My Mother is 57 and Just Started Her PhD.- 3 Lessons I’ve Learned
On a Thursday evening after work, I got home and plopped down on my sofa knowing I was about to spend most of the night helping my mother work through her Powerpoint presentation for a term paper. I was a little tired, but then I reflected on the bravery it must take to ask for help for almost everything when it comes to technology. In 1998, before computers were common place in Nigeria, she gave up her career to move around the world with my father and her children. But last year she decided to fulfil her lifelong dream.
She is learning quickly, and insists that I show rather than do anything for her. This requires a great helping of patience on my part, but it’s also making me a better teacher, so I’m grateful.
I tweeted about her bravery, I went downstairs to work with her, and by the time I checked my phone later that night, 500 people had retweeted. I was in shock. Of course this doesn’t compare to Kim Kardashian breaking the internet or Barack and Michelle Obama hugging after winning a second term, but it did bring a pause. What was it about that tweet that resonated with so many people? The replies and DMs I received from strangers asking me to share words of encouragement with my mother gave my heart a kind of buoyancy it hasn’t experienced in a while.
From reading people’s messages, and my little life experience, it seems like we count ourselves out of the things we want most because of some bad, untrue story we tell ourselves.
My mother, by starting her PhD (her Masters was completed last year) and overcoming that bad story she had been telling herself, has taught me three important things.
(1) You don’t have to resign to your ‘fate’.
In fact, when you find yourself thinking “I guess this is the way my life is going to go,” that is the sign you’ve been waiting for to make the greatest pushback. I remember coming back from work one evening and she told me she was off to school the next day. That was it. It took her time and a lot of doubt before she arrived at this point. She simply woke up one day and decided to play out the “what if” scenario from her imagination. That precious moment of courageous participation has filled her life with new friends, new inspiration, and new opportunity.
(2) Learning from a place of joy
Always in tow, even when she is sat in class, is the memory of what it took to get there. And this has nothing to do with the fact that she journeys three to five hours between Lagos and Ibadan most days of the week. I remember when I was in college, every class was the most important thing I had ever done. Every failure was going to be the end of me. There was so much anxiety in the whole process. Her learning is coming from a place of joy and peace and calm appreciation of the fact that she is taking back control of her journey. Even when an exam or presentation doesn’t go well, it rolls off her back. Mistakes are inevitable when a person is striving valiantly.
(3) Everyone needs a champion.
There have definitely come times when she hasn’t felt up to it. Like some weeks ago, when there was a passing in the family and she missed the first two classes of ‘Statistics for Social Sciences’. For fear of being totally lost, she felt she should resume next semester. I thought of all the times she pushed me, fought for me, and lifted me up and I was grateful to do the same in that moment. It was 9pm and all she needed was a little push. She went to bed and woke up at 5am to head back to school.
At the time I published this, this post had over 40,000 likes but most importantly almost 500 comments! I read many of them her. And she said a prayer for everyone who congratulated her, felt inspired and especially for those who replied saying that either themselves or a loved one is on the same journey.
“May the Lord guide you and keep you. May He give you help and strength when you need it, and may He keep you in the confidence that He who has begun a good work in you, will see it through to completion. Amen”