Posted in Memoirs

Life Poker and The Dealer’s Choice

In our progress from toddlers to teenagers, we are taught many things that are relevant to our education in schools, but there are so many things that we aren’t taught to prepare us for real life.

Sure, we may know everything of Napoleon the Great’s conquest and how many kingdoms there are among living things, but I don’t think that’s going to be necessary in living everyday. Well, unless we’re all going to be historians and scientists that is.

In Rick Warren’s words; “Life is like a game of poker you have to play the hand you’re dealt…But a wise player can play what seems to be a weak hand and win the game.”

Owen was a smart young man growing up. I remember how we were always competing for “the most intelligent” as if there was an award we were gonna receive from our parents for beating the other in class. He had a lot of life, passion and excitement for things. He liked to build and then destroy. Fast forward to high school, Owen got introduced to calligraphy and painting. He fell hard and fast for it. He envisioned himself as the 21st Century Mi Fu. While I loved Owen’s dream, I was also worried for him. You see, we’re from a marginally corrupt African country and our government doesn’t do much when it comes to education, skills acquisition or talent building. Owen had dreams that could not provide for him in the long term. I talked to him as a friend to go for something else he could handle and do calligraphy on the side. Owen’s dad was probably not the best to give advice as he was majorly dictatorial but I know deep down he wanted what was best for Owen. He paid for Owen to start a degree in Medicine and Surgery, in one of the well known schools in Europe. Owen failed first year, not due to a learning disability or a panic disorder. He was lazy. It was as if he lost the will to live. He was either hanging out with his friends or just sleeping. He didn’t attend lectures or clinicals, he missed coursework deadlines. He re-wrote five courses that were capped at forty percent at the end of the semester. He barely got into second year. I called him aside and we talked at length. He promised to do better, attend lectures, read and work on his calligraphy to be better.

Barely into second year, he started slipping up again. He became withdrawn and distant from me. Eventually, he failed second year again. And he was consequently withdrawn from school. In addition, he developed a hand injury that has prevented him from ever becoming a calligrapher unless he has somehow found a way to be ambidextrous.

At the other end of the stick is Zivah. Her story is somewhat similar. All her life, Zivah had always wanted to be a big lawyer in one of those big city firms. Whether her love for the legal profession stemmed from watching too many legal fiction TV shows or reading too many legal books or from her intellectual disposition I don’t know. On the other side, Zivah’s father was gently pressurising her to study a management degree so that she could do what he was unable to do and take over the family business. By the end of high school, Zivah set about planning the timeline of her life and goals she planned to achieve. Zivah had a “problem”, she couldn’t take a step without appropriate planning. I would call this a problem because occasional spontaneity promotes a sound mind. 

The application process for universities began and to Zivah’s utter surprise, Law can only be studied in the US as a second degree. Her inability to recover from the shock quickly in addition to her slow response to changing her mind and looking for alternatives, Zivah unknowingly entered into a crocodile’s lair.

You see, Zivah’s dad had ultimately convinced her to study Business. He gave her daily lectures on accomplished lawyers who read Business for their first degree.
First year of her degree, she struggled. She barely made it pass the average mark. As she had always been an intelligent person, high expectations were required of her and failing to meet those expectations knocked down her self-esteem to an all time low. She wondered within herself how she couldn’t understand what she was doing. She read and studied and took extra classes yet she was always short of her expectations. At the end of her very first semester, she tried telling her mother that she couldn’t cope with it and she wanted to switch courses to something a little bit closer to the legal profession.


Zivah’s mother: Zivah my daughter, a business degree is good for you. It will give you an added advantage.”


Zivah: But mummy, I’ve tried my hardest, I’ve overworked myself. I even fainted at school because I became hypoglycaemic. And still I don’t understand anything. I don’t know if I can still do three more years.




Zivah’s mother: My daughter, it’s all in your mind. You know you have always hated this. This is a very lovely course. 

School resumed again and so did the phone calls. “Are you understanding everything you learned?” “You’re going to get the highest GPA and become the best graduating student, after that you’ll do your Masters and PhD in Business.” “Did you answer all the questions correctly in your tests” “Don’t disappoint us my daughter. Make us proud of you.” 

Midway into final year, the mental breakdowns started. Every small mistake in tests or exams that she made were irrefutable proof of her inadequacy. She was hard on herself, She grew listless and empty. Living was limited to eat, study, sleep all in a bid to be the best graduating student. Zivah thought to herself, “I have done this before. I have gone from 0 to 100. So I can do this.” 

