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Midweek Fix

Midweek Fix: The Silent Thief

 

 

I don’t talk about my father much.

 

There’s no particular reason – we don’t get along much. We never did, even though my mum and siblings were fond of reminding me that I am the one most like him. I guess everyone has daddy issues; I have mine just like everyone else. More than anything however; I owe a lot of who I am to him.

 

He taught me to love music, film and books. My father is the most widely-read man I know; and I do not say that lightly. His book collection (depleted for the most part now) was enough to make any book collector green with envy. I read Lord Of The Rings (the complete, ) at fourteen – not because I wanted to but because I got in trouble with my father, and that was my punishment.

 

I’ll tell you later.

 

Among many other things, my father taught me the value of time.

 

 

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I was still in primary school when he would wake my sister and I up at five in the morning. We would join him in the basement, work with him for an hour then go get ready for school. We were out of the house by seven.

 

In the evenings when he got home, he would sit us down in front of his 8-track reel-to-reel record player, play a Bob Marley record or Fela or Jim Reeves or Dolly Parton or Abba or any of his thousands of records and ask us to listen. After listening to a song, he would turn it off and ask if we understood what said song was about.

 

If You Ever Saw One Of These As A Child, Hi Five.

If You Ever Saw One Of These As A Child, Hi Five.

 

I’m sure today’s ‘enlightened’ world would see waking up a child at four/five am to work for an hour as abuse. I didn’t – and I still don’t. Those times instilled in me an appreciation for time, for moments and how important they are, the value of hard-work and how something is worth nothing if it isn’t worth your all.

 

One of the greatest challenges I’ve had to overcome as a creator is procrastination.

 

the-silent-thief

 

 

There’s this ‘short attention span’ ‘I-can-always-do-it-later’ bone that seems to grow in the heads and heart of creative people. They/we spaz out at every opportunity; zone in and out of conversations, can hardly sit still through a romantic movie. If it’s not thrilling, exciting, exploding, funny – count us the hell out.

 

Well. For the most part.

 

It’s almost counter-intuitive. Creative people have some of the most ‘boring’ jobs – sit behind a desk and stare at a computer screen for hours and you’re the one doing what you’re looking at on the screen. Before long, restlessness sets in and we’re looking for some stimulation, some excitement. We binge watch Luke Cage, drink Alomo and Red Bull and download porn like it’s going out of cyberspace.

 

 

2012-06-25-anti-procrastination

 

Well. For the most part.

 

There’s that habit of constantly standing up in the middle of work, taking a stroll, a smoke – whatever keeps us continuously motivated. I mean, can you imagine how much progress a writer would make if he sat at his desk and did nothing but type for six hours straight?

 

But how many of us can do that? There’s always something interrupting. Phones ringing. Facebook buzzing. Messenger pinging. WhatsApp vibrating. Twitter mentioning.

 

And time crawls away from us inexorably.

 

Discipline is of the utmost importance. Discipline is key to almost anything – anything can be done or had with discipline. And that is probably the most important thing my father taught me; discipline.

 

 

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I can go on and on – but the thing is this; it’s the only way to get anything done. Set reasonable goals. Make realistic targets. Buckle down – and get to cracking.

 

Either you will or you won’t.

 

There are no guarantees. No certainties – well; except that none of us is getting out of here alive. You know this. I know this. We all know this.

 

So what the fuck are we standing around waiting for permission for?

 

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all images courtesy Google. Images remain the rights of the copyright holders which; in this case is not me. Be advised.


Can We Talk About Rape?

 

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No matter what you become, shit like this will always be a shadow over you.

 

Nate Parker, actor and director of one of the movies that shook the Sundance Film Festival last year, got an unprecedented $17 million deal and is already getting Oscar nods is not enjoying the acclaim as much as he should.

 

Why?

 

Well, in 1999 Nate Parker and his co-writer for Birth of a Nation, Jean Celestin who was also Nate’s and wrestling teammate back in college had a small ‘party’ in their dorm room, a party involving a girl. Their testimony during the trial varies, but the bottom line is, Nate invited a drunken girl to the room and he and his friend had sex with her – and she accused him of rape.

 

Read the story here.

