Monthly Archives: November 2013

The allure of the forbidden

The other day one of mom’s brothers who’s relationship with his wife is on the rocks at the moment called mom, asking for some advice about what to do about his fifteen year old daughter. Apparently she’s in that stage where hormones override all wits. In his own words, the girl’s spending too much time with men. Naturally he wouldn’t be asking mom for advice, problem is his wife left after a heated fight which left him scarred, physically. He didn’t know how to handle his daughter’s crisis; therefore he resulted to calling mom.

When he called the first time he couldn’t bring himself to explain it so he hang up. Mom was concerned; she wanted to understand the situation so she could help in whatever way she could. Unable to wait for him to call, she called him back. Mom wanted to know what he meant when he said my cousin was spending too much time in the company of men. As it turns out, there was only one guy. The young miss found herself a boyfriend, who’s a few years older; he’s a university student while she’s only in her first year of high school.

It’s that age gap my uncle was particularly concerned about; he was afraid the guy would only use her then dump her. He couldn’t fathom the idea of his daughter knocked up and heartbroken. Maybe I’m weird, because I didn’t find the age gap an issue. The guy’s a few years older, true; but then most of my friend’s back in high school dated guys who were already in college too. The issue therefore felt normal. Nonetheless, I understood his fatherly concern.

He was in a quandary; what was he supposed to do? His idea was to do whatever it took to keep the two lovebirds apart. From my perspective, trying to pull them apart would only bring them together. There’s just something about the forbidden; I would love to believe it all started with Eve, when she ate the forbidden fruit, before convincing Adam to partake of it.

the forbidden fruit

One of my high school teachers seemed to have understood the whole concept-the allure of the forbidden. When he was on duty he’d say the opposite of what he meant. During an assembly, instead of asking students to be quiet when they went back to class, he’d just be like, “Go make noise.” Funny thing was students never made noise in class.

I watched an episode of ‘I hate my teenage daughter’, where the two moms were helping their daughters pick out dresses for a father-daughter cotillion (dance). They knew if they said they liked any outfits their kids wouldn’t pick them. Therefore when they saw the dresses they wanted their daughters to wear, one said, “I hate that dress, go take it off.” And the other one said to her daughter, “Who is that Brazilian prostitute? And what has she done with my daughter?” Just like they had assumed, their daughters were thrilled. “These are the ones”, they giggled.

I don’t know what’s with teens and defiance. I was a teen once and I remember feeling like I hated mom because we couldn’t quite agree on anything. I also remember feeling like I was always misunderstood. Nowadays we’re so tight; we’re almost like best friends. I’m not sure if it’s the decision I made to just stop arguing with mom because I’d gotten tired of always being at loggerheads with her, but our relationship improved remarkably. Maybe I just grew up.

I haven’t the basic tips on how to raise teenagers as I don’t have any kids yet, but what I know is that it’s better to show them you understand them. Chances are if my uncle gives my cousin the impression he trusts her, she’ll end the relationship sooner than later if the guy’s got some lousy schemes up his sleeves; but whatever the outcome, she’ll know her dad’s got her back.

If you ask me, many kids mess because they try to do things behind their parents’ backs. With relationships for instance, it’s better to just sit them down and tell them of all the dangers they risk if they engage in premarital sex, than to forbid them from being in relationships. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard on radio earlier this week that kids should be given contraceptives as they start having sex from as early as eight. Yes, eight years; that’s how much we’ve evolved. Babies are no longer babies; they’re not playing with dollies and toy cars anymore; that’s the harsh reality.

Last I checked, all my cousins from my paternal side took alcohol. Dad and his siblings never seem to care when any of us drinks. One of dad’s brothers is always very enthusiastic to have my cousins and I drink. He always insists, “I’d rather buy you drinks and have you drink here where I can see you than have you drinking behind my back.” That’s the kind of environment we grew up in. Ironically, my sisters and I are almost teetotallers. We figured out on our own that drinking has consequences.

When it comes to dealing with young people, I think it’s better to be proactive, than to be reactive; but that’s just my opinion.

 

 

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All kids are born artists

One of the songs I’ve always loved is Celine Dion’s Power of the dream.

