24: GROWING UP

I’ll be 25 somewhere next month. A quarter century charley. I’m no longer that young but I’m not that old either. 24 has been crazy. I learned many important lessons while I was this age. Now that I am going firmly into my mid 20s it’s only right I spill some wisdom.

LOVE & RELATIONSHIPS
When it comes to love and relationships, do not assume you are always blameless. When you are constantly complaining and not communicating because you put yourself on the moral high ground, you miss the most important things. Even worse you end up doing the things you are complaining about. Not every day talk, sometimes just listen and observe. You are not infallible.

Do not make your partner doubt you over anything. Even if you don’t see the harm in it, you may affect your partner’s psyche and set a negative tone to your relationships. No relationship is perfect, not even the one with religious overtones. It comes down to what is good for both of you.

When dealing with strangers trade information. Don’t leave it as one sided street because even though you might be interested in a friendship, silence communicates hostility when getting to know someone. A conversation that turns into an interrogation or a monologue is an indicator the person doesn’t care about getting to know you.

Your feelings don’t count so much. It’s your thoughts that do. If you always act on your emotions when dealing with people you will almost always be disappointed. The trick is to let your thoughts and emotions balance each other out. Observation is critical to the thought process. There is nothing like the right fit. You always have to shoehorn to fit perfectly with someone else but if you keep doing that so much especially when the other party’s actions do not fit or deserve your feelings towards them then check your thoughts.

Finally always always be yourself. Like-minded people almost always gravitate towards each other. If your friends start drifting away it may not always be your fault. They might be facing a paradigm shift in their outlook towards life. Don’t be pushed to be who you are not. You are not meant to be friends with everyone or be a relationship mechanic. For communication to be effective there always has to be a sender and a receiver.

 

WORK & DREAMS
Don’t work with friends. Chances are they will always undermine your work ethics and sabotage you at every turn. Business doesn’t require sentimentality. When you are working with friends and they refuse to pay you or underpay you for your services which wasn’t in your agreement, cut them off. They will only stifle your growth.

Start working on your dreams in the darkness and wait for them to start bearing fruit before discussing with friends or family you trust. Let them be concrete and watertight so you know how to present and defend your idea in front of an imaginary panel of critics. Read more into what you want to do and prepare a business plan so it doesn’t just stay in your head. It is alive and can come to life at any moment.
Develop a serious approach to work. If you cannot work for someone wholeheartedly, you will not be wholeheartedly involved in your own endeavors. For all the wannabe entrepreneurs out there I say this, embrace the 9-5 life. There is nothing wrong with having a day job while building up your dream career. Jobs are not supposed to be sentimental. While it would be toxic to work for a bad boss it also builds up your character in handling people like that you might come across while building your career. Do not quit so easily unless it has serious repercussions on your wellbeing. Starting your own thing is always hard and if you do not have a steady flow of capital to hold you up you will go bust. No one invests in dreams, they invest in seeds. If you have no trust fund to set you up charley you have to work for a pay slip.

 

RESPONSIBILITY
You are growing up. It is only natural your family starts addressing you as an adult rather than an overgrown child. Cash flow will become limited and you are expected to help take care of miscellaneous bills in the house. It is only fair you contribute to the upkeep of the house. However that is the exception and not the rule. If you suddenly become a breadwinner find out what is going on. Things may not be as they seem. You are required to take care of your family in your own small way. Family is everything and you best learn when contributing actively to yours by taking some of the responsibilities as your own.

In social circles it is normal to aspire to positions of responsibilities. Whether it is in your religious group or school or class year group or even being in charge of something at work, responsibilities shape you up more to be a better person and a positive role model. You do not always have to be a natural leader to take up a position. Leadership is learned.

The best part of responsibilities are you are not alone. You get to ask older and more experienced people questions to make you understand your role better.

 

FAITH & RELIGION

This is a path I try to tread carefully because to be honest it goes against my nature. I refuse to submit and wholly believe something I can’t grasp in totality. My faith is fundamental at best and always subject to intense scrutiny. I am Christian and I believe in Jesus Christ. It is enough for me. Everything else is relative to how I treat others. The most important commandment in Christianity is loving your neighbor as yourself. In today’s world so many youth are concerned with spiritual breakthrough that they forget the basic tenets their faith is built on. Understand your your faith. Anything that does not allow you to use your God-given gifts to better yourself and other people is morally wrong. The issue of morality lies in a more psychological plane and my philosophies about spirituality drive me to a similar conclusion. It is however good to have faith and support it with work however.  “14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 14-17, NKJV)”

Be tolerant of other people’s views on religion even if you don’t agree. Not everyone was raised the same way you were. You can’t win someone over by coerced arguments and intolerance. Hitler and IS and all the terrorist groups are proof of that. Show not tell. The best way you can bring someone to faith is by living according to it not just talking about it.

