An Adult Is Just A Child That Has Aged

I know that people say it’s always good to nurture the ‘child’ within you or that we should be like children when interacting with each other. There is some merit to this statement since children forgive slights quickly, form friendships easily, laugh about anything, have the capacity to build very strong attachments and can also be highly adaptable. As adults, if we possess at least some of these qualities, we are guaranteed to be that much closer to living a happier and fulfilled life. However, there are significant drawbacks to being ‘childish’ and unfortunately, too many adults have taken the more unsavoury behaviour of their formative years into their adulthood. Here are a few examples:

Temper Tantrums

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We know these all too well. We’ve been on public transport, at home, on the streets and in restaurants and have seen these little ‘minions’ do an impressive job of disturbing the peace by flailing their hands, screaming at the top of their lungs, thrashing at everything in sight, tearing at their clothes, slapping away reprimanding hands etc. all because they didn’t get what they wanted. It’s not hard to come to a unanimous verdict that this is wholly unacceptable and is a behavioural trait that will lead to a very tumultuous life in adulthood. It’s the typical ‘tit-for-tat’ – If I don’t get what I want, I will exact my revenge by making you unhappy. That’s easy to see right? So why do we tolerate this behaviour in adults? Why do we allow our managers to scream and berate us when we’ve missed a deadline or can’t work another late shift? Why do we allow our family and friends to use emotional blackmail, publicly embarrass us or to physically inconvenience us out of spite? Why do we tolerate the insults of others when our only crime was to not be in agreement with them? Why do we tolerate physical and emotional abuse? As adults we reclassify such behaviour as ‘anger’, ‘stress-related’ or ‘a strong character’ but it really is a temper tantrum, albeit, at varying degrees. If in theory, this should not be tolerated in children, neither should it be tolerated in adults.

Talks Excessively

Gossiping

Many parents will agree that it was so much nicer BEFORE their children learnt to speak. Why? That’s because when learning to speak, the child not only started to learn how to put words together in a coherent thought, they also started to use this skill to unwittingly become ‘in-house reporters’ of our household affairs. I’ve personally witnessed and also heard outrageous stories of children talking about their parents’ eating habits, conversations, toilet routines, sex life etc. in a gathering of friends, family or even at parties. The embarrassment is real and the parents’ anger, palpable. However, that is understandable. They are children and still have yet to understand boundaries and the difference between ‘private’ and ‘public’ matters. What about adults though? You would think that in their twenties, they would have accumulated enough experience to at least learn the skill of being discrete, right? Among adults, we label this embarrassing trait ‘gossiping’. All of us have had our confidence betrayed at least once by someone who we thought could keep a secret. The best gossips are the ones that have your business half way down the street before you’ve even finished telling them the full story. This ‘vice’ has broken up relationships, made best friends become estranged, damaged trust and even destroyed people’s lives. I find this habit so terrible that it should probably be added to the list of ‘deadly sins’.

Invincibility

Invincible

This one is my favourite among children because it takes a significant level of imagination and creativity to believe yourself to be immortal, powerful and immune to hurt and pain. As children, their risk perception is hampered by their lack of life experience. So we can only look at them lovingly (and have our first aid kit at hand) as they zip through the living room (with our underwear as a cape) pretending to be Superman or climb on the furniture in their efforts to emulate Spiderman or emphatically bang the table with their ‘righteous’ spoon just the way Thor would do with his hammer. I know we have all had our fair share of hearty laughs watching these children enact crazy and wild imaginations but these are just a few things that make the whole experience of parenthood gratifying. This idea of ‘invincibility’ in adulthood, however, is not so cute. At this stage it becomes ‘recklessness, ‘irresponsibility’ and ‘lack of judgement’ and the consequences easily justify why this is labelled as such. The number of deaths from car accidents because people were driving too quickly or were under the influence of some drug; the deadly games we concoct such as Russian Roulette, the choking game or Power Hour/Centurion; the stupid activities we participate in to get that perfect selfie shot such as ‘planking’ from a balcony etc., are all foolish, unnecessary and could prove lethal. It wouldn’t be as bad if the consequences were limited to the nonsensical adult that initiated the incredibly dangerous activity but, more often than not, someone else always gets hurt.

