I recently finished reading a book called After Tears by Nic Mhlongo. It is about a young man who failed to complete his four-year law qualification at UCT. At his lowest point he tried to hide his academic transcript from his mother – the one person in the world who had complete faith in him.

Like many young people, he had dreams and ambitions. In the beginning he thought he had it all figured out. However, the real world showed him how wrong he was and at university he chose to lose his way.

As the first child ever to attend university in the family, all the pressure was on him to bring home the qualification and, of course, the money. Advo, as the community of Naturena, south of Johannesburg, called him, had been absolutely lazy and his results were dismal, illustrating the truth of the saying: “What you give is what you get.” He gave nothing and got nothing.

Four years of university were wasted. His mother was struggling to pay for his studies and the family expected him to find a job as they believed their breadwinner was now a graduate. Advo was now on his own, with no one but his reflection to answer to. In retrospect, he should have seen the signs.

It reminds me of my undergraduate years, sitting in lectures, disinterested in what the lecturer was talking about, and where this would take me in the near future. All I was interested in was the thought that by studying towards a degree I would make money, make my parents happy and fit in with my peers. What I didn’t do was ask whether any of this would make me content.

The truth is, it didn’t and I focused my attention on other social quests. Hanging out with friends, drinking, pursuing girls, clubbing – ways of escaping from my unhappiness and the pure boredom of studying, which I did not enjoy.

The lessons I learnt from Mhlongo’s book are those that so many of us learn, sadly, the hard way. Many of you have probably had the same experience or are en route there. I changed courses and surrounded myself with the right friends which gave me a different perspective of life.

It is vital to follow your heart in decisions that you make as an individual. Following your own heart and being true to yourself makes the journey of life more fulfilling because you will create your own path and ultimately your own happiness