 

Of course, they (Nate & friend) argued that it was consensual. The girl said different – but they were acquitted in court. Unfortunately, thirteen years after that, the girl committed suicide.

 

I have my opinions and theories about that, I have my arguments but – and this is what I want you to take away from this: when it comes to sex with anyone, do not assume. NEVER. If they are drunk, you can always wait. Be sure to have consent. If you have to get it in writing, get it.

 

 

I’m not even playing.
I just keep thinking; what if Nate had not taken her back to his room and did what he did? Would it come up now? Would he be inadvertently blamed for her suicide?

 

That is one shadow he is not going to walk out from under for a long time. No matter where he goes, whenever or wherever the girl’s name comes out, he will always be blamed for her death – fairly or otherwise. It’s like that Clinton/Monica Lewinsky situation; their names are inexorably and forever linked.

 

One hour of ‘pleasure’ is now displaced for a lifetime of pain and regret.

 

Forget he/she led you on and then changed his/her mind – abeg, leave them alone. It’s too serious; the consequences are too dire to be taken lightly. The only label I know worse than rapist is child molester.

 

We have our whole lives ahead of us. Won’t we be retarded to trade that for sex with someone who doesn’t want to? It’s so fucking pointless it’s painful and frustrating.

 

I’m actually in tears now.

 

See, I’m afraid for Nate. I’m surprised the folks who bought the film have no reneged on the deal. I hope it doesn’t happen, but I won’t be surprised if it does. This is a cautionary tale if there ever was one.

 

We shouldn’t be so shortsighted that we don’t think we will become someone great tomorrow. We should arm ourselves with the knowledge that things have consequences – and while the consequences can take as long as seventeen years before they come creeping out of the woodwork – they will come out. Maybe Nate raped her, maybe he didn’t. Maybe she wanted to, maybe she didn’t.

 

We will never know for sure.

 

What we do know is; he took a girl to his dorm room, had sex with her and she accused him of rape. Years later, she committed suicide. The coroner’s report said she swallowed over 200 pills.

 

He will never live that down. Never.

 

Please, let us all be careful and responsible. Let us be aware of how we treat people – especially people who trust us or look up to us for something or even just for a night. We are all in positions of responsibility – let us not be careless with that power.

 

It’s just not the best – and not only because it might come back to haunt you, but because it’s just not the right thing to do.

 

Get consent. In all your getting, GET CONSENT.

 

Please.

 


Midweek Fix: Fucking Stress

 

Sometimes; I’m stuck in a rut.

 

I have so many things to do and have no idea where to start. Deadlines. Promises to keep. Appointments. Dates. Hang-outs. The lists go on.

 

 

Sometimes I feel as though I have a 24-hour day and I’m awake through it. It’s almost as though I get home, manage to remove my shoes and slump in bed; and twenty minutes later (on a good night) I’m up again, repeating the cycle.

 

A man has to eat, right?

 

But is that my motivation for doing what I do? Strain myself almost to breaking point just because I want to stuff my gut with some proteins and mineral and nutrients?

 

There has to be more to life. But a man must eat.

 

There’s this bumper sticker I remember seeing in my youth; it goes something like ‘I owe, I owe, so off to work I go’.

 

Bad enough that I don’t sleep as much as I need to, I also damage and impair my health with the amazing dosage of caffeine-infused stuff I drink, all in the name of working. I’m a high-strung hyperactive always-busy individual – running around trying to make something of himself.

 

Boy. I do sound like an entrepreneur, don’t I?

 

I go for days on end without speaking more than three sentences to another human being; and that’s when I go to the store to refill my caffeine-drink stash or when I go to the filling station to arrange fuel for the generator. I eat a lot of to-go food simply because I cannot take the time necessary to cook. Sometimes when I close my eyes for a nap, I wonder which one of us is hotter; my laptop or me.

 

I know this isn’t healthy; I know for a fact that I can do better than that.

 

But my song goes; ‘I owe, I owe, so off to work I go’.

 

It’s almost as though hard work is more valued than actual results. I mean; I’m working hard – very hard, and as far as I’m concerned that’s enough. Do I have goals? Are there things I’m trying to achieve with all the stuff I put my rapidly-aging body through?

 

Apart from eating a hearty meal? Not much.

