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Of finishing law school and dreaded goodbyes: Part 2

That evening I teared up all the way home. When my small sis opened the door she noticed how puffy my eyes were. “Did someone hurt you?” She turned my face sideways, scrutinizing it for slap marks or something of the sort. “I’m gonna cut a b*@!h,” she cursed. She was too concerned I might have gotten hurt to notice what I was carrying. Then I laughed, and she relaxed a bit.

Stealthily, I placed the gift bag on the nearest couch and thankfully, she headed to the kitchen to check on the food. A while later, my big sis came and I told them what had happened. By then the tears had stopped, though I could tell it wouldn’t take much for them to start again, since that sluice-gate had been officially opened.

Their reactions when they saw my portrait were not so different from mine. Though they didn’t cry, I could tell they were as moved as I was. “You have amazing classmates,” my big sis remarked. “Now we forgive them, for everything they put you through”.

Like I had told my classmates earlier, being nice is a choice we constantly make, even when we find ourselves pushed to the corner. Serving my class for four years had not been an easy task. Sometimes I had to deal with malevolent lecturers, and sometimes, it was just some difficult colleagues giving me a hard time…sometimes I came so close to throwing in the towel… and my family was there to see me through the motions.

One of the gifts I received was a custom made ‘thank you’ card. It had thank you notes from several colleagues and as I read the sweet messages, the tears that were already welling up in my eyes started flowing again. My class had made me feel so appreciated on such a grand scale… and the feeling was inexplicable.

I’ve gifted people severally, and I know how much time and effort it takes to find the perfect gift. One has to understand someone’s tastes, and preferences… and my classmates did that for me. That thought made me feel like I’d never stop crying.

“We gave you that portrait, so that everytime you look at it, you’ll remember how awesome you are,” my friend who had organised the surprise had told me. I knew I would never be able to thank them enough… and that saying about family, ‘Family’s not always blood. It’s the people in your life who make you feel loved and cherished’, came to mind… from law school, I had also acquired a new family. I went there, not knowing anyone, except for one friend, who was the school’s student leader… and as I left, I knew hundreds of students, who were now my family. I sincerely felt blessed.

The last few classes before we went to sit our final exams felt like our last bonding moments, and I couldn’t help the wave of nostalgia that engulfed me. I’ve always hated goodbyes… and after the surprise my classmates had treated me to, I knew when the time finally came, I would have the hardest of times saying goodbye to these people who I’d spent the last four years of my life with. Thankfully I had exams to keep my mind preoccupied, so I never got much time to think about the looming goodbye.

Eventually, we sat our last paper, but before we did, guys were reminded to hang around for a while because we were going to have a cake fest. Our professor, whose paper we had last, was invited and as he was about to cut the cake, he requested that I join him and my co-rep. Guys clapped and cheered, and as they dug in, that sad feeling that this would be the last time we were gathered in one class together hit me…

There was so much cake, and on a normal day I would have had a ball eating to my fill; however, nostalgia capped my appetite… I just had a tiny piece. Eventually, my friends and I left… on my way back home, I knew I should be happy that I had finished ‘the’ law school.

The workload over the years had been intense. I didn’t have a social life, and almost all my Christmases I spent reading… so this was an achievement to triumph over… Nonetheless, my feelings seemed to suggest the contrary. I felt happy and sad… excited and anxious… and the ‘not so happy’ feelings felt dominant.

The morning after, didn’t feel any different. I was still feeling pretty nostalgic. When I checked my phone, I found a very sweet text from my co-rep. He has never been the mushy type, so getting such a text from him, wasn’t an ordinary occurrence. He was thanking me for always having his back… his sentiments tugged at my heartstrings and I got all mushy. But I wasn’t gonna cry again… I cautioned myself.

When I checked my email, I found another sentimental mail from this classmate who was very quiet and laidback. He was also thanking me for making their life in law school simpler…before I could talk myself out of tearing up, tears were already flowing down my cheeks. That is how Saturday ended… with my classmates calling, texting and sending mail to thank me for being the best class president ever.

