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Margaret Aligbe: My Life As a Testament That Dreams Come True

As I look out my window towards the Humber River in Corner Brook, I am reminded of what it means to have a whole lifetime between my first and second degrees. I finished my BSc in Agricultural Sciences around 2007/2008 and I was eager to move on to a master’s degree and then a PhD. My father was my biggest inspiration then because he studied in the United Kingdom and that was a big deal for me. But life happened; work, marriage, motherhood, entrepreneurship and the dynamics of the Nigerian system.

NYSC was the next thing for me after finishing my undergrad. During that period, my desire to study abroad was reinforced, but I also wanted to earn my own money. The conflict between wanting a bank job (banks were the real deal then) and pursuing schooling abroad gave me some moment of self-awakening. I must have written countless applications during my NYSC just to get into a bank after I was rejected from another bank that was supposed to be my primary place of assignment. Well, I ended up doing my NYSC is a very good government organisation and it gave me an insider experience of a typical civil service job – which I never wanted anyway.

Post NYSC, I started a bank job. The money was good, and my colleagues weren’t the worst. My 2 direct bosses would probably be the best bosses anyone could ever have; those men knew their jobs and led excellently. I eventually resigned because something in me was chasing bigger dreams. This was like 2-3 years post bachelor’s degree.

The Highs and the Lows 

After I left the bank, many who knew about my resignation felt I had made a terrible decision so I was pretty much on my own. The only person who supported me was my best friend, who later became my husband. He understood my plight and hunger to experience life differently and be more. I lost friends, ended up flat broke, in debt, failed on many things, got depressed sometimes, and battled self-esteem issues. There were moments I was tempted to go back to the bank and possibly find my way back in but one thing was sure for me, I was living. I lived a full life in those years and experienced all the sides of being a grown woman.

Then came marriage, full-time jobs, children, entrepreneurship and my life of volunteering and community development began. The entrepreneurship side had mixed feelings but surely, my creativity thrived because I enjoyed the process of designing, thinking of an idea and testing it even though much of it did not fly because of limited funding. In my journey of trying badly to be an entrepreneur, I learned tenacity, my self-esteem received some steam and the reality of surviving Nigeria became very clear. In entrepreneurship, I learnt so much about social media marketing, attended a couple of botched mentoring programs (botched because they were overhyped), started blogging, multi-tasking and realizing being without money (having zero cash in hand and bank) does not always kill you – it is not even the biggest problem in life considering I was not hungry, naked, homeless or sick. It can frustrate you but it was about perspective in the end.

In those low moments of my life, I was determined to live and I found happiness in the smallest things. My journey in volunteering and community development practically saved me from suicidal thoughts and opened doors for me to know about the SDGs in theory and in practical. After so many years of focusing on myself, it was finally time to focus on the joy in helping others.

Everything Good Will Come

In 2016, which was like 8 years plus after my first degree, I made up my mind to go to school abroad. I didn’t want to go to school in Nigeria considering how the educational system has worsened, so my goal was to get funding for my education abroad. That dream came true as I got a scholarship for my masters in Sweden. Of course, schooling in Sweden came with its own many challenges, but through it all, I found strength in my past experiences and in my journey. I am now doing my PhD in Canada.

Before my PhD, I found my strong reason for choosing to go back to school – it was bigger than me admiring my father’s degrees, just wanting to go abroad, or simply having another degree. I had finally figured out that answer through my journey and I was not interested in proving myself to anyone anymore. I am in a place of peace with myself, I wanted to learn and had the hunger to apply my knowledge to solve real-life problems. This is me finally realising that I am good enough and that my dreams are valid. I stopped worrying about writing the best English grammar on my blog, begging folks to read my stories, being bothered about my naturally receded hairline and looking for someone to accept me. In my desire to be more, I found myself, I recognised my blessings (my family comes first) and yes, it is not that deep with many things in life. There will be ups and downs but again that is the thing about finding your journey in life.

I made it to Canada 13 years later after the thought crossed my mind – after 3 babies and over 10 years in a marriage of true friendship and deep love. My younger self thought I’d be doing my MSc and PhD in my 20s or early 30s, but life happened and I am now in my happy place. 

I do not regret quitting my job at the bank, getting married when I did, having children or even attempting to be an entrepreneur; every single challenge was a learning experience and I got to live my study abroad dream after 35. 

Dreams do come true after all and, yes, as long as there is life, there is hope.

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