In the middle of our dialogue, here she comes singing happy birthday to my friend, who was sitting next to me. They both talk for a bit, I wait patiently, she ask my friend what time of day was he born 42 years ago, well he doesn’t know. She doesn’t look to me, she doesn’t speak to me. She continues, she tells him the exact time she was born. She ask what (astrological) sign is he, he tells her. She tells him hers. A few seconds go by, she turns to me.
I don’t know what it is, but these conversations tend to seek me out. Me and lady start chatting, my friend quietly excuses himself, the rest of my friends do their best to look away or look at their phones while me and lady begin to dissect different life concepts.
She tells me of her country, I’ve been there lots of times, she relaxes even more, now she talks to me like she’s talking to a fellow countryman. We talk of different states in her country, the ones I forget, she reminds me. She tells me she’d not live there again, we dive into that.
She tells me about Florida, I was just there last weekend, I can relate so she unburdens some more. My friend is still nowhere to be found, lady still has a lