Sunday, 29 April 2018

How Kullein got her groove back; starting over for the 99th time

‘Does it really count as starting over if you’re doing it for the nth time?’

‘Isn’t that more of a re-arrangement than an overhaul?’

‘Does it have to be an overhaul to count as a start-over?’

All these questions run through my mind as I look through red-rimmed eyelids at the grey wooden toilet door. I’ve been seated in this stall for about almost an hour hoping that I will finally compose myself long enough to walk back to my desk and act like nothing is happening. It’s a narrow stall; I can’t even spread my hands out fully in opposite directions, but somehow I like that. Every fifteen minutes or so, I get up, flush the toilet (to make it look like it was nothing but an exceptionally long call) and then reach for the door. The tears then make a re-appearance and I sit back down. It’s not smelly thank God, and the white wall tiles are surprisingly well kept. A one Gerald stuck a note on the inside of the toilet door basically threatening us into remembering bathroom etiquette; “If you sprinkle as you tinkle, please be neat and wipe the seat”. Does Gerald know that this means people are thinking of him almost every time they answer nature’s call?

I don’t want to go back to face the world. I’m so tired of “adulting”. Should I just feign sickness and head home early? I’m so angry, and sad, and full of regret and self-pity, a cocktail of emotions I haven’t had to sip on in so long that even though I know it’s not really the first time, the intensity feels strange. It’s like that cousin you were best friends with when you were ten but when you meet up fifteen years later as adults, you have nothing to say to each other. Familiar, but strange.

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK. ‘Is someone in there?’ I must have got lost in thought for a few minutes because I hear a group of girls mumbling outside, something about the stall having been locked for the longest time.

‘GO AWAY’!!!! is what I’m thinking, but I’ve been raised well enough to get up from the covered toilet seat slightly to reach the stall door and knock in reply to let them know there IS someone in here. I sit back down, roll off some more tissue and wipe the snot running freely out my nose. Phew, this has been an intense weeping for sure. I don’t even need to look in a mirror to know my eyes are extremely swollen. I’m relying on the fact that most people at work are so uncomfortable around misery that they would rather act like they don’t see your puffy eyes than have to ask what happened.

It’s been a tough week emotionally. Today is the fifth day in a row that I’ve received bad news; no scratch that, more like catastrophic news. It feels like life has been given the exclusive mandate to keep delivering blow after blow until I finally give in and stay down. My hopes and dreams are driving off smiling into the sunset in a Mercedes convertible with a license plate that has a hand with the middle finger up, leaving me standing by myself, staring in the parking lot. Disappointment always cuts deep, no matter how many times you’ve been there and it’s in this brightly-lit cold toilet stall that I must mourn, get myself together and start over all at the same time.

My hopes and dreams...driving off!

Luckily, I’m quite methodical. If I think back far enough, I should be able to remember a chapter from this old book. I’m sure there’s a formula buried somewhere in the dog-eared pages of the well-kept leather-bound book called Experience. There it is. “Getting your groove back; How to start over for the 99th time”. I start flipping and try to memorize each word.

·       -Don’t do it alone- That should be easy. I have amazing friends and a great family. I prefer to be alone for now but I’ll remember this in a day or two.
·   -Do it anyway- This will come in handy when my feelings and my responsibilities are at opposite poles. I’ll remember this because at the end of the day, a girl’s gotta eat.
·       -Do it continually- Basically go through the motions. Fake it till you make it. Got it.
·      -Do what you do best- That I can do as well. Put aside what I’m failing at for now and focus on perfecting what I’m doing well. This is so productive!

The tears have stopped and the bathroom is clear of humans. ‘If I don’t move now, I might not leave today. Don’t think, just do.’ I get up as fast as I can and yank the stall door open. Bye-bye Gerald. I didn’t tinkle so we are ok. I throw a quick look at the mirror outside the stall and confirm my swollen eye suspicions. Keeping my eyes fixed on the ground, I walk out of the bathroom and towards my desk, No one stops me, no one notices me. It’s only once I’m seated at my desk typing away that I notice a colleague staring at me. She quickly looks away when our eyes meet. That’s what I thought. I resume my typing.

