Whoever first said “Life begins at forty” most likely had a smooth sailing in his youthful years. I do not know how he spent his teen years, how college treated him, whether he had a breakup with his first love, or what he did in his 30s. But I do know age 40 knocked him out. By age 40, the average person has found “the one” or compromised on what the one looks like, settled down with two kids, hustling with a 9 to 5 job and whining about what could have been. It is around this age that midlife crisis sets in.
The self-explanatory term couches the experience of middle aged people who start getting the blues. People who get depressed from decisions they took in their past and inactions which comes back to haunt them in the present. Just like depression, midlife crisis is real and not a “white people problem” as some people say about depression. It is existent on the streets of Makola, the market stalls at Madina and the apartments at Dansoman. We just choose to call it differently and see it through racial glasses. Maybe once we view it and call it as it is, it will explain some of the abrupt divorces, sudden violence towards spouses and the neglected cases of suicide.
But age 40 is not the only stage people start having serious questions about their decisions. It is however not the prepubescent stage where the biggest regret was allowing the neighbor to bully you. Nor the teenage years where you rue over the lost chance to impress your crush. It those 4 years spent in lecture halls, sparse libraries smelling of old books and dormitories shared with strangers and perches. Early Life Crisis is a real thing and it is about time we started recognizing it.
There are probably a thousand and one things we can argue are symptoms of an Early Life Crisis. There is the girl you talked to on the first day of university who clung onto you for the entirety of your four years and would just not leave. Or the picture you thought was cool back in high school only for it to creep up on your timeline and become the butt of all jokes among your friends. But for those of us chasing the degree and aiming for a suit and tie life, regretting our major is the zenith of our early life crisis.
I always fancied the word Economy. As a kid who spent hours watching BBC and CNN, I heard that word or variations of it as many times as I heard my mother shout my name to send me on an errand. Richard Quest mentioned it whenever he read the news, Stephen Sackur always sneaked it into his conversations with African leaders and when the late Komla Dumor found his way to the BBC, it was not different. Even our local media which always gets bashed for reporting on trivialities seemed to care about the word. The phrase “it’s the economy, stupid!’’ sums up the relevance of the word. Even though highlights of La Liga and the NBA were interesting to watch, I was not as excited as I heard people talk about the economy and how governments were messing it up. I knew from that time that Economics was “my thing”.
Fast forward to my last year of high school and I knew what course I wanted to read and where I wanted to be. Or so I thought. All the options I selected had Economics in it. It was either Economics with a language or Economics with some other social science discipline I had little regard for. I could not wait to start using the vocabulary of the analysts I grew up watching on TV, who made a fortune pontificating about governance and the economy. What I did not know however, was the difference between someone rambling about how the government’s policies is affecting the GDP and the folks who drew up models, quantified statistics and tweaked formulas to come up with figures on a country’s annual expenditure.
I am cut from the stuff ramblers are made of. Good with the talking, adept with the writing, passionate about political ideologies but not so excellent with the first order differentials, integrals and econometrics. So when economics took a turn to the quantitative side, my success in freshman economics became suspect. Statistics became rocket science and simple Demand and Supply curves were no longer the basic downward and upward sloping curves. They were now differential calculus. And that was when my early life crisis started setting in.
When your upward mobility seems to be based on the success of your undergraduate studies, then slacking in your major gives rise to a crisis. It is enough to get you asking questions like “did I make the right choice”, “what happens to me if I don’t graduate” and the likes. The situation is worsened when you consider that employers these days are only looking for first class and second class upper holders. Like your GPA measures your intelligence and not your ability to regurgitate memorized information.
Heavens know students of this country would heave sighs of relief if opting out of a major was possible without reapplying to the institution. If majors were not a “…for better or worse, till death do us part” relationship. If they were like a friend with benefits you could ditch after a fling gone wrong. But they are not and I have a date with Economic Theory in a couple of days so I better put on my ring of commitment and study the curves of my ride or die beloved Economics.