At the end of everything, she was only able to get a second class honours (upper). She blamed herself for many weeks. Hid her result from her parents for three months. She felt that she had failed them, they were never going to be proud of her. This was her one chance to make them proud of her but she blew it. As the weeks went by, her sleep went increasingly restless. Her dreams and her thoughts were all about an apology letter to her parents under the line of “I am sorry to disappoint you mummy and daddy, for not being able to make you proud and stand tall at my graduation.”
She tried to reapply for a second degree in Law. I mean finally, a dream come true. For years she had waited for this. There was only one problem, she had forgotten why she wanted to be a lawyer. And just like that in the blink of an eye, that childhood dream became fear. Zivah couldn’t even come up with one sentence on why she wanted to be a lawyer. She was utterly confused. She was very sure she hated Business and never passed the exams but somehow she understood how to make theoretical knowledge practical and on the other hand, she doubted if she had the courage to read law. Her public speaking skills had degenerated over the years, she couldn’t bear the thought of having to “fail” another exam whilst doing her law degree and she just didn’t think she could do 3 extra years of education.

Finally, Zivah had to kill the dream of becoming a lawyer no matter how painful it was and decided to further her education in the Business route.

Moral of the Story: 

1. Sometimes, it’s our dreams that stand in the way of our purpose. And we might have to kill those dreams ourselves. It’s never easy, but if someone couldn’t see what they want to do, beyond that it’s something they’ve always wanted to do, chances are that when they achieve it, it will feel good for a while, a dream fulfilled, but afterwards, you might find yourself wondering if it was worth it in the end.

2. It will have been to good to have been taught that what you wish for isn’t always what will come to you, to know beforehand that adult life is messed up. Very few actually get to where they want to be exactly when they want it. And also to have learned to apply the good ‘ol phrase “whatever your hand findeth to do, do it well.
 

So to those young teenagers out there already building the future of their dreams in their minds, I want you to borrow a leaf from Zivah and Owen’s books.

Zivah was lost, empty, clueless, but she found her way. Or I would like to believe that she has. I don’t know if she would have come out as the best graduating student if she had been allowed to follow her own path. We will never know now. And as for Owen… well, his future is in his hands, whatever his next move is in this chess game, I’ll sure write about it.

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Posted in Bits and Pieces

Musings

So I just discovered that I have a real problem. I’m very lacking when it comes to affection, romance etc. My idea of affection is very different from what the world views it as. My perception of affection is making sure everyone is kept warm and safely under the duvet when sleeping, dishing out advice like a chef in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen, standing up for those who are unable to, helping out with chores etc.

Affection however to the rest of the world is saying I love you in the midnight unexpectedly, giving out hugs at the slightest occasion, holding hands, maintaining some sort of body contact etc.

You see I hate such things. No. Hate is a rather strong word. I do not know how to do these things. My brain isn’t wired that way. You see before I decide to hug someone, I must have been through that scenario in my mind a couple of times to be able to get used to it. I must have imagined the possible conversation that will happen before or during or after the hug. I must have measured the head to chin ratio. I’m rather tall for a lady so I try to avoid chin bumps or smelly greasy hair. 

Major reason for this rather short unnecessary post, I went to pick my sister up from the airport. Now she’s been away from the other members of my family for a year and half, but I have seen her recently. Just a little over three months. If you’ve been to a lot of Nigerian airports and seen the arrival of a loved one from “oyigbo land”, you’ll understand what I mean. There are plenty of hugs and kisses and what not.

Anyway, I just stayed by the side and watched while all that show was going on. I knew I was supposed to do something but I could not just bring myself to do the obligational hugs and “I missed you”. I don’t know if it’s because I want the love you’s that come out of my mouth to be actually meaningful or because I am just a bitter old woman. 
Either way, I have a serious problem. 
Don’t get me wrong, there are times I’ve actually felt like dishing out hugs in extremely delicate situations and there are times I’ve needed one too (I kind of need one now though). But I just can’t give spontaneous hugs. Somewhere, sometime down the road I might know why… Maybe

Posted in Bits and Pieces

Chimera

You complained that you don’t know me. That I hide things from you. You want us to be very close and hide nothing from each other. Well there are so many things I would like to tell you;

I would like to tell you how much you hurt me as a child 

I would like to tell you that I’ve crushed on a number of people 

I would like to tell you about the first time I got my heart broken

I would like to tell you about my current love interest/(s)

I would like to tell you that I’ve got friends I trust that I want you to trust too

I would like to tell you of all the fun I’ve had the past three years

I would like to tell you of the time that I was hopelessly in crush in high school and listened to Daniel Bedingfield’s “If You’re Not The One” when that crush got crushed.