 

But here I am; working myself to an early grave and thinking, ‘that’s the way to go; that’s the only way to be a man where I come from’.

 

Seriously.

 

There was a time when it was popular to answer the ‘when are you getting married’ question with ‘I’m married to my work’, right? Well, I am actually married to my work and I’m cheating on her with a mistress named ‘stress’.

 

You read that right.

 

I am busy being unfaithful; and my wife is just checking the clock for when it’ll be over; when the fat lady will sing.

 

No o, I am not trying to be funny. Reality is this is the life that confronts almost every young and employed person in this country. Rush, work and work and work, it does not really matter if you’re achieving anything; it doesn’t even matter if you’re happy where you are. Just work and keep working. Leave your house in the morning wearing a suit, come back late at night with the jacket over your shoulders and the shirt stained with sweat.

 

“How was work today?” you’re asked. “Thank God,” you must answer; even though you spend every moment wondering what exactly it is you’re working for; why you must work so hard and earn so little – you think about your university days and how you couldn’t wait to get out and experience life.

 

“Is this what it all comes down to?” you ask yourself.

 

I was raised on the saying ‘you can’t eat your cake and have it’. And for most of my younger years I believed it. But since I knew the difference between cake and buns I have been contemplating the implication of that sentence. Why can I not eat my cake and have it; not literally of course? Why can I not be happy doing what I do for a living? Why must I; like most everyone else be unhappy at my job?

 

Now the first thing that occurs to people reading an article like this is; I’m asking them to quit their day jobs. No. Definitely not; because if you quit your day job I won’t be the one to feed you.

 

You’re on your own.

 

What I am saying however is; you can be happy at your day job; whatever that is. In fact you should be happy at your day job; whatever it is. If you’re not, then something is the matter. Time should be devoted to understanding the source of the unhappiness and seeking solutions. For example, as crazy as Lagos traffic is there are ways around it. You do not have to stay stuck in it; swearing at bus drivers and okada riders and sweating like Christmas chicken.

 

Though sometimes being stuck is inevitable, you can avoid the worst of it. All it requires is a lot of planning, awareness and discipline.

 

Why are you unhappy at your job; and what can be done to fix it?

 

Bottom line is; be less of a ‘such is life’ person and be more of a ‘life is what you make it’ person. Live intentionally.

 

As I write this, I am signing divorce papers. And I have handed my mistress her walking permit too. I’m going to marry life – and the only way to do that is to live it.

 

Fucking stress. I’m done.


Midweek Fix: The Curse of the Nigerian Male

The Curse of the Nigerian Male

 

I’m coming from the Island; Ikoyi to be exact (anywhere from Marina to Epe is the Island; deal), from the Waterside where I’d just had fish peppersoup and Smirnoff Ice with a friend. It’s a few minutes after eleven; I’m racing on the Third Mainland Bridge eager to get home. There’s usually power at this time of the day; I’m thinking. And if there isn’t, I still have some fuel in the gen.

 

I want to get some writing done before I sleep.

 

A few meters past the Ebutte Metta exit I spot a motionless vehicle. Beside it is a woman who’s equally just as still. I should stop; I think. I should stop and ask if she needs help. Besides, she isn’t safe where she is. That’s the humane thing to do.

 

Thinking back, I wonder if I was gunning for the Nobel Price for Stupid because anyone who’s familiar with that stretch of road knows it’s usually bad karma to be caught there at that time of the day with motor trouble. All sorts of sordid tales have been told over the years; from robbery and assaults to rape and molestation. I really don’t know what I was thinking; I doubt I was even thinking. I stop the car and exit it, feeling like some superhero.

 

Some superhero.

 

I intend to ask if she needs help; if she’s okay. I get as far as opening my mouth when she screams and reaches for something in the backseat of her car.

 

Gun; my hyperactive imagination shrieks in letters of fire. For a second I think I’m in New York again; pulse pounding as I am pushed against the wall by a policeman who probably thinks every black man with a hand in his jacket pocket is packing. Whatever the case, I am not waiting to see what she has on her backseat. I do a 180, run – run – back to my car, jump in and go from zero to ninety in five seconds.

 

I can still smell rubber burning.

