What Now?

Written by Ree Mwase

You’ve heard it all before my dear graduate:

It was a glorious occasion. You’ve had the time of your life. According to your relatives, you are now a national treasure. For a moment it seemed that you were on top of the world and nothing could stop you. The president of Zimbabwe himself placed that cap of knowledge atop your head.

Little did you know the cap of knowledge would be your ceiling. An irony that leaves a coppery taste in the mouth, given that knowledge is said to be powerful. Can the knowledge you possess empower you to realize your dreams?

You went to sleep late that night, having spent hours responding to the myriad congratulatory text messages from family, friends, lovers, exes, enemies, and haters. You have made your mama proud and proven that hard work pays off. While your other friends bunked lectures, chased thrills, had babies and then dropped out, you went to church, practiced safe sex (or had none at all) and studied hard. Results cannot be argued with, you think to yourself. Not if life has anything to say about it,doubt whispers.

Two weeks scurry past you like ants headed towards the anthill. Suddenly, the congratulatory texts die down and questions start mobbing your inbox like a swarm of angry bees. It then hits you that you are now expected to have a job, a house, a car, and a serious relationship by year end. So what’s next? What now? Have you applied anywhere? Innocent questions, but they now feel like an indictment. You want to switch off your phone and be left alone to plan the way forward. But you cannot do so because you need to contact people who made you promises while you were still at university. You text them on every social network and buy call credit with your dwindling cash to phone them. You assure yourself that something will turn up soon. However, life is not yet done with you.

Two months pass you by. By now even your parents are wondering if you are really putting an effort towards getting a job. If only they knew about the immaculate CV that you have penned and edited a thousand times. The applications you have so eloquently written. The number of times you check your email, hoping a semblance of good news has arrived. You see the people from the class you topped at graduation tweeting about their new jobs and how God is good. You tell yourself you are not going to be jealous or bitter but you can’t help wishing it’d been you getting those opportunities. Your judgmental nature surfaces. She probably traded her body for that job. He has an uncle who works at that company. At least I am honest and qualify by merit. It’s not the end of the world anyway. God will see me and give me favor.

A year has passed. You are now a till operator working eight hours a day. Not bad, though your salary comes with deductions every time there is a deficit after the money is counted. By now you have stopped writing application letters. You’ll resume next year, or so you tell yourself. Suddenly, you find yourself looking at the couple with a trolley brimming with goods. Then you remember that the woman actually attended the same university as you, got pregnant and then dropped out. She looks happy with her man, who looks middle-aged. I hope she doesn’t remember me, you think to yourself. A wave of relief washes over you when they head for an adjacent till. Still, it burns a hole in your heart to see that the girl you laughed at two years ago seems to have won at life. Life has had the last laugh.

Finally, work ends and you can be with your phone. You open your WhatsApp inbox to see that your third girlfriend in six months has broken up with you. She was probably cheating on you and is not worth crying over. But then the monumental question returns to the forefront of your thoughts: WHAT NOW?