I would like to tell you that I don’t like the endless sermons that you make me listen to

I would like to tell you that I can’t be you

I would like to tell you that I want to carve my own path without being rebellious about it

I would like to tell you I’m not the model you want me to be, I’m far from it

I would like to tell you of freshers week

I would like to tell you of how I started trusting again

I would like to tell you of my first rollercoaster ride

I would like to tell you how I nearly drowned in a pool

I would like to tell you that I love you without saying it as an obligation

I would like to tell you sweet nothings composed by me without having to rely on Google

I would like to tell you of how lonely I feel sometimes 

I would like to tell you how much of a nerd I am

I would like to tell you of my lack of confidence and self-esteem shrouded under the guise of humour 

I would like to tell you that I’m actually very scared of public speaking and how I fumble at presentations

I would like to tell you that I really hate those clothes you buy for me

I would like to tell you of my first hangover and what caused it

I would like to tell you of my struggle with my education

I would like to tell you of the times when I had no food and money

I would like to tell you my favourite movies and my favourite books

I would like to tell you that I love to read. A lot…

I would like to tell you that I have shared a flat with a guy

I would like to tell you that it’s okay to let me make my own mistakes sometimes

I would like to tell you of the times when I was an outsider and the times I felt like one

I would like to tell you that I’ve never really fitted in

I would like to tell you of certain dance skills I’ve learned over time

I would like to tell you of my first holiday

I would like to tell you how much I hate your status and position in the community 

I would like to tell you of the broken friendships and solid friendships I have had over the years

I would like to tell you of the exact moment when I lost my ambition 

I would like to tell you about what made me really leave the dungeon I was in for four years

I would like to tell you that you contributed to making me cold and unemotional

I would like to tell you of all the times I’ve been really sick and haven’t told you because you said I should be strong

I would like to tell you that it pains that I am not close to you as normal humans are

I would like to tell you my innermost fears and be able to cry in front of you

But above all, I would like to tell you that it really hurt hearing that I wasn’t good enough

If only you could just sit and listen without judging me. I would pour out my heart to you. Maybe this is my own type of fantasy or mindless dreaming of something that will never happen because wishful thinking is one thing and reality is another. So all I can really do is laugh and smile with you and pretend everything is really fine.

Posted in State of Mind

State of Emergency

 

While I am not usually patriotic to my country Nigeria, I consider myself to be very dedicated to its people, hence the reason I agreed to post this. I hope it somehow touches you to make a change in your own small way.

Last night was very restless. At first I thought it was because I had slept so early I had robbed myself of sleeping during the night. However, it was the incidents that had occurred during the day that troubled my mind and my sleep. Since I am not a person of political power or have a high stature in society, my only outlet is my words. 



It is very disheartening to see the state of things in the country. Just earlier on in the day it was on the news that 111 million naira was found at INEC office which was used to rig the December elections held in Rivers State. Yet everyday we hear there is no money and there is a recession in the country. People are struggling everyday to make ends meet, others are denied basic amenities such as food while others eat the wealth that is meant for all. 



Later
on that day, a friend sent me a post of how soldiers were beating up a disabled man. Why? Because he wore camouflage on the street. Agreed it is an “illegal” act but there are more humane ways to deal with such an issue. As men in a position of authority they could have ceased the item of clothing, maybe the man had nothing else, they could have bought him a cheap shirt and so on. But they took him off his wheelchair and choose to disgrace the uniform they were seemingly defending. I saw two men in a position of not only better strength but also of authority, beat up someone who had no physical or economic strength defend himself. 



Finally, the issue
of the black soot in Port Harcourt is still an ongoing problem. What scares me the most is that we breathe in this air. We may not see it now but if this continues, it will pose some serious health risks in the long run. As if we don’t have enough problems, we now have to fight for the air we breathe which God has given free of charge. However, there are people at home who have been paid to allow this madness happen and others who think it is ok to do this. 