Deep within each heart
There lies a magic spark
That lights the fire of our imagination
And since the dawn of man
The strength of just ” I can “
Has brought together people of all nations

There’s nothing ordinary
In the living of each day
There’s a special part
Every one of us will play

Feel the flame forever burn
Teaching lessons we must learn
To bring us closer to the power of the dream
As the world gives us its best
To stand apart from all the rest
It is the power of the dream that brings us here

Your mind will take you far
The rest is just pure heart
You’ll find your fate is all your own creation
And every boy and girl
As they come into this world
They bring the gift of hope and inspiration

Everytime I listen to this song, I feel each person comes to this world talented, with a special role to play in this world. Problem is, many people never get to realize their talents because their parents/guardians didn’t help them discover and nurture their gifts when they were still young.

‘Geniuses are not born, they are made.’ I’ve heard that statement severally. Recently I was watching TED talks, where the speaker-Sir Ken Robinson-was saying, all kids are born artists. He was talking about how parents push their kids into getting into college to get diplomas and degrees they might never use in their lives. Many parents don’t like it when their kids pick up anything that has to do with arts. So most of the time someone decides to do music, poetry, dance…etc. professionally, they do it behind their parents’ backs.

Personally I’ve met people who have university degrees, but chose to do something different entirely. Most parents only agree to it, when their kids have taken a shot and succeeded, and given that not everyone’s lucky, some of those who fail end up feeling like miserable failures, especially if their parents/guardians were against it from the start.

all kids are born artists

The speaker also mentioned that the value of education is slowly depreciating, saying that when he was young, anyone with a college degree who didn’t have a job failed to have one out of their own volition. Nowadays, many young people are jobless, yet they have all the credentials they could need to secure well-paying jobs; and even those with jobs feel underemployed because the jobs they hold don’t match their credentials. This is attributed to the fact that nowadays bachelor’s degrees aren’t as valuable as they were back then. People with master’s degrees and PhD’s are given first priority when seeking employment.

This same people who suffer day after day because they don’t have jobs, are very talented people. They feel stuck because they don’t realize they could earn a living from using their talents, because the society we live in disparages arts.

When asked what they want to be when they grow up, most of the kids will say, “I want to be a doctor/neurosurgeon/lawyer/teacher/pilot/accountant…etc. Very few say they want to be painters/actresses/musicians/dancers/writers/athletes/poets…you know, careers that have to do with our natural talents. When all’s said and done, many talents end up undiscovered.

Once when I was in high school, a motivational speaker asked, “Do you know where you can find the most talent?” It sounded somewhat rhetorical, so no student cared to answer. “At the cemeteries,” he finished. Confused, we all stared at him, waiting for him to expound. Thankfully he did. “Many people don’t do anything to nurture their talents. If you ask, some will even tell you they don’t have talents. Eventually, they take their undiscovered talents to the graves with them when they die.”

He gave me something new to reflect on. It’s unfortunate that some people spend all their lives, oblivious to the beautiful gifts they possess. As Celine sings, “Every boy and girl, as they come into this world, they bring the gift of hope and inspiration.”  We all have an important role to play in this world. Everyone has the power to dream; and if one can dream it- if they’re determined- they will achieve it.

What to wear?

Dressing up for family get-togethers is just a task. I say that because my relatives-most of them-make it their business to openly ridicule anyone they feel isn’t dressed right. Problem is, when it comes to matters dressing, it’s difficult to describe, ‘right’.

If one shows up, say in an outfit my family- extended paternal- don’t like, they will blatantly make fun of it, and if it’s too classy they’ll still make one feel bad about it. A few years ago, my sisters and I showed up at a family gathering dressed in denim pants, stiletto heels and some fancy tops. The next thing we knew, we were the topic of a very unpleasant conversation. “Who were you coming to impress?” One of the cousins mocked, and everyone else burst into a derisive laughter.

Obviously they had never been to our closets, because then they’d know we were actually dressed down. Once, one of my uncles took my sisters and I shopping. It was entirely unprecedented because he had come to pick us home. My sisters and I had turned down his invitation to attend the annual get-together. He cajoled us on phone but it didn’t work; he decided to show up in person. Usually the event takes more than one day but he promised we’d be back that same evening.