One thing I told one of my friends when he texted me was that, it’s true what they say, ‘Kindness begets kindness’. Therefore, if my classmates felt I was so humble and kind, it’s because they had been kind to me. I simply gave back, what they gave me.

So now that I’m done with Law school, I thank God profoundly, for the four years I’ve been there. Other than the legal knowledge I’ve acquired, I’ve made friends… acquired a whole new family… and above all, I have learned first-hand, the value of kindness and humility…

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Of finishing law school and dreaded goodbyes: Part 1

These past couple of years I have been chasing after my law degree. It has been a real rollercoaster of emotions; anger, excitement and desperation, especially when trying to beat extremely tight deadlines. It has been a real struggle. However, last week Friday marked the end of all that, since I sat my last exam.

That said, these past few weeks have been very nostalgic for me. I have been interacting with the same people, most of whom have become my very close friends, for four long years. So it would go without saying that having to part ways with them was not the best of feelings. When my mind was not too preoccupied with the exam revision, I would find myself dreading the thought of having to say goodbye, when we finally sat our final paper.

Interestingly, the weeks leading to the finals didn’t make the looming goodbye less nostalgic. A week before we started our exams, my classmates decided to surprise me. A few days before, one of my friends requested to take my pic, explaining that she was creating an autograph book… sort of a personal year book. Hesitating, I accepted telling her how much I wanted to see the book when it was ready.

A couple of days later after class, the same friend made a quick announcement that guys shouldn’t leave just yet. At the time I didn’t know what was happening… so I watched as she made her way to the front of the class, a big gift bag in hand.

By then the entire class was watching, obviously with a touch of dramatic irony as I figured out later, since everyone was in on it. My friend proceeded to request me to step forward, which I did. A frown creased my forehead, my eyes a little squinted, as I tried to comprehend what was going on. Thankfully I found out a few seconds later.

As it turned out, the class had decided to express their gratitude for the role I had served as the class president since first year. I had not seen that coming, and the emotions that came with the realization were overwhelming.

Since I was elected class president, I did everything in my power to help anyone who needed my assistance. I didn’t ask for reward or any form of gratitude because deep down I felt very happy knowing I was helping someone. To me, the thought of seeing others happy made whatever sacrifices I had to make feel all worth it.

Therefore when I realized what my classmates were doing, the first thing that came to mind was how unnecessary it all was. I did not want them to feel like they owed me anything because every little thing I did, I did without expecting anything in return.

After giving a brief speech, my friend reached for the gift bag which she had placed on the floor, and she pulled out a gift that was nicely wrapped and handed it to me. At that point I had started getting really mushy and I could tell it wasn’t going to be long before my tears started… before I could open it, some classmates came, hugging me and telling me thank you.

However, majority of the class insisted I open the gift first, so I started unwrapping it. I could tell it was either a big photo frame, or a book… As I tore the last of the wrapper, guys went quiet… I figured everyone was eager to see my reaction. When I managed to open the gift, the first thing I saw was the back part of what seemed like a picture frame… just as I had guessed.

But lo, and behold! When I upturned it, the tears I had tried so hard to hold back gushed over my cheeks. Right in front of me, was a portrait of me… and the million thoughts triggered by that very personalised gift had me crying nicely… and at that point I didn’t care to stop them anymore. This was the same photo my friend had requested to take… only that someone had used it to make a pencil portrait of me…

My mind remotely registered people clapping and cheering; and before I could get over the surprise, guys were hugging and handing me more gifts. I think that was the best surprise of my life. After the first three gifts I stopped opening them. It was all so surreal.

Then when I had received all the gifts, I was asked to give a brief speech. It was all impromptu but I just spoke from my heart… “This was really unnecessary, because I have never expected anything in return. You usually say I’m so nice, but in all honesty, being nice is not always easy. It’s a choice we make. And with me, my desire has always been to make people happy… to make people’s lives easy in my own small way. Thank you so much. May God bless you all, so so much.”