 

I am at Ogudu before I realize my car is screaming; I am at Ogudu before I’m aware of anything again. My heart is doing hoops and spins; my teeth are chattering, I am scared. I have to verbally tell myself to take my foot off the accelerator before I can slow down the vehicle. By now I am approaching Alapere Estate, so I just ease into the filling station just past the estate exit, turn off the engine and get out of the car.

 

My legs are trembling so much I have to sit on the tarmac. Sweat pops from all over me like a pure water sachet just pulled out of a really cold freezer; I look at my hands and to my absolute horror, burst into tears.

 

I am crying.

 

After living in predominantly-white countries for a bit, you get used to people crossing the street to avoid you, people changing seats on a bus when they see you approaching or women clutching their purses and walking faster because a young black male is approaching. The thing is in Lagos, the crime is not being black.

 

The crime is being male.

 

At a time when just one of my friends had a car and we wanted to go out, we would dump ourselves into the vehicle but be on the lockout for police checkpoints. Once we spotted one up ahead, the car would stop out of sight, about one or two of us would get out, walk past the checkpoint and wait for the vehicle to catch up.

 

Three or more males in a car? Potential suspect things. Even if you weren’t caught with any illegal goods, the time wasting alone was insane.

 

Maybe those are too-serious issues. Maybe I should talk about how you’re looking at a woman and she’s looking down to see if she’s showing too much flesh. Or how you want to ask someone for directions and they just look straight ahead or hurry past you, assuming you want to beg for transport money. Or maybe I should talk about how I hesitate to invite a woman over to the crib these days; not because I’m afraid of her refusing, more like I’m afraid of her reasons for refusing.

 

I’m not a rapist; I want to scream.

 

But should that be her problem?

 

What is the problem – or maybe we should begin like this; is there really a problem? If so, what is it and how can it be solved?

 

I can’t lie; one phrase that makes me clench my teeth and want to hit something is the all men are dogs something. I mean, ‘statistics’ seem to support the ridiculous notion that men think about sex every nine seconds. Just think about the implications of such a bogus statement. So; I’m paying a woman a compliment, she thinks I want to get between her legs. I’m smiling politely at a female receptionist she’s thinking I caught a glimpse of her breasts. I offer to help a stranded woman; she wonders at what point during the journey I’m going to make my move.

 

How about the unfortunate reality that quite a number of guys actually lost their virginity to an aunt, the house girl, ‘mummy’s friend’ and so on? How about the most unfortunate reality that Nigerian law does not acknowledge that a man can be raped? ‘Unlawful penetration’, that’s what the law calls it – and since it’s the man doing the penetrating…

 

How about the service girl at the bar, the fast food outlet, the store – who keeps flirting and making suggestive remarks just because I’m a guy therefore I am susceptible to her charms and feminine wiles? How about the bank cashier who cannot seem to get enough of my charm?

 

Or am I paranoid? Am I guilty of the same crime that ‘politeness is so rare these days people confuse it for flirting’ meme seeks to address?

 

The truth is, most people – most guys are moving so fast through the day they barely notice any of these things. Unfortunately, I’m a writer. All I do is notice. I cannot bury my head in the sand and act like well; sexism is a global phenomenon and it’s our turn here too, so I should just man up and deal with it. Unfortunately; sometimes it’s as intense as hearing voices in my head. I cannot turn it off.

 

Finally; I am done crying. My chest is still heaving; I’m still sweaty and shaky but the leaky faucet in eyes is exhausted for the moment. I stand up and brush my hands off, and briefly wonder what exactly made me cry; that I had run from a screaming woman or that I had been scared by a screaming woman.

 

Or maybe I’m just tired of humanity’s collective bullshit; how we can hardly resist treating one person a certain kind of way just because they are.

 

Black. White. Brown. Straight. Gay. Religious. Atheist. Fat. Thin. Male. Female. And all other categories we put ourselves in.

 

I remember a while ago I resided in some area ago; I was coming home one evening and as I walked towards my apartment, wondering if NEPA had been gracious enough during the day and I would get cold water to drink, my landlord’s last born tells me his father summons.

 

Sighing, I ignore my apartment and instead climb the stairs to his, open the door –

 

And find the Oputa panel waiting.

