“Are you a quitter? When things get tough you just give up?” Those words rang in my head for a very long time. I wasn’t a quitter, or at least that’s what I thought. I always worked hard to make things work. I had the African parent spirit in me, “We’re doing this for the kids” kind of mentality. I barely wrote people off despite numerous signs and always found that tiny reason to believe. It was all good and I didn’t feel like I needed to quit anyway. We had a few rough patches but who doesn’t go through a bumpy section in their life?
“Hey, how are you? How’ve you been?” I asked over the phone. “Hey, I’ve been great, can’t complain. Just decided to come and catch some drinks with a few friends,” she replied with a cool breeze blowing behind her and inaudible chit chats. A voice from the background just belted out, “Who are you talking to? Hang up! You can call them later.” I was taken aback but I didn’t say a word. “I’ll call you later, okay?” I can still play that tone in my head and at that point in time, I wanted to talk but the only words that came out of my mouth were, “No worries. It’s cool.” It bothered me but I had to make it work, right? The truth is no, I did not have to even make an effort to make it work. I had the right to just get on my high horse and walk away but I chose to stay.
I stayed because I believed there was something I was building. I could see the light but unfortunately, we were facing different sides of the same tunnel. She had her eyes on where she came from, I had my eyes on where we were going. It took me a while before I could muster enough courage to pack my bags and go. It was a very difficult decision to make but it had to be made. I was becoming toxic. I believe in doing good and expecting nothing in return. But there are situations where that doesn’t apply. Like in a relationship. It can’t be one way traffic. There’s compromise. At your place of work. You give so that you get.
The frustration of giving something your all and not getting takes a toll even on the strongest of spirits and I know mine is barely crawling out of weakness. People have made it seem like giving up is a thing only weak people do and that is a very dangerous path to chart. The strong give up and not for lack of trying. But you have to be strong enough to know what’s working and what’s not working. Giving up gives you an opportunity to see something from a different lens. You find another way to approach the same monster. And I had chosen to give up. Not for lack of trying but because my efforts to make a castle were tearing down the brains behind the project and there was no blueprint anyone could borrow.
I chose to live and find my own happiness. Put myself first and rediscover the joy of living. In the process of finding myself, I met a soul that was pure yet crusted in fear, hurt and pain. From the smile, you could tell she knew what happiness was, had experienced it and still had some of it left. From her eyes you could tell she was broken and found it hard to trust again. But still from the same eyes I could see she had hope, strength and a lot of empathy. As I got to know her, I started to appreciate my situation even more. I had it all. And I was happy on my own just living and nobody expecting much from me. But her? She had a world on her shoulders but still found the strength to smile, be present for others and even take a back seat when she clearly needed to be on the driver’s seat.
She was beautiful, in and out. Her smile, eyes, beautiful fingers, her even skin tone, her hypnotic laugh, her mesmeric scent and her intelligence. She could switch from literature to pop culture in a jiffy and you couldn’t tell she had seen the best of both worlds. I couldn’t and still can’t put my finger around what made her so appealing to me. Maybe it’s the fact that she had this tough exterior but just underneath it was this gentle soul that wanted nothing more than to be happy and live in a happy place. She had gone through a lot by the time I met her and further blows hit her along the way but one thing remained constant, her will to live. She was the kind of strength we struggled to attain but couldn’t because we were too busy being afraid. Being cautious that what if this happens? Or that occurs? How will it affect my life?
From her I slowly started to learn the joy of living life with the ability to take some risks. We lose and gain and as much as the loss in most cases outweighs the gains, we push on. We try to get the best out of our situations. Sometimes the kiss that turned the toad into a prince will turn you into a toad but the idea that your happiness may lie in the most unusual place shouldn’t stop you from going after it. I had my moments in 2018 and in giving up, I started living. I met a person who may never know the impact they had on my life, and I may never have the words to explain it but I know it.
The biggest pain was being there for someone but not being present. I’ve watched a couple of episodes on surviving R Kelly and I couldn’t help but think of the kids going through the same but the issue never gets highlighted because it’s not someone famous that did it. These kids grow to adulthood with the stigma and have to carry it around for the rest of their lives without necessarily knowing how to address it. Knowing a person who went through the same, I felt powerless because there’s only so much either I or they could do. It’s a constant cancer that can only be maintained hoping that the malignancy can be dormant. Have you ever tried throwing a feather over a distance? That’s how diffficult it is for people who have undergone childhood trauma to get over it and just move on. It takes time, patience, courage, glitches along the way, pain, hurt, reliving the memories. It takes a toll but as a society, we need to do better. Sweeping this issue under the rug because “it’s not in our culture” or “it happens” should never be an excuse.
Children deserve to grow in a loving environment and allowed to be children. Show them love and raise them with virtue. The same will be reciprocated in adulthood. We cannot decry a toxic society when we partake and enable the development of the same. We need to do better. Better for ourselves. Better for others. Better for prosperity. Give up those toxic traits and learn new ones. It may be tough but it’s worth it. I have never had new year resolutions and this year is no different. I will continue living life with the hope that I spread a cheer, smile or give a ray of hope to someone who is going through a tough time. That is enough joy for me. Be better.