IS GROWING UP IS A TRAP?
When I was in my early teens, I could not wait to grow and discover if pots of gold were at the bottom of every rainbow. I felt trapped by the flower of youth, restricted by the thorns of adolescence. I rubbed all kinds of methylated spirits on my face as I willed my chin and cheeks to sprout side burns and beards till I looked like Oliver De Coque. I crashed my dad’s Datsun into a gutter trying to drive it before my feet could properly reach the clutch. For that, I received the beating of life; the beating of my life.
At age 15, I fretted because my voice did not break on time, and I sounded like Helen Paul when trying to chat up girls. Excuse me, can I get to know you…
I longed to be able to earn my own Naira so I could blow it on Playstation video games, sharwarma from Terri’s, rap music CDs and Timberland boots. I also wanted the independence of never answering to anyone. Or anything.
Now that I am older, sometimes I wish I could back-track like a PDP to APC defector.
You see adult life is not what it is all depicted to be. Apart from being caught in the cycles of bills, work and responsibilities, as well as the scary thought that I am eligible for jail time I commit a crime, rather than a juvenile warning, some other realities have hit me like a Prince 2000 chant. I have discovered that the earth is round, but that the world is flat, so that what goes around, comes around, like an infectious strain of apollo. That all the power and wealth in the world is concentrated in the hands of a very privileged few, and that greed and lust for control of the world’s resources is the bane of human life. I have discovered that Nigeria cheated me off a bountiful childhood, and may also rob my grandparents off the peace of a pensioned old age.
I grew up when I turned 30 faster than at any stage during my life. My father got sick and passed within a space of 6 months, just after I had hit the big three-oh, putting me in a situation forcing me to be a man, just when I was learning to stand without a helping hand. I needed to mature fast enough to husband my mother and father my siblings. And be a twin to my own self.
And there are physical and emotional changes from age.
Now when I climb a flight of stairs, I feel the creak in my bones like a 3-wheeled Keke Napep negotiating a pot-hole filled with potopoto. I can no longer get away with an unhealthy lifestyle as it shows in my torso, so that is goodbye to eating suya burger or Indomie featuring fried plantain late at night. I am more at peace with myself these days– less keen to impress people I do not care for. Keener to caress those that I care for. I no longer shed tears every birthday like I used to, as I see my life anniversaries as milestones on the journey to middle life.
My fashion choices are slightly more conservative these days – more age appropriate. I see garments as more of a shield to protect me from the elements and save strangers the humiliation of looking at my shriveled cock, than as accessories to show my affluence or comeuppance in the world. I realize that I look ridiculous in vest tops or basketball shirts, and am less likely to buy them, as I say no to looking like a market butcher. Heck I am less likely to buy or rock a football jersey. Nylon and polyester are the most unflattering fabrics ever especially those made by Puma. I also go past the torn or ripped jeans aisle these days, as I would rather not look like Milli Vanilli. I look more to quality classics rather than the quantity of fads clothing. Corduroy pants do not look so bad now, and sandals were not the fashion suicide I thought they once were, once paired with good traditional brocades. I probably won’t wear a camouflage shirt, or overalls or an NY fitted face cap to cover my ogo. And I rock my Talab Abass gorimakpa with pride.
I am less critical of my parents and their generation – they had to revamp their lives several times – first, after British colonialism gave way to Pan-Igboism in the early 60s, then live through a civil war, then restart with 20 pounds in their pockets (no mule and no 40 acres). Heck my mum got married with a mango leaf branch for a bouquet, but she is the rose that grew from concrete, in my eyes.
Now that I am older, I admire my late father’s achievements, putting all his kids through school. No, we did not attend Eton or Harvard or Atlantic Hall or American International School, but nobody ever carried a desk on their heads to school. Fees were paid as and when due, and I was never called to the assembly ground for not wearing a clean pair of white socks. How the hell did he do that – manage all his responsibilities so remarkably well. Daddy, teacher, disciplinarian, financier, protector, parental advisory mechanism for inappropriate media content, provider, koboko dispenser, default setter etc. Judge, jury and executioner, if you flouted his house rules.
These days, I do not care to be right all time. Or beef and feud all the time. These days, I am more about peace, than winning arguments. Or building and maintaining friendships and relationships. Forgive me for my sins; forgive me for my lies.
I am more aware of my place in the world, and of the roles I am designed to play in the food chain of life. I have “opened eye”, and I saw one of the best philosophies etched on the back of an Ekenedilichukwu luxury bus: The downfall of a man is not the end of his life.
Was it all simpler when I was a young and wild and free? Maybe, and sometimes I do feel that my glory days were back in my youth – when I was 21 and all was well in the world, as I had that patriarchal umbrella and the mischievous swagger of a miscreant with a catapult and a pocket full of stones.
Yes, sometimes I do wish I could grow down. Not to reverse physical aging, as it is not vanity or insanity that drives me. Oh to see the world through the again through the innocence of a child’s eyes. Through my daughter’s eyes.
I drop my daughter at daycare on weekday mornings. What amazes me, is that she always says hi to the lady at the helpdesk, who I must admit usually wears a frown harder than an Argungu mask. But my daughter no send o. In her friendly and outgoing nature, she would walk up to the desk, and greet “Hi! How are you doing?” while beaming her dimpled smile at the grumpy woman. A typical adult would not bother with greetings after a while, if they noticed the receptionist liked to “carry face”. But not my daughter. She once offered the lady her sandwich. I later give my daughter a warning about giving food to strangers. Some people deserve a sand-winch instead. Haha
If you are also going through these motions, I recommend one of my favorite tunes “Not Nineteen Forever” by a band I like called The Courteeners. Check out some lyrics from that song:
You’re not nineteen forever, pull yourselves together
I know it seems strange but things they change
Older woman and a younger man
Both of them doing all they can