The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination

I stumbled upon this just this week and was all shades of touched. I enjoy self-improvement and personal development, but I love it even more when the writer draws from their own personal experiences.

So here it is; J.K Rowling’s Commencement Speech at Harvard in 2008

rowling

Text as delivered.

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates.

The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and convince myself that I am at the world’s largest Gryffindor reunion.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, the law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.
Please, continue reading

DAY 2: Room With A View – DREAM OF A DYING SUMMER

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest,
remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself,
shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.
Joan Didion

I step towards the teleportation device with a big load of curious nervousness, because I do not decide what place I get transported to. Or maybe I do, but it isn’t a subconscious decision, the teleportation device was created to read and enter the deepest recesses of one’s mind and transport them that place they wish to be above all. I pause before the door, and think about all the possible places I could end up; my friend’s room in the housing estate where I spent most nights during my second and third years of school, or my room in my grandmother’s house where I went whenever I wanted solitude and wanted to feel disconnected from the world, or maybe my favorite hideout in boarding school, or another friend’s place in the Housing Quarters for Doctors during my final year of school, or maybe I will be transported to the top of my house where I normally spent most evenings when I wasn’t working and wanted to be alone and read a good book or listen to music.

The point is all these places hold personal memories for me so I couldn’t be sure of where I would end up.

*cue opera music, drum roll and white noise and normal teleportation business (if you know what I mean)*

THE ROOM (OR PLACE WHICHEVER YOU CHOOSE TO CALL IT)
I open my eyes after a brief moment of feeling imbalance. And I have to say that I am surprised to see where I am. It’s a small square room measuring not more than 12×15’ with a door and window on one side and small windows on the other side. The walls are painted blue and white, and designed in a brick pattern with the blue forming the bricks and the white for the outer edges. There is a blue carpet on the floor and a mattress lying to one side of the room. Near the window on one side is a 14” TV and a mini-fridge. The room is bare with a table an chair making up the rest of the furnishing. I am standing in my friend’s sublet at the back of one of the houses in the Doctor’s Quarters. This is where me and my closest friends used to hang and drink and smoke (before I quit) and insult ourselves and just chill.

THE MEMORY
But that is not the memory that holds me whenever I think of the room. The memory is her, the girl I dated at one time and still love, Kayla. Whenever I think of the room, I see a small cute baby face with the most beautifully pointed nose and a smile that could either melt our heart or annoy you in the most endearing way possible. I hear a soft laugh that makes you think there is nothing wrong with the world. I think of her and I immediately get the same feeling I got as I did in herpresence, carefree, like there was nothing to be worried about in the world. The world could have ended when I was with her and I wouldn’t even blink because I was with someone who made it all worthy. I remember  sitting on the single bed and she sitting inside of my legs with her resting against me. I contemplate why she would refuse a pillow and choose to rest on me while we watched a movie, P.S I Love You. It was the most romantic thing I ever did with her and the one thing that my mind won’t ever let me forget.

But this time, I am alone in the room and the rooms feel smaller, like they had a life of their own and were closing up around me. I walk towards the window and look outside at the mango tree in front of the sublet. The tree was a source of fruit that I and my my friends climbed and plucked its fruits and ate. But this time, leaves are brown even though it’s been raining lately. Everything everywhere is dying, even the iron burglary has started rusting. It feels like the world around me is dying and the sun that normally lights it up has gone out. I no longer have her, and I don’t know if I ever will or want to.

I hear a beeping sound and look at my watch and realize that my time is up and I am to be transported back to the teleportation device. After the normal feeling of drowsiness and imbalance the beeping sound still continues and I am annoyed because I do not want to open my eyes. I will myself to be transported to that place where m memory of her is the strongest; even though I know she won’t be there I didn’t want to open my eyes. The beeping increases, drowning all other sounds until I decide to shut off the alarm and reset the device to take me back and let me have one more hour.

But as I open my eyes, I realize I am lying on my bed and the first rays of dawn are streaming in through the window of my room. I can still hear the beeping sound and look for I only to see my bedside alarm read the numbers 06:30AM and I realize that it was all a dream

Day 1: Unlocking The Mind – CALM IS THE NEW BORING?

This is the first assignment for the #Writing101 series for the month of September and I am supposed to just write for 20 minutes without any internal editor redacting some of what I want to say. I may fail in that regards but I have to give it my best. So here goes;

“You are too calm”

That was what my girlfriend said to me yesterday. Calm is a good thing but what she meant is that I was boring, which I know I am not. She just wanted me to be more spontaneous. Well, I have been spontaneous sometime in my past and I decided that was not the way for me.