Blames Others For Mistakes (Or To Hide Mistakes)

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This is a very sensitive topic because the problem with this habit is that the implication is far reaching and the effects can be devastating. As a matter of fact, there is always a thin line between blaming people and lying. With children, it can be as simple a case as blaming another sibling for their naughty actions to, more seriously, implicating another in an allegedly heinous act. This habit should neither be nurtured, encouraged nor tolerated in children. However, there are far too many adults that have this habit ingrained in their mental psyche. The most common example of this is in the workplace. I had a CEO’s PA blame me for paperwork that she misplaced so that she could be spared his wrath. That naturally put me in a terrible predicament. There is a deeply entrenched level of selfishness involved in acts such as these because the person only considers protecting themself at the expense of someone else’s reputation or physical and emotional wellbeing. As adults, we may label acts like these as ‘self preservation’ but what it really is, is cowardice. It’s this sort of habit that has caused accidental deaths, wrongful incarcerations or people being vilified without cause. However, most importantly, this also involves a considerable level of self-denial. Until those adults can take responsibility for their actions or identify what part they played in problematic situations, only then can they truly look to becoming a better person.

The Good Side

The Good Side

There is a lot more that could be said about this matter but this would overlook the fact that children are fundamentally innocent and do become products of their environment. I’m always amazed at how severely I could reprimand my nephew but he would still be so forgiving that minutes later he would be chatting away freely about his day at school. That ability to accept discipline yet forgive the uncomfortable way it was administered is something that not even I can do easily. To have a child run into your arms, not because you brought something for them but because you are physically present, is a beautiful demonstration of love and people in relationships could learn a lot from such a simple gesture. Children smile easily, laugh heartily and are an open book. There are no hidden agendas, innuendos or underlying meanings in their interactions. A lot of us, along the way, have become hardened by years of hurt, pain, betrayal and disappointment but we should look to recapture that youthful vigour and optimism that we were all blessed with as children.



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Student Woes. What it’s like for your child to be a university student today

It wasn’t too long ago that I was a student, looking at four years of endless lectures and seminars, innumerable assignments, a sustained penniless condition, abysmal group work, pending exams and grades that didn’t always compensate for the lack of social life, sleepless nights and boring class discussions. As soon as I started my first semester, I was already looking to finish university. This was mainly because I already got a taste of life after studying. Before committing to do my Bachelors, I was working a full time job, earning a decent full time wage, had no debt (so I could splurge on clothes and vacations whenever I wanted) and I was in charge of my destiny. So why did I become a student?

Long Term Vision

The day finally came when in that wonderful job of mine I wanted to move up the corporate ladder. Why should I expect any resistance? I had shown initiative more times than I could count, I was the first through the door and often the last to leave the office, my work was consistently of a high standard, I was articulate and I grasped new concepts exceptionally well. So what was the problem? I was not a degree holder. Therefore, I was facing the prospect of working twice as long as a recent graduate (in the way of years) just to be anywhere near being considered for a managerial post and that’s only if that post wasn’t explicitly advertised for degree holders. What made it worse, a colleague one day jokingly admitted that his degree had to do with studying medieval history such as that of King Arthur and his Knights at the round table. Furthermore, I came across managers that wholly lacked business acumen, people skills, leadership qualities and even work ethics. Needless to say, I felt insulted but I had to figure out what to do.

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Now let me quickly add a few disclaimers – this is not about bashing those who have their degree in one area and have decided to branch into another unrelated field and this is neither saying that all managers are incompetent, egotistical, maniacal and did not earn their right to be promoted. Furthermore, I do acknowledge that some employees have been promoted without being a degree holder and are doing just fine. However, this is a changing job market and having at least a Bachelor’s degree is increasingly becoming the norm when applying for roles. With that being said, I decided to get my Bachelors degree because that was the start to becoming more marketable and overcoming the first of (I anticipate to be several obstacles) in climbing the corporate ladder in any organisation.

LESSONS LEARNT

During my studies, after obtaining my degree and currently back in the job market again, I have learnt the following lessons:

If I was offered another suitable alternative, I would have never gone to university

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A Bachelor’s degree, regardless of its duration, is ultimately a foundation course but a more expensive version of this. I studied International Relations and Chinese but my superb grades in International Relations will not get me through the doors of even the most prestigious international volunteer organisation and my Chinese, though robust academically, will never be good enough for me to even qualify for the role of a community interpreter. It almost makes you wonder if the whole thing was an expensive farce or a way to just keep us youths occupied so we don’t add to the already over-burdened job market.

Your work options as a student are not limited but rather, limitless.

