Finding You

Failure does something to you. It breaks you. Especially if it has happened more than once. And for some, just once is enough. Failure will, whether or not you realize it, make you lose faith in yourself and your abilities. You’ll start to trust less and less in what you’re capable of. You’ll start to feel like people can no longer see you for who you really are. They only see the mistakes you’ve made and the failures you can no longer erase. You feel judged even when no one is particularly looking at you. The way that people treat you changes. You don’t want to be pitied or scorned or looked down on but somehow these are the only ways people know how to respond.
You failed.
It stings. It unnerves you. And that’s when it all starts. You start to forget who you are. It becomes difficult to convince yourself that you can succeed at anything you set your mind to. You continue down this road over a period of time and you keep failing at different things; your relationships, your choices, your goals. Soon enough you’re wondering if it’s all worth the effort. You’ve failed at so many different things that you start to call yourself a failure. You define yourself by all the things you couldn’t accomplish and wallow in your grief. “I’m a failure,” you tell yourself. Eventually you lose focus entirely. You can’t remember who you used to be before you failed. You’ve lost sight of your dreams and you can no longer find joy in little victories, because a part of your brain has been conditioned to wait for the disappointment, like a wild cat preying on a deer. Your failure awaits. And surely, not long after, it’s there again. You sink deeper, you die a little more.

Soon enough you forget who you are. Nothing motivates you long enough. Nothing interests you. You’re become bored. You’ve come to accept your fate as something you can’t change. So you start to settle. You settle for a life that’s less than what you’d hoped for. You settle for a relationship you don’t need to put too much work into. You settle for a job that allows you limit your creativity. You settle for friends like you who have settled for you. You settle for the failure.
Who are you now? What have you become? When did your heart stop beating?
Your strength isn’t only in the things you can do. It is in what you choose to do. It is in choosing to get up when you fall, it is in choosing to keep at it when you fail, it is in choosing to do better when the first few tries don’t work, it is in choosing to put in more effort, in choosing to hope against hope. Your strength is in your choices.
You didn’t disappear, you merely forgot who you are. You let the grief blind you from seeing your true potentials. But you’ve been in there the whole time. You just can’t remember. So let me remind you.

You are as authentic as the day before your fall, and more so because you choose to stand. Your goals are as achievable as the day you conceived them. Your plans are still feasible. Your hands are still skillful and your mind can still secrete creative juices. You didn’t lose your divinity. You only forgot for a moment that you were divine so you dropped your crown. Your failure doesn’t define anything about you. It is your choices that do.
It doesn’t matter if the rest of the world doesn’t see you for who you really are, it matters that you see yourself. The most important words you will ever hear are those that you tell yourself. So find yourself in the things that really matter, in the things you love, in the tiny details that count. Finish that book. Take that trip. Dump that jerk. Work that job. Run that mile. Find your peace. Live.

The Women

The other day, I went to the market to make my hair. It was like every other day when I go to make my hair. I buy what I need and I find someone to fix it in for me. So on this market day, it was exactly the same. But something happened to me, something a little different. For the fist time in all my years of visiting the market, I saw them. I’d never noticed them before but I saw them that day. 

Here’s what I mean. On this particular day, there was a woman with her child sitting next to me. She’s a hair dresser too, but she was more concerned for her baby boy than her job or anything else for that matter. I’ve never seen a Nigerian mother smother her child with love before. Nigerian mothers are known for discipline, manipulation, love, patience and anger issues. But here was a woman who wouldn’t even let her child play because she wanted to hold him all the time. She fed him every thirty minutes or carried him on her back. He was old enough to crawl and move around on his own, but she wouldn’t let him. He’d squirm and try to get away from her grip but she won’t let go. He’d even scream and cry but she’d rather force her breast into his mouth than put him down for a minute. It was incredible. A lot of the older women there yelled at her to put him down and focus on her work. The boy wanted to play but she wouldn’t have it. The other women advised, chided, insisted and eventually got angry at her. 

“Let the child be. He needs to stay on his own.” One said. 

“It’s as if you don’t want this boy to grow up.” Another chipped in. 

“Ah ah! Stop giving him breast, he’s already old enough.” This one was angry

“Bring him to me let me help you hold him.” One offered. 

But when they noticed the woman wasn’t responding, they started talking loudly to each other instead. 

“This girl is stubborn. Until that child will grow up and become spoilt” 

“I don’t understand what’s wrong with her. Will she die if she drops him?” 

“Please, please I can’t kill myself. It’s her business. Let her do what she wants. I’m tired” 
I was annoyed too. Eventually she put the child to sleep with her breast in his mouth. I rolled my eyes. What was wrong with her? But then I thought about it for a minute. The baby boy was obviously her first child. It was easy to tell because even when other kids who played around came close she’d shush them away saying “Leave my son alone”. She took pride in saying those words – “my son”. So I thought; what if it took a while to conceive him? What if the pregnancy was difficult? What if the labour pains were excruciating? Oh but it all paid off because on her bosom lay her beautiful son. A minute didn’t go by that she didn’t smile at him and cradle him to her chest. She held on to him like her life depends on it, which I’m guessing it does. What if he was all she had to live for? 

That was when I looked around and observed the other women. They all had stories too. Stories no one else knew about. Of pain and hurt, of miracles and victories. Their lives seemed so simple. I wanted to judge them for judging the woman but I realised it wasn’t their fault. Sometimes, after we’ve overcome storms and had our own victories and breakthroughs, we tend to forget that miracles and victories are not so easy to come by. 

So I didn’t mind that the woman smothered her son or that the other women judged her for it. I was happy to have finally noticed them. Because their stories will never be told and world will probably never know they existed. But I do. I saw them.