How do I know my purpose in life? What are my interests? Do I know the things that I like? How about the things that I dislike? How do I know what the future holds for me? What career path will I choose? Will it satisfy me till the end? These are the questions lingering in the mind of three young but hopeful girls in their teens.
Adaeze, Blessing, and Nkechi met in a peaceful neighborhood where the land is rich with different kinds of plants and trees. Their friendship blossomed during their childhood. Even then, the young girls talked about what they wanted to be.
Adaeze, who is tough and strong, always wanted to lead. She dreams of becoming a famous person in politics. Her parents thought of her as someone that is firm in everything she says. She has no fear as long as she knows what is true and fair. She is a firm believer of the saying ‘justice will always prevail’.
Blessing, on the other hand, wants to educate children. Not only does she love being around children, she also loves education and impacting knowledge. Blessed with an irresistible smile, whenever she smiles, those around her smile back at her. She wants to become a teacher to help others acquire knowledge, grow and achieve their dreams in life.
Nkechi is good at putting things together. When it comes to being resourceful, other kids go to her for help. Her parents believe she is very gifted. She is good at visualizing things and how they work. A natural born problem solver, Nkechi dreams of inventing new things to make life easier and better for those around her. Unlike Adaeze and Blessing, Nkechi knows how to assemble and fix simple machines, like bicycles. She even designed a puzzle box for her toys as a child.
The three girls grew up together in the same neighborhood. They each knew what the other dreamt of. Sometimes, they laughed over their dreams and the uncertainty of the future. Who knew what they would become one day? Only fate and destiny knew what tracks they would choose. The changing seasons, the fields they played in and the trees are witnesses to their journey together.
It was during their preparation for the Senior Secondary School Certificate Exams that the question was raised again: What do I want to do for the rest of my life? It lingered in their minds.
Nkechi was outside her house that day, observing a line of ants marching towards a hole that they likely dug a while back. She thought, “How can they design such a hole, durable and strong enough not to crumble? Do they know what they are doing?”
Nkechi sighed as she looked at the paper in her hand, titled “Programs/Courses”. Her thoughts about the ants flew away like the birds disturbed by the strong wind that was blowing.
“What are you doing outside?”
Nkechi was startled, turning around to see Adaeze as she responded, “I was thinking about the ants.”
Adaeze laughed and answered, “What is wrong with the ants, and why are you holding the JAMB brochure outside?”
Nkechi sighed, “I do not know what I want to take…I do not even know what I want in life.”
Adaeze paused to watch the ants bring something down into the hole beneath the ground. “Maybe…they think it is safe down there…to keep their food inside…to make them full for the rest of the season.”
Nkechi replied, “To be safe. They work to get food and keep everything and everyone safe.” And so, Nkechi thought to herself: “Maybe…I want a career that will keep everyone safe. That is what I want.”
While Adaeze and Nkechi were still watching the ants, Blessing arrived, holding the JAMB registration printout. Everyone knew Blessing wanted to be a teacher. It is in her personality. She had been talking about it since childhood.
“What are you two doing?” She asked, puzzled at the way they were looking at the ants.
Adaeze responded, “Nkechi here is quite confused about the ants — what the ants want to become when they grow up.”
Nkechi laughed, “Stop being silly. Adaeze is joking. Blessing, you brought your JAMB registration slip?”
Blessing smiled, “Yes. I have registered already.”
Adaeze and Nkechi took the registration slip from Blessing. They were surprised to read: “Nursing Sciences.”
Nkechi said to Blessing, “Really? I thought you want to be a teacher and educate young people?”
“I also thought you wanted to be a teacher,” Adaeze seconded.
Blessing paused, thinking: “Well, I wanted to teach. I wanted to educate young people, kids. Perhaps, interests change over time. Though I still want to educate others, I want to improve their way of living. I want them to know how to live safely. Without sickness. I want to protect them by educating them.”
“I can still be a teacher once I know what I will teach. I want to know more about health and medicine.” Blessing responded.
Adaeze nodded. “Right, making everyone safe. Not bad. As for me, I want to be an environmental engineer.”
All of you thought I might become a politician,” She added. “But I thought about where we live. I grew up here. I saw how our mothers and fathers cultivated this place. I want to protect it as it is. I guess I can do that by studying how it can be preserved. I am fascinated by the environment.”
