Dear future me…

dear

Dear future me,

WHO AM I?

That is the question I was born with this morning.

In between puffs of cigarette smoke, our mutual friend asked, who are you? You should remember…I laughed, loud and hard, and opened my mouth to answer – but nothing.

I did not know. I do not know who I am.

You know me very well, brother, so you can understand why it came as a shock that I couldn’t answer that question. Shouldn’t I have had it all figured out? Shouldn’t I have had for an answer, words of wisdom, with fancy conjunctions stringing together their exquisitely-woven philosophies? I should have, right? But I did not. And I can‘t help but wonder if that is an answer by itself.

I do not know how long it has been for you since we wrote this letter, but I hope – I really hope – that you have an answer by now. There is also a lot more that I hope you are by now. There are some I hope you aren’t as well.

I hope our family is a huge part of who you are. I hope our parents are alive and aging well. I hope Poppa hasn’t gone bald (for both our sakes) and he still enjoys walking around the house in baggy Ankara trousers and looping singlets. I hope he still derives pleasure in swinging that broom – to rid cobwebs from a corner – or machete – to trim those flowers – or whatever equipment it is he is besotted with at the moment, with which he tends the house. I hope he has a lucrative line selling in Onitsha or Nnewi and that the umunna meetings he attends these days are filled more with laughter and camaraderie than anything else. I also hope he now has time to sit in the garden at night, surrounded by luxuriant grass swimming in a flood of garden-light, sipping something healthy and reading books. Somehow I know the dude is a reader, he just had to give it up even before he had the chance to choose it.

I hope Maama is old and agile, like granny; I hope the calls are less frequent, where she narrates her dreams and prescribes the bible verses that would cure the impending doom. I hope she still calls to pray for you and run her business ideas by you. Even though you do not need it, she probably tells you about every new job opening in the Federal Ministry because “government jobs dikwa very reliable”; I know you know to pretend to listen every time and say you’ll think about it. I know she’ll probably never be worry-less but I hope she is very happy, and that she got that doctorate degree she always wanted. I hope she has a horde of grandchildren whom she can fuss over, and worry over, and whom she can tell more of those folktales we heard very few of.

Talking of grandchildren, I hope you contributed – maybe even still contributing – a sizable chunk of that lot. I hope our siblings are well and alive, and still bound together by the laughter and unpretentiousness that made our childhood memorable. I hope you and Piro found a way to buy more land in one place, so that you built your houses within walking distance of each other, no gates or fences in between. I hope the girls visit during Christmas with their families, and I hope you all stay awake long into the night, gisting about nothing in particular, reminiscing and playing video games. And when the kids fall asleep, I hope they can do so easily and stay till morning regardless of whose house they are in at the time, Poppa’s, Piro’s or yours.

Fiona thinks what I just wrote doesn’t make any sense – yes, she’s reading over my shoulder; the woman never learnt either of courtesy or coyness. You know how big and chummy a family she comes from so she can’t possibly understand why I would, in her words, “make something so little to coman be looking imirimious”. This woman i

It’s been six hours since I typed that last ‘I’. After Fiona yabbed what I wrote, I shot back – I called her Phyno and told her to go collabo with Wande cole if she had nothing better doing. She hates it when any reference is made to the straggly hairs that occasionally sprout on her chin but I have boyfriend immunity so I call her Phyno. When I hit her with the line, she smacked me over the head; I spat chewed gum at her, and she started a pillow fight. We went through the throw pillows in the sitting room and went on to the large-size fluffy pillows in the bedroom and then…why am I recounting this? You know exactly what happened afterwards.

Anyway, Phyno is asleep now and I hope you married her. Because she’s a great girl. She says I only say it to get in her pants but you and I know I mean it when I say that she makes imperfection look perfect. I hope you married her and if you didn’t, I hope you married a truly beautiful woman who is your best friend. And I hope she married a man who loves her even more than I love her now.

Because you married her, I am sure that you love your wife with all that you are and will ever be (if you still have time left). I hope that she loves you just as much. I hope your dreams and passions align so that neither of you has to die so that the other can live; movies make those sad endings look sweet but really, man, the Word says that God gave us the earth and its fullness for a reason – to savor it!

I hope you know the Bible well enough now to know what verse it is I just quoted…and I hope you just smiled because there is no such verse. Or is there? Anyway, I hope you love our God nearly as much as I try to and I hope you worship him in the people whose paths cross yours every day.

