I’ve spent most of my twenties wandering

Kachi Eloka
4 min readFeb 20, 2022

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Ph: Luisa Meirelles

I hate to admit it, but I’m restless.

Particularly restless in the absence of creativity, but restless all the same.

One prominent word in many of my report cards back in secondary school was ‘potential’. My teachers and principals believed I had potential, but I always thought they were just being diplomatic. Not that I didn’t agree with their assessment, but I was strongly aware that as a science student, I struggled with the core subjects that would define my prospective career; Maths and Further Maths.

Despite being a science student, I was a creative at heart. The art teacher campaigned for me to take fine arts, but I chose technical drawing instead. The press club coordinator recruited me, and on my first try, as a junior student, I won a senior essay writing competition. Evidence showed that I had potential, but I never really pursued art or writing.

When it was time for university, I chose engineering. Maths and Further Maths were the banes of my academic existence, but because I was obsessed with computer games and programs, I chose engineering.

I had it in mind that I would learn to code. So, on the day I had to make the choice, I asked my sister what the difference was between computer engineering and systems engineering. Her explanation convinced me to choose systems and so, I enrolled for a B.Sc in systems engineering.

My parents were proud; their second daughter was also studying engineering (my sister was already in Petroleum and Gas engineering) and they spread that gospel like wildfire.

I may have done amazingly well if I wasn’t so restless; so intrigued with discovering things and experimenting, so obsessed with doing things that deeply resonate with me and so unaccepting of anything that didn't feel genuine. I may have also done amazingly well if the Nigerian educational system wasn’t so ill-fitted for my personality, but I digress.

I only managed to make it through engineering, barely crossing the finish line. I wasn’t a failure, but I also wasn’t an exceptional student.

Of course, as soon as I graduated, I fell into despair; what the fuck was I going to do with my life now? I thought.

I had spent so much time trying to satisfy my creative ‘cravings’, that I never put together a proper career plan. At some point in my third year, I started blogging, took up photography, explored exhibitions, began to travel, and eventually started writing-ish. I wandered for so long that I think I just got lost.

There was always something new I wanted to explore, but I was hardly patient or satisfied, so I often moved on to the next thing quite quickly.

I might have been doing great as a software engineer or data analyst somewhere if I just stuck to engineering and bulldozed my way through.

I might have, but I don’t wish for it.

I was telling a friend recently that I don’t think I would have reached this level of self-awareness and understanding that I’m currently at if I hadn’t wandered so much. Encountered people whose minds were wired differently from what I was used to. People whose conversations and perspectives opened my mind in ways I can’t really explain. People who exposed me to new realities, new ways of seeing and thinking. People who taught me the practice of deeply contemplating why I choose to do the things I do. People who encouraged me to question myself, and examine my motives and intentions. People who showed me a different meaning of elegance and style and taste. People who always chose character over conformity. I was blessed. I am blessed.

But,

that’s the poetic part.

I had unlocked new levels of self-awareness and understanding, but in reality, I was clueless and confused because I simply couldn’t figure out how to ‘apply myself’.

The potential that was so often written about seemed to have deserted me, and I found myself struggling to build a meaningful career.

And so, just like that, my twenties rolled by, year after year of indecision; acquiring skills and failing to choose one to focus on developing full-time, spending some days beating myself down for being a failure and then picking myself up when I remember just how talented I am — a frequently chaotic state of mind.

I wouldn’t say that I have now reached a state of ‘rest’, but I have definitely reached a point of deeper clarity. I can see a lot clearer now, how all these things I have acquired along the way can help me build a fulfilling life.

It’ll take a lot of work, and me facing my fears and fighting endless doubts. Maybe I’ll wander a bit more, but I don’t think I’ll have had it any other way.

It is often said that early adulthood is the pinnacle of one’s life.

It is a time to deeply indulge yourself in as many experiences as you possibly can, while you still have the freedom to do so. It is a time to look, to taste, to feel, and to inhale. A time to try, and to fail — and to try again. A time to wonder. And to wander — to get so lost that in the process of finding your way back home, you find yourself.

As we continue to lay the groundwork for our futures and design the mappings of our careers, we must continually ask ourselves: is this my idea of the good life?

— Dami Oyelola, That Good Good Blog

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