Nkechi listened and thought about Adaeze and Blessing. She imagined Blessing assisting sick people in the community. Educating about disease prevention. Talking to people about health and safety.
“Ah! She fits into that role.” She sighed.
She also imagined Adaeze talking to the community about preserving the environment. Surveying lands for cultivation. Teaching people how they can plant trees and manage the cultivated lands for good use of the environment.
“Oh, she could be a good and successful environmental engineer!” Nkechi thought.
“The ants are gone. I think it is going to rain.” Adaeze noticed the cloudy skies.
“Let’s go home and see each other tomorrow,” Blessing seconded.
“Alright, then, I’ll see you both tomorrow,” Nkechi answered.
Nkechi kept thinking about choosing a course. She thought deeply, until she was interrupted by her mother’s call to her father, “Is the water clean? Good for drinking?”
Nkechi thought, “Water…it is important…it has always been important.”
She heard her mother again, “How can we fix this faucet?”
“Faucet…water…” Nkechi thought, “I am good at assembling things. I can even imagine them in my head being built.”
Nkechi’s mother shouted, “Did you call the plumber? The engineer must have anticipated problems like this.”
Nkechi had an idea. She opened her laptop and searched for engineering.
“I think I know now what I want.”
She has always been fascinated by simple machines and pipes. Nkechi was also always curious about her surroundings. Like Blessing and Adaeze, she wanted to help the community. This is one reason they are such close friends; they wanted to help as much as possible.
Grabbing her jotter, she wrote: “Chemical Engineering.” She knew she wanted to contribute to the prevention of diseases brought about by dirty water. Like Adaeze, she wanted to protect the community through education. Like Blessing, she wanted to create a clean and safe environment.
Nkechi thought deeply as she looked at the subjects she needed to register for her chosen course. She looked outside her window and gazed at the stars in the sky. She marveled at how beautifully made the environment was. She thought of the ants in the hole underground.
She thought, “I want the ants to be safe. I want us to be safe.”
She sighed with satisfaction as she thought about her dream of becoming an engineer. She imagined working with her friends in the community. She wondered.
It was the first day of their courses. Adaeze, Blessing, and Nkechi had been admitted to study the courses they had chosen. Adaeze, with her enthusiasm for nature and surveying, chose Environmental Engineering. Blessing, who was known for her motherly instinct and care for education, selected Nursing. Nkechi, after her realization, had decided on Chemical Engineering.
The three were up for the challenge of achieving their dreams. What would the future hold for them?
“I am nervous. Do you think I can do this?” Nkechi spoke.
Blessing responded, “Everything is going to be fine as long as we stick together and to our dreams, right Adaeze?”
Adaeze was amazed by how big the school was. She responded, “One thing I am thinking about is this awesome building. I am really up for the challenge!”
The young ladies separated and went to their different classes with feelings of nervousness, enthusiasm, and uncertainty. Starting something new is always difficult, but with perseverance and courage, anything and everything is possible.
In their classes, they met other students with the same target: to graduate with a good degree. Their career goals may have been different, but they all aim to finish the race to graduation. The students came from different places with different experiences. The three young ladies welcomed the chance to learn more about other people.
“Hello, my name is Blessing Chukwu. It is nice to meet everyone. I hope to learn more about disease prevention.”
“Hi! I am Adaeze Onyema. I am interested in learning more about environmental preservation and conservation. I would also like to know each one of you better.”
“Nkechi Johnson here! How is everyone? I am a bit nervous about this course, but I plan to use the knowledge I gain for the improvement of our community.”
The three ladies represented their community well. After the orientation, they met for a short talk. They also went home together, sharing stories about their day as they walked.
“Oh, I am so glad I picked this course.” Adaeze shared. “Everyone seems nice. They, too, love nature.”
Blessing shared the same sentiments, “Me too. Nursing is a tough course, as they say, but it seems to be an exciting one.”
Nkechi listened to the two as she quietly thought about her course.
Nkechi is more unsure. “Am I doing this right?” She said to herself.
Unlike Adaeze and Blessing, she was unsure of how she felt about Chemical Engineering. But she wanted to know more. She wanted to learn.
“How about you, Nkechi?” Adaeze asked.
“I, too, am happy but curious about the course,” Nkechi replied.
