The “it’s not just about Education” Speech

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We hid in the Yearbook office during our breaks. I say “hid” because we would be avoiding a professor, a colleague or just conversation in general.

Moustafa used to sit in front of the computer. He was Editor-in-Chief and was proud to have an office, a dark room and a Mac. We sat around the big table near the door, a reminder that we were just guests in his spacious office.

“Grades aren’t for everyone”, I announce.

I just got back the grade of one of my engineering exams. Average grade. I wasn’t as annoyed as I was when I first started universities and expected a 4.0 GPA. I made my peace with the fact that I’m not into my major as I’d like to be and that was okay. I got into a graduate program that I really liked. I didn’t have to worry about grades anymore — I had my next step figured out… and I already had paid the tuition fee for grad school, they can’t change their minds now.

Moustafa slowly turned towards us, without saying a word.

“Look what you did now”, Omar scolded me.


Moustafa slowly rose from his chair, grabbed his favorite stool and placed it in front of him. He had his eyes locked on us and as he silently observed us, he put his right foot on the stool and leaned on his knee. He looked like Rodin’s thinker… but with a man bun.

“He’s going to give us his speech”

“Calm down, he hasn’t said anything yet.”

“When I first started at university, I had expectations”, said Moustafa.

Omar sighed. He has heard the speech before.

“I’m a business major. I can’t expect much out of it because you have engineering people (he stares at me) going after our jobs. I won’t be a consultant, that’s for sure.”

I raise my shoulders. Hey. I didn’t want to become a consultant.

“So, I knew I had three years to make something out of myself. I needed to get as many 90s as I could. Make my resume stand out. They like 90s. First semester didn’t go as well as expected. Got an 83.”

Omar was browsing through an old yearbook, mimicking Moustafa.

“Grades weren’t gonna cut it.”

“So, you grew a manbun?”

He ignores me.

“Semester 2, another 83. I realized that I won’t be a great achiever, academically. That was okay because I didn’t just want to stick to the books. I studied for the grades. I felt that was the only point of studying. Passing (decently not barely). Year 2, I did a bunch of things. I was in the Yearbook. Outline. Photography. Editing. I was in the Drama Club. Production. Writing. Latin Club. I danced at their show. I volunteered in a couple of other places. I met a lot of people and had a lot of conversations with people who agreed with me and others who disagreed. That’s education. That’s what gave me knowledge and information.”

Omar looks up at him.

“Do you really have to have your foot on the stool?”.

He ignores him too.

“I’m not bashing institutional education. I’m just saying that you can benefit just as much from all these stuff you can sign up for, voluntarily, for free. Year 3 was amazing. I got into leadership positions. I had to take initiative. That’s something to be proud of. I did a lot of things — not alone, with people. Team work. Everywhere. All the time. That’s what helped me build my character.”

“Anyone helped with the manbun?”

“It helped me think on my feet and make it work.”

He winks at me.

“My academics are fine. I have a good GPA. I don’t care as much as I thought I would have. I’m not bashing education. I’m just saying that if you go to university and all you do is hit the books, you’re still the same person you were in 12th grade. You don’t just learn in classrooms.”

He puts his leg down and looks at us, all the way from the stool. The speech was over, and he seemed to be proud of what he just said.

He almost seemed like to be expecting an applause. Our turn to ignore him.

Omar looked up at me.

“Hey, it’s Tuesday. There’s a pizza offer.”

One hour later, the only thing resting on the stool was an empty pizza box.

Moustafa sent out his application and got accepted. He’ll be preaching his ways somewhere new soon.

— Written by Lama —

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