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They lied to us

By Zamantungwa Khumalo

We’ve been sold the idea that we can chase our dreams, that we can carpe diem through life, that we can drop out of varsity and be the next Zuckerberg.

The reality on the ground isn’t as rosy. The people who tell you to chase your dreams won’t tell you how you’ll go to varsity, get good grades, then struggle to find a job. They won’t tell you how you’ll struggle to find a job that will pay you enough to ”keep up with your friends” (even though they have a similar job so you wonder how they can afford the expensive car, eat out at Melrose Arch and buy Woolies groceries and and and).

The people who tell you to chase your dream won’t tell you how you’ll find yourself uninspired in your nine-to-five, how you’ll hate being surrounded by colleagues, some older than you, some your age, who’ve long given up on their dreams. These people. The won’t tell you this.

They won’t tell you how you’ll have one crisis after another because “this isn’t where I’m supposed to be”. No. They’re not going to tell you that.

Here is what they should tell you:

• You might wake up one morning, the third week into your new job and realise that “this isn’t what I want”. And yes this will be after all those years spent at varsity studying to become exactly that.

• One day you’ll look in the mirror and not recognise yourself — you’ll have an out-of-body experience.

• During this out-of-body experience you’ll ask yourself questions like: “Who am I? What am I meant to do with my life? What is my purpose?”

• You will have a quarter-life crisis.

• You will wonder if you should chase those “unrealistic” dreams you had back at varsity before you had to worry about the petrol price, debit orders, the medical aid and your car instalment.

When you get that nice job, when you’re driving your fancy car and eating at Tashas or sitting in your rented townhouse eating Woolies malva pudding while watching Suits or The Fixer, remember.

Remember how you wanted to start that company. Remember how you wanted to build that library back home. Remember how you wanted to challenge the status quo. It’s easy to forget these things.

Try and remember because being young and ambitious can be a burden but it’s also a great opportunity.

Whatever you do don’t let the fear of greatness paralyse you into doing nothing.

Zamantungwa Khumalo is a One Young World ambassador for South Africa. She is currently reading for her bachelor of arts degree with majors in international relations and political studies. Her passion for international affairs and global governance has seen her representing South Africa at the Y20/G20 Delegates’ Summit in Puebla, Mexico, as well as the G8 and G20 youth summits in Washington DC, US.


  • One Young World

    One Young World is a UK-based not-for-profit that gathers together the brightest young people from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections and develop lasting solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues. At the annual One Young World Summit, the most valuable young talent from global and national companies, NGOs, universities and other-forward thinking organisations are joined by world leaders, acting as the One Young World Counsellors.