YOURSELF
You are the most important person in the world. You are the only one who absolutely takes care of yourself. No one will be 100% down for you. It is a rat race and ultimately you are responsible for yourself and actions. Love yourself. Understand why you do the things you do. Challenge everything. Try new things. Make mistakes. Be yourself. Appreciate your life because you will never know when you will die.

 

I am done. 25 promises to be great. Quarter century here I come. Oh one more thing. Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. I leave you with this.

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment. “
(Ecclesiastes 11:9, NKJV)


 

 

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INEQUALITY IS NECESSARY

Hold your horses! Before you go on any further, I need you to critically think about it and choose your next words carefully. If everyone was equal who would clean your offices? Who would serve you that lovely food at that expensive restaurant? Who would be selling water in traffic under the blazing sun just so you can parch your thirst? Who would battle mosquitos just so you can buy airtime late at night? Who would go unwashed the whole day just so you can arrive early to work or home?
I grew up from humble beginnings, sharing a room with my sibling and parents. I remember being jealous and sometimes resentful of my cousins and their better clothes and so many toys. It was no different when I went to boarding school. All the rich kids and their provisions and good shoes and what not. I would sit in my corner green with envy.
Sometime in the recent past I told myself one thing; it doesn’t matter. I am who I am and I have my peculiar gifts. I’ve lost a lot of interest in the things I could not have; always on top of the range with the newest tech, the best clothes, going to the nicest places and generally, having the choicest part of life it might seem.
It is all impossible to compete with those born with a silver spoon in their mouths at the game of having things. You’ll either try to fit in (and they would laugh at you for trying and you still won’t fit in) or just be your own man. Appreciating what you have and being kind are more important than setting out to having the best of everything. You need to look no further than David slaying Goliath or Leicester City winning the 2015-16 English Premier League to realize that appreciating who you are is necessary for miracles to happen.
It is necessary to have smaller people doing the work you would be ashamed of doing because they are right where they need to be at that particular moment in time. If you were in their shoes in the fight for survival would you do what they are doing?
Contentment requires great sacrifice. It requires you to cast away dreams of acquiring material wealth and being more than yourself. In return, it lays the secret of the universe at your feet; love. I wouldn’t say I’m perfect but then the path to perfection is progress. If it was that easy everyone would do it.
In 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 (NIV) the bible says, “26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not to nullify the things that are,”
Learning to love yourself and respecting those who are not in the same position you are the key to equality in eternity. We were all born and we will all die. We are human and do everything human beings do. We are people; inherently selfish and crooked. Letting go of that inborn desire to assert ourselves is the first step to achieving inner peace. This is only possible in a world of inequality. The ‘natural’ order is only temporary because  all we want is to be relevant despite our many flaws and wishes. God either gives you weapons to defend yourself with or quick feet to run away when attacked. Lions have to eat and buffalo and gazelles have to raise their young. Everything is part of the circle of life.
It is only unfortunate people equate being selfish to loving themselves. I believe if you are able to understand yourself with your strengths and weaknesses, you would understand the next person and how people are. You would pity unkind people because in treating others badly they fail to realize they do not treat themselves well.
The next time you see one of those kids begging you for spare change, give if you have. If you don’t have don’t be violent. Nothing good ever came out of taking anything by force.
Envy is a strong motivator. How you use it is up to you. I am unconcerned about what the next person has that I do not have because I am where I am supposed to be at this very moment in time.
Are you?

© Sena Frost 2k16

WHO IS A POET?

 

Or an artist to be precise. There are so many people who parade themselves as such. Just because you have a little skill at putting nice sentences together doesn’t make you a poet or drawing people to perfection an artist.

Art is one of the greatest gifts God gave to man. It is a direct albeit weakened description of His power; the ability to create. A painter breathes life into his painting, likewise a writer into his writing.

The ability to draw observers to your work and by observers I don’t mean those who go gaga at your wordplay or your effortless skill at rendering the human physique or how well you sing or dance. I mean those who sit down and interact with your work because of its inherent depth (or lack of it), those who go beyond the media into the reason behind the work to appreciate true beauty.

Beauty. A very ambiguous subject. It’s the reason why a footballer moving a ball would be adored by fans, a shapely woman gawped and have men at her feet, a morsel of food photographed and paraded like a piece of gold which incredulously is valuable because it is so nice to look at.