Now this is not the first time that I have heard this type of statement used to describe me;

“You are calm, even under pressure. You never let people know what you are thinking except what you tell them.” – Ex-Girlfriend

“You are more logical that emotional” – A one-time crush

“You are someone who processes something very thoroughly before he says anything” – My future Brother-in-law

“You are too calm” – Current Girlfriend

I am going to stop here for now and let you process this before I go on.

Done yet? Okay, moving on.

What all this statements point to is that I am controlled by logic almost all the time that even when I show emotion, it feels like I am just showing the emotion that I logical allow. That is another way of saying that I am sociopathic, without the killing.

The truth is although they are right in their assessments of me, they are wrong in their formation of that assessment. My ex-girlfriend used to complain that I never let her in, one-time crush said that I never talk about myself, current girlfriend says that I listen more than I talk.

I wasn’t built that way. I used to be this shy loud nerdy scruffy dude who was awkward with conversations. But after losing my dad, my best friend and almost losing my own life to pneumonia once. I just changed, I can’t explain how or when it started but I knew that I became more aware of the people around me, my environment, and even my sub-conscious. I found myself looking at things in the most objective way possible, from every perspective. I found myself overextending to always see the bigger picture of the big picture. I realized that talking too much wasn’t cool. I found myself grooming myself to be extremely observant while making it all seems effortless.

And the result is a guy who is optimistic yet always prepares for the worst. A dreamer but always realistic. Calling things as they are and thinking too much that if feels like my mind will just explode. Somedays, it’s fun and other days it’s not fun.

I learnt to be strong by never letting anyone know what I’m really feeling and never saying what people wanted to hear but always saying what was appropriate for a particular outcome.

My ex-girlfriend once accused me of manipulating people including her friends and my response was that people wanted to be manipulated on a sub-conscious level.

Time up. So I have to stop here. Maybe I can continue this next time

September 11: 13 Years on

Note: I am not American. I am Nigerian but I sympathize with the American public more I do with the Nigerian public over the current menace that is Boko Haram. The reason is simple; the American government had the guts and seriousness of mind to go after the people responsible, while the Nigerian government is still setting up committees and squabbling over whether to borrow funds to fight something that they have, intentionally or unintentionally, permitted for so long (5 years and counting).

“I can hear you, the rest of the world can hear you and
the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
George W. Bush

So in commemorating the 13th year since that day (this is not me famzing), i am posting a poem written by Billy Collins which was dedicated to the lives lost and survivors of the attack.

NAMES by BILLY COLLINS

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,

Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.

In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name –
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal

Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,

I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner –
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O’Connor.

When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,

Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.

Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening — weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds –

Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.

A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.

Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

“Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda, which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe. The first enemy is weakened, but continues to pose a grave threat. The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after Usama bin Laden and his cohorts are killed or captured. Thus, our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the al Qaeda network and prevailing in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism.”
The 9 11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks

RESPECT: Earned Or Demanded?

Note: This post is not an attempt to justify or condemn the behavior of both age groups. But rather I am aiming to look at this issue as objectively as possible. (Though I may fail at that)

Respect is earned, not given or demanded” or so my elders always say when I was growing up. Now that I am grown up to an extent, I can see the double standards or hypocrisy in that saying. They tell us that in order for us to be respected, we have to do something worthy of respect (the earning) but they expect us to respect them just because they are older (the demand).

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not disrespectful neither am I strictly respectful, I do not demand respect just because I may be older than you. I only ask that you treat me as your equal but that you, please, do not do anything to disrespect me. The notion that I have to show you respect just because you are older is dumb. You could be an alcoholic, a wife-beater, maybe abuse your kids, cheat on your wife and such, but I am supposed to respect you because you are older than me. Or that I should greet every elder I see on my way because “you are older and therefore should be given respect”.

“Respect yourself and others will respect you.”
 Confucius

“If you want to be respected by others,
the great thing is to respect yourself.
Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky,

I don’t need you to respect me before I respect you, I just need you to respect yourself because I can’t, won’t and shall not respect a man who doesn’t respect himself.

