“Ulemu, you’ve been selected to College of Medicine,” Eager, my brother, said over the phone.
I jumped up and down on my bed, even dropping my small phone. Bursting with excitement, I saw my mum entering my room. Before she could ask, I had already broken the good news to her, “Mama I’m going to college, I will become a doctor maa.”
She smiled and wrapped her warm hands around me. I could feel she was so proud of her last born daughter.
My heart was finally at ease; I could see my dream coming true. Time passed so slowly, I couldn’t wait to become a medical student. I planned out my entire college life; the kind of person I’d be, friends I’d have, dress style and many more.
Finally, the day came. I bid farewell to my people, and mum as usual gave me some advice. Sometimes I’d worry that I was leaving my mum, but that couldn’t overcome the excitement I had, and besides, she was already used to being away from me for long periods of time.
College was quite a nice place, but it didn’t meet my expectations though. Starting my first year I started noticing how people dressed, their phones, laptops and lifestyle. I was way too far behind. We will all become doctors anyway, I tried convincing myself.
In the second semester things started to change, I started comparing myself to others and to what they had — worst mistake ever. It made me sad. In second year, the same thing happened, but it was worse this time and on top of the comparison thing, I hated and blamed myself for who I was and everything I had or didn’t have. I compared who I was; my body, my quiet personality, dress style and dullness.
Everyone around me seemed to have something better than I had. I’m useless, stupid, unlucky. I filled my diary with those kind of lines. I even began to change myself so that I could maybe fit in, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t cope with the new behaviour so I stopped. I didn’t tell anyone about my situation, I was afraid of being judged I guess.
I was broken, always sad. Most of my time was taken up by these useless thoughts. I lost concentration. I lived like this for quite some time. Then I noticed this unusual memory loss. Besides studies, I would forget even little things, like people’s names. I then remembered my pathology class which enlisted memory loss as one of the signs of tumours, cancer. Out of fear, I searched other causes of memory loss on the internet until I set my eyes on depression. I thought it’s the one. I’d heard of depression before but never thought it was a big issue.
I realised that depression had been taking a lot from my life, on top of academics; I was also affected socially, psychologically and even spiritually.
Lying on my bed thinking about the misery I was going through and the pile of undone work I had, I came to a realisation, the ‘AHA’ moment I guess.
“Ule, can’t you just accept and love who you are? Seriously imagine your dream being shattered over this, is it worth it?” I said out loud.
It’s not worth it, I finally realised. My mind-set changed a bit, I discouraged myself from thinking too much and would mind my own business. I made up my mind to become a better person, I believed changing myself to something I am not wasn’t a solution. I managed to concentrate on my studies for the remaining weeks up until exams; the stress would come but I would manage it. Noticing the change in my life, I made a choice to follow that path.
I started seeing things from another angle, a better one, and wondered why I wasted my time losing myself. Difficult situations teach great lessons indeed. I discovered that comparing yourself to others makes you feel inferior and jealous. I mean why should you compare your weaknesses with somebody’s strengths? The best option is to accept who you are together with your flaws — changing should only be for the better.
From that moment my life changed, I’m free. I know my worth. Be yourself, accept and love who you are and don’t try to change yourself just to fit in. These were some of the life lessons I learned in the first two years of college. I chose to be happy.
Tell us: Do you even compare yourself to other people? How does it make you feel?