Seeing as he’d made the effort to come for us, we couldn’t say no. Mom wasn’t going and dad had chosen to stay behind to keep her company, which happens rarely; normally he attends most of the parties alone. We didn’t pack any clothes because we hadn’t planned on sleeping over. On the way we stopped at a mall. Apparently he had duped us; we were going to spend the night at our cousins’. He asked us to pick all the items we’d need. He seemed happy we were with him, so neither of my sisters nor I wanted to burst his bubble; compliantly, we picked anything we thought was necessary. While shopping, I picked out a cute sleeveless top which was very decent, only that it wasn’t covering my arms.

Light-heartedly, he asked, “Did the tailor run out of fabric or what?” We laughed, but at that point we understood one thing; he was a bit conservative. The last time we had attended any family function was about five years before then. We hadn’t seen much of each other when we were transitioning from girls to young women. The clothes we bought then were clothes we wouldn’t buy on a normal day. They just felt too plain.

Since that day, we were always too careful not to dress in anything which revealed too much skin, or any skin for that matter. The next time we attended a get-together, we had to go shopping for clothes that would be more apt for the function, not because what we had was indecent, but simply because we thought it would be good to wear something that was ‘conservative’.

After wearing denim pants, t-shirt tops and blazers to subsequent functions, we got tired of it and went back to our usual clothes. Normally, when choosing an outfit, there’s that fine line between elegant and skimpy. All short dresses/skirts don’t exactly fall in the trashy category, so one doesn’t have to particularly wear maxi dresses in order to look decent. It’s all about striving to make it all look stylish.

In the last function my family and I attended a few weeks ago, one of my cousins showed up in a print maxi skirt. Another one of my cousins ridiculed her, “Is it the skirt that’s big or it’s just you who’s big?” I wasn’t the one under attack, but I thought some comments were better left unsaid.

When my big sister was in high school, one of her classmates told her, “One doesn’t always have to say what comes to mind.” Basically it’s all about applying brain filters. Essentially, when it comes to matters dressing, no one wants to be ridiculed about what they wear; one’s physical appearance has a lot to do with their self-esteem, and again, it’s always upon an individual to choose what they want to wear.

People have different tastes and preferences; that’s given. One’s idea of indecent or elegant might be viewed differently by another person. It therefore becomes an issue if one has to pay attention to everyone else’s opinions when picking out an outfit. I’m thinking, maybe when my cousin was dressing up for the party, she thought everyone would be okay with it, but as it turns out that wasn’t the case; she was ridiculed for it.

If you ask me, one should wear what they are comfortable in. Obviously the occasion dictates the dress code, but one should own their style, so that if anyone was to raise issues about it, one would defend it. In my opinion, it’s better to fail for being you, than to fail for trying to do/be what everyone else thought you should do/be, because even though I consider it wise to pay attention to other people’s opinion, sometimes those people aren’t always right.

 

Christ The King

Christ The King

Today we were celebrating the feast of Christ The King. It marked the end of the ordinary church calendar. That means next Sunday God willing will be the first Sunday of Advent; when we start preparing for the birth of Christ. It’s still hard to believe Christmas is just days away. If you ask me, the year has flown by. Today also marked the official close of the year of faith. It might not sound appropriate that I judge myself, but I feel I’ve learnt a lot-pertaining to matters faith-this past year.

As I listened to the priest giving the homily, he gave me a lot to reflect on.

He said many people leave the church because they don’t understand the whole concept of faith. Many churches preach about prosperity, but that’s not all there is to faith. If someone tells you to run away from your problems, that is not faith. It’s cowardice. True faith is about embracing those problems we encounter, because it’s only by facing them that we find our strength.

Jesus was a king, long before He died on the cross. But He, unlike other kings wasn’t all about money and wealth. Soldiers mockingly inscribed the letters INRI on the cross, which meant ‘The king of Jews’. When He was crucified on the cross with the two thieves, the one on his right didn’t understand what Jesus represented. He mocked him, but the other one on his left understood it all. He asked Jesus to remember him when He went into His kingdom (Luke 23:35-43).