Its sad that the human race has come to this, greed, indiscipline, abuse of power and disregard for human life is the
order of the day. Traits as simple as kindness and self respect are rare to come by. So much evil and darkness clouds the hearts and minds of man it’s no wonder that sometimes it seems God has just pushed further away from us. 
I would like to go all spiritual and say the end of the world is near but I know I have not the power to proclaim such words. I do know this, what you sow is what you reap and in life it is how you treat others that is the same way you shall be treated. Do not allow anger and greed force the hand of God towards your direction


There is a lot of work that needs to be done in this country because it has taken a lot of work to destroy its integrity. It will not happen in a day or a year but please people, little acts of kindness and consideration towards other human beings can go a long way. Don’t let brief moments of vanity and earthly pleasures cloud your judgements. #IStandForNigeria.




Acknowledgements: Lateefa Musah

Posted in Memoirs

Déjà Vu

“The bundle of money on the table, why did you take it?”




I had never felt so much pain as much as I felt at that very moment in years. Previously, I had channelled the pain into anger and put it into something useful like punching holes in my bed, slamming doors, tongue lashing the nearest living object until I have willed myself to calmness.

I didn’t have all those tools easily accessible at that moment. So I could only cry.

I know I had probably done some bad things in my life, which I’m very sure she wasn’t aware of, but to accuse me of stealing was heartbreaking. I had always doubted if I was her daughter or some stranger picked from the streets. I could never understand why I was always treated differently. Eliane was the good daughter and I was the devil. Why couldn’t she have been the one who took the money?

If we are being realistic, what will I have used the money for? I was due to go back to boarding school that day. And I was only twelve. What could a twelve year old possibly use that amount of money to buy in 2008? Especially a 12 year old on house arrest. 


“Tell me why you took it and what you took it for? Stealing is not good. I found this money in your bag. Where did you get it from?”




It was just a little past 2am in the morning. I was dragged out of my bed only to be accused of stealing. I admit I’d never been a quiet child like Eliane. But to make up for my loud mouth, I became hardworking. Thinking maybe I could finally beat Eliane at something. That was my first mistake. I could never beat Eliane or be like her in our mother’s eye. Eliane was the apple of her eye who could do no wrong. How could I tell her that the money that was in my bag was given to me by Eliane to buy something for her. Not like she will believe me anyway. And the tears poured… 


“Why are you crying? Eve chided me. This is just another typical day in your life. It’s not like you were anything useful to them anyway. You should be used to this by now.”



“I know, it just hurts hearing it from her. I at least expect to find some peace in my house when I come on holidays.”


“Peace! She scoffed as if the mention of that word burned a hole through her ear drums. No such thing exists or has ever existed for you. Don’t expect to be getting it anytime soon. You have to be strong. Don’t let her or anyone see your weakness. It’s very nice to not care. And if you’re able to channel that pain to something else my dear, you’ll be a pro in no time.”

If the money was stolen or if it was misplaced, I never found out or cared to find out. I never received an apology either.

Posted in Memoirs

In the Year of Our Lord, 2016 AD (Part 1)

“At last 

My love has come along

My lonely days are over

And life is like a song


The skies above are blue

My heart was wrapped up in clover

The night I looked at you
I found a dream, that I could speak to

A dream that I can call my own

I found a thrill to press my cheek to

A thrill that I have never known


Oh yeah

You smiled, you smiled

Oh and then the spell was cast

And here we are in heaven

for you are mine…


At Last!!”

Wham! Wham!! Wham!!! The harsh reality of life slapped me hard across the face and back into consciousness.

Those who know me, can attest to the fact that 2016 was the worst year of my life. Coincidentally it’s also the year I officially or should I say legally became an “adult”. Being an adult is something you’re not and can never be prepared for. I’ve read a lot of articles and seen a lot of videos of newly proclaimed adults advising teens and kids not to grow up; that it is a trap. Whether or not I agree with them is a story for another day.

In 2016, I did something I never expected to do. Something I never thought will happen. I made friends. I had best friends. I finally had friends I could talk to without reservation. Friends who made me feel, made me laugh, made me content, made me survive but above all, they made me live. 

Fate has a way of playing with my feelings all the time. I had barely basked in the euphoria of living before everything began to fall apart.

And it became yet another daydream thrown into the trash again.




Excerpts from: At last by Etta James