Use The Rear-View

Jobs in Nigeria, Nigeria JobsEd. note: This is a guest post from Imisi Osasona in our frontline stories’ series.

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much” – Mother Teresa
At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us” – Albert Schweitzer

Have you ever been so frustrated you could smash your {very expensive} phone against a brick wall? Oh ok, it wasn’t that bad but you were pretty pissed! Let’s play a little game: Put that frustration in an Epson photocopier and produce 24 copies {not to worry, all costs are “on the house”}. Adding the original copy gives us 25 times what we had before. Now, picture someone 25 times as miserable and frustrated as the most you’ve ever been!

There was once a man intensely blessed with the gift of comedy. So skilled was he in his art that even his walking made people laugh! It was one outing after another, as the rich kept calling on him to grace their occasions. The people loved him and did little to cage his fame. Of course, his fortunes sky-rocketed in no time; to him, life couldn’t be better! One day, he had a chat with a distant cousin of his – and it changed the rest of his life. He suddenly became obsessed with the idea of traveling outside the country. Nothing else seemed to matter. He spent all he had (and even went into debt) to realize that dream of his. Yet, the harder he tried, the more impossible it appeared! Getting swindled by 12 different travel-fraudsters shows he wasn’t lacking in fortitude; he was blinded by it! He was quickly stripped bare by his obsession. His motorbike, TV, fridge, furniture and babe(s) were all gone – with nothing to show for it {literally}. Soon, his focus shifted from traveling to day-to-day survival in that red-soiled village of his. If “rock-bottom” were a country, he was at the most extreme boundary!

He was convinced he had fallen permanently out of favour with life! By his reckoning, there was only one other alliance to forge – the one with death! “Death before dishonour” was all his inner voice could stutter to his hearing – and subsequent approval. After the initial excitement of their new accord, he grew tired of death’s perceived carelessness – or was it grogginess. Each time they fixed an appointment, death always seemed to miss its way. “I call him and the fool visits everyone but me. Boniface, Nnamdi, Mazi Emeka’s daughter who just bought a car, Chidi, even Nkem’s new baby!”, he thought. He waited night and day for death to get his home address right – but even his last hopes met death before him! He couldn’t bear it anymore; it was time to get “proactive”. If death wasn’t going to come for him, he was going to pay death the visit. After sitting down to prepare a mission-budget, he baulked at the final sum. His preferred path to death was going to cost him 800 naira; even that was too much for him. All he had left in the world was 300 naira and a staggering debt of 6,000 naira! Life was hopeless; death, even moreso!

If he had come to me, I would have loaned him that money on the condition that he came back to thank me after the success of his “mission”! That, in truth, was his biggest problem. At the bottom of his pit of woes, he refused to find one thing to be thankful for. Over time, he had become a scary shadow of his old jesting self – nagging and complaining through every day. In fact, it was his new attitude that drove his side-kick (Dozie) away. Dozie was the one skilled in obtaining information about coming events: the “scout”. If only Dozie were still around, he would have known that, in two short days, the Igwe of a nearby village was to have a huge party from which he could have grossed at least 30,000 naira! Had he taken just one peek into his rear-view mirror, he would have noticed how hard Dozie worked to keep him at the top of his game. One look, and he would have seen that Dozie was the only true friend he had left in the world – but he just wouldn’t be grateful for anything! Instead, he let his visor of worries blind him to his few remaining blessings! I’ll let you figure out how his life ended.

From he to whom much is given, much is expected! In case you don’t speak Latin, here’s what that means: “Special people, special problems!

I’ll take a second to reflect here. Maybe you should do the same!

In any normal race, two reactions that can follow a backward glance: “oh! it’s cool. they’d never catch me now” OR “damn! these dudes never tire”. In life, only one should: “thank you for where I am. I know the journey ahead is long but I have no fears”.

Though I’m not exactly where I thought I’d be 5 years ago, from my own one-second reflection, I realize there’s a lot to be grateful for. My rear-view is teeming with activity. So …..

To those teachers who either said “Buy him a big gift, ma. he has done well” or “this head of yours is big for nothing”: You achieved the same result – though through very different routes. You have brought me here and I thank you.

To my family: thank you for seeing the good in me – in spite of my countless attempts to make you see otherwise!

To the (many) university lecturers who scored me 68B: Thank you. 70A would have much been better, but nothing stresses the importance of the “extra mile” more than a 68B.

To my friends who never complain when I say “you’re a bearded goat” when I really mean to say “I’m nothing without you”: thank you.

To life itself, whom I daily trade for a brief moment of slumber; a welcome delusion that my share in it is perfect: Our romance will not last forever. We will not always be friends, but while you are mine – and I yours – you have my gratitude! Thank you for always coming back for me as the dawn breaks.

To tomorrow: What do I even have to say to you? We haven’t met yet but I have heard your voice; you promise many great things. Thank you for sending me hope. It is for you that I live.

And, to my dear readers who always go through the pain of commenting (and even those who don’t): above all else, you have taught me one of life’s greatest lessons. Talent may get you noticed, but it takes people to be fulfilled. I’ll hold on to that. Thank you!

Image by Jennifer Tobler

Nathan Jeffery
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