Over the years I’ve been able to convince myself that money was not important to me. It would never feature in the way I perceived others, it would never dictate who I saw as ideal friends or future life partners, it was just money and it certainly wouldn’t feature, in any way, my definition of myself.
And then I decided to get an MBA and with it came a loan. My understanding of the value of money changed the day I graduated. With a customary life insurance policy I had had to opt into and no concrete job prospects in my field of choice, for the first time, the value of my life became measurable. My life now had a value which was effectively worth more with me dead than alive. For example: if I walk out of my parents house where I currently live while figuring out next steps (At times, euphemistically referred to as ‘between consulting engagements’), and I am hit by a trotro (local minibuses that make up the majority of Accra’s transit system), my parents get nothing, but the alumni loan fund that funded my MBA gets approximately $10,000. Just like that.
The mere thought does something to one’s view of themselves. It’s like the culmination of all the conflicted feelings I’ve bottled over the past three months of job hunting. I know I am smart: I went to a top ten business school; I got in with three years of global experience and flowery albeit genuine essays on how I planned to change the world with my international upbringing and proven ability to merge creativity and commerce; I speak five languages. And yet, as I attended interview after interview, pondered the opportunity costs of LinkedIn Premium subscriptions and fielded connections with people I had met at conferences and forums at my elite 1 year program, the rejections began to eat away at what I noticed was my carefully constructed confidence, replacing it with embarrassed excuses as to why I, the smart African woman with three elite degrees and fluency in 5 languages, could seemingly not get a job to save my life. In the same way, I know I am worth more alive than dead: I have a family that has supported me financially. I have friends who bring me joy and make me laugh and challenge me intellectually. But unless I come up with a plan in the next three months, I fear this sense of worthless in the eye of the beholder will only further crystallize.
Am I scared? Somewhat. I know I didn’t go to business school to make a quarter of a million a year. I was realistic in my financial aspirations and want what’s fair for a person whose CV spans over 5 years of experience with steadily increasing responsibility and international exposure via some of the world’s most recognizable brands. But I also know that I went to business school with the hope of finding or creating a job that would be impactful in its endeavors. I know I can’t save the world with an MBA, but I honestly believed that it was possible to find a motley crew of a company or co-founders that was working to do just that, however idealistically.
Money these days has come to represent a freedom I know I won’t have in the next 5 years (unless I deliberately walk into traffic, or perhaps explore escorting or better still spend the time and money I use to job hunt, to make myself more appealing to the male gaze and strategically insert myself in a cohort of single billionaires). My focus for the month of January, aside from working out how to be more financially independent, is to not be stuck. To remove myself from the emotion of feeling like I have no power or options or ability to affect the situation I find myself. Some days, it feels like I am sweeping a beach in harmattan. Other days are better, and an opportunity presents itself like a glimmering pebble amongst a pile of indistinguishable sea rocks.
Before I did the MBA, my biggest fear was going through the one year process like an assembly line doll, and walking out in a monochrome pantsuit. Now that I am being mindful of both my financial and career goals, I think that may be inevitable, at least for a while. At the end of the day, I want to come out a stronger person. With my superwoman outfit underneath the pantsuit, waiting for the day or the intermittent moments when I can rip it off in search for the meaning I’ve been actively seeking for almost three years now.