By Gracilis,  Counselling

With a pinch of salt

Except you are running a counseling service, formal requests for advice would be uncommon. Rather the majority of advice we receive or give usually occurs informally in our everyday interactions with people. But Irrespective of how advice is sought, it should be given based on principles, truth, and values. But we sometimes receive unsolicited advice especially during obvious changes of life but as well-meaning as some of these may sound, they should be taken with a pinch of salt.

  I clearly remember about thirteen years ago when I finally got my visa to study in the United Kingdom. It was a very bold step as I was charting untrodden paths. My initial application had been refused and I had only just gotten the news that my appeal was allowed after a year. I was to pick up the visa after the weekend and since it was my last weekend in the country, I went to my then spiritual leader to share the good news of my admission and relocation. Unfortunately, his advice was painfully skewed as he did not share my enthusiasm and made no pretense about it.

Rather than congratulating me, he recounted the immense difficulty many sisters he knew who had gone overseas for studies were encountering in securing a life partner. At the end of the conversation, it appeared that it would make more sense to him if I remained in the country to find a soul mate as that was more of a priority.

He had given the advice based on what he felt should be happening to me like he had a time0table for my life. Even if I had not bought my ticket, this was one advice I knew should be selected and deleted. It did not matter if it was from a spiritual leader because it was myopic and based on fear. After all, there were surely some people who met their spouses overseas and returned to marry in their home country.

By the time I arrived in the UK, I had more unsolicited advice given.

I had registered in my university and was just about getting ready for lectures.  I had made several contacts with some people who attended the same university as I did back in Nigeria. Most of them had been in the country several years before I arrived. They were all working and one of them felt she could advise me on what to do at this junction. In short, the individual practically sneered at my enthusiasm for lectures.

To paraphrase the advice, she said

“ …now that you have gotten the admission and have registered, you can begin to start working and making money. You should defer the admission. ….” She even showed me her letter of admission into the same course of study like I had as proof that there was not really anything fantastic about my admission.

I listened but somewhere at the back of my mind, I knew that doing anything short of the reason for my visa would be wrong and two things strengthened my resolve. The very next day when I woke up to read my Bible, I came across a verse that talked about staying on an already predestined path which I interpreted as meaning doing what I had originally come in to do.

The second basis for not heeding the advice was an incident that occurred while I was growing up. My eldest sister had a friend who traveled overseas for studies. On her first return visit five years after she left, she confessed to my sibling that she had not even started schooling. Although I  never knew then that just about a decade later, I would be leaving the shores of the country to do the same thing, I vowed to myself that if I ever got a chance to travel to further my studies, I  would make it my priority. It was only when I  started living in the UK that I realized how easily this could happen.

I did not have any prior experience or heard any stories. It looked like several people were doing the same thing, working full time rather than schooling. That was one advice  I  am so glad I did not listen to. This is because tighter rules came into play after my one year course of study and the changes were reflected my university.

Prospective students were made to pay all of their school fees before access was granted to them for lectures or even to the libraries. The changes to the immigration laws made it possible for me to extend my stay to a new proposed scheme for graduates. And while I was on that scheme that allowed me to work, I eventually got a job that made the necessary legal documents that made me able to work. I have seen people who followed that advice and ended up on the other side of the law.

Not all individuals would advise us because they are genuinely concerned. Some advice would come from people based on fear and jealousy and it would be best to receive all advice with a pinch of salt because even the most well-meaning people in our lives could be sincerely wrong.

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