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Even though you are a student, your options for work are not limited to cleaning, bartending etc. Before I left my full time job to pursue full time studies, my manager had the nerve to say ‘Good luck. You know the best you can get in the way of work will be bartending right?’ WRONG. I was determined to not take any loans and to supplement the financial support I was receiving through my scholarship and grants. Therefore, I chose to work part-time. If you will be using a job agency, the best way to achieve a healthy study and work balance is to possibly work occasional weekends. I was able to manage doing this in a luxury car dealership. However, the best option is to work for your university. My university was superb in recruiting students to different roles in the departments and faculties on-site. The pay wasn’t bad and they were very conscientious of offering roles that had hours that were reasonable enough to not encroach on your studies, while providing a quasi-steady income. The only thing is that this may mean going to work after class. In either case, you will have to be highly disciplined.

Lecturers and tutors can be both an enemy and a friend

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Lecturers and seminar tutors can be lazy and difficult. There are some lecturers and tutors that regurgitate the same material they had for the last five years and happily teach this for another six. If they made the effort to update this, they didn’t necessarily take the time to work on their delivery. Many times I was lulled to sleep by monotonous tones and uninteresting talks only to wake up when everything was over. As to them being difficult, as human beings they will not always be completely impartial and neutral when they deal with us students. You need only get to the stage of doing your dissertation and having a supervisor (which you will need to have several 1:1s with) to realise how much power they can wield in hindering or assisting you.

You will constantly face tests in and outside the classroom

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You will constantly be tested in the classroom and in the job market. If you think the worst injustice is being told that you need experience after spending the last four years labouring away diligently at your studies, think again. There is an enemy like none other which we are now having to contend with and that’s psychometric tests. Oh yes! Those lovely ‘pain in the ass’ that you’ll have to study and practice for if you are seriously determined to get into those more established and prestigious institutions. But why? Understandably, the job needs to find a way to separate the wheat from the chaff but why subject graduates to another round of rigorous tests when we just about kept our heads above water for the last three to four years? If these tests are really what matters, then let us study for that instead of doing all these modules at university (some of which will not even be applied in our field).

However, if you’ve chosen the other route of just going to interviews, that’s another joke. It’s not all about dressing the part, looking the part, sounding eloquent, being knowledgeable and demonstrating your skills. The deciding factors are more subtle such as if they see you fitting into their work environment; if you belong to a demographic that thinks, articulates and gestures in a manner commensurate to their social standing; if you will be a threat to them, in the future, through your sheer ambition; if you remind them of someone they dislike….. I could go on and on but these are the things that your career coach won’t tell you because it’s hard to prove. Many times, the hiring managers and interviewing panel themselves are oblivious that their decisions are being informed by unconscious and institutional discrimination.

Previous work experience only gives you a slight advantage

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Who said having a solid work background, before studying, will guarantee you smooth transition back into the job market? I foolishly thought that I could resume my life, as it were, before I went into full-time studies (i.e. get a job at my old salary grade or even higher considering that I now had a degree). That was wishful thinking and I had to learn the hard way. I was no different and I was no special. I had to start from the bottom again but the good part was that I was noticed a lot quicker by recruitment agencies. Granted, I wasn’t altogether happy with the jobs they were offering but within two weeks of graduating, I was back into work.

Students need to start exercising their smarts even before they’ve had their first lesson

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Students need to start thinking outside the box when it comes to pursuing university studies. It’s not enough to just succumb to the exorbitant fees; accept the Herculean task of paying back a debt big enough to be your mortgage and struggle, for however long afterwards, to find a job and make ends meet. Look into studying abroad and compare your tuition fees here and in European universities. From the first year, start making yourself known to the movers and shakers in your field of interest. Frequent their circles, interact, network, make sure you have a promising start once you graduate. Dial back the partying for now. It seems all thrilling to drink yourself to oblivion and do as much damage to your brain cells, while you can, so you can have stories to tell your grandkids. All of that is overrated because you are bleeding away money, most of which isn’t yours, and will lose contact with half the people you meet anyways. You will have all the time in the world to travel, enjoy life and party after you graduate. Make the most of your time while studying. As my very good African friend and mentor once told me, the difference between you and others is how well you use your 24 hours.

In the end, it’s not all doom and gloom

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Difficult, pressing and stressful times as these, if handled well, are very character building. All the failed interviews, rejection letters or even emails that went unanswered build perseverance and patience. All those times that you had to budget with little to nothing in your pocket, while living on just toast and beans, builds financial prudence. All those disappointing grades and exam results, which did not justify all the hard work you invested, make you uncomfortable enough that your aim will always be nothing less than the best. All those party invites you had to turn down, all that socialising time you swapped for library hours, all those summers you found work instead of being on vacation reinforce how you handle your priorities. You see, the true purpose of university was never to just gain a degree. It was always about gaining those life skills that would ultimately make you resilient in this world. Be smart, study hard and give yourself a fighting chance.



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