This article is specially written and dedicated to every student. It is my desire that this story about how I almost gave up on my education and how I finally graduated will bring out the best in every student all over the world.
Disclaimer: It is a very long story but I’m sure it will be worth the read.
All my years as a student from my primary to university days, I was always a ‘bookworm’ and ‘serious student.’ I didn’t have a social life at all. Of course, I had a few friends but we never really engaged in social activities. It was better for me because some of my friends were equally ‘bookworms’ like me. I think they were even worse than me because they would go to the library to read and go for night class. I hate reading anywhere outside the comfort of my room so I always stayed indoors to read. As an introvert, I used to avoid human interaction, so if I’m not attending lectures, attending fellowship, in the canteen, or doing something important outside my hostel, I would be in my room, on my bed with my books. I never went for night class all through my university days, but if you pay me a visit at night, you would be sure to see me reading.
This kind of lifestyle worked for me all through my primary and secondary school days. My academic records were outstanding, but when I entered university, my academic performance dropped.
I had the worst results in my first two years in the university. In 200 level second semester, I had the worst result I’ve ever had in my life. Let me tell you how bad it was.
Then, I wasn’t a fan of social media. I didn’t even have a smartphone then. I was using one ancient Nokia phone that could only permit Whatsapp and Facebook. In early 2014, I took an indefinite break from Whatsapp because I felt I was getting addicted to it. So I was left with just Facebook. I didn’t have a Facebook app on my phone either and with my ‘aproka’ phone, it would take a long while before I received messages so chatting there weren’t always flowing. And then, I didn’t have close friends. The friend I had was my course mate and we saw mostly in class only and in fellowship. Outside lectures and fellowship, I was a loner.
In my 100 level, I was very active in fellowship and even became an exco. But because my grades were not as good as expected, my parents asked me to resign and I was permitted to attend fellowship only once a week. I was also prohibited from attending fellowship during exams period.
So you see, there were no distractions in my life. I had enough time to read. But the more I read, the more my grades dropped. In my second semester 200 level (2014), i studied harder than I’d ever done especially during the exams period. As a rule, I used to go home every weekend but that semester’s exams period; I had somehow convinced my dad that I needed to stay in the hostel so I could be focused. I read like my life depended on it. I would go for my exams, come back to the hostel, eat and then begin another round of reading. This time around, I even became more serious and stopped staying on my bed to read. I would sit on my roommate’s’ table and chair to study (because I didn’t have one then). I would sit there reading till late in the night sometimes till early the next morning. It got to a point that the chair and table became my bed and my back didn’t touch the bed for like 2 consecutive days. I would sit and read and when I’m tired and I would lay my head on the table and sleep.
When the results came out, I was shattered. The word shattered is an understatement. My GP was below 3 points on a 5.0 scale. My CGPA fell from a 4.1 grade point to about 0.5 points below. It was bad but what broke me was that when I did some calculations, I realized that I would never reach a 4.5 grade point (First Class degree) even if I had all A’s in all my courses till I graduated.
Life became useless to me. If I could work this hard and fail like this then there’s no need for me to even study again. All my dreams were shattered. I saw my life crushing before me. That was the first time in my life I became suicidal. Because of my academic history, people were looking up to me; they had great expectations of me. I was always top of my class right from primary school days. In my senior secondary, I was on a tuition scholarship for all the 3 years because I was the overall best in my class. I graduated as the best graduating student in my set and I had the highest JAMB score in my school (288 out of 400). I had a score of 272 out of 400 in my aptitude test and was the second on the admission merit list. All these results were actually mine, I wrote all the exams myself without any form of assistance. So when I say, I was shattered you understand. I never believed something like this could ever happen to me especially because of how hard I worked. Knowing that I could never make a first class even if I had all A’s for the remainder of my program broke my heart to pieces. How would I be able to bear the shame? How would I explain this to people who knew my academic history? How will I face my parents? How will I face the world and everyone that had high expectations of me? I couldn’t bear the same, and I wanted to die.
I had to go home to face my parents and I think that was the worst part for me. I went through hell. They kept on asking me what went wrong but sincerely I didn’t know what went wrong. I know I studied very hard but they said if I did then it would show in my results. I was given options and somehow, I felt it was better for me to drop out and stop wasting their money because my grades were dropping the more I read.
I was already in 300 level when I saw my 200 level second semester results and I was so demoralized. I was ill shortly before I saw all my results. I had gone to the hospital and they gave me a few drugs and sent me for a test. When I went to the lab, I was told to come back the next day. That same day, I checked my results and due to my sorrow I never returned to the hospital for the test and I didn’t take my drugs either. I was ill and I wanted to die so that was the best way for me to just leave this world. Instead of me to be dying, I was getting better. It was strange. I was very ill and without my drugs I suddenly started getting well. Well, since death didn’t come, I just continued living. I was a walking corpse.
When my 300 level first semester results came out, it was still heart breaking. My CGPA dropped again. Well, I didn’t even have strength to mourn because I had already given up. I was just going to school to “fulfil all righteousness.”
In my 300 level second semester, one of my former friends, Pharm. Edifofon Akpan offered to help me. He said my problem was that I read too much and that I should reduce the rate at which I read. How could someone say that to me? My CGPA was falling day by day and instead of him to encourage me to read more, he was telling me to stop reading too much. Of course, I disagreed with him. I can be very stubborn at times so I refused to give him a chance to help me. He kept on persisting. He told me to trust him just once and if it doesn’t work out, I was free to end the friendship.