The greatest artists of the ages transcended what was viewed as the standards. It is not enough to be part of the latest fad and enjoy the centre stage. Each word and brushstroke and move is your gift to the world. What are you leaving behind after the show is over? People happy with how good you are or people getting better because you touched them in places where hands don’t go?

Would you be remembered as a candle easily snuffed by the wind of time or a star whose dying nova spawns even greater stars?

Art is a legacy, built for the future. Think about it the next time you are going to do what you love.

 

© Sena Frost 2k16

THIS MORNING

 

Last night was topsy-turvy. I spoke to the love of my life. Beneath all the excitement I sensed the fear. The uncertainty. It was not helped in any way by the distance between us physically. On the surface not much had changed since we discovered we were romantically inclined towards each other (I did first). My litany is not to promise an error free love, but to show that love does not look for errors or doubts. To live in the moment every day and to falling in love with every breath.

I don’t know whether she sensed it too. I had my own fears. Would I be willing to commit over the distance? Will the lack of my physical presence force her into the arms of another? Would I look for “excitement” elsewhere to pass the time? I went to bed a confused young man. I was brimming with a love which threatened to leave me somewhere I’ve never been before.

When I woke up this morning I checked her last seen on WhatsApp. Then I checked her profile picture and status. I smiled and went through my morning rituals. In the shower I prayed. First for her, then for me. Then I prayed for my family and left my doubts in the bathroom. While I am afraid, my love is greater. For it is in the bible, I do not remember the chapter or verse but it says and I quote “No greater love than a man have for his friends that he lay down his life for them.” This passage does not always mean death. I realize it means love is bigger than yourself. I am not moving an inch. For the Lord will make me strong through love. Everything happens for a reason. It is not coincidence that two people separated by half a continent would fall in love with each other.

With each terrifying heartbeat, each devaluing fear, I am made stronger. In the face of our most pressing fear (ourselves) I declare that I love you. The best way I can show you is below.

THIS MORNING

I woke up this morning,

And I decided to skip work today,

I will do no paper mourning.

I sat before my mirror,

And stared at me,

A tweaked retrograde god,

And I decided to fall in love.

I watched the ants soldier on in unbroken ranks on my window sill,

And when they reached home their door doth did they seal.

I fell in love with the simplicity of their sophistication.

I stubbed my toe while sweeping the living room.

Rather than curse I marveled at my body’s emergency response.

And with a flourish I twirled my broom.

Whence I was done with my chores,

I stepped outside

And the sun kissed me good morning,

Loving rays from a white star.

And so it went

The day brooding,

The imperfection of food filling my stomach,

The minute cravings.

Near death

And as I lay down in bed today

I saw you.

With the high forehead,

And the hidden scars.

I saw you were afraid.

You did not have to speak it.

And in that moment

I loved you.

© Sena Kodjokuma 2014

GOING INTO THE DRAIN: GHANA ROADS AND ANY USER WHO ISN’T A MOTORIST.

He hurtled downhill from the administration block. It was an unusual sight to see after prep; a cyclist going at it. He weaved between us with ease. Just then ahead of us was a car also moving uphill, presumably a teacher on his way back from town. He blew his horn and we gave way. The startled cyclist looked up a little too late. He veered sharply away from the vehicle and faced a mass of white shirts. He moved again and his progress was halted cruelly by the storm gutter on the shoulders of the road. His head smashed on the gutter lip. His arm and leg were similarly pinned against the wreck of his bicycle. He lay prone. The whole incident was like a scene in a movie. Such a grisly scene will not be forgotten so easily.

To this day I dislike riding my bicycle on roads with open gutters. Sad because that means they are practically everywhere. About a week ago I witnessed a gutter being constructed on my street. The whole incident from that prep night from years back played itself in my head. I have pondered on countless occasions what would have happened if the gutter was covered. As it was an isolated event I looked at the bigger picture. Aside from the obvious reason that people dumped their rubbish into open drains which eventually blocked them there are other reasons why open drains are not good for the Ghanaian. My topmost priority is the unavailability of sidewalks on most roads for the Ghanaian pedestrian. Many roads in residential areas and even some commercial areas are narrow. The gutters which flank these roads are often quite large. This predisposes pedestrians and cyclists to careless motorists who feel they have a larger right of way. The situation worsens when there are instances of parking on such roads. It becomes one way and a pedestrian has to strafe past the car and hope any advancing motorist would be patient enough for him or her to pass. You can imagine what a child would do in such a situation. The child would attempt to run by quickly.
When you take a look at most of Tema (the established communities) and some parts of Accra you notice that most of the gutters are covered with concrete slabs leaving holes in the covers for rain to pass through in case of a storm. Such a design provides a natural sidewalk for pedestrians to walk on. Sadly they are deteriorating as some motorists park their vehicles on them, notably truck drivers or those operating heavy machines. Age is also a contributor and we can see this type of drain design quickly disappearing.
As a pedestrian and occasional cyclist I believe adding a sidewalk by covering drains and gutters by roads would be most beneficial. It would also curb the primordial practice of pouring rubbish into open drains in the belief rain water would carry it away.