Before I know it, it’s time to head home. I made it. I made it through today. Tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Coming Full Circle

It’s been an action-packed few weeks, and by action packed, I don’t mean the physical action. I mean so much happening all at once. Some things were good, some not so good and naturally with that came a roller-coaster of emotions.  However, one emotion now overrides all the others I’ve been dealing with; Thankfulness.

I could write a hundred books on all that I’ve learnt in just the past month. I could tell you how I’m learning about what’s most important in life. I could tell you about all the people that will disappoint you no matter how close they are to you. I could tell you everything that has gone left instead of going right. But I’ll also tell you that for each thing that went left, five others have gone right. For every person that disappointed, three others have stepped up to the plate. For every gap that was left, it was filled to overflow, and for the places where the coin showed tails, it was completely flipped to show heads.

I’ve never claimed to be a saint, (#girlwithapast, #girlwithafuture), but the few things and people I’ve loved, I’ve done to the best of my ability. On the top of that list, is my love for God, and somewhere in the first half is my passion for writing. These two things have held a place in my heart for as long as I can remember.  Recognition was never my goal, and I didn’t expect a prize for what I did in regard to those two areas. It was like something you know for a fact in your heart and somehow, that’s enough for you. What I wanted to do was get better at loving God and continue to write whenever I could. That’s why I joined Bible Study Fellowship (B.S.F) over six years ago. And that’s why I started by writing for the school magazine back in high school. So for me it was not a coincidence that among all the other things that have happened lately, the same week I was approached to become a leader at B.S.F is the same week I was asked to write an article for my former high school’s magazine. For me, it was like coming full circle. In the words of certain Kung-Fu masters, “the student becomes the master”! These aren’t earth-shattering and they wouldn’t make prime time News but to me, they were like a wink from God, as if to say nothing goes unnoticed by Him. As if to say “I see your heart, and I got you”.

And so now, I can also tell you how I’m learning that instead of being filled with worry, my heart should overflow with gratitude. And hope. And a renewed zeal to just go out there and keep doing some good. It doesn’t matter how small and insignificant you think it was, and it doesn’t matter if no one was there to see you do it.

Be deliberate about what you put out into the universe; because if you’re patient enough and never stop believing, what you put out will always come back to you.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Soundtracks to the movie about my life

The people who get to make a movie on my life will be lucky bastards, if I do say so myself. It will definitely be a full color picture in HD that will break box office records and win some Oscars! It will give such an adrenaline rush and have people gripping the edges of their seats and re-thinking the way they are living; ‘filimu yamasasi’ basically! But the best part of that movie will be the soundtracks!

1.       Knowing you Jesus - Graham Kendrick
I have been back and front, had some experiences that I thought were life changing. I have met some pretty incredible people and ticked impressive boxes on my ‘To-do list’, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING could ever compare to knowing Jesus the way that I have gotten to and continue to do. Everything that I am, every good thing that you think you may see in me, everything that I will ever be, will be because of God in my life. If this soundtrack is left out of the movie of my life, then it’s a lie.

2.       I lived - One republic
Everything I’ve done, I’ve done with all I got. This means that the highs felt like flying in a clear blue sky, and that the lows were felt with equal intensity. I’ve felt happiness, and excitement and pleasure, and fear and anger and pain. I’ve known true love and heartbreak. I’ve felt my heart explode with elation and seen my eyes red and puffy from tears. I’ve danced in the rain and camped in forests. I’ve eaten salads and sung in the church choir. I’ve had a movie marathon at the cinema and eaten breakfast on the floor. I’ve been above the clouds and in the water. I’ve owned every single second of my life.

3.       Photograph – Nickelback
Because each moment was so well lived, I find myself looking back often with fondness. I wonder how my old friends are doing, and where life has taken them. I remember how big everything seemed then and see how small it is now. I wonder if I’d change anything If I was ever given the chance to go back. I wonder if people remember me the way that I remember them. I wonder how differently things could have turned out if I’d made different choices. I wonder how different things will be five, ten years from now. Sometimes I miss those days, but most times, I’m excited about what’s to come.