I hope the future isn’t as shitty as we fear it will be. If it is, I know you have found a way to be happy while keeping life sane and productive in your immediate environment. I hope you have not given up on hope of a better future too; tell the children the lores of how we right now live in fear and suspicion of our own kin; use characters like the tortoise and the lion to relay to them how we in their past, go to bed afraid we’ll never wake only to wake wishing we never did. Don’t scare them oh, you bully; okay, scare them a little if you must, but let them learn the lesson – they must learn to live together like brothers or they will perish together as fools. For the adults, the ones with whom we dreamt big, drank down and pissed it all away, tell them you lot haven’t failed yet. For as long as you breathe and your hearts thud, failure cannot laugh in your faces yet. Don’t let him.

If it isn’t – if the future is not as shitty as we fear it will be – then I am glad I was one of those who hoped. I am glad that somewhere along the line, we did something right, something different, and turned it around for better. And I hope I played my part.

I read Long Walk to Freedom again today – don’t bother saying it. It’s just that I am constantly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the sacrifice he and all those other good people had to make for the prize of freedom. There are times when I find that I am all fired up about the good fight – like two days ago when the members of parliament ‘turned up’ in full glare of the public eye, or that time Piro was arrested and detained for not giving up his seat on the bus to a uniformed man. Times like that, I see thorns, red thorns.

But there are also those times when I think about the ‘goods’ of my life, and I find that I am not fired up for any fight whatsoever, good or bad. Like yesterday, just sitting, all snuggled up and watching Chioma Jesus music videos with Fiona; and that time last week when I stumbled upon that video clip from last Christmas, of mum dancing Alanta while we cheered. Times like that, I see roses, red roses.

I hope having to worry about such is already in your past. Because it would mean you survived it all. Evil thrives in a society when the good men do nothing – true; but it also thrives in a society where the good men are in a hurry to be good and get themselves killed off. There is a reason martyrs never get to laugh last.

I hope you never have to choose that path; I hope you never have to choose between the people or/and the things you love. And if it ever happens that you have to, I hope that somewhere in the life I have already lived, the life I am living now, or the life I will live before I become you, we learnt something that will help you make the right choice.

If you kept your part of our bargain, then it’s our birthday today. As you celebrate, I hope you have grown – not just aged – but really grown with every passing second of this shy but ruthless fellow called time. I trust that you are not worse, neither are you the same person I am right now; you are a better person. For that reason alone, it’s a pleasure knowing that I’ll be you.

Happy birthday.

Yours,

Me.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

Be kind, share and comment.

This Thing Called ‘The Face’ – What People Had To Say

 

THE FACE

Thank you all so much for your feedback with the last TTC post; if you missed it, click here NOW!

As promised, this post will recapitulate the deal on This Thing Called ‘The Face’ with the responses I got on the question. I must warn, they range from the insightful to the absolutely clueless; as well as from the hilarious to the downright troubling. But I had a lot of fun and ‘aha’ methods reading them; I hope you find those.

I have tinkered with the identities of the respondents so if I were you, I’d take those names with a pinch of snuff salt.

Again, if you missed that TTC post, kneel down, close your eyes, raise your hands, and stick your tongue out click here NOW.

***

The question was:

“Complete this – you may be as effusive as you desire, or concise. However you want to answer it:

Before I die, I want to…”

Adanna: be at peace with God and man

Ginika: Go to Rome…ALL of Rome

Mimi: Write a bestseller

Ada: I dunno…how many words are required?

Tobe: I never wan die biko. Thank you

Bazo: Leave a mark

Adim: I shall think on it and reply you soon (four weeks ago!)

Pam: I don’t understand you oh. (I repeated it) I’ll think about it; it’s impromptu now (three weeks ago)

Cherry: Why you wan know?

Chioma: be happy and have succeeded in the things I wanted to do and lived a full life without any regrets.

