Then and now

In my early years as I remember, not much came out of me that was not regurgitated in some way. As a 5-year-old not much came out of me at all. My oversized head struggled to look proportionate to my body with pear-shaped knees grazing each other as I stood and rolled my eyes upwards as high as I could to try to communicate with adults without the slightest upward tilt of my head much like my way of saying that “I have nothing to say to you” since it was obviously a difficult stance to maintain. Perhaps Africa was not what my genes were prepared for. My parents were both the eldest and only members of their large families in rural Sri Lanka to get university degrees to be teachers of the English language and Nigeria was where the money was at the time and like a herd from a documentary on animal migrations, my family roamed the dusty country for 3 years to finally settle in Kano where I was born and where we stayed put until I was 9. The same could not be said about my schooling though. If my family migrated like a herd looking for food and water then I could be compared to the lost calf who kept following different herds of different animals in relation to the way I kept switching schools as I was reported to be unresponsive and in a state of suspended animation most of the time. Perhaps my glazed over look and rolled up eyes were responsible for this as I remember thinking I looked like Bruce Lee only when I peered down my nose and similarly I thought that I would invisible to them if I did not look up at them with my entire gargantuan head. Eventually I found myself pushed directly into Grade 2 of a school that had other expatriate kids which was a little comforting in a way as I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong with me as I could not blend in with the wave of African faces with pearly white teeth glistening like incandescent light bulbs in the dark in the previous schools I had been to. I was by that time used to questions about why my skin was light and hair straight though. This fostered an early sense of awareness in me that was rekindled when we moved to the Maldives which was just an hour away from Sri Lanka yet worlds apart in more ways than Nigeria. Again I found myself slipping back to my blank non responsive state and not saying much in fear that I would be exposed as a foreigner. I did find myself relishing the fact that I could be mistaken for a Maldivian though, which was impossible in Nigeria for obvious reasons.. Over the 8 years we stayed there until I finished my A levels (or High School) and finally returned to my home country, I could speak, read and write their language to the equivalent of a 10-year-old local which was actually quite sufficient to effectively pass off as one of them by adopting every possible Maldivian mannerisms and strategically not saying much.

Today at 27, I find myself back in the Maldives with my two-year employment tenor as the branch head of multinational shipping company coming to an end and a lot of free time to reflect on my life gone by in what seems to be the calm before the storm as the direction of my career never seemed so vague and with my unborn son due to make an appearance in less than 2 months from now. Having developed a tendency to leave nothing to chance and a strong belief that life is what we make of it, it had recently dawned on me that there is very little I do to influence what happens in life but that I could influence how I perceived things and reacted accordingly. I needed to believe that it was own doing that had brought me to where I am and this did have its perks of having a sense of envisioned direction which was based on my ambition and the specific goals I had in becoming a manager and having an MBA along with financial stability, social status and the whole hierarchy of needs thinking. However, establishing my purpose in this world was something I had battled over in my head ever since the sudden death of my father when I was 16. As I listed the different things I wanted in life there seemed to no real purpose to life other than having an offspring of your own no matter which way you looked at it. This conclusion was not without my vehement arguments to the contrary as I always maintained that the main reasons behind having children was primarily for one’s own satisfaction and to serve one’s own selfish needs, I declared that if ever I had a child that he/she would be adopted for I refuse to bring another life into this world when there are so many variables and chances that I could not take with regard to the health of my child, his well-being, overall satisfaction with life and the possibility that he might ask me the one question that I have questioned my parents in my mind in my darkest hours in my teens; “why did you give me life?”. Bringing up a child in this world gave away an immense portion of the control I had over mine and it simply was not something I was prepared to give up. Instead I preferred to see that people wanted children of their own for the selfish reason that they were incapable of loving and caring for any child who was not of their own flesh and blood and that it was all about selfish pride of having a child who mirrored their parents achievements or characteristics so as to be immortal in some demented way. I saw the world as having enough and more people, enough and more suffering and that we as a race must cut down on reproduction since it was no longer an evolutionary requirement on which the survival human race depended on as it once did.

The change of mind and heart came with completion of my masters. Career no longer appealed to me as it became clear to me that in the end it was not the highest rung on the corporate ladder that I climbed to and it was not the amount of money I made but simply the happiness and the sense on contentment in my life that I had that really mattered the most. My material ambitions fell away like sand castles in the path of the salty foam of gentle waves on the beach and the egotistic need to be respected in lieu of what corporate position I had as opposed to the kind of person I was gradually faded to give me a warm sense of being in the hands of something bigger than me. With the positive pregnancy test and the subsequent anticipation of the gender of the baby I found myself helpless right from the beginning in terms of the control I had over any development of this life that I was now responsible for. It took me back to my father’s temperament towards my eldest brother and his first son’s development as a teen which was far from any image that my father had so badly wanted to emulate. His disappointment and frustration was linked to his inability to acknowledge the elusive fact that one’s offspring is not necessarily a reflection of one’s self and during the course of his adolescence he was shouted at, punished with branches of a variety of different trees that grew in our housing compound in Nigeria and was once hit with one the chairs of the dining table that smashed to pieces on his back like a breakaway chair we see in the movies. My father gave it his all to ensure his children had the education that he had to struggle for throughout his life. Perhaps his expectations far exceeded my brother’s natural abilities but closer to his passing he developed an aura of acceptance maybe over the regret of not realizing the error of his ways sooner. These memories emerged along with the many questions that emerged as I came to terms with embracing fatherhood and I did wonder whether I could really be prepared to acknowledge and accept my son for who he is and not who I want him to be.

The deeper my thoughts sink into the premise of being a father, the more I realize it is perhaps my own rebirth. These thoughts start to revolve around what I would have done differently, what circumstances I would have put myself through and what kind of parent I would have been to myself. In the end, would I have turned out differently or is a person defined by what he does in his life rather than who he is? Or is it merely a personal choice in how we define our lives by the closest way possible to feel content with ourselves?


About n A u F L

thought reaper, faithless believer and elusive observer
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