4.       Like I’m gonna lose you - Meghan Trainor and John Legend
Relationships are such a big part of my life, especially romantic ones. Believe it or not, romantics still exist. We still believe in the old-fashioned till-forever kind of love. We still believe in true love. We believe in soul-mates and meant-to-be. If we’ve loved you, then you can be sure we went all in. Tomorrow is not promised, and you never know what could happen to those in your life right now. So I believe in loving like today is your last day, and I believe this will be reflected in my life movie.

5.       Do or die - Thirty seconds to Mars
This soundtrack will refer to all the millions of times I’ve had to and will have to start over. It will show that I did not taking anything for granted, but also I was never be afraid to begin again. It will talk about how I lived with no regrets.
Someone once said that the biggest mistake we can make is thinking we have time. I could not agree more.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Five pieces of advice I’m happy I didn’t take

"Everything in moderation, including moderation." Oscar Wilde

All my life I’ve been surrounded with people trying to give you their two cents. Most of them had good intentions but some of them didn’t. Some was solicited advice and some not. As a young girl, you generally tend to listen to those that seem older, wiser and like they’ve been there. It took a whole lot of years and growth to realize that not all advice is to be taken at face value. It took lots and lots of mistakes to know that it won’t always turn out for you like it did for the one advising you, and it took a whole lot of confidence to know that all advice is to be put into consideration but not all of it is to be acted upon. I have found that for me and the specific set up that is my life, most of the advice given works better with a slight twist.

If I had to group all the advice I’ve been given over the years that I’m happy I didn’t take into five categories, it’d fall under the following;

1)      Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t know
This goes hand in hand with other common sayings like “An old broom know all the corners”, and thinking inside the box. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people even to this day still dish out this advice and I get it; it’s safe, you know exactly what you’re getting into and you can control it from start to finish. This advice was given to me in reference to friends, romantic relationships, business opportunities, travel, beauty products, name it! But guess what, the devil you now know was once an angel you didn’t know. Here’s another fact for you; you can’t control everything in life no matter how hard you try. Here’s another even truer fact; nothing great was ever achieved in a comfort zone. You have to take some risks. I’m not saying throw caution to the wind, but allow yourself to step out of your box of comfort and try something new. It can be a calculated risk (there’s professionals now that can do that for you). Life in itself is a risk because you could die at any minute. I’m glad I didn’t take this advice so literally because some of these “angels I didn’t know” turned out to be some of the best decisions I ever made!
Twist: Give the angel you don’t know at least one chance and then make an informed non-biased and open-minded decision.

2)      When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Spoiler alert; sometimes even the “Romans” are looking for fresh ideas! They are looking for someone with a fresh perspective to shake things up a little bit. I must warn you that this has a lot to do with timing. My friends and colleagues have told me repeatedly to try to blend in. Keep your head down and do what others do but I can assure you that I’ve seen this piece of advice disproved over and over especially in the work setting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always a good idea to first find out how the “Romans” have been doing it and why they’ve been doing it that way, but after you have this information, don’t be afraid to respectfully speak out about the ideas brewing in your mind that could improve efficiency where needed. I remember this one high school I went to where girls were allowed to wear their hair long but only if it was in its natural state. This was a time before we had easy access to all these amazing Natural hair products on the market today. Because of the natural texture of African hair, water is like the worst enemy for most hair-do’s. By the time I joined this school, shampoo was persona-non-grata on the Beginning of term shopping list. Washing your hair while at school was A CRIME. When I inquired as to why no one ever dared to have shampoo, it was because no one needed it since no one was going to risk washing their hair in school. Everyone believed that if you did, your hair would shrink beyond redemption. So when I began to carry shampoo with me to school, the other girls watched from a safe distance as I embarked on washing my hair at least once a week. Yes the hair did shrink but it would be back to its normal state within a day. It wasn’t long before shampoo was appearing on the shopping lists of more girls in that school. I’m not saying your new-age ideas will always be accepted with open arms but the worst that could happen is your idea being rejected. On the flip side of that coin, the potential benefits are limitless.
Twist: When in Rome, find out why the Romans do what they do, then “pimp that joint up!!”

