By Ucheoma Onwutuebe
When I awoke the fine April morning I turned twenty-five, I found me swooning in a cloud of ambivalence. I was excited for a new age, for the marked attention I would receive from loved ones, for the prospect of gifts. But yet I was agitated: the hems of my insides were being gnawed by the feelings of inadequacy, of having not yet collected enough rewarding experiences, of accomplishments which were minimal compared to a life as long as the quarter of a hundred years. Upon reflection, I remembered twenty-five used to look like such an adult age to me, a time when one ought to have had the edges of one’s life sewn together to a certain degree, and as I dressed for church that Sunday morning, the cloud of ambivalence gave way to a feeling of intense sadness.
I thought of all that I could be but had not yet become, how I was not yet the woman of my dreams; of how I still lived in the small town of my childhood where at each thirty minutes on the streets, you would be accustomed by someone you knew from kindergarten, secondary school or even a former neighbour. The common feeling that pervades most small city dwellers like me is that you are being shut of the greater events of life, like you were standing outside the premises of a lively party where you have to make do with only the noises of revelling. That morning, the hearth of my sadness was stoked by depressing thought after depressing thought.
However in an instant, I decided to show me some compassion. I thought of my natural giftings, my writing: one of the major things that have given my life a generous measure of semblance; my quirks which I have come to embrace wholeheartedly; my passions. I thought that even though I had not bagged enough experiences of places, events, as much as I would have wanted, I decided to count the experiences, no matter how insignificant, which have formed my convictions, the lessons I have learnt so far.
At twenty-five, I have learnt not everyone is enrolled in the same school of thought with me, that many people I meet daily have different demons they battle, different ways they were raised and different ideologies that life has enforced on them, and for this cause I try to empathise better. I have learnt that the worst times to date someone is when you are not in a satisfactory financially state. Many favors would look more than they really are to you . You would be like my country in a desperate need for ‘change’ that handouts would look like a miracles to you.
I have stopped hiding the ineptitude of others in a closet of alibis, for the one that you thought was too weak to put up a fight for you would in the twinkle of an eye start a riot for another.
Unrequited love may give you fine poetry. Even Jehovah, God of the Jews, had His affection unreciprocated from His own people. But at this point in my life, I would not constantly love and give without replenishment. Love, just as respect, is reciprocal. I love myself better now than to deal with people who keep up with me out of sufferance. I would not live my life forever slighted by a love unreturned. People have a right to choose whom to love and you are not sinned against if they have not chosen you. I have mastered the difference between deep affection and cursory attention, because most times we are the ones who bring pain into our lives with too much expectation.
I am gradually losing my fear for drama and confrontation. I am tired of walking tentatively on egg shells in other not to rock a boat and spite people. I have stopped being carried away by the notion of my own goodness. I do not have everyone’s “medicine”. I have learnt that there are times I have to draw a line in the sand and to say to certain people, this is how far you would come, and I have to ceased to care too much about how they would feel afterwards.
German-American poet, Charles Bukowski wrote: “You cannot force yourself through the eye of the needle”, and I have lived by this truth. In one’s walk of success, there is only how far you can go. Things just have to take their due course most times. But I still have learnt that this does not imply a folding of hands, of awaiting manna to fall from above. Just as gravity is no respecter of persons- it does not care whether you are religious or ungodly, whether you are pious or carnal, whether you are coloured or polka-dotted- the laws of diligence share the same principles.
I learnt to debunk the myth of scarcity, that belief that makes one think that there are not enough opportunities to go round. There are not enough men, enough money, enough ideas; that feeling that makes you believe that another person’s success is directly proportional to your own failure. I have ceased to envy people on how they come about their fortune, and those who have gone on before me are not there to intimidate but to lend me a rope through the inspiration their success brings.
Now 25 does not look bad at all. My life has been more than I thought it really was, a life enriched with a bagful of lessons . I can only hope for better days ahead.
However, my bucketlist is still in sight. I want to see Paris and live to write of her Gallic cuisines. I want to learn French. I want to see the world beyond this soil on which I bloomed. I want to live in a hotel for several months with free wifi and constant power supply. I want to go to a proper university, to get adopted by Oprah or Mo Ibrahim. To marry for love and for money. I want to make money, to write better, to read harder, to grow wiser, to learn to dance even if it is just to sway. I want to learn James Baldwin’s rhetoric, Hemingway’s paucity, Oates’ prolificity.
But I want to live, live to the fullest, live some more and keep living.
This is to twenty-five.