Tag Archives: memoirs

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.

 

Height of Addiction

This weekend has been an intense emotional roller coaster, both for me, my mom and my sisters. A lot has happened, and it all stemmed from one misguided action… so basically what we’ve been experiencing is some sort of domino effect.

This past Friday, I was working on some school assignment in the evening when mom received a call from a friend. It was an urgent call. I could not hear what he was saying from the other end but the worry in mom’s voice made me guess all was not well. When she got off the phone, she came to talk to me.

Apparently, the friend had asked her to go get dad because he had been roughed up during a bar brawl. He’s been on his annual leave for the last three weeks and all he’s been doing is bonding with his favourite beer bottles. That’s all that seems to matter to him, sadly. That day he had left home early in the morning to go to the bar and he had come in around 2.00am drunk after spending the entire Thursday afternoon out.

As she asked me to accompany her to the bar dad had gone to, she sounded horrified. We did not know what state we were going to find him in so the anxiety was overwhelming. By the time I changed into decent clothes, mom had already left.

When I caught up with her, she was already with dad, who was sitted on the co-driver’s seat. My jaw dropped when I saw him. His clothes were all ruffled and muddy and he had this huge bleeding bump on his forehead. His left eye was red too. I had never seen him in that state before. Worst part was, he was so drunk so his words were coming out slurred… and at the time he seemed so calm and composed. It’s like he wasn’t aware of what was going on.

Seemingly, he was in some state of utopia where everything was all rosy. To mom and I though, it felt so humiliating. This was the head of our family; my father, and mom’s husband. A wave of anger engulfed me and at that moment I felt so much hatred towards him. He was tainting our family’s image; subjecting us to public ridicule.

Initially, I’d accompanied mom so we could drive him back home since he was clearly not in any position to drive. However, another one of mom’s friends had volunteered to drive him back home before I got there. After starting the car for him because he could not locate the cut-out, I stepped aside so he could reverse the car.

Some lady who was watching asked mom and I to get in the car but I refused. There was no way I was going to be seen with dad after the drama I imagined he had treated people to. I was so mad at him. Some guys, who I also imagined had witnessed the whole scuffle, advised us to take him to hospital first. That gave me chills, because I thought, guys fight all the time, but they don’t always go to hospital for it; unless it was serious.

This had me thinking that he might have suffered some internal injuries, God-forbid. Problem is, he was looking so unkempt. He had to get cleaned before we started displaying him in public again. So mom and I advised that guy to drive him home.

Since the bar wasn’t a long distance from home, mom and I just walked back. When we arrived we found dad standing outside the car. He couldn’t even walk unaided. Therefore, mom helped him up the steps as the friend was leaving. At first I had ignored him but mom called me to go roll the car windows up.

When I started going up the stairs, I noticed bloody footsteps and I panicked, wondering what part of dad’s body was bleeding. I got to the house and I told mom about it. She hadn’t even noticed it. A few hours later, dad’s leg was still bleeding and he didn’t want to be taken to hospital. His forehead on the other hand seemed like it had been stung by bees.

Exasperated, mom called his brothers, hoping they would convince him to go to hospital and eventually, he agreed. We learned from my uncle that our 3-year old nephew was suffering from acute pneumonia and had been admitted in hospital. My sisters and I decided to kill two birds with one stone: accompany dad to hospital and visit our nephew.

We left the hospital around 4.00am Saturday morning after tests, including a CT scan showed he was ok. Due to that disruption, now the school assignment I was working on is still incomplete and I feel so inconvenienced. Every time I keep thinking this was totally unnecessary and could have been avoided.

Dad on the other hand is home with a bandaged foot and forehead and he won’t say what happened to him. He says he fell down, although some people say he got into a fight. We don’t know how he acquired his injuries. All I know is that this has caused my family great humiliation. His siblings suggested it’s time he went to rehab but that won’t work if he is unwilling.

