The testimony of a first-class hustle
It was at the thanksgiving service of the Gospel Students Fellowship (GSF) in FUTA sometime in the later part of 2010. We the final year student members of the fellowship were to come out to share our testimonies. We took turns to talk about our five-year program in school. At first I couldn’t go out; I didn’t know what to say. Everyone else had a somewhat great experience going through school. How they never had a D, E or F; how they had the best results in their class, etc. My story was a lot different, but to say it was less of a miracle would be unfair.
After some time, I gathered enough strength to get up from my sit and walk up to the podium to grab the microphone. The congregation stared. What would this guy possibly have to say? Folks in the fellowship would take me as an outspoken person but still as so much of a controversial figure - so I didn’t fit as one who would have any relevant "religious" testimony. More so, it was only a few months to my graduation that I started attending services regularly. Then I stood, with the microphone held so tightly; I began to share the unexpected testimonies.
I can't remember the exact words used to convey my message but it was clearly about, how I had so many carryovers (failed courses) since my first year in school; how I stopped checking my CGPA because of my obsession with the many carryover courses listed at the end of my semester results. For almost three years in school, I didn’t really know what my CGPA was. It used to be out there, staring in my face, but I never really cared to find out what it was. Sincerely, what mattered to me then was how the so many carryover courses would disappear from my result sheet. At some point, I would have about 10 to 15 failed courses (not units o) as carryovers. Some of these courses, I had to take them again about 3-4 times.
My testimony was that: as at the time I stood before the fellowship, I had cleared all the carryover courses: ending almost a five-year struggle. The congregation marveled. This was certainly not the usual kind of testimony you come out to share. If you ever had a carryover, you would just sit and watch because certainly, God hasn’t been so good to you. [Abi] how would you explain that you managed to have this much carryover in the midst of other peers who had testimonies of excellence? At the end of my testimony, I found out I had just delivered the most electrifying story of the night. It wasn't really about the resounding rounds of applause at the end of my story; it was mostly about the expressions I saw on the faces of the congregation. My testimony was easy to validate; it spoke the truth of the struggles of many who sat in the congregation asking God why theirs was different. I felt great peace; it felt like the burden I lifted from my heart would someday be instrumental to someone’s success.
Speaking of miracles, the carryovers didn’t just disappear though; I would say it was a miracle I was fortunate to be able to hustle out. If you ask me what the recipe was, I would say the recipe was a mix of hard work with some spices of luck. Sometimes in the year 2007, I had sat down to calculate if it was going to be possible to clear these courses within a reasonable timeframe. From my calculations, it would take me about two years extra to clear these courses. So by my calculations, I would graduate earliest by 2012 instead of 2010.
The fact that I would not go for the compulsory Industrial Training with my peers had already given a whole year extra to my studies. The school had mandated that anyone who had a total of more than 14 units carryovers would not be allowed to go for the Industrial Training in the second semester of the 4th year in school. Such students would stay back to concentrate on their carryovers. My carryover units were running into twenty (or thirty) something. There was no hope anywhere - my carryover courses were mostly in the first semester, the policy didn't seem fair to me. But this was a long-standing policy of the university that stood for years; not the kind of policy you would even think prayers could change. Even if prayers could change it, it certainly would not be the prayer of a supposed sinner like me.
My heart fainted; I honestly contemplated dropping out of school. I almost did! I got a form to proceed to Portsmouth, UK for a degree in Economics. I paused. Something just kept telling me that if I gave up on the degree I was running, I would have just postponed my struggles because if I failed to face what seemed like my giant then, it would still come back later to haunt me in my future endeavors. Why did I choose economics? Well, I thought it was going to be an easy course to study. LOL.
Architecture was really a tough one; it was certainly not a course you can go through without a reasonably high level of dedication. I needed to put in more time and interest, but it was hard gathering interest for Architecture. I knew I had not been putting enough time to school. "But this would have to change", I thought. “What could be taking my time and all the attention”, One might just wonder! Well, that would be a story for another day. Finally, it dawned on me that if I should drop out of school then, I would have set a bad precedence. I wasn’t going to do that.
I came to a conclusion; a decision that would change my life forever: that I would commit my time and energy to the course I was running - Architecture. I have reasons to believe the grit I wield today has been with me for a long time: I knew I would succeed at anything I put my best at. "After I give my best to my studies and attain some level of excellence, then I would determine what to do with my life”, I thought, trying to convince myself to try to do what seems to be the "impossible".
Along the line, folks from home found out about my academic troubles. The civil war was real - having to deal with so much fire coming from home. But my mum was really helpful; she would call me everyday to ask if I had gone to school, always sharing words of encouragement. I am sure she was also praying for me. Oh I love my dear mother - Iya Bose! There were so much my folks didn’t know and I also could be very hard to deal with; but still I got all the support I needed.
Also worthy of note was a friend of mine who was particularly helpful at that time - Ebenezer Osadare. He would come knocking on my door every morning. Sometimes, Ebenezer would follow me to some of these carryover classes just to ascertain my attendance. I don’t know if I could have pulled through without the support I received through this period. This was actually the heart of my testimony; that I am grateful for people God planted in my life for His glory
I started attending (most) classes. I began to fix assignments, field trips, tests and all required school runs. I made school friends. Learning became fun - I so loved the experience. It was interesting, watching Architecture became a favorite. It was not too late to find the true essence of university education – and I found it. My time in school was really worthwhile. The first miracle came through, although in form of good news - the university had changed their longstanding policy on Industrial Training. Now, everyone in their fourth year would be allowed to go for their Industrial Training, regardless of their carryover standings. What? I don't think the people who made that decision on behalf of the school knew they were instrumental to someone's miracle. A mountain just moved, but I didn't even move a finger!
Also, all the carryovers began to disappear - one course at a time. It was just like magic. Suddenly, I realized I began to notice my CGPA. From the point of realization to my graduation, my CGPA never came down. At graduation, I had a so much better result than a lot of my classmates who never had my kind of carryover experience, even some who never had an F.
Though I eventually had to spend an extra semester in school to finish up some courses in 2011, it wasn’t because of the numerous carryovers I had. Hopefully, I would be able to share another story about this special experience someday. Robert H. Schuller said, “Tough times don't last, tough people do”; in my own reality today, it is interesting to find how all the struggles I had to pass through to get my degree no longer has relevance. How it's no longer a big deal that I used to have so many carryovers in school; in fact, if I didn't decide to write this, a lot of people who will ever get to relate with me would never thought that there was a time in the life of Ayoola, when he struggled to pass "GNS 102: Information Retrieval" and a host of other courses in school. There is nothing in my reality today that point to the struggle that is the subject of my testimony today. So I would say, our struggles don't stick to the skin, our hustle does.
In reality, my result in school came out a second-class; it was in fact a first-class hustle. I may also have enjoyed a first-class kind of grace. The assurance I have today, that I could pull through any struggle didn't just rest on me by anointing, prayers or fasting. It was actually acquired like a personal museum of trophies, after graduating through levels of hustle. As my school result reminds me of the importance of personal accomplishment, so does my trophies remind of the need of hard work and good association. Truly, with hard work and the right people around us, we have just what we need to make anything possible!
Ayoola is a leading cyber-security expert in Nigeria. He started out as a website developer in 2002 and today, he has founded PageCarton a platform that has championed a new set of tools to publish content to the internet through web sites and apps.
About Ayoola Falola