Have you ever written down or mind-planned your to-do list to the tiniest detail, and known exactly what you will do for the next two hours? But two hours in, you haven’t done half the stuff on your to-do list? Or, 45 minutes in — and you have done everything?

Well that’s just two hours and you couldn’t anticipate the capability of your skills, that new episode that just popped up on Netflix, your daydreams about that person you like, the facilitator changing the question, the library closing, the WiFi going down, your laptop breaking. But still, you beat yourself up so badly if you don’t complete on time, or if you change your mind and extend the time-frame.

Changing your mind about what you said in the past, for some reason means that you’re flaky, unreliable and you need to get it together. So the options are, cling on what you said you’d do, or consider yourself a total failure?

Let me contextualize this a tad further. While in the comfortable confines of school and parental care — everyone has a mission, a solid one at that. Sadly, changing contexts (graduating) introduces new information and removes that comfy cushion we had to fall back on after the 3 months internship. Here’s the thing though, you didn’t have this new information when you were making decisions, because unlike “The Flash” you couldn’t travel to the future.

Here’s my two cents, if you’re feeling a little stuck - instead of clinging to what you said you’ll do (but are now a little short on resources to do it) do something else that will afford you those resources you’re short of, and then come back to it. It’s important to know that as an ALU graduate you have been equipped with the skill of “Learning to learn”, you can do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. So don’t confine yourself in time —you’ll continuously feel like you’re falling behind, because time doesn’t stop going, but you can and that’s okay.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying dump your dreams when they don’t work out. I’m saying if your preferred door doesn’t open and another one does, don’t just stand there banging on that particular door, walk into the other one — explore what’s behind it — to buy time, money and new knowledge that will easily open your preferred door. If you just stick to that one door while you aren’t ready for it, you’ll end up making compromises and settling for less. Don’t stain your passion with compromise.

Okay now let me tell you about my confused career story.

I grew up thinking my dad had the “biggest” job ever. He would always come in late from work, twist the knob silently as he gently walked to the dining table to eat his dinner. Then he would place his briefcase on the table with its lock always facing the end of the table we couldn’t reach. He was always the last one to sleep and the first to rise — I grew up so curious of what he does. I couldn’t wait to grow up and become it myself.

When my brother and I learned to properly count, my dad called us all on the dining table one Saturday and asked us to help him with his work. On that day, my father finally opened his briefcase.

Our eyes latched on his hands as they slid the pass-code wheels and ‘click! the cover flew open, hehee! the disappointment to our lack of imagination. We thought that thing had his work clothes, or gadgets — we thought his job was protecting the state’s secrets and that’s what was hidden in that mysterious briefcase. But no, the briefcase was filled with money. My dad was the district’s accountant,and one of his responsibilities was to draw cash and make it readily available for the district’s offices everyday. Before he submits the cash he had to proof-count it — and that’s what he was asking us to help him do.

I was holding millions on my hands at the age of 8! For those few hours I was a millionaire — I wanted this job so badly that I dreamed about it at night. This was the notorious job with which our whole family had food on the table, smart clothes, traveled and could afford chocolate. I knew exactly what I was going to become when I grew up at the age of 8 and I was nothing short of “passionate” about it.

I made sure math and I had a consistent healthy relationship. I only cheated a little between class sessions — I would always sketch my favorite cartoon characters and write little notes beside them. I wanted all my notes to look extra. I even started a little venture at my primary school where I’d make writing pads for people to write letters on. I was dubbed “Evon the Mickey Mouse”, I deserved it, that was my signature cartoon character. But still I ha my life goal echoing in the back of my mind, “I am Evon Evance and when I grow up I want to be an accountant like my dad”. I even had it ‘sketched out’ on the back of my math exercise book.

Fast forward about 8 years — I applied to join the African Leadership University. On the application it said, “you will be given a year to decide what major you’re keen to pursue”. “What a waste of my year”, I thought to myself — I was pretty sure what I wanted to pursue, I’ve known it since I learned how to count.

I got in to ALU and for the first time, I was off my parents wings and slowly building mine. I was exposed to other people who also knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, and man did they have convincing reasons why. “Because we can”, “My skill set is tailored for that job”, “It is impactful on scale”, “My dad has a law firm, it’s the lowest hanging fruit”, “I don’t know yet, but I’ve worked in a few jobs during my gap year, I’ll probably pursue one of them”. Even people who didn’t have it figured out, had it figured out! All I had was “cause my dad is doing it”. Even though all this shouldn’t have gotten to me, it did. Cut me some slack, I was 18.

During my first year at ALU, I learned a lot of new things. I became a whole new person, I went off track . It wasn’t just about grades paving my way to accountancy — it became about my skills, mission, drive and ability to learn flexibly.

I did my first internship at a Marketing and Advertising company — I loved it. Those three months exposed me to more dads and moms and sisters who were doing cool jobs too. Most importantly it exposed me to something new — an alternative, a possibility. As rainbows and unicorns as it sounds, it just confused me. I didn’t know what I wanted. I liked what the marketing associate was doing, the HR was doing fun stuff too — engaging and handling people like that, I wanted some of that. And don’t get me started with the sales reps, those people had charts on a screen with their names on it, tracking the number of clients they brought in. The IT guys solved problems everyone else couldn’t and they got to wear whatever they wanted to work. I wanted to become everything, I couldn’t even remember Accountant’s last name — our consistent relationship, down the drain.

Funny thing is, in the midst of all of this, I still found time to paint, sketch, sing and dance. I always made time to groom my artistic muscle, it was my form of escape. But I was good at it, it came easy to me — so I never took it seriously. I stuck to “if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not good enough”. I love art, it doesn’t scare me one bit — it can’t be good for me. Plus I already have a life goal that I grew up passionate about, picked classes for in high school, and my family is proud of — I can’t just “change my mind”.