My close friends were asked by some classmates to ensure I got home safe… and with everything intact. That only made me cry some more… Funny thing is that, a few days before, I’d been telling my two closest friends how I hate crying in public… guess I’d spoken too soon.

 

Waiting patiently for my ‘Lamborghini’…

It takes one tonnes and tonnes of strength for their faith, and willpower not to be swayed easily by difficult situations… and I’m speaking from experience. I think on average, the state of affairs in my life is one that is almost-always depressing. It has become a habit for me to talk myself out of stressful thoughts that by now would have had me falling into an abyss of clinical depression.

Occasionally, on days when I’m just trying to be honest with myself (my faith in God aside), I’ll internally admit that this life is hard; really, really hard. However, since my mom and two sisters are more pessimistic than they are optimistic, I try to remain positive for their sake at least, so that when worry sets in, we won’t all drown in it.

Comfortingly, even with all our seemingly incessant problems, God has showed me that He really listens when I call; so I’ve learned not to rush Him. He does take His time sometimes but when He ‘arrives’, He does it in style; so the wait is always worth it. That thought is what keeps me motivated. I kinda equate this feeling to when a teenager requests his parents to buy him a car on his 16th birthday. He waits anxiously, only to be disappointed when he receives some relatively cheap gift instead.

His 17th birthday comes and goes, and there’s no car still. So he gets very desperate and reminds his parents that all he wanted was ‘just a car’. Something he can drive to college in… He gets more frustrated because he’s wondering how come his parents haven’t noticed all the kids his age already own cars…

When he realizes the car might not be coming from his parents ever, he even stops asking for it; and it even gets more exasperating when his parents fail to offer any explanations for not granting the request. On his 18th birthday however, something totally amazing happens…

Naturally, because of the crashed expectations over the months, he’s not even eager to get out of bed because he already realized the car he really wanted would be purchased with his own hard-earned cash in the future; furthermore, his friends and neighbours already teased him for not being able to afford a car, and the ‘joke’ got so old that they found something else to laugh about.

When he finally gets out of bed sulking and generally unexcited about turning a year older, he makes his way to the dining to have breakfast with the rest of the family. At that point, he’s feeling so lethargic that nothing, in his imagination, would be grand enough to wipe the gloom away.

Surprisingly, when he’s pulling up a seat, something odd occurs to him. It’s already bad enough that he never got his car, which from his own estimation, his parents could have afforded if they willed it; now on his 18th birthday, no one even seems to remember it’s his special day. At the table, everyone’s demeanour bespeaks of another humdrum day in the family’s life.

Even the younger siblings who are always regarding him with so much adoration barely recognise his presence. Things just got worse in a span of two years, he thinks; from relatively cheap gifts to no gifts at all. Suddenly the gift voucher given to him a few birthdays ago feels like an awesome gift.

However, when they are about to pray for breakfast, the mother announces that she was unable to have breakfast ready on time and she has a meeting so everyone will have to fix their own breakfast. At that point, the teenager wants to punch something… even getting breakfast on his birthday is now a problem. Infuriated, he pushes his seat back and when he’s about to exit the room, his dad calls out, “Hey, you forgot something”.

Internally, he feels like a volcano that’s just about to erupt. Nonetheless, looking over his back, he asks calmly, “What?” He masks his disappointment behind a half smile.

His dad only holds out the key in his hand, and the teenager kinda looks confused momentarily. He can see that is definitely a car key, but he’s wondering if that’s a hint for him to rush to the store to get a few ingredients for breakfast. Then to his surprise, the entire family says cheerfully, “Happy Birthday!” And suddenly, as realization dawns on him, he walks towards the dad and takes the car key.

“You didn’t think we forgot your birthday, did you?” The mom asks, smiling because she already noticed her son had thought they did. When he rushes outside, he can hardly believe his eyes. He only asked for ‘just a car’, but parked outside, is a sleek Lamborghini, and it’s all his. He even feels guilty for getting mad at his parents for not buying him a car.

“We didn’t want to get you just a car,” the dad says. “You are our son and we love you so much, so we wanted to get you a quality car. And we knew this is what you’ve always wanted, even though you never asked for it expressly.”

“I thought you didn’t think I was ready to have my own car”, he confesses, awash with guilt.

“We couldn’t afford it at first so we realised we would have to save up some more for it,” the mom offers. And it all suddenly makes sense to him. When the air has been cleared about delayed gifts, the mom tells them she made a breakfast reservation in a five-star hotel. The day that had seemed so dull takes a 180-degrees turn and everything feels like a scene from a fantasy movie.

That is how I see the relationship we have with God. He might take long to answer but when He does, He ‘arrives in style’. So unlike the impatient teenager, we need to wait patiently… and to trust God.

Dimming Star

I don’t know about you, but I love watching the sky on a starry night. The beauty of the star-lit night sky is just breath-taking. When I was younger, I used to spend time trying to identify the different constellations. I was so fascinated by them. Even nowadays, when I’m outside alone at night or in some company, I’ll just find myself gazing idly at the sky trying to make out some patterns. Guess some old habits never die.

Though my knowledge in astronomy is very limited, I do know that at some point stars die; beautiful as they are. I won’t go into details of that because even I do not quite comprehend how that happens.

So now that we’ve already established I’m not well versed with matters astronomy, I’ll just use figurative examples of situations we can relate to… in the bible, there’s that story of the Magi (commonly known as the wise men) and how they saw a bright star shining in the east. They followed it and it led them to where the new born Christ child lay in a manger, where they presented him with the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Christmas star

In our day-to-day lives, we see stars too; they could be people, or bright opportunities which lead us to greener pastures. However, sometimes those stars also die at some point. My priest in church gave the example of a glass of wine… funny as that may sound, this may be a star that guides many people. Maybe one’s stressed and they just need to calm down so they pour a glass of wine, sip it away and the anxiety disappears.

Nonetheless, due to repeated use, the glass of wine becomes two bottles of beer and before one knows it, they’ve graduated to full-fledged alcoholics, who might even be abusive to those they live with. At that point, it becomes evidently clear that the once beautiful star died, as it stopped playing the role it was initially intended for.

Furthermore, the star could be a special person in our lives. When we’re with them we feel inspired to be our best possible selves. However, that relationship turns toxic and everything starts going downhill… we hurt those around us, constantly hurling invectives at them as a sort of venting mechanism.

We’re encouraged to exercise our better judgement and let those dead stars go once we realise they are turning toxic. Additionally, we should aspire to be stars to other people and resist the urge to be Herods (Biblical villain). Instead of following the star, which guided the Magi, for good reasons, jealousy made the incumbent king at the time want to kill the new born prince of peace. Fear of being dethroned made him ask the wise men to bring him information of the child’s whereabouts once they found Him, so he could have him killed

Now that this New Year is as young as it could get, we need to make an evaluation of what it is we need to let go of while it’s still early, so we don’t have regrets at the end of the year God willing. The Magi followed a star which led to them to Christ, the eternal light of the world. If we are not sure what star to follow, then that’s the one we need to focus our gaze on too; because that’s the one star we’re assured will never dim or die. It will always burn bright and illuminate our lives.

Christmas Eve

Tomorrow is Christmas! How cool is that? I don’t know if it’s just me, but there’s this very beautiful feeling about Christmas that spices up the general aura; everything feels better. I guess this is what is commonly referred to as the Christmas Spirit. To my family and I, This Christmas isn’t like last year in so many ways, and this is one of the primary reasons I’m profoundly telling God thank you.

Unlike last year when we put up the Christmas decorations on a day like today (Christmas Eve) and almost missed Christmas because everyone in the house was held up, this year we put them up relatively early; at the start of the month. It’s been awesome really. Furthermore, some cousins from the countryside visited so we have a full house; and you know what they say, “the more the merrier’.

Even nature conspired to make this Christmas a success; Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, so for those who like attending the Christmas vigil mass, they will attend two masses today: the normal morning mass, which marks the last Sunday of Advent; and the evening mass, which marks the birth of Christ.

Christmas signifies different things to people. Some value it as a religious feast, where the world celebrates the greatest gift of God to mankind; His only begotten child. To others it’s about the gifts and the celebrations; spending the holiday with loved ones… For whatever reason we cherish Christmas, it’s imperative that we spread the Christmas cheer, and we don’t need to reach out to people who are so far from us. It could even be to those around us; whether friends or foes.

Depending on one’s age, one may have celebrated a couple of Christmases so far. Question is, what’s been different with those Christmases? Have you met anyone, or encountered a situation which made a particular Christmas feel exceptionally good? This Christmas we have a chance to make someone else’s holidays good. We’re therefore called to remember those who are needy at this time.

Now that we’re celebrating Christmas tomorrow, the implication is that the year is drawing to a close. 2017 is almost over. It’s that time of the year when we evaluate the New Year resolutions we fulfilled, and the ones we didn’t. It’s also that time of the year when we make new resolutions for the new year.

As we evaluate the progress we’ve made this year, we shouldn’t get discouraged if there were set goals we didn’t achieve. All we need to always remember is that God makes all things possible. Every new day, is another opportunity He presents to us to make good on those plans, so we shouldn’t get discouraged.

Furthermore, we need to remember that though we may have dreams, God has plans for us and those plans will override our own desires. When David wanted to build a temple for God, he didn’t realise that dream because God’s plan was for his son Solomon to do it instead.

In addition to that, when the Virgin Mary conceived of the Holy Spirit, she was betrothed to Joseph. They were both afraid of the Immaculate Conception for various reasons: Joseph was reluctant to marry a woman who was pregnant by ‘another man’, and Mary was afraid she would be stoned to death for ‘adultery’, which at the time was like a capital offence.

They were both afraid, and things were not going according to how they had planned but they trusted in God. That’s what we need to do; trust in Him. We need to give Him space to work in our lives; and if Mary’s story is anything to go by, He will make it worth our while. Thousands of years later, we still celebrate the Blessed Virgin Mary, because Her Son Jesus Christ is the reason for this season!

So as we do our countdown to the commemoration of the birth of Christ, we need to remember that His birth is a symbol of hope. Therefore, we need to cross over to the New Year with tonnes and tonnes of hope, because God is in control. Bottom line is, whatever you do, keep believing…

May the new born Christ fill your hearts with unending joy… I wish you all the merriest of Christmases, and a Happy and prosperous Year 2018!

Happy holidays!

 

Of birthdays and milestones: Part 2

Where I’m at now, it feels like the sky is not the limit anymore…sad as that may sound… As it is, I’m all grown up so my dreams do not begin with, “When I grow up…” Nowadays, most of them start with, “God willing, when I get money…” In addition to that, even as I dream, I’ve slowly learned that not all dreams are viable; so again, unlike when I was a child, I try to be a bit pragmatic when I’m setting my own goals.

Now as I turn a year older, every birthday becomes a point of reflection, where I analyse the milestones I’ve made so far, and the dreams, which like my childhood sweetheart, have fallen by the way side. Anxiety sets in, when I feel like I’m growing older and I haven’t gotten where I want to be yet.

One interesting thing I’m starting to note about matters age is that where someone has achieved so many things… climbed great heights and all, they’re mostly termed, ‘young’. However, where one hasn’t achieved much, society perceives them as ‘old’. For instance, where one becomes a company’s CEO, say at 26, society views them as very young. On the other hand, where a person of the same age is working but hasn’t moved out of their parents’ house, they’re said to be ‘too old’.

The long and short of this is that, once a person leaves high school, everything they do will in one way or another be weighed on the ‘too old for…’ or ‘too young for…’ scale by society. And that’s just how it is, in my humble opinion.

Some of the very depressing movies I’ve watched in relation to age are ‘Ass Backwards’ and ‘Lifeguard’, starring Kristen Bell. For a young person growing up, these movies remind one that dreams might just be that, dreams! But God-forbid!

Looking back at the far I’ve come, I’m not sure what I would do differently if I could move back the hands of time… and this is not to mean that I have achieved everything I would have wanted so far. It’s just because, most things in my past were shaped by people who at the time wielded authority over me, say my parents… so it wasn’t about me making choices.

However, if I met my younger self, I would tell her not to worry too much because God’s always in control; and when you give Him time and room to work, He’ll take you, right where you need to be. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a very long time, and this is the one part of me I would wish was different. Nonetheless, I believe God doesn’t err. He made me this way for a reason.

For all the experiences that have caused me so much pain and anguish, I celebrate them. Because as they say, ‘We can’t have a rainbow without a little rain’… So as I turn a year older, I’ll continue to dream, because one thing I’ve learned these past few years is that God answers prayers. Furthermore, when you seek His guidance, He’ll align your will with His, so all dreams will be like great visions of what is to come.

Of birthdays and milestones: Part 1

In slightly over a week I turn a year older. Yaaay! Funny thing is I’m feeling excited, but mostly anxious about it. Excited, because birthdays are that one day in our lives, when we annually celebrate the anniversary of our births and for most people it’s a day that’s arguably characterised by festivities, big or small; and anxious because nowadays birthdays to me, don’t just mean cake and fun.

When I was growing up, I waited for my birthdays eagerly. All I had to worry about was whether I’d get a new dress or not; mom had made it a tradition to buy my sisters and I dresses to celebrate our birthdays. I remember this one time I fell and sprained my ankle on the eve of my birthday… just hours to my big day. Thankfully, the special treatment I received for being the ‘birthday girl’ far outshined every ounce of pain I felt.

As birthdays come and go, I feel I’ve reached a point where, each year sort of signals an evaluation point. See, thing is, when I was a child, I had dreams…so many dreams, which were always introduced by the phrase, “When I grow up I want to/I will… and to be honest, it was fun. The sky, as they say, was the limit. All I had to do was dream it… the rest I would leave to God, and only time would tell whether those dreams would materialize.

Some dreams as I’m realizing, fell by the way side; for one reason or another, they are unattainable. My childhood sweetheart for instance; this far I’ve come, I don’t quite remember loving a guy as much as I did him. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in a relationship I would term ‘serious’ per se. For an entire decade, he’s the only guy my heart beat for…even on a dull day, thoughts of him would give me that warm, fuzzy feeling and the dark clouds would scud away.

His mom adored me, and she was hopeful I’d be married to her son someday. That’s the beauty of childhood. All dreams are valid. At the time we were around eight years old since he’s only one week older than me. As we grew up though, we started forging out our own different paths and a year after we finished high school, my sister invited him for lunch one afternoon when she bumped into him on her way to school.

At the time we had moved to a different neighbourhood so we didn’t see each other much; not to mention all the adventurous spirits brought to life by teenage hood. It’s usually a time of trying out new things…actually come to think of it, it’s like shopping; trying out all things to see which fit better. It’s all about self-discovery. Therefore, we had not gotten an opportunity to sort of synchronise our dreams.

That afternoon, when he came over for lunch we talked a lot, and somehow it felt we were going to rekindle things. The chemistry between us was intense. However, the next time he came over it was unannounced; and after spending some time together that day it dawned on me, we were never going to be an item again. He had changed, and I had changed as well. Simply put, we were incompatible.

That evening as I saw him off, all the fire that had burned in my heart for years died abruptly. It was then I realized I needed to move on. Interestingly, we have never ended our relationship formally. So just like that, a dream I had held onto for ten whole years went up in smoke. That, is just one of the many beautiful dreams I had as a child that with time proved unfeasible.