Chibueze: Affect lives

Tochi: Make money

Ezinma: I want to love and be loved, live, travel, help, grow old, do crazy; make love, then have sex, have children; before I die, I want to live

Favor: Iron-pumper

JC: I don’t know oh

Uzoaro: Hmm…nnaa, I don’t know oh

Chidinma: Fulfill God’s purpose for my life

Achugz: Dive from the pinnacle of Everest and land on my right foot

Obiora: Leave a legacy, the kind Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King Jr left, but most likely on a much smaller scale. Or maybe more corporate-themed…like Steve Jobs. But in all, legacy is the keyword

Tombari: Live today

Claire: Attend mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with my partner and children

Mazesh: I want to visit Agra India to see Taj Mahal; want to go to the Bahamas and bask in the sun at the beach with my sweetheart; I want to test drive Bugatti Veyron; buy a Toyota GT 86; I want to proclaim in front of my family, my love for someone; I want to fly a T-rex 450 DFC FLYBERLESS RC HELI; ride on a jetski; see stone henge in UK. So many things…

Adaora: Repent

Dan: Hmm…still pondering (it’s been two weeks)

Debby: Hmm…let us see (still seeing for three weeks now…)

Jane: ride a power bike

Pretty: I want to make one person’s dreams come true

Emma: I want to live

Oge: Achieve so much in life and create a positive name

Marcel: Fulfill my dreams

Rose: Know God

Toby: Exhaust all the love I have in me

Cami: Make my name known at least in Africa, as one of the wealthiest, whilst adding something good to the society; start a family with a partner I love and who loves me, and live old enough to see my kids enjoy a comfortable life and stand on their own feet.

Oyibo: Hmmm…no be easy one oh; because I never dey reason die oh

Ofurum: Thank God for the opportunity of experiencing this world and for also for all my achievements and disappointments because they made this world fun to live in

Jessy: I want to make tangible achievements to speak for my existence

***

 

Well, you were warned 😉 A lot of them, as you have seen, revolve around seeking wealth and family, philanthropy and religion in a bid to find The Face. My personal favorites were sent in by Ezinma and Emma: I want to live.

It’s the shortest and probably, the rightest way to find ‘The Face’ isn’t it? Living fully everyday, devoid of all restrictions of society and propriety, without fear of dying too young or too fast or too painfully…just living. ‘The Face’ under such circumstances would reveal itself without any pomp, and every second spent alive would be a breeze.

I don’t know about you, reader, but before I die, I want to live.

IMG_20130929_141129

 

Find me @ojukwu_martin on twitter

THIS THING CALLED “THE FACE”

THE FACE

A long time ago in the land of UpSideDown, there lived a man named Festus who was gifted with hands of gold. His gift was such that whatever he laid hands on, regardless of how low or misshapen, immediately morphed into the best of its kind. As is expected for such a man, Festus was wealthy by all standards. He had herds and herds of cattle, seemingly limitless hectares of land, a blossoming business empire and a large happy family. He literarily and quite literally had it all.

But one day Festus woke up unhappy. He needed a new project, something else to take up and refine into the best shape ever imagined. And while he stood before the mirror contemplating this, his eyes lit upon his face. He stared. At the long crooked nose, the spotted cheeks and lined forehead, and the webbed corners bracketing the squinty eyes. Then he knew he had found it. He would take the face up and transform it so that it turned out to be the best face ever imagined.

Excited beyond measure, Festus walked around the mirror to retrieve the face but it wasn’t there! Festus moved the mirror this way, and that way. It was a large mirror, 9-foot high, 6 wide, made of oak and shiny arcs lined with rubies, and it stood on two large ceramic claws. Festus poked and prodded at it from behind, he squirmed this way and that way, nothing.

He peeked again at the shiny mirror surface and sure enough, the face was there. Then he looked again behind it, and the same thing happened…it went poof!

Alarmed, he called in his servants and explained his dilemma to them.

“If I may speak, sire…” a brave steward ventured.

“Quiet!” Festus yelled; his face was by now livid, forehead dotted with sweat and lips drawn in a thin unyielding line of strung-out anger. “Just find it” was all he said.

He ordered them to work in shifts, round the clock; and he had his bed moved so it sat just before the grand mirror. Every morning, the first sight he saw was the face. He would crawl up through the miles of bedding to it, a plea in his eyes, tears too. Please let me touch you. He would reach out to touch it – this obsession of his, but he would yet again make contact only with the hand, the cold, unfeeling, obtrusive hand that belonged to the face. Then he would grit his teeth, rise and walk around to the back of the mirror. And always, the face and hand would vanish.

Festus would fume and kick and scratch at his stewards and order them to bring him the face. They tried to take the mirror out but he turned grey all over and yelled like a train gone berserk. His servants obediently took to the mirror, peeling off the layers of shine, then paper, then strip by strip of oak. It took days but then it was done, but the face was still not found.

“Keep looking” Festus said.

“But how, sire? The…”

“KEEP LOOKING!!!”

Festus would hear the counsel of no one, not the tender pleas of his children, nor the amorous wiles of his wife of two-score years. And soon fed up with his sour demeanor, they parked up and left to the village. His stewards too, one by one, packed up and left the mansion until it was just sully ol’ Festus in it. Festus and the face that couldn’t be found.

He sent word out to the other eight lands and to the seven seas and oceans; he put up his entire wealth for the man who could find the face he saw in the mirror. And they came, and tried, and failed.

Festus watched the face wane every morning; the brows lost their wing-like drape, the nose grew even more crooked, and the spots took over whatever rest of it dirty graying hairs had spared. And as he watched the rot, his soul wilted. And as his soul wilted, the face waned even more. And waned. And wilted. And waned.

Until one fateful night, Festus lay down. And waned.

 

Interpretation:

The tag of ‘interpretation’ is for want of a more apt word to use because sincerely, there will be very little ‘interpretation’ happening here. Matter of fact, if I’ll be doing anything, it’d be more like EX-terpretation. So here goes:

Festus is everyday man, woman – you and I.

The Face is what some of us call ‘inner peace’ or ‘peace of mind’, some call it ‘satisfaction’, some broaden it to be ‘soul satisfaction’, some call it ‘true happiness’ while others call it ‘true living’. Because it is called by so many names and because I plain like to be noticed, I’ll continue calling it The Face for the purposes of this post.

However you choose to address it, The Face is that state we all – or some of us who have decided that death is unavoidable eventually – want to die in; that state in which we are free of all worries and in fact, happy with the lives we will be leaving behind. It’s that state we’ve heard that people were in who died with smiles on their lips. And many times, it’s a state we seek – some of us through the entirety of our mature lives and others, much later – and rarely find.

Fusing the analogy with this inexterpretation then, we often seek The Face and often, in the wrong places. Ironically, sadly, The Face is right with us, on us, in us, so we shouldn’t even have to ‘look’ in the first place. But oh, we do. We look.

We look for it in careers, in wealth, in crime, in power, in abusive relationships, in amorous ones, in love, in family. People tell us where to look, how to look and we listen or don’t. And either way, they soon tire because really, they can do nothing to help. As Abe so succinctly put it, “you wan hep pesin fain im own face?

So sometimes we find it, most times we don’t but check this out, eventually we die. And after we’re dead, people spend time wondering about The Face on our behalf; they wonder if we found it – did he die happy? Did she live a fulfilled life? Is that a 🙂 ? Or a 😦 ?

And they never know. Then they die. And the wondering cycle whips on along.

So I thought of a question that would best direct people to find The Face while they lived. So that it wouldn’t matter to you at death what other people will wonder or think about you. So that it wouldn’t matter to you whether you died 🙂 or 😦 or :/; when the time came, you would just quietly let go without fighting to hold on to the razor-sharp rims of mortality.

Many of us don’t like to hear this next part so reader discretion is advised for the next 23 words, 3 commas, two semi-colons and 2 full-stops.

Some of us will die violently, others peacefully; some slowly, others quickly; some painfully, others by an orgasm. But we will all die.

So death is sure – check; we can’t control it, nor can we control the manner in which it will visit us. What we can control though is the state we are in at the time it comes. Maybe we can die without feeling regret or intense dissatisfaction, the kind that breaks the heart of even a dying man.

If you’ve died before, then don’t bother reading this to the end, you already know what I mean. If you never plan to die…well, cumbayaya cumbaya. But if you – like me – are yet to but will surely die, kindly follow to the end.

I came upon this blog post from December of mega-sized ‘blackboard’ walls where people wrote with pencils their individual finishes of the open-ended clause, “Before I die, I want to…” And I thought, cool. So I conducted a mini-survey among my usual pool of youths 20 to 30 years of age. My pitch to them was this:

“Complete this – you may be as effusive as you desire, or concise. However you want to answer it:

BEFORE I DIE, I WANT TO…”

IMG_20130929_141129

And the answers came rolling in. I will share a few of the answers I received back as well as my own answer in the next TTC post but now, take a moment to answer it for yourself. Because this question will help you find The Face, or peace of mind or soul satisfaction or happiness…whichever.

What is it that you deem your life’s purpose? That dream, that goal, that ambition which achieving right now will see you very happy, even if death came in the next minute. What is it that you want to have checked as DONE before death comes knocking?

What is the deal with This Thing Called ‘The Face’?

Think on it and do well to share with us.

 

P.S. While you’re at it, don’t look in ANY mirrors

 

Mention me @ojukwu_martin on twitter