But I did, and I bet myself up for it for weeks — then I got over it. During my second year, I started looking for an internship three months in. I applied to marketing firms, consultancy firms, Tech companies, all over the world — I even applied for this one post in the White House. But I ended up getting an internship at a primary school of leadership in my home country. Part of me was disappointed because my friends were getting internships in notable companies, flying overseas, taking foreign selfies — but that’s another story.

I was hired as an art teacher and a marketing content developer for the school. I was hired for this because in the midst of all my ambition and aspirations to do white collar jobs — I was unknowingly grooming myself for something else — art.

Let me draw you a picture, every week I painted at least two paintings, drew at least three sketches, all I posted about on my social media were videos and pictures of me singing, dancing or panting. In every group assignment I took the responsibility of designing the slide decks to have better aesthetics. I focused more on how my essays looked than the content, every page I followed, all my idols were somewhat connected to the arts. I denied it as a main track but I always found myself taking that path. This part of me automatically illuminated more than my sales, admin, HR, consulting etc. skills. So I was never a good fit, until I was.

The job was so fulfilling — I taught, I learned and left a legacy. But again I was confused, do I now want to be a teacher?

I went back to school to start my third year of university. One of my resolutions for that year was to start saving money, because I was more than half-way to graduating. I started paying attention to the “study-intern wanted” emails and went on to apply. Funny story, I didn’t get any of the ones I applied to — and they were many.

One day scrolling through my Instagram I saw an Ad for an App that linked expats in foreign countries. That seemed like fun, so I got the app and went to one of the gatherings. There I met a few ALU staff — awkward but still fun. In a conversation, I brought up that I did some marketing during my previous internship — and unexpectedly the ALU staff offered to link me with the marketing team to apply for a graphic design job. I smiled and nodded in appreciation.

Why such an underwhelming response? you ask? Well, the closest I ever got to graphic designing was making our group slide presentations look pretty and a bit of canva designing from my previous internship. And I can assure you that such things don’t have a home in the graphic design village, they’re just on the side of the road to there.

As expected the first question I was asked on my interview for the study internship was — what software do you use for your designs. Haha! You do not say Canva in such situations, but I did, I blurted “canva!” and when I saw her face, I threw in “Adobe” to the mix. I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word “Adobe”. But this is what made me standout from the other applicants so she took me as an intern. First assignment, make a logo on Adobe Illustrator in two days. I didn’t even have Illustrator installed on my laptop let alone use it.

Thankfully, ALU has implicitly instilled the “Learn to learn” and “Can do” spirit in me. So, I went to my room — opened a new tab — typed in youtube.com — typed in “what is Adobe?” — and went on from there. In two days I had my logo ready for presentation. She didn’t like it, but I made it out of probation period and on to the official study-intern. I built that plane while flying it with every assignments, design a crest, a flier, a social media post, a banner — every design was my first, but I strived to thrive.

Fast forward a couple of months, another department wanted to hire me as a graphic designer. Again, I was assigned to do things I had never done before, but I googled and YouTubed my way around it.

One day I was given my first big task. I was gigged to be the “main and only” graphic designer for an event that would potentially carry a couple thousand people. I was given my first contract gig — beyond my internship — my first steps as an entrepreneur if you will. I had never considered myself a graphic designer, I had never labeled myself an anything. But I took this up, next thing I know the whole event has my designs plastered everywhere. My art was everywhere — I had never felt more omnipresent than in that moment.

So fast forward a few lessons, new skills, more clients. I was assigned to design for my own graduation. I know people feel proud to graduate, but that’s nothing to compared to what I felt. I was holding a certificate that I designed, the boards, presentations, photos taken in front of the banners I created, memory walks, parent plaques. I was everywhere on the graduation and then I was everywhere in Africa. People carrying my art with them back home — I didn’t think it would get better than that.

But it didn’t stop there. Listen, I love every artist you know — even the ones I don’t. I am every artist’s biggest fan, because they see the world through the same lens I do. So when I see a successful artist even touching my work of art, I sit back and tell God that I can die, I have lived.

Let me back up and tell the story properly. I designed the collateral for this year’s Business of Conservation Conference (BCC) where again — my art was everywhere, again I was omnipresent — but that wasn’t even the best part. The fangirl in me got to see Fred, Ne-yo and Naomi Campbell taking pictures in front of my art. Hundreds of people got to see and appreciate my art, this is my current epitome of success as an artist. And now I am looking forward to the ALN gathering in Ghana where my art will again be displayed among thousands, hanged around people’s necks, pictures taken around it — appreciated.

As a graphic designer my art doesn’t have to be in a gallery to be seen. It is bigger than that, my art is now printed on name tags, given as business cards, printed as banners, distributed as fliers, shared on presentations, worn as accessories, posted as a picture — my art becomes a lifestyle. I am a lot of artists, but so far this has been my most fulfilling form of art — both financially and artistically.

I could say that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, but no, I still have to learn CGI, design dragons, cartoons I loved when I was young, build an art school, be an accountant, and so much more. My decision on what I want to pursue as a career has constantly changed over the course of my life. I knew it is right to change my mind and pursue something different, because if I can pull it off - then I’m skilled to do it - and my complex smart mind will find a way to tie it to my original passion. Grow forward, outward and upward, instead of just sitting there and banging on that one door.

The point of this loooooong story is to say that I know what I love and want to do now, but I reserve the right to change my mind in the future, because if I think I know what tomorrow brings — I have another thing coming.

A publication of ALU Alumni Association