by Bomi Ehimony
On most days, I haven’t the slightest clue as to who I am. I have ideas, of course, I have a plethora of ideas. But definitively, I am as clueless as the stranger sitting on the culvert by the sidewalk. I grew up in a small capsule of a town called Lokoja. Other than the two major rivers meeting there and being the first capital of Nigeria, there isn’t much to say about the place. It is a gentle town, probably too gentle: you tend to feel it sitting down and minding its business where others are having a party. I think I may have learnt gentleness growing up there.
Much of my life, I tried to fit in. When I was in Primary three, for example, I wanted to be a pilot because Aunt Omojola loved pilots. She would describe them to us with admiration, she said they were the most brilliant of men, she gushed about them so much that you had to be stark raving mad to sit in her class and not love pilots. Most of the other parts of my primary school memories have become a blur, except for this particular memory of a girl one morning. She couldn’t have been more than six years old; she was sitting on a curb at break time and smiling at me. I did not know her and so I did not smile back. Every time I think about it, I wonder why I did not! I have learnt now that when people smile at you, you smile back; life is too short not to.
In secondary school, I was so desperate to be cool that my life became run-of-the-mill. Boot cut trousers disgusted me. However, when I became a senior and all my friends were wearing it, I did it, too. In SS1, I decided that I would go to the university to study medicine. This decision was predicated upon the fact that my close friends also wanted to go to the university to study medicine. Medicine was what the cool people went to universities to study.
I had my first heartbreak on the day I graduated from Secondary School: I learnt, very quietly yet in the most profound way possible, that I was so extraordinarily extricated from everyone seated around me wearing purple graduation robes and funny caps. All my time there, I wanted so desperately to fit in and it took me leaving to realize how different I was. Things changed on that day; I saw first-hand how trying to fit in makes one disappear.
My university memories are moderately brighter, just like streaks of red poster colour splattered on a bland looking Papier-mâché art. It is not hard to have friends in the university, as a matter of fact, it is fairly easy. It is also fairly easy to lose your way in the process of having friends. Friends are like a blindfold, you see, you can’t see past them. Just pray they know where they are going.
Facebook shows me my memories, they are packaged nicely with virtual flowers and a notification that says ‘Bomi, you have memories with such and such a person to look back on today.’ I often wish that someone would tell Facebook that sometimes, some memories ought to be forgotten. People say so incontinently ‘I wish I could be sixteen again.’ I marvel because in contrast, I do not want to be sixteen again, my memories of when I was sixteen years old are not exactly my own, they are of those other people I was trying to be like.
For a long time, I was trying to fit in, trying to be cool, I was willing to do things because other people thought I should, now, I feel a need to do the opposite of the things that people expect. Maybe that is maturity, that thing that crawls up on you so suddenly that you barely have any time to remember what things were like before it.
I have decided that instead of memories, I would pursue happiness. Pursuing happiness is sort of like pursuing the sunset, it is impossible to catch, however, with every step one takes, one feels a contentment that is difficult to explain, a sort of joy that one cannot place a finger on. In this pursuit of mine, I have decided, also, that I would run from two sets of people: those who inflate my tiny balloons until they burst in my face and those who attempt to measure my successes as though they are grains that can be graded in modules and packed into bags and carried on the head. These people tell me I have arrived but I have not.
I am trying to get closer to the person I want to be, so I walk slowly when I am on my own and I sway from side to side, it helps me build pockets of stillness into my life. I have had a lot of false starts but things are always looking up. In my quest to find happiness, I have also found Love– she is everything I thought that the world had run out of. She is everything I think that the world needs. Love takes off our masks and tells us that it is okay to be ourselves.
This entry was submitted as part of the Nigerian Voices competition organized by YNaija.com.
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Bomi Ehimony is a writer from Kogi State in North Central Nigeria. He likes to read