I was in the bus going home sometime back, and the conductor who normally collects the fare from passengers was emphasizing that he didn’t have change. So there was a man behind me (how old? I don’t know but maybe 15 years older than me) who had change so I asked him to give me his money since I didn’t have change. So he gives me his money, with his right hand, and I stretch to collect it, with my left hand (I should point out that in my country, Nigeria, our elders view giving or collecting anything with your left hand is a sign of respect, their view and not mine) even though I was not even aware due to the sitting conditions in the bus and my right hand was at an uncomfortable angle and I couldn’t make use of it. The man withdrew his hand and went on to try to embarrass me that I was not trained well. Well, I did the only obvious thing; I hissed in my seat very loudly and said “If it was Wizkid or Davido who gave you a million naira check with his left hand, will you even say anything?”. The other passengers bust out laughing and so began a war of words between the youth and elders in the bus. This went on for about 10 minutes while I kept quiet. When they showed no sign of slowing down, I said the only sensible thing left to say since it was I who caused it anyway. I said “You elders are the reason this country is the way it is today, do not expect me to respect you when you sat by and did nothing while the country was being looted.” And that quieted them down a bit though I still got the evil eye now and then till I got down from the bus.

I am not saying what I did was right, but I am not going to say it was wrong. I did what I had to do because some dude felt I was doing something wrong and decided to embarrass me.

So my question is this; do you just respect someone because they are older than you, even though that person doesn’t respect himself? Or is respect actually earned by everybody of all ages?

I refuse to be a part of that double standard and if that pisses you off, well, the problem is yours and not mine.

 

Moved to Tears – The Art That Touches

So I stumbled on Daily Posts’ prompt for today. This is to write on a recent tear-jerking expression.

I like to think of myself as a logically emotional person. This is to say that while I shed the tear like everyone else, I do not shed it on a consistent basis. So in my adherence to the daily prompt for today, I will be giving 5 artistic forms (movies & books) that have moved me to shed a tear, even a single tear.

One recurring theme is that one particular action moved me to tears; one person was willing to put another person’s happiness over their own even at the cost of their life.

So without further foreplay and in no particular order, these are the movies and books that moved me to shed that tear;

A WALK TO REMEMBER (BOOK)
A Walk to Remember  I watched the movie before I have read the book and it was boring. Because no movie can ever truly    interpret a book or even come close to describing the book, except The Godfather & P.S I Love You. So   when I was only too eager to read the book when I got it, and I have to say, it was a big mistake. Never have I been so moved by words or by a story, no matter how fictional it is.

Note: I haven’t read The Fault in Our Stars & P.S I Love You.
“When I was seventeen, my life changed forever”
That I believe, but it was Jamie Sullivan who made me cry. She is the blandest, most ordinary, drama-free female character that I have ever seen in a romantic book. I can’t point to one particular scene or page that mead me shed that tear. I just know that at some point in the book, my eyes where wet.
“First you will smile, and then you will cry— don’t say you haven’t been warned.”
I guess Mr. Sparks got that one right.

JOHN Q
John QThis isn’t a romantic movie but it is a story of love. The love of a parent for his child who was dying.
I enjoyed the hostage situation thing and all. But when Denzel Washington offered to give his son his own heart, literally, my own heart stopped. It was moving. It was one of the purest sacrifices I have ever seen, giving our own life for someone else.
Now whenever I hear the same old talk that women love their children more than men, I just shake my head and accept that they don’t and can’t know. We guys just love in a different way from girls.

 

CHAMPION:
ChampionI have dystopian novels. It gives order or purpose to a world that is chaos. Not that there isn’t order in our current world, but the order lies in the chaos. Dystopian novels gives everybody a status, value and purpose right from the day they are born, and while our current world does the same, it at least creates the possibility that one’s status and value can change, dystopian worlds don’t give that possibility. I love chaos; there is too much order in chaos than order in order.
That said I finished the three books in the series because I like to at least finish what I start.
And the end was anti-climactic for me. This is because I expected that Day and June would finally be together without any problems and get to live together, blah blah blah. But Marie Lu had other ideas, June could have still gotten the ending she wanted but Tess’s words came back to her; “Be good to him” and the only way she thought she could do that was to set him free.
How many people in today’s world could actually leave the person they really love if it means that person will be happy in the long run??

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (MOVIE)
the fault in our starsI have watched the movie and am yet to read the book. It was heart-rending. I was moved from the beginning to the end. It taught me that anybody can find love irrespective of their condition or state.
Moving on, it was Hazel’s practice eulogy to Augustus that made moved me. There are no words to describe what she said so I’ll just put it up here.

My name is Hazel. Augustus Waters was the great star-crossed love of my life. Ours was an epic love story, and I won’t be able to get more than a sentence into it without disappearing into a puddle of tears. Gus knew. Gus knows. I will not tell you our love story, because—like all real love stories—it will die with us, as it should. I’d hoped that he’d be eulogizing me, because there’s no one I’d rather have. . . . . . . . Okay, how not to cry. How am I—okay. Okay.