 

I am shown to a seat and before I am addressed I ask for a cup of cold water. The panel looks offended; but I couldn’t care less. I didn’t owe rent; so they were the ones interrupting. They could wait.

 

I drank my fill of water before looking at the panel members. “Yes?” I asked.

 

The landlord was equally blunt. “Young man, are you the one that impregnated my daughter?”

 

It was so unexpected I could only ask, “Ehn?” with my mouth hanging open after the question.

 

Then I realized; he had asked a question, not made a statement as he would have if he knew the answer. I adjusted on my seat and asked, “Have you asked your daughter?”

 

The man eyed his fellow panelists, looked back at me and nodded.

 

“What did she say?”

 

He folded his arms against his chest and grumbled. I knew then his daughter had refused to answer him so I said, “As soon as your daughter answers, I will.”

 

And I stood from my seat, intending to leave.

 

“Who else can it be?” He complained. “You’re the only irresponsible man in this area. A man your age – why are you not married?”

 

Irresponsible being the same or equal to being unmarried.

 

I stopped and turned to face him. “Baba, shebi you are married?”

 

“Ehen?” he answered aggressively.

 

“That must mean you cannot impregnate a woman again, shebi?”

 

“Who said – “ he shot forward in his seat, starting to evoke all sorts of gods and incantations. And then he realized what I had said. He sat back in his seat, eying me like a well-fed lion would eye a fat buffalo.

 

“Goodnight sir,” I said, bowing from the waist before exiting the building. It wasn’t long after that before I was evicted; but not before they discovered who had impregnated the landlord’s daughter.

 

Yinka, the manager of the bakery next door. Married with children. How many? I lost count (and interest) after attending the naming ceremony of the sixth.

 

 

Is it my fault I am male?

 

I get home at something past twelve and put on my laptop. Life goes on. I think about the woman I meant to help and try not to blame her; who knows what she’s been through? Yorubas say ‘if you close your eyes for a bad person to walk past, that’s where you’ll be when a good person goes by’. I think about the policemen who are occasionally extra-rough with me just because I’m male; I think about the cab I stop that drives past me to stop for the woman up ahead.

 

I think; and wonder what life would be like as a woman. It can’t be that hard to wear a skirt; I think.

 

But then, I remember the bra. And smile.

 

Maybe life as male in Nigeria is not so bad after all.

 

 


Midweek Fix: Unwritten

 

The rain looked like jail bars would look to a prisoner. To the figure standing in the doorway; at least.

 

He stood there and stared at the impact points of millions of raindrops; the tarred yet uneven surface of Ukpabio Street. He watched as each slashing needle sped down and splattered in a million showers of diamond, wondering which one ended up in the gutter, which one ended against the wall, which one ended against one of the tires of the many vehicles racing up and down the street –

 

And which of them ended up against his shoes.

 

He regarded the shiny tips of said shoes; black Dr. Martens, Kiwi polish protecting the leather from wetness. The same couldn’t be said of the cuffs of his trousers, steadily becoming a darker shade of grey – different from the higher parts of it. He could easily have stepped further back into the shadow of the doorway and conveniently continued his perusal of the empty street – empty but for cars – but he refused,

 

He stood there and mentally scrolled through his options.

 

He had to go to work; there was quite a bit waiting on his desk for him, put there the previous evening by the smiling devil that was Ms. Adeniran. “These files have to go out tomorrow,” she said, moving her glasses up and down like wipers on a really large windshield; “so you better get to it before you leave.”

 

She delighted in making him miserable.

 

He had to go to work – but the rain did not look like it was going to let up anytime soon. He had called his cab guy earlier – the guy had said he was stuck in traffic somewhere on the island; a thousand miles away.

 

Suddenly there was a slight easing in the pit-pat singsong pattern of the rain hitting galvanized rooftops. Almost in the same moment, he spied Celestina; the landlord’s daughter from the opposite house run out from underneath the awning in front of her yet-to-open mother’s shop and into the street, waving at someone behind her – someone he couldn’t see.

 

He followed suit. Stepped out of the doorway and into the rain; and turned left.