3)      Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve
I have to admit that this advice was accurate more times than I preferred. For a long while it felt like every time I didn’t listen to this advice, I got burned. For me, it translated into “don’t trust people” and “never give your all because you will be disappointed”, and let’s face it, in this world, there’s enough disappointment to serve seven billion people. One thing kept me coming back though: PASSION.  I couldn’t bring myself to do things just for the sake of it. Passion was literally what drove me, it was my fuel. Without it, I was like a car with no engine and that would have been of no use to myself or those around me. It took me a while but eventually I developed a healthy balance that allows me to be passionate in whatever I do. I learnt about forgiving those that misused my trust. I learned that you can still love people from a distance. I learned that trust is earned not just given. I learned that wearing your heart on your sleeve does not necessarily mean being as sweet as a Georgia peach 24/7. I learned what to say and what to keep to myself and how to differentiate the two. I also learned that there will be times when actions spoke louder than words and other times when words would be of greater impact. I learned that not everybody wished you well so sometimes you have to tread carefully. I learned that even after learning all these things, you will still get disappointed every now and then and that’s ok. But I learned all these with heart. And passion. This is the one advice that I’m ever so glad I didn’t take because it has helped me GROW into the person I am. It has made me strong and brave and “full of life”.
Twist: Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, but wear it somewhere anyway.

4)      Money changes people
Wow. This is the most complex of all pieces of advice. Even to this day, I feel like I’m still discovering the entirety of what it means. It could mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, then they start to act like they are better than everyone else. It could also mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, they expect to be treated better than everyone else. It could also mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, you need to treat them better than anyone else. Now I am a firm believer in the Bible and it says (to paraphrase) not to treat someone better because they are rich or worse because they are poor but we all know that’s not the reality we are living in. I will say this however, from my observation, even before this rich individual changes, the people around him/her start to change. Once you start to become more successful, people change the way they talk to you, the way they treat you and even the way they talk about you. For me, it looks like money doesn’t really change you the person as much as it changes those around this person. And this refers to making money as equally as it does to losing money. Usually, the person in question will change in reaction to the change in the people around him/her. So maybe before you start judging a person for their good (or bad) fortune and how it has changed them, first be sure that it hasn’t changed you more.
Twist: money changes people, but not before it changes those around them.

5)      A leopard never changes its spots
The final piece of advice I’m glad I didn’t take is this one. For me, it talks about not only giving second chances but also the gift of acceptance. Now as a person that has received more second chances in this life time than I deserve, I admit I may be a little biased. But which one of us has never messed up so bad that you would do just about anything for a chance to turn back time and do it all different, for a chance to make amends? Which one of us can say they are the exact same person they were five, ten years ago, nothing at all has changed in their character? Why is it that we are so lenient with ourselves and not the same with others? Why is it that we believe we have changed for the better but the evil person you knew ten years ago is always going to be that way? I am not ashamed to say that I am a leopard whose spots changed and continue to change for better! This goes back to advice #1 above. I mean I’m not going to trust you with my bank details if the last time we met you conned me and cleaned out my account, and I definitely won’t write a recommendation for you for your job as a cashier, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give you a place to crash for a few days when you’re in a tight spot, or attend your child’s christening. I will give you the benefit of a doubt and allow you to prove yourself. These chances have a limit in number of course (I’m not Jesus. Although I’m working towards that. Can I get an Amen?!) But you can be sure it will be more than one. Because from one leopard to another, spots can change. Sometimes all the leopard needs is someone willing to see that.
Twist: Some leopards never change their spots, some just need you to look closer.

I’m grateful to have people in my life that take time to drop some wisdom on me, but for the five pieces above, I’m even more grateful that I never listened.