“Well, I am sure not everyone knows all about the course,” Blessing replied. That is why we applied, to learn!”
“Yes, take courage. Everything will fall into place. Smile now.” Adaeze teased Nkechi.
“I am lucky to have you as my friends.” Nkechi smiled at Adaeze and Blessing as she reached for their hands while walking.
The semesters passed quickly. Years of persistent studying and learning finally paid off. Graduation neared and the three young ladies have finally realized their calling.
Blessing planned on celebrating the moment with her family at a restaurant. Adaeze, on the other hand, wanted a weekend getaway, while Nkechi seemed to be planning something wonderful.
“Why don’t we do something nice for our small community?” Nkechi asked Adaeze and Blessing. “I know you both have plans after graduation, but can we plan something for our community?”
Blessing thought about creating pamphlets on hygiene for girls in the community. Adaeze wanted to prepare food and drink to feast on. Nkechi planned on setting up a short talk about sanitation, hygiene, and the environment, with the three of them as speakers.
“Why don’t we invite the children in our community?” Nkechi continued.
“Brilliant idea!” Blessing responded.
Adaeze smiled, “That would be great.”
After passing out from their National Youth Service, the three young ladies returned to their community and were preparing for the short talk.
“INVITATION: GIVING BACK TO OUR COMMUNITY”, read the invitations Nkechi created. She created one for everyone in the neighborhood. The invitations looked great as they matched the color of the leaves and the hue of the water. She wanted a natural clean look for the invitation.
Adaeze created an outline for their talk. She made sure there was a storytelling portion about having good hygiene, with Blessing as the storyteller. She also included a note on the importance of nature and planting trees in small spaces. Adaeze wanted to let the kids experience planting trees. The last part was for Nkechi, who would talk about sanitation and conservation of water, for both kids and parents.
Blessing handed the invitations out to their neighbors. She also talked to her parents about using the big space in front of their house for the event. As the neighbors received their invitations, they congratulated Blessing on finishing her youth service. She gladly thanked them, thinking of the role they had played in her childhood. Who would have even thought about her being a nurse?
For Nkechi, the event seemed like the food that ants store in their hole. Storing knowledge among young women is like prevention from diseases and disasters.
“Teaching young women to take care of themselves and their environment is important,” Blessing wrote in the script for their talk.
And so, the day of the event came. At first, there were only three to four girls who came at the same time.
“Why are there so few?” Adaeze asked.
“I distributed the invitations well,” Blessing responded, worried.
“You guys, do not be in a hurry. We can wait.” Nkechi answered.
As expected by Nkechi, waiting for ten minutes resulted in around 20 young girls and their families in attendance. The event started with the storytelling of Blessing, who told of a girl who did not want to wash her hands. The kids laughed at the story as they also became wary of getting sick. Blessing then concluded the story by stating the importance of hygiene and the habit of washing hands.
The storytelling was followed by Adaeze’s activity. They had prepared small pots with soil for planting. She mentioned the importance of planting trees in their neighborhood and told a story of how once their neighborhood had had flowing water nearby. The kids were in awe.
After the first two parts, Nkechi gathered the parents to speak about having clean water, good plumbing, and water conservation. She mentioned that it is important to have proper waste disposal as well, in connection to Adaeze’s talk for the kids. The neighborhood enjoyed the activity.
Little did the three young ladies know, their neighbors had prepared a congratulatory surprise. With their parents’ initiative, they had created banners saying: “Good luck on your journey, ladies!”
Blessing, Adaeze, and Nkechi hugged each other and they thanked their neighbors and parents for the surprise. They thought about their childhood growing up in the community, and the role they would play in the community’s future. Growing up in a healthy community is important in a child’s life. As they say: It takes a village to raise a child. And now, the three young ladies were off to embark on an unknown but exciting career journey.
After the event, the young ladies gathered for a short talk, like they always do.
“Do you think the world will be good to us?” Nkechi asked.
“Of course! We are good, and we will be successful,” Blessing answered.
“All I know is that I am excited for my first job as an engineer,” says Adaeze.
“We know!” Both Nkechi and Blessing laughed.
Thinking about their future, Nkechi, Blessing, and Adaeze looked up to the sky and wondered: What is in store for us? Like the ants going safely underground while securing food and shelter for everyone, the young ladies wanted to secure a safe and good future not only for themselves and their community, but for everyone. They wanted a better world for everyone who has dreams and aspirations.