The Educated Illiterate: A Cycle of Mediocrity

“ GENETICS OF A FUTURE GHANAIAN
Mapping the educational DNA of a sample of the future Ghanaian citizen is an arduous task.
When finally a double helix strand was extricated I beheld a curious phenomenon,
A largely malformed genome sequence wearing a mask,
Of otherwise healthy proteins.
In the educational genome was a horror
The likes of which would petrify any concerned Ghanaian social scientist
The genes responsible for language were mutated
Corrosive sentence construction and alien spelling were its outstanding features,
In that of spatial and algebraic analysis a series of cognitive genes were simply absent.
This same awfulness surged through the entire strand I was examining,
Dismayed I sat back and refused to continue.
For my greatly weakened heart could burst and cause me great trouble.
A lifestyle of mediocrity had seeped into the genetic coding of future generations
If Darwinian evolution theory is correct a large chunk of the population of Ghana would be wiped out.
If managing to steer the incorrectly assembled ship to shore is the biggest feat we the crew can boast of,
Then the fate of the cultural species of the Dark Continent hangs in the balance.
Dark times lie ahead for Ghana and indeed Africa if this genome is not reconstructed.

© Sena Kodjokuma, 2014 “

At the time of writing this post I am distraught at what I have just witnessed this week. I was marking the scripts of visual arts students on an exercise I had given them. As a fresh graduate doing my service to Ghana in the educational field this was a big cause for alarm. Basic sentence construction and spelling mistakes were rife. From the generation which is a few years away from taking over the helm of affairs in my country I could only foresee gloom and dark times ahead.
A negative culture of mediocrity has permeated the Ghanaian educational system and I do not blame the children. They have learnt this at the basic level knowing absolutely nothing else. I am not proud to say the average educate Ghanaian of my generation does not enjoy creative reading. Corruptive influences of shorthand writing and the Pidgin English spoken by both literate and illiterate Ghanaians is a massive influence. On the side of the coin there are bright students whose passion for knowledge reflects in even the way they eat. These brilliant few however risk being overshadowed by the mass of miseducated hordes who know little else but myopia and misguided superstition handed down to them.
I have little more to add but brood over a vicious cycle where youth empowerment meets miseducation from childhood. The era of the educated illiterate is looming fast if the stakeholders of my beloved country Ghana fail to act in time.

TRIBUTE TO RUFUS

Rufus Kodjokuma was my dog. He lived and died as any dog would; happy. I feel a deep sense of loss as I type. Death is never easy. As a pet owner the feeling of grief is not different from losing a human. I suppose the attachment built makes it so hard. I have just come back from a walk and there is no one home to greet me. I scan his familiar haunts and he is nowhere to be seen. I guess it would take a while to get used to.I remember the day I got him. It was five years ago in June 2009. He was a month old squirmy puppy. I carried him home and named him on the way. We shared a bed together. My mattress still faintly stinks of his urine. The cats we own gave him a cold welcome. He actually pooped on himself. He outlived four generations of his feline friends though. (They were either stolen or given away.) Rufus grew in leaps and bounds. Forever a bundle of energy and smiles he would roughhouse every moment he got. When he grew too big to stay inside I would still cuddle him on occasion. He was my silent companions on walks when I was thinking or bitter.On the day he died it was rainy like had been for a while now. The help had refused to chain him up for the day. He had been acting aggressively and bitten someone a few days earlier so the chain was a necessary precaution. He adored the help and followed her to our shop. Somewhere around one pm she called me. “Rufus is dead. A car knocked him down while he was chasing after another dog.” I went over and saw him laid there. Houseflies were buzzing all over him but otherwise he could have been asleep. He was still warm when I touched him. He had survived a car crash before with a broken leg and chipped teeth. This time it was not to be. I guess his number was up. I will eat and stare mournfully at my leftovers. Because Rufus will not be there to gobble them. Rufus showed me what love and devotion meant. He was happy all the time. The light danced in his eyes and he smiled the way only dogs do the last time I saw him. Bye bye Rufus. You will be missed sorely.