I was a wallflower in secondary school of the most generic species. Bespectacled, totally unfashionable. I was too short for my age and too smart for my own good. I lived on the wrong end of town. My parents are normal; not foreign, not ‘Uber-rich’, not “something”.
I was socially inept, like I couldn’t have any conversation that seemed normal. I talked about books, computers, world politics and conspiracy theories—not exactly subject of small talk. The alternative was awkward silence; the machines that produce sound in my body shut down, especially around girls. I would stutter and spit, with the most idiotic smile on my face or worse still, just blurt out something mega dense. So dumb it would have been a relief to just die.
Seeing my less than stellar outing as a student, I swore that I would ‘show’ them, I will go on to the university, and study Medicine, or Engineering, make a lorry-load of money, be the richest at the 10th reunion, or at least give the highest amount of money. Maybe if I am not accepted for my good looks or witty conversation, at least I would be respected for my learning and my money. I would take my prideful place among all the money-miss-roads gone before.
Well, turns out 10 years is a really short time, and I have done nothing…zilch! I haven’t read Medicine nor Engineering, nor anything as cool. I’m not yet rich, in fact, I’m owing my gracious landlord 5 months’ rent.
This is going to be a nightmare unless I do something, and quickly too.
I call the legacy office and request a guest list and got a copy of my class attendance off the school archives. I go on a little reconnaissance; by that I mean social media and look up my former classmates. What do they look like now? What’s up with their lives?
They have travelled the world, done a number of degrees, travelled the world some more. Started glamorous businesses, married rich, foreign celebrities, given birth to super cute children, gotten juicy jobs in multinational companies etc. They have lived!
If I am going to survive this one I would have to lie, or at least exaggerate the truth.
My head automatically started stringing a story for the last ten years, a big, fat, juicy one, that involves heads of states and big businesses, a hot wife I’ve been divorced from (or have I been too all over the world to settle down?) I throw in a few degrees and honours. All of these while trying hard to squelch all the years of church I’ve had. This is survival.
While in this creative process I realise that a lot of the stories I was fabricating was from my life, the real one. Just imagined differently. I had inadvertently believed that the main thing that made the difference between my life and theirs was money. Maybe that is true, but only to an extent. Money will change my life, but not that significantly, there are some experiences I’ve had in spite of the lack of money, and even because of the limited cash. These are unique valid experiences on their own, and form a fundamental part of who I have become. Denying them will be abandoning myself, essentially obliterating, myself, in place of some fictitious character of my making. But what do I become when the show is over?
We are all veterans of our own experiences and stars in our own right. Success is not comparative, at least not of the measures we insist are to be used. More money or more things or beauty or fame are all passing, fickle fiction of a transient life. Success will take cognizance of resources, circumstances and timing and the SI unit would be per capita happiness. By all means, be free to scrap this my clumsy attempt to define success; there is no universal definition for it. But I think one thing is common to all shades of success: The butt naked truth. Own it, warts and all, live it. Learn to love it.
“What do you do?”
“I am a writer” (an unpublished broke a** who teaches Biology to keep to this side of starvation).
Straight up, no excuses deadpan. Maybe they are still as shallow as they were and would move on to the next big Zenith Bank executive, or hang around the next popular musician. I swear, I will not harbour thoughts of or striking them with thunder when I dethrone Sango. I will totally walk away with my shoulders high and my smile intact. I don’t need you to tell me whether my life is ok, yours is not.
Now I’m going for that damned reunion and I’m gonna strut my stuff. God help any nosey MF that attempts to make fun of me. What am I even going to going to wear?
Zikora is a Radio producer/presenter, and writer. Lover of books and bread. In his spare time, he writes about himself in the third person. Follow him on twitter@z1kora