After a few days of rest, the three young ladies prepared their applications to look for a job. Blessing, being organized as she is, already had her application written to assist in the hospital nearby. She wanted more hands-on experience in a hospital environment. Though she was still preparing for the license examination for registered nurses, she wanted to refresh her memories and also see practical applications of some of the things she had learned in books.
Adaeze and Nkechi, on the other hand, prepared their applications for jobs near the community. Unlike Blessing, they were not preparing for a license exam, but looking for engineering jobs.
As Blessing hurried on her way to a job interview at the hospital, she passed Adaeze and Nkechi. Her two friends called out, “Ble-…”
But Blessing was in a hurry and just waved good-bye to the ladies.
“Well, she is busy,” Nkechi said.
“Oh, job hunting again. Seems like we will be doing this for the rest of our lives,” Adaeze exaggerated.
“Haha! At least, we will be together for this part-time job.” Nkechi said.
Adaeze and Nkechi would go together for a part-time job in a non-government organization protecting wildlife and the environment. It may not be their dream job, but it is one step closer.
As Blessing passed her friends by, she thought of how far they had come. She crossed roads she never knew existed outside their community, as she had always been comfortable inside.
“Hi! I’m Blessing…”
“For an interview?” a man in a suit asked.
“Yes, for the interview.” Blessing answered.
The man led her into a small room in the hospital. On her left were hospital file cabinets, stacked with folders and papers. On the right were two desktop computers on a long desk. Blessing sat on a chair beside one of the computers.
“Wait for a moment.” The man in the suit left.
Blessing saw that the man in the suit had a long white lab gown over his arm.
“Seems like a laboratory person assisted me,” Blessing thought.
After five minutes, a woman entered the small room. She was wearing a long, white coat with a name tag that said: Madu, Sylvia. Blessing handed over her application form.
As soon as the woman had read her form, she asked, “So, when do you plan to start? Can you start now? Oh, by the way, you will be working with outpatient department. Punctuality is a must.”
Blessing gladly answered, “I can start now.”
“Shall we go in?” Adaeze smiled at Nkechi as she glanced at the work area of the non-government organization called Grow Incorporated. They saw a tree nursery and mini forest, and a small house was right in the middle of the place. The young ladies were surprised by the land area of the organization.
Adaeze was in awe as they reached the house. Nkechi read the signs: “For Tree Planting, Human Resources, and Sanitation Staff Only”.
“Let’s go here where it says, Staff Only. I bet we are called staff,” Nkechi giggled.
Adaeze agreed as they knocked on the door.
A tall woman appeared, smiling, “Welcome. How may I be of assistance to you” she asked.
Adaeze and Nkechi smiled widely as they handed over their application forms.
“Call me Lily,” The woman introduced herself.
Both young ladies greeted Lily and introduced themselves and told her their reason for coming. She gave them a tour of the facilities and their office area for work in the Water Quality Testing Unit. She told Adaeze and Nkechi that she can teach them about Engineering in general, as she also graduated from the same course as Nkechi, Chemical Engineering.
“I hope you will enjoy the work and most importantly the place, the way I do. As peaceful and close to nature as it is, please use this as your relaxation area as well. Do not hesitate to ask me for assistance.”
The world of work was a taste of reality. While waiting to receive replies to their applications, they were getting practical experience working for the NGO.
Ants work for their lives together with other insects and animals. They work individually and as a team. Nothing in the world can stand alone. Maybe that is why there is a term called Biodiversity. People may live alone, but they are interconnected.
What may be in store for young people? The answer is A LOT. Just as Adaeze, Nkechi, and Blessing searched for their careers and interests, as they wandered, so are the young men and women of the world. Just like ants digging a hole, securing their life, and bringing food to eat, so are the men and women toiling each day with the work they have. The balance between human work and nature relies on the different sectors in the community.
Lily taught Adaeze and Nkechi to commune with nature as they work for the betterment of the environment and their community. Sade taught Blessing the importance of diligence in out-patient care to the health of the community. Two different areas but one aim: Securing the health and safety of the community.
Have you ever wondered what can you contribute to the community and the rest of the world? Go to the ants. The ants will teach you how.