 

Almost immediately he realized the folly of his actions. The rain hadn’t slowed down; in fact judging by the speed with which his azure shirt became like a second skin, it had picked up speed. Celestina had vanished. He almost couldn’t see in front of him; the jail bars had become concrete walls and –

 

He suddenly realized he was floating. Something had snatched his footing – or maybe the tarred street – from underneath him.

 

Before he could enjoy the feeling; however, the street rose and hit him with an unapologetic open-fisted smack. Everything became brightly hued and sharply colored – and then red-tinged grey started to cover his sight, starting from the edges of his vision.

 

He lay there, arms wide open; abandoning himself to the black chasm that yawned before his sight – the rain pushing fingers against his pain-contorted face denying him the opportunity. Sensation slowly returned; sensation in the form of a billion pain-points opening along his spine; up and down his back – and then to take permanent residence in the back of his head. He winced, tears of pain mixing with the tears from the sky adorning his cheeks.

 

Somewhere far away yet right next to him, a roaring was pushing through the Afropolitan Vibes going on in his skull – but before he could do more than hold his head, he was suddenly bathed in road water. Only then did he remember.

 

He was lying in the middle of the road.

 

He made to rise – pushing himself away from the floor with both hands – but then an earthquake suddenly began, shaking the length of Ukpabio street; only subsiding when he let go and fell back on the tarmac.

 

He closed his eyes. I’m so in trouble; he thought.

 

“Can you stand?”

What sort of question is that?

 

Probably because of the mush state of his brains, a retort wasn’t fast in coming. He opened his eyes –

 

And came face to face with the person who had spoken.

 

Celestina, the landlord’s daughter from the opposite house and the girl he had been nursing a crush for since the first time he saw her; the day after the day he moved into the house opposite her father’s.

*********************************************************************************************

I spent a moment wondering; what would have happened to that guy if he had turned right instead of left?

Probably a different story entirely.

But he had to make a move for a story to be told; no?

That is the long and short of what I want to share today.

We spend too much time thinking about the holes and the gaps and the spaces in between the lines. We spend so much time planning – it’s almost as if we take time to create a plan for the planning of the plan gangan.

Imagine that.

There’s nothing wrong in planning; but when all the time is spent on planning and none is made towards executing; there’s a problem. A plan should not – is not – an end onto itself. The whole purpose of planning is to execute – is it not?

Make A Move.

One saying I’m so fond of is no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. In other words, we can sit in our rooms and offices and planes and taxis and vehicles and so on and plan how to take over the world; but without actually doing something; taking a step or whatever, there’s absolutely no purpose to the plan; we won’t find out how effective it is.

They say genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. No matter how world-changing that start up of yours is supposed to be – if you don’t actually get off your behind and make a move, that’s all it’s going to be. An idea. A plan.

I see parallels between life and art; like most everyone else. I happen to be fond of Temple Run – asides the truth that all you do in Temple Run is…

You guessed it. Run.

There are lots of twists and turns in the game. You turn – and next moment your character is falling screaming into an abyss – or maybe he falls into a stream that sweeps him/her away. Whatever.

I come to find that sometimes, I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if I’d turned left instead of the failed right turn I made.

I will never find out. But then I tell myself; I turned right; right? That’s all I need to concern myself with for now. Left could have been better or worse – or at the very least; different, but I turned right. My business is – should be – making the most of that right turn.

I view life like that.

Nothing is clear. Nothing is promised. The only certainty is that something is going to happen. Should that be enough to stop you – to stop me from living?

I didn’t think so.

You’ll never be 100% prepared. But you can start now; and grow as you go. You cannot build a reputation on something you plan to do!

I feel in love with a girl named Natasha Bedingfield – long before I heard that runaway single These Words. And then I heard that one, and then I heard another one – and my love was cemented.

There’s a particular song of hers; it shares titles with this post – and I would like to cite some of the lyrics – specifically the bridge/chorus:

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have. Start something. Go somewhere.

There’s a whole litany of words; a whole library of life waiting to be opened, waiting for the right person to pick up a blank book and begin to fill the empty pages with life. There are plenty plenty stories waiting just beyond the left/right turn, the next move…

Just don’t stay in one place planning all the time away.

The rest of your life; as at this exact moment is a blank page waiting for you to write on it. So go ahead. Take the pen of destiny, step out…

And begin to write your story. It really doesn’t matter where you are now.

The rest is still pretty much unwritten.


Midweek Fix: Debola Underscore & Tolu Oke – When Death Comes Calling

 

I want to write about two people.

 

But before I do that, I want to make some things clear.

 

 

  1. I do not suddenly have a fascination with death. I outgrew it a long time ago. It just so happens that death; being a recurring theme on this journey of life visited closely recently.
  2. The two people I’m writing about died a while apart from each other – and I would have written about the first guy before now but – it just didn’t feel right. And if I talk more about one than the other, it’s only because I know one more than the other.
  3. Only last week it was Robin Williams. Oh well…

 

 

Tolu Oke was a writer.

His blog: https://toluoke.wordpress.com/tag/tolu-oke/

 

I think I met him on NS, I don’t exactly remember how we started talking but I remember him to be a honest critic, he would say whatever he felt about your work. And because he was a sound young man, he usually knew he was talking about.

 

 

He took a shine to my writing, and would always say what he felt and why he felt that way. He also introduced me to someone who I have the privilege of ‘mentoring’ (when she has time), but it wasn’t until his demise I realized he was my link with her.

 

 

That was Tolu. Never glory-hunting.

 

 

We used to talk – personal stuff every now and then – and then we promised to meet and hang out sometime. But he was busy, and I was busy, and the time never seemed right…

 

 

And now he’s dead.

He died in an auto accident.

 

Tolu Oke

Tolu Oke

 

The second person died on Saturday after a sickle cell crisis. Yes, he was SS, but if anything, that made him more special.

 

 

He is an advertising legend; I have no doubts that he would have become one of the owners of a multi-billion naira international ad agency – had he so desired. As it was, he won several international awards and distinctions, studied in several international ad schools, arguably the single most awarded individual in Nigeria’s advertising history (not fact though) and his campaigns are the stuff of legend.

 

 

I’m sure you would have seen his work – one at least.

 

 

There was a series of Noddles ads that went viral – or at least one – this past Ramaddan – something in the lines of ‘Because you’re fasting we won’t show you a bowl of noddles with a chicken’ or something like that.

 

 

Ah. Here It Is:

ramadan_ad_copy_lead_1_aotw

Yup. That was him.

 

 

He was a driven, focused man who was always a pleasure to work with. If you spent time with him, he in his element, and you were not inspired, you had to be dead. He was the kind of guy you either liked or hated. It was virtually impossible to be indifferent to him. You know those kind of guys?

 

 

And the best, most fascinating part of this young man?

 

 

He was just thirty years old.

 

 

I was talking with someone – and it dawned on me that Debola (that’s his name) lived the way he did – probably because of his condition – probably because he was aware that he was living on borrowed time. No offense whatsoever meant.

 

 

And then, as I continued to think, it dawned on me again that – so what exactly is the difference between me and Debola? Just because he was SS and I am not, was I guaranteed to live longer?

 

 

Like it or not, we are all living on borrowed time! There’s absolutely no guarantee that we would make it to tomorrow – we just hope and pray and believe in whatever deity it is we allow guide and direct our piety.

 

 

It’s funny how nobody exactly teaches us to do wrong – but we have to learn to do right. Someone told me ‘it’s always the abusive part of a language that is easiest to learn’. I think so too.

 

 

So we quickly learn to steal, to lie, to cheat, to kill – we learn to use and manipulate and play other people. And as we get further and further into living for ourselves…

 

We forget why we came here. Which is, to leave this world better than we met it.

 

Debola died at thirty – and I know several men waaaay older than he was, who are still alive and don’t have a third of his achievements. And I’m not talking about the creative work or the ads or the awards. I’m talking about the laughs he shared. I’m talking about the inspiration he was and continues to be. I’m talking about the fact that he followed his heart, his passion – he followed it with everything that was him.

 

There would be several people younger than him too, who have also done great stuff. But I don’t know any. None that I can speak of in the same breath as Debola. In spite of his circumstances, Debola lived life under his own terms. He did not ask life for a quarter – and life; who really does not give a fuck anyways, did not give him one. And he lived it up.

Adebola Babatunde Underscore Baba

Adebola Babatunde Underscore Baba

 

Bottom line; whatever we believe, whatever we want to do, whatever we want to do – we better get up on it and get doing. No time o.