In His open arms, nailed to the cross, He embraced everyone who came to Him, without discrimination. He was-still is- the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, yet He agreed to die a shameful death, crucified on the cross, naked. He had the power to punish all those who tortured and killed Him, but instead He forgave them. He is love and kindness embodied. According to my Christian faith, those who killed him already died because this happened years ago, and I’m imagining that it was only in death that they understood that Jesus was indeed a King. His kingdom will still be in existence even when this earthly world is no more.

He conquered death, therefore giving us hope that death is not the end, but the beginning of something more beautiful. If He could conquer death, there’s nothing else that He can’t. Bearing this in mind, we should take our fears to Him; entrust Him with our lives. He can help us conquer even the most impossible of issues. Some people have been debilitated by their own fears. They live each day, afraid that someone they are at odds with could annihilate them.

I know it sounds cliché, but Jesus Christ is the answer. It’s all about believing that He can help us overcome even the greatest obstacle. And the good thing is, when one entrusts his/her life to Him, He never fails them. He didn’t promise we wouldn’t have crosses to carry, but He did promise to help us carry them. Suffering is an integral part of a Christian’s life; however, the suffering isn’t meant to destroy us, but to strengthen us.

When concluding his homily the priest asked, “Is Christ the King of your heart? If not, why isn’t He?”

 

Negative competition

When I was a kid, the main reason I loved celebrating birthdays, Easter and Christmas was because we (my sisters and I) always got new clothes, and most of the time they were matching Cinderella dresses. Mom always bought us the dresses that were in vogue at that time, and as we grew up it became a little tradition. The best part was when it came to attending mass on Christmas day, because then we’d get to wear our cute ‘princessy’ dresses. In that light, my least favourite Christmas was year 2000’s because we didn’t get new clothes; mom didn’t have a job and dad wasn’t willing to part with his money.

Given the circumstances, we were so disappointed; we refused to attend mass. It felt weird not wearing new clothes to church. Mom was so strict when it came to matters church, but I guess that day she understood our frustrations so she didn’t force us to go. In my family, Christmas has always been treated like an extended family affair so most of the time we hold our annual get-togethers around that time. That Christmas was being celebrated at one of my uncles’ place. Dad went alone.

Seeing as we didn’t attend mass that day, one of our second class cousins, who lived nearby passed by our place. Maybe the frustrations of not having new dresses made us myopic, because I remember feeling like she had only come to see what kind of clothes we had.

It sounds foolish when I think about it now, but we made that deduction based on three facts: firstly, their house was a thirty minutes’ walk away from ours. Secondly, she brought us an old black card with a wine bottle on the front page and it wasn’t even enveloped. It didn’t seem like a Christmas card and given that I’ve never seen it since then, I’m assuming we threw it away that same day. Thirdly, we weren’t really that close. The relationship we had with them was a very unhealthy one; it was more of a competition; seeing who went to the best schools, who lived in a fancier house, who got a boyfriend first (we were still very young but that was also an issue), seeing whose parents drove the best cars, who got the best grades in school…

Based on that, it was difficult to believe she’d walked all the way just to bring an old card; but maybe we were just being paranoid… the only good thing about that day was that one of our aunts-she was estranged from her husband at the time so she also didn’t attend the get-together- brought my sisters and I some cute knickers.

As I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, the things-habit wise- we pick up as kids stay with us longer. In that respect, I’ve always detested any form of competition I deem negative; with my cousins for instance. The madness stopped when we moved to different parts of the city. I don’t think the competitiveness stopped, on their part atleast, because even when we meet one can still feel the tension; the only thing is that distance brought some sanity.

When I was a kid, the relationship we had with the rest of the family didn’t feel any different and as I grew up I started appreciating the distance. We only met up when it was inevitable. For the better part of our preteen and early teenage years we still were linked by the mere fact that somehow my sisters, female cousins and I all went to the same boarding school. So even if we lived far from each other we’d still meet in school.

Slowly, I started hating anything that felt like a competition, because if whatever I had/did wasn’t the best, I’d lie so I wouldn’t feel so bad about it. I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Luckily we went to different high schools and seeing as we were old enough to make our own choices we (my sisters and I) avoided any unnecessary meetings. Sometimes distancing oneself from negative influence is the best solution.