And so, after much persistence, I agreed to trust him. He drew up a timetable for me which included when I would rest in the day time and when I would sleep at night. He said I needed to sleep more at night and so my bed time was to be before 10 pm or and then wake up early to read when my brain will be fresh.
It was hard for me. Almost all my life, I used to stay up late to read and now I was to sleep as early as 10 pm. I tried to argue my way out especially since I was never an ‘early waker.’ Even with an alarm clock, I hardly woke up early.
Finally, I agreed to all his terms and took a big risk of my life. I would sleep all night even if I had not finished what I wanted to read and I tried to wake up early to read. (This was early 2015).
The risk was worth taking because when my results came out, it was and is still the best result I had throughout my university. I had 5 A’s, 2 B’s and 1 C which gave me a GP of 4.43. My CGPA rose up although by a very little percentage. But it was a relief to me that at last there was hope of me graduating with a good grade rather than dropping out.
I applied the same rules in my final year, and my results were amazing too, all thanks to Edifofon. In my final year, it was still hard for me especially because some lecturers really made life hard for us. There were days I would have lectures till about 7 or 8pm. One lecturer in particular loved to do that. Some days, we would go for lectures as early as 6 am. So you see, by the time I return from school, I would be tired and because of lectures lasting till 8pm, I wouldn’t have had time to read or do anything else in the day. But Edifofon will still insist that I sleep instead of reading. It was hard for me because I could not stay a day without reading. I must read before I sleep, that was my previous life. I sleep with my books on my bed, I wake up with them. I just couldn’t go a day without them but I had to start sleeping.
I also started having a social life; I started making time for my friends. With Anie, Amara, ImaObong, Enyene and Yome, my last 3 semesters in school were fun. And so, I finally graduated from school (in 2015) with a lesser number of hours spent reading, with a more active social life, with friends, with more sleeping hours especially at night and even with social media (by then I now had a smartphone with a Whatsapp, BBM, Instagram and Facebook accounts).
I didn’t graduate with a First Class Degree, I didn’t even get up to 4 points but I thank God I still graduated and with a good grade. And yeah, I’m no longer ashamed about that neither do I care what people will say.
This is the story of my first suicidal encounter. This is the story of how I almost gave up on my education. This is the story of how I overcame and graduated with a good grade.
From my experience, I will like to highlight some lessons I’ve learnt and things that I’ve gained.
1. This experience has humbled me. Now, I know what it feels like to be at the top and what it feels like to be at the bottom. Now I know that I’m not above failure and no one is.
2. There are people that study hard but still fail. It’s not about how hard you study but how smart.
3. Don’t be too rigid and hard on yourself. Learn to relax, to rest, sleep and play. You need all these as well.
4. Everything should be done in moderation. Don’t stress yourself out reading while depriving you of sleep. Don’t use all your time praying and attending fellowships while neglecting your academics. Don’t have too many friends that will distract you. Don’t spend too much time on the internet while your spiritual life and academics suffer. Learn to prioritize.
5. Sleep is good for your health and mental performance. Having a good night sleep can be very refreshing. It prepares your brain to function better the next day. I’m not against reading at night. If it works for you, good. But try to also get enough sleep.
6. You need friends in your life. You never know how that friend can help you and stimulate growth in you. Have friends but choose them wisely.
7. It is ok to be actively involved in fellowship or Church activities, campus politics, extra-curricular activities and social activities. But do all these in moderation. There should be a limit and boundary so that it won’t affect your activities. There is time for everything so you should be able to apportion time for each activity and as a student, more time should go to your academic activities.
8. Be flexible in your reading pattern. Maybe you used to read for 3 hours and you passed and now you’re failing. It may mean that you should read for more hours. Sometimes you may need to change your reading time, place and whatever pattern. Don’t be rigid. What worked for you last semester may not work for you this semester. You should be able to identify when you need to make amendments.
9. You can always rise up. Even if you have never had a good academic record, you can start today to recreate history. You can make it. Don’t give up no matter how many times you’ve failed. Keep pushing hard and one day you’ll get there.
10. Failure is not the end of life. I thought my life will be useless without a First Class degree. I thought I would never be able to have great achievements in life without a good grade. But here I am today, living my life happily and achieving great goals even outside my course of study.
Having First class is good. Having a good grade is good. Work for it. But if after all your efforts you still fail, my dear, pick yourself up and move forward. Failure is not the end of your life. All the great people you see in life have failed at one point or the other. You are not a failure if you fail. You will only be a failure if you accept defeat and refuse to rise up.
11. Don’t envy anyone. “All that glitters is not gold.” You may think a person has it all going smoothly for them but you never know what they’re going through.
12. Lastly, what works for me may not work for you. My story is not a standard that you must follow. There are some people that understand better at night, there are some people that can only read during night class. Please go for whatever works best for you.
Don’t let anyone intimidate you. I had a lecturer who would tell us how lazy we are, that he used to read for 20 hours in a day as a student. I don’t know how possible it is for someone to study for 20 hours out of 24 hours, but that’s none of my business though. It’s good if it worked for him but he shouldn’t use it to intimidate his students. Some will say they read for 6 hours at a stretch. It’s still good if it worked for them.
For me, I can’t sit down to read for hours at a stretch. I must take breaks in between, so such stories don’t intimidate me. Choose whatever method works best for you and go with it.
WORK HARD BUT WORK SMART TOO.