 

No time. Debola. Tolu. Thank you so much for being what you guys are.

 

You’re challenges. Motivation. Inspiration. Encouragement. I won’t stop.

 

God willing. I won’t. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. With us. With me.

 

 


Midweek Fix: Of Death And Other Related Noise

Know what loneliness is? Making other people happy; giving so much of yourself and not having a place to refill from.

It’s been all over the news – Robin Williams, ace actor, comedian, all-round talent and funnyman is dead. Lauren Bacall, another fantastic actress from generations ago died yesterday (12th). These are people who spent years on the screen, making people happy by giving a face to their most private thoughts.

But I won’t even talk about Bacall as much as I will Robin Williams. She died of a stroke, natural caused – and she was 89.

Robin, on the other hand was 63 and it was classified as an apparent suicide. I met Robin in Ms. Doubtfire, and even though I thought romance movie are somehow – I liked his performance. I thought it was brilliant; the way he went from husband to nanny without breaking a sweat. Then there’s Good Will Hunting, Jumanji, Insomnia, Popeye, Seize The Day…those were my personal favorites.

And then, there’s the genie…

He had a face that was synonymous with mischief. There was always a devil dancing behind his eyes; whether he was being a father, a teacher or a nanny or even a bad guy.

Man, he was creepy in Insomnia.

I’d rather not talk about his personal life; I’m fast learning how crazy – how far away from one’s work life things can be behind the scenes. I want to talk about his resume; how he made people happy with roughly 80 movies and several stand-up appearances – and didn’t seem to have much of that in his life.

Note – I said ‘seem’.

But he had marks around his wrist, and he was found hanging from a belt around his neck. Could be a staged murder, but I want to go with the suicide angle.

Word has it he checked into rehab for alcoholism earlier this year, and he’s been struggling with depression. So of course, the suicide looks good.

Why would someone, like Robin who was a funnyman find it so hard to be happy himself?

Allow me share a little something.

Stuff like Twitter and Facebook, designed to bridge the gap between human and human interaction has unintentionally widened that gap. I need you to think of the last time you had face-to-face interaction with anyone other than your colleagues or the mama-put woman – or the Okada man. I need you think of your last two relationships, or maybe three or four; depending on *clears throat*

I was kidding.

Anyways, where did you meet this person? I might be stretching it far – but chances are you met them online.

How did that go?

I notice; also, that guys don’t have game anymore. And by game; I’m talking about lyrics. Flow. Skill – knowing how to make moves on a woman, make her feel like she’s all that counts.

We just don’t try anymore. And the excuse is – it’s pointless. Why use all the flows, the game – why learn, when it’s about money these days?

I’m sure you’re wondering what all that has to do with Robin.

Well, we are a misunderstood generation, and no one is as guilty of misunderstanding us than ourselves. Everybody assumed Robin was fine – till breaking news told us he’s dead.
And all of a sudden, he’s described with ‘was’. Past tense.

We all have issues, and we’ve learnt to bottle it up inside because frankly, no one cares. I don’t want to hear about your issues – hell, your life is probably better than mine!

And they’re probably right.

But I’m yet to meet someone who has had ‘enough hugs for the day’. I’m yet to meet someone who didn’t want to hear nice things said about them in an ideal situation; and I’m yet to meet someone who hates compliments.

Robin was alone when he died, as it usually is with people who commit suicide. So as ‘connecting’ as social media is, I am yet to find a substitute for a welcoming pair of arms.

And please – no Ebola jokes.

How about checking on people we used to be close to? How about hanging out with some pals this weekend? How about catching a movie with him/her? How about hugging a colleague at work today? How about being nice to that Chicken Republic waitress? How about putting down some poetry for her –

In fact, I just inspired myself. I am leaving right now to go pen a few lines for her. Really.

In other news, you can order your love letters here. I’m serious.

So. Let Robin be that reminder that, no one is so strong they don’t need niceness anymore. A simple but genuine ‘hey, how’s it going?’ might just be what that person needs. Seize the day, my friends. Make someone happy today – as cliche and annoying as that might sound, it might be the antidote you need too.

Care. A bit more.

R. I. P. Robin Williams