't be that, I must say, it's been much better than when I thought I was helpless and couldn't really do anything about it.

Want something? Go for it.
Don't let anyone intimidate you to be less than you can be. Don't let anyone try to limit you to what suits them. It is all about what you think of yourself and not what anyone thinks or does.

Love always
Twitter/Instagram: @janylbenyl


  1. Wow..... the wickedness and ignorance of some people tho.... thank God for the strength to fight such evil o
    Inspiring post

  2. Woooow.......i loove this post....i need to remember this everyday
    Thanks for the wonderful reminder

  3. I really love this story. Truly inspiring. I'm glad I took my time to read it. Definitely worth the read. Many times, the power to change our situation is in our hands. God won't come down to do it for us. Passivity is not good at all.

  4. Wow! Ms J.B, this is officially my 'BESTEST' post ever in all 2 years I have been reading your Blog.. As i read through ba.. **In T-notes voice.. I could hear the hurt, the passion, the confusion and the sound of victory at the end :).. Its amazing how cruel people can be, how people can just intentionally not want to see others better because of frivolous reasons. I mean what did he stand to lose by making you excel? I mean, it wasnt like you were dragging offices with him or something.. SMH.. Anyways sha, i guess on the long run yeah, some humans just dont handle their envy properly.. Plus to say an African wouldnt top the class was just straight Wrong.. I am glad that you triumphed at the end (all thanks to your persistence and ghen ghen face heheheh), and that you put him in his place..

    When i was in school i faced 3 major battles, and through the 2nd one yeah, Someone said something to me.. He said "Duru Let them do their own, GOD will do his own..."" and **In Peace Itimi's voice... Mother since I handed over my pains, wahala's and Frustrations to GOD ehn, (holding on only to my confusions), I have been chilling. Cause like you said, he has got our backs. Cheers mother. :)

  5. I love this post Janyl! I am so glad you decided to stand up for yourself (and future students). Ignorance of any for is just so argh! It's like people are so blinded by their hate that they start to become stupid. Imagine a university professor spewing such crap! As if you (and other blacks and non-whites are not human.
    Anyway Well done you, I AM SO SO SO PROUD of you!!!!

  6. Awwww many thanks for the kind words


Thanks for your feedback!
I enjoy reading them :)

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