by Abisola Johnson
Twenty years ago on this day, I woke up and I was nine years old. I had only one question in my head “what am I wearing to school today?”
Ten years ago on this day, I woke up and I was nineteen. I had two questions “what’s my boyfriend going to get me?” and “Can I not go for lectures today?”
Today, I woke up. I’m twenty-nine years old and I have 10,585 questions in my head – a question for every day I’ve lived. Scientists and mathematicians have come up with arithmetics, geometrics and all kinds of progressions, but someone has to come up with a progression for the issues of life… hmm.
It was very hard to get out of bed, first because I hardly got any sleep. The birthday calls started before 12am – why do people call at mid-night to say Happy Birthday? I never do that. I guess it’s a way to save their airtime because they know you can’t be on the phone for long. Or maybe it’s just love.
I finally dragged myself out of bed an hour after my alarm went off. It was ok to be late to work this morning; my boss is lenient with birthday people. I picked out a new dress to wear; I’d bought it six months ago for this occasion. But then I thought “nah… a new dress for my birthday? Not at 29”.
I smiled all the way to work – phone calls and messages. I felt very loved. Every friend that called ended with “so where’s the party at?” and every family call ended with “So when are we picking aso-ebi?”, I preferred the “friend calls”.
I got to work and there was this massive bouquet of flowers from Femi (the guy that’s got me thinking my almost two year old relationship isn’t what I want anymore). May I add, it’s not about money. Femi drives a beat up Honda Baby Boy and lives in Ilupeju while my very own Tunji drives a 5-series BMW and lives in Victoria Island extension.
There was a card in the flowers that read “If you choose to have dinner with me, I’ll hold your bag every time you ask for the rest of the month…Happy birthday, F.” That made me really laugh. I have the habit of passing my hand-bag to whoever I’m with when I need to take something out of my wallet, make a phone call or pack my hair. It’s not a big deal to Tunji, but Femi would never take it. He’d give that irresistible smile and point to the next available thing that could hold my bag, such as a table.
I spent the rest of the morning receiving presents, telling friends to wait until next year for the party and explaining to family that the aso-ebi would be out soon. When they asked how soon, I just laughed and told them how much I loved them.
When the day got busier and I had serious work to do, I kept drifting into the past and future (that’s what computer screens do to you). Am I were I want to be at twenty-nine? Definitely not, but I’m grateful to God for bringing me this far. There’s a lot to be thankful for.
When we’re younger, we make all these big plans for our lives; we’re not afraid to dream and hope and even fail because there’s still time to learn, accomplish, and make changes. The older we get, the more afraid we become because we’ve had plans that didn’t work out, we’ve had dreams that went down the drain, we’ve made mistakes we’re still suffering from, and we are afraid that more plans, more dreams and more mistakes are only going to lead to more hurt and disappointments.
A few days ago, I found a notebook I had used at a self building program my mum made me attend at twenty-one. One of the tasks we were given was to write where we saw ourselves at thirty and this is what I had to say:
“I’ll have my family, a perfect husband and two great children. I’ll have a branding and public relations company, the first of its kind in Nigeria. I’ll be running a non-profit NGO that would get children off the streets and sponsor their education until their Bachelor’s Degree and change their orientation to value love, peace and justice…”
Just thinking about it makes me laugh.
Later in the day, a call from my friend Mosun left me thinking. It’s my last twenty-something year, so instead of all the fears, regrets and missed targets, I might as well be grateful for the things I have, hopeful for the things I don’t, and enjoy today. Just as I was getting into that, Tunji’s presents arrived – flowers, the largest, cutest teddy, chocolates and a white, furry puppy everyone started to pass round. Dinner was definitely with Tunji.
He picked me up at 6:00pm and gave me a birthday kiss that made my colleagues whistle from the windows. On our way to the surprise venue for my birthday dinner, I remembered to send Femi a message “So sorry F, I can’t make dinner…u know why. Talk to you later”. He replied immediately. “Ouch! I was practicing with my sister’s bag already. Guess I’ll have to wait till next year and if not then, the year after…but I’ll wait”. That put a big smile on my face.
Tunji asked: “Who’s that?”
“Just another birthday wish.” It sort of was.
I’m not a bad person, just a twenty-nine year old with 10,585 questions in my head.