With the scarcity of formal jobs in Zimbabwe, one thing any person would do after graduating is get a job and keep it for as long as possible or until a better paying one comes along. Such is not the case for Rufaro Shalin Matimati, a young woman who left her job at the age of 25 to follow her passion. This is her story:
It wasn’t easy, to be honest. I wrote my resignation letter and kept it for two months. I consulted my parents for advice. My mother was very skeptical and my father had not commented throughout the whole conversation. I was scared of leaving my job because I did not come from a wealthy [family] and I really needed the job, but I wasn’t happy there.
I was born on the 30th of October in 1994 in Nyazura. Some would say I’m an outskirts girl or country girl, but simply put, I am a village girl. My father was a nurse and we were nomads because he was always transferred from one place to another.
At the time of my birth, my mother was a secretary at some outskirts school. I went to six primary schools and finally wrote my Grade 7 [exams] at John Cowie Primary School in Rusape. We had now managed to settle down at a plot in Headlands, so I was just a normal farm girl or village girl, and I would come straight from the village and go to boarding school where I met people from different backgrounds.
Like any other village girl, I had dreams of becoming big and I set myself straight from a young age. I was a go-getter. I have always been focused. I remember in primary school, I would wake up to study. I worked hard knowing fully well I was at a place where I didn’t intend to die at.
Opportunities are harder to get when you are in the village and you have to work hard for them. It wasn’t always smooth, but my parents did their best to get my school fees. A lot of people face challenges adjusting; there is always that temptation or insecurity that comes from associating with people from other backgrounds. I am a generally soft person, so I managed to blend in with others. For my high school, I went to Monte Cassino Girls High and because I was determined to succeed, I performed very well in school.
After my Advanced Level, I went to Zambia and graduated with a law degree at Cavendish University in 2015. I came back to Zimbabwe, did my internship and then started working. I, however, did not enjoy my job; I was sad most of the time.
I was young and single and this was the only chance I had to leave a job that was not fulfilling. In future, I might have kids and a family to take care of and will not be able to do that. I wish everyone knew that when you are young, this is the only time that you have to experiment.
Being young is a gift. You don’t have to tie yourself to a certain path. Just because you studied geography or medicine doesn’t mean you cannot do anything else that is not related to that. The world has become so diverse because of technology, so you can find what makes you happy and make money from it. If you put money before passion, you will live a sad life. Find a path or calling that makes you genuinely happy.
At the time I quit my job, I met someone who was writing a book and offered to help him with consultancy and that became my second project. I kept pursuing him, which is another trick. Keep following up and pushing hard. Currently, I’m working on two books.
Another thing: I grew up in a family of dressmakers. My mom and my aunt were also tailors, so I learnt dressmaking and designing from both of them. I am making more money using my hands and raw talent and I am happier. I am a natural creative and when I am in a formal space, I cannot explore my creativeness.
Though my dad did not teach me how to sew, he supported me; he told me I had to do what makes me happy. A lot of parents should learn this. It doesn’t matter if you studied medicine or something else; if your child wants to fix cars or build houses, then let them do that. There is only one life to live.
My advice to girls like me who grew in different places or the village: always work hard, stay exposed, read widely – novels, newspapers. Always know what’s happening so that you get exposure and when you meet with other people, you won’t seem like a dull and outdated person.
The other thing is grooming: look good and bath – nothing expensive but your ordinary clothes and water and soap. Keep yourself clean, and people will be able to respect you and take you seriously. When people looked at me, they would think I have it all, yet it was mere grooming. When you look good, people look at you. They will package you in this package called success, then success will begin to find you. Good things find you when you look good.
Another trick is listening and learning. I learnt competence, upped my game and that is the benefit of working with bright people. Work hard and be humble, but don’t let people take advantage of you.
At present, I am pursuing a master’s in business administration. You see, even if you are creative, it’s also wise to get academics, mentorship and surround yourself with people who have the same interest, passion and vision as you.
I am always mindful of my associations and I am not happy when I am in places that have nothing to do with my drive and long-term plans. I also want to grow my brand and market and obviously make money from it. In adding to that, I am planning on opening a book firm with people who have the same interest as me, so I’m researching on that.
I love this quote from William Shakespeare: ‘Slowly and steadily they stumble that run fast.’ It talks about patience and not running in to things. I have this song that inspires me and for almost a year I sang this song: ‘Oh Lord, You search me and You know me. You know when I sit and I stand. You watch as I walk or when I am lying down. All my ways are open to You.’
Rufaro found her passion and area of interest at a young age. Not all of us are fortunate enough, but when you do find your passion, pursue it. A lot of us are held back because of fear. We keep asking ourselves the ‘what ifs.’ What if it does not work out? What if I do not succeed? Maybe it is time you ask yourself, ‘What if I tried? What if I succeed?’ I guess you will never know unless you go out there and do it.