Someone who reads my posts regularly might think I hate my extended paternal family. Truth is I don’t hate them. I just don’t like the person I am when I’m with them. Our relationship hasn’t changed. It has always felt like a competition, and looking back at the life I had as a kid, I know I wouldn’t want to go back to that. If I have to constantly tell lies or lash out at someone because they make it their business to pry into my life, making me feel bad about what I don’t have or what I have, just because they’re not okay with it, I would rather sever all ties with them than do something I might regret for the rest of my life, in an attempt to always top the charts.

second chances

This too shall pass

Sunrise 2

Some years back, one of my big sister’s friends asked her to accompany him to a function he’d been invited to. He was-still is- a celebrated gospel artiste, and had been invited to be a guest speaker in an all-girls’ high school during their Sunday service. While addressing the girls, he called three of them to get up on stage.

One of the girls stood, facing the one in the middle. The one in the middle was sitted, facing the rest of the school, while the third one stood, with her back to the one in the middle. From the illustration, the guy explained that the first girl represented someone walking into a storm. The term ‘storm’ was figurative for the challenges we encounter in life. The second girl represented someone caught up in the storm, while the third girl represented someone coming out of a storm.

In life we experience many difficulties. It could be an illness, financial problems, relationship issues… etc. and based on the illustration, we see that eventually one gets out of the storm. Life has been designed in such a way that nothing is permanent. Whatever problem we experience is only meant to last for a while. It could take days, weeks, months, or even years; but truth is whatever it is, it too shall pass.

The problem with most of us is that we get discouraged easily, but if we persist long enough, we will see the challenge come to pass. So whatever it is you’re going through today, don’t give up.

Sunrise 1

 

Of Christianity and voicing opinions

speak up

Of my parents, the one who seems to understand how my mind works more is mom, not because she always gives me time to explain myself, but because when we’re not arguing we have a tight relationship. Even when I’m being purely hormonal she’ll even try to pacify me so I don’t throw a fit; but that’s mostly when she knows she’s the one at fault. Don’t mistake me for a brat though; I’m many things but that ain’t one of them.

I don’t get to spend much time with dad, even when we’re both home he’ll probably be in the living room reading the paper and I’ll be in a different part of the house doing something else. Most of the time we get to ‘converse’ is when he’s drunk and we’re arguing, our voices raised, because that’s just how it is. The only difference is that it’s more of a monologue because he doesn’t let anyone else speak when he’s ‘airing his grievances’.

Naturally, I have this policy, ‘If I’m not getting a chance to talk, I won’t listen either’. I don’t always practice it in every occasion because sometimes the best option is to just listen, but when it’s about matters of voicing opinions, I just find it unfair if I have to listen to someone going on and on about what they feel about something yet they deny me the chance to share my opinion. I believe it’s called a dialogue because it consists of atleast two people. If it’s a monologue, I won’t be a party to it.

If one was to ask my dad, he’d say I’m a very opinionated person. I find that ironic, given that he hardly gives me the chance to talk. I’m guessing he knows that because he finds the most trouble trying to shut me up.

One thing I particularly find trouble with is a statement he’s repeated severally, “Yet you go to church every Sunday.” He gives me the impression that just because I’m religious, I should be submissive, letting him get away with things anyone would consider repulsive. I’m a Christian, true, and my faith is something I take very seriously because that’s what my life is founded on; nonetheless, I feel there’s one thing people misconstrue. Being a Christian doesn’t mean one doesn’t get offended; being a Christian doesn’t mean one should be denied the chance to voice their opinion; my faith doesn’t automatically gag me; it only means, by being a Christian I should practice more self-control, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit, when dealing with people.

My faith in God doesn’t mean I should be submissive, watching wrong things happen stoically because I don’t want to step on people’s toes; it just means I should be more understanding; I should learn to tell the difference-when to remain silent and when to act, but by no means should I let people walk all over me just because I’m a Christian. I would even feel like I’m letting God down, because I believe He, in His mercy, has given me the wisdom to discern when something is wrong or right.