I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

Added to it was the whole movie that led up to that eulogy. I am not ashamed to say that a tear was shed.

P.S I LOVE YOU (MOVIE)
P.S I Love YouMy personal best romantic movie of all time. One of the reasons was that I watched this movie in 2012 with my ex-girlfriend who happens to be the only person I have ever and may ever have real feelings for. And she cried at the end of the movie, my eyes got wet partly because I do my best not to make her cry and seeing her shed a tear because of something beautiful, I was moved. I think this is what made my best romantic movie of all time, because it was one of the only times that I have ever felt serene and without a care in the world except for that one person. The movie was great, and I was impressed with Gerry’s love for Holly that even in death, he did all he could to help her move on.

 

SPECIAL MENTION – TITANIC
jack and roseNote: Special mention because, I was 9 when I watched it and I have only watched this movie once and I didn’t even start from the beginning.
It was showing on late night TV and I started watching when the Ship had already started sinking.
Now the picture you see is what made me cry.
Objectively speaking, Rose is an evil bitch, because that board could have it two people without sinking, I’m not really sure, but that’s not the point. The reason why I called her an evil bitch was because not once did I hear her offer Jack a space on the board.

What moved me to tears: It’s a life or death situation and here is a girl you barely know for more than 5 months yet you offer to save her life even at the cost of your own. I was young and couldn’t understand it, even now that I understand it; I can’t say that I will do it. It was touching and emotionally crazy. I think I cried myself to sleep that night.

 

So there you have it. Five Artistic expressions that moved me to tears. I am certain there are others but these take home the prize

 

A SONG OF TWO SEASONS

What does it mean to truly be in love?

If you asked me this question two years ago, my answer would have been to care for someone more than you cared for yourself and that you’ll spend the rest of your life with that person. But if you asked me that question right now, I wouldn’t give an answer because the question was wrong. The key was not to be in love, because love was an easy thing to fall out of, but rather to love. And if you ask me again what it means to love, I still won’t be able to answer the question not for lack of an answer but because the answer simply does not exist. Love is not simply a thing; it is a presence living in those who have been blessed and cursed to let it in. It shakes you and unravels your world, demanding to be felt and when you think you can control it, it shows you that it can’t be tamed. Yes, I say cursed because it is at that moment you realize that you can’t really tame love that you see just how much misery it can bring you.

Love, for me, meant that I cared for Kayla more deeply than I can ever care for myself and that we would get to be together forever. It sounds simple, right? That when you love someone and they love you back then nothing else matters. These days, I just laugh at how naive I had been.

And while part of me wants to believe that is possible, I now realize that loving her does not guarantee that I’ll get to spend the rest of my life with her.

For now, I sit on the couch fighting the almost irresistible urge to dial her number and some days, it’s a fight I lose. Like today, she answers the phone before I even realize that I lost the fight. I sit saying nothing while I hear her voice, soft and lazy like she just rolled out of bed, saying “Hello” several times. I wait until the timer hit the 15-second mark before I hang up.

She may or may never know that it was me.

I’ve been told that “the first time you fall in love, it stays with you forever and no matter how hard you try, the feeling never goes away”. I have not lived a long time yet to verify how true that talk is but two years after, I still feel as strongly as I did then, but our songs are different now. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to accept, but there was a time when our songs were the same and even though that feels like a lifetime ago, I can still hear it playing clearly in my head. It’s a song I can never forget no matter how hard I try. I’ve learned that the songs, like memories can almost feel like a living breathing presence. And I reflect on that presence right now, as I always do. I find myself remembering how it began. All songs play out the same way, a beginning and an end; I find it hard to believe that ours didn’t continue playing endlessly.

Part of me aches whenever I think of her, and I know that the ache comes from the choices I made. But the choice had been necessary no matter how much I knew I was going to hurt, because in the end her happiness was all that mattered to me.

I burden myself with the same questions over and over again. Why did I do it? If given another chance, how differently would I do it? These are questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, or a straight sentence. Maybe when you read this, you will be able to understand why it had to happen.

Because even though she was the one who ended it, it was I who let it happen.

 ****************************************************************************

I decided to write about my last relationship as a book. Whether I publish it or not is not yet decided. The main reason I am writing about it is because it’s the only story in my past I haven’t gotten over and letting it out is going to feel a tad bit liberating for me.

This is just a sketch of the prologue. I haven’t started writing any chapters yet, but hopefully before the end of this year, I would have finished at least 2 chapters.