One day, last year, I was scrolling down my Twitter feed, as one usually does when they want to be abreast with the latest news. If you are familiar with Twitter you would know that there is a plethora of news, views and interesting, very interesting randomness- statements that are meant to raise the eyebrows of whoever is reading- and sometimes you (deliberately) fall into the Twitter rabbit hole by reading the comments on a tweet, the comments on the comments on a tweet, threads upon threads and so on. However, on this particular day, I came across a tweet that I will never forget. It was a cry for help and at the same accurately summed up what many Zimbabwean millennials go through daily. In it a young woman expressing how she disliked going to work to the point of depression and physical illness but for the sake of her financial stability wouldn’t leave her job.
Many Zimbabwean millennial have grown up listening two messages; that of their parents or guardians who insist that they live better lives and achieve more than previous generations, and that of the mostly Western media which highlights that living out your dreams is the ultimate key to happiness, success and fulfillment. In and of themselves neither of these messages is wrong. As the generation born in post- Independent Africa, we are supposed to represent the realization of the dreams of those who came for before us– black people who can be on equal footing as their white counterparts and hold their own in an increasingly globalized world. The encouragement to do better than our parents is the encouragement to surpass the limitations which were placed on our people in previous generations. On the other hand, following our dreams is indeed a noble but sometimes impractical pursuit. It makes us bolder, it makes us happier and for many it makes life worth living. A deteriorating economy has, however, made it more difficult for young people build better lives and at the same time realize their dreams. The people who have been able to do so are the exceptions as the latter is usually sacrificed for the former or vice versa, or, quite tragically, both are sacrificed for survival. The stories are as diverse as they come, someone who trained to be a marketer is now a vendor, someone who longs to be a musician has an 8 to 5 office job, but the common factor is that there are broken dreams aplenty.
In a world where many incorrectly find their sense of purpose and worth in their job the physical, mental and emotional cost of being unhappy with your career path is great but is underestimated. According to studies, it can lead to weight loss or weight gain, depression, anxiety, losing sleep and a loss of confidence and self-worth. For the aforementioned young women to come forward, albeit on a usual platform like Twitter, must have taken some courage. Expressing such thoughts to an older family member may be met with a sympathetic shingirira mwanangu, an encouragementto be strong and to push forward, because our default mode as a nation has become survival. This young women story is not the first of its kind that I have come across nor is it the last. Her story elicited empathetic responses from those who read her tweet because they could see pieces of themselves or of someone they knew in it.
In the times we are living in there are no easy answers to the personal fulfillment vs survival problem. In a country where poverty is prevalent the cost of losing your sense of fulfillment and your financial security are of equal weight. What is certain is that those determined individuals who have managed to attain both success and happiness through their careers instill hope and belief that a time may come where sacrifices do not result in disappointments.