Since I’ve known dad, he’s always been best buddies with the bottle; and as we grow older, his love for the frothy liquid seems to grow alarmingly, while everything else crumbles. Though he won’t admit it, I can tell he’s already addicted and him quitting will take a miracle. After everything I’ve witnessed, and felt these past couple of days, I would advise anyone to stay away from alcohol. It has caused us so much pain and humiliation, and this could have been avoided altogether if dad could make better choices.

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.

These swords we wield

Arguably, we’re always talking… whether verbally or by the use of gestures. But question is, how often do we take a moment to contemplate the effects our words have on others? Do we build people or we destroy them? Our tongues, like Joel Osteen was saying in a sermon I was listening to last week, are like swords, depending on how we use them. If we use condescending words on others, to make them feel small and insignificant, we destroy. On the other hand, when we utter polite, encouraging words, we build them.

Take the case of a young child; every time the parent tells them they’re bad, these words, though not always said in bad faith, but for chastising purposes, create a negative mind-set. If it’s a statement that’s made repeatedly, the child starts to internalize it and they grow up with a low self-esteem. The same also happens, where two people are in a relationship, and the perceived dominant partner constantly tells the other that they are unattractive. Such words have the potential to impact someone so negatively, that their self-esteem ebbs, leaving them completely devoid of any sense of worth…

Joel Osteen looked at the issue from both sides; it could be a person in authority using their words to demean their subordinate, or it could be the latter, lashing out at their senior in a moment of rage during a heated altercation. “You might experience a high for about ten minutes, high five other colleagues because you drove the point straight home… But a few minutes later, you’ll realise the boss still has his job and you don’t”.

Hurtful words said in anger could torment one for years, though they might have been uttered in just a second. The one saying them might live in constant regret, whereas the one on the receiving end will always feel scarred. Sometimes we might say sorry, and that is good; nonetheless, the sorry, however sincere, will never erase the scars caused. That is how deep our tongues could cut. The damage caused might be irreparable.

I remember this one time my mom gave me a piece of paper, where she had written a story she had stumbled upon while browsing online. I don’t remember the particular facts, but it was about a young girl who was given a small plank of wood and a set of nails by her mom. She was instructed to hammer in a nail every time she said hurtful words to someone.

As per the instructions given, she drove nails into the plank of wood whenever she offended someone. One day her mom asked to see the plank, which by then was full of nails. Handing her a hammer, she asked her to pull them out and again, she did as instructed. As one would expect, when the girl had completed her assignment there were several holes visible on the plank.

Subsequently, the mom went on to explain what the little assignment was about. “This is what happens every time you say hurtful words to someone. You can take the words back, but you can’t erase the scars.” This in my opinion, is similar to what Joel Osteen was trying to explain. Words have the power to scar someone, inflict excruciating pain… and you know that saying, “You can forget the words, but you can never forget how those words made you feel.”

This is what we need to remember when we’re addressing others. It should be a personal reflection which we’re required to make before we speak. Furthermore, when others say hurtful things to us, we should just take a minute to contemplate the effects of the words we intend to throw back at them. What’s worth noting is that nasty words can’t be used to put out a fire; they only fuel the flames.

Contrary to common belief, an honourable person is he who walks away from a fight. Taking the high road doesn’t automatically imply that one is a fool or weak for that matter. Contrariwise, it shows one has enough grace to walk away.

Furthermore, Joel advised people not to be like the Israelites. Their sword-like tongues and negative mind-sets made a journey that was initially meant to take 11 days from Egypt to Canaan turn into a 40-year old journey. He said they went around the same hill for 40 years, would you believe that? They complained incessantly and resorted to idolatry. Such, was the height of their ingratitude.

We, have the chance to make different choices. God blesses the humble, so while we’re contemplating hurling insults at someone, we should keep that in mind. It may take all strength trying to will away the negative words waiting at the tip of the tongue to spill out, but the rewards of withholding them far outweighs any momentary gratification one might have gained from letting others have it.

Truth is, we don’t always have to say what we think… and some things, in all honesty, are better left unsaid. This is the fundamental mentality we could use to turn these swords we wield into instruments of building others, and ultimately, the world around us.

Eulogizing Fishy: lessons from a goldfish. Part 2

One year went by, then two, then three… by then, we’d forgotten all our previous reservations and we just loved Fishy to bits. She maintained some degree of sass, while still appearing adorable. If her tank wasn’t cleaned as per schedule, she would swim away when someone got close to her, splashing water with her tailfin.

It was just impossible to resist her charm. Before we knew it, we were singing her ‘happy fifth birthday’… Given the disappointment we’d suffered from the loss of our two goldies, this felt like a huge milestone. It felt amazing.

Though we couldn’t pat her or talk to her, we were able to communicate somehow. She expressed her emotions in a way that was relatively easy for us to figure out. Sometimes I would find myself wondering what she would say to us if she had the ability to talk…

Due to the symptoms Chibols and Finley had exhibited before they succumbed to septicaemia, I was always looking out for shredded fins and blood on her body. Luckily she looked perfectly fine. However, a couple of weeks ago, in early August, she started exhibiting disease symptoms.

Every time we fed her she would float at the top, with her limp body bent. Sometimes she would be floating, with her body upside down. When she wasn’t eating she was swimming normally. Due to this, we reduced her food portions and stuck to feeding her once a day.

Some nights we would go to bed, afraid we’d find her gone in the morning; but to our pleasant surprise, we would find her swimming, seeming as energized as ever. We got the impression, she was really fighting to be ok… Zealously, she would fight to get over what was ailing her. Two weeks ago, she appeared to have recovered so we went back to feeding her twice a day.

That, unfortunately, was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. She started floating with her body upside down again and by the end of the next day she had sank to the bottom of the tank. Realizing her health was deteriorating, we started panicking. This time we were almost sure she was going to die… and it was awfully depressing.

Mom, who’d also grown attached to her, kept monitoring her progress and subsequently she called a friend who works in a pet shop. He said Fishy had a bacterial infection and prescribed Sera Omnipur for her. All this while, she had lost buoyancy as her head seemed heavier than the rest of her body. She tried jerking herself up but no matter how hard she tried to swim up, she couldn’t.

The research I carried out indicated she might have been suffering from a swim bladder disorder and I was just praying it wasn’t permanent. Mom went and bought her the prescribed medicine.  At the pet shop, they warned her that Fishy’s halcyon days were behind her and that the medicine wouldn’t do much difference.

In spite of that, she still got the medicine and after administering it, we were still hopeful Fishy would survive. She had proved to us she was a fighter. Up until then, we didn’t know feeding her shelled peas was an option to help with the constipation. Since we hadn’t fed her for three days we tried feeding her the peas but by then she had seemingly lost her appetite.

Even while she was lying at the bottom of the tank, she determinedly tried to get up but her body failed her. It broke our hearts that she was fighting so hard to remain alive but her body wouldn’t cooperate.  We’d keep checking on her so she wouldn’t feel so alone and somehow it seemed to bolster her will to live.

What amazed me though, was that whenever my small sis tried talking to her, she would visibly shift into a different position, in an attempt to swim. I couldn’t comprehend that, but I imagined the two had formed a special bond over the years as my sis had been the one cleaning her aquarium; so she easily recognized her.

Sadly, one week ago, on Friday morning we found her gone. I knew she was going to die given her frail health, but even then, I was overcome by grief…I couldn’t help it. She had been part of our lives for six whole years and three months. As I looked at her lifeless body that once swam in the aquarium briskly, I felt an overwhelming sense of loss engulf me. I didn’t know a fish could have such an impact on me, or my family for that matter.

Now, days later, I still miss her. I was telling my big sis how ironic it is, that we grew so attached to her, despite the fact that it’s for that same reason we refused to name her. Taking into consideration how she fought unfalteringly to stay alive, I learned the lesson of resilience. As long as one can get air into their lungs, the battle is not over yet. The plan is to keep fighting; to push, until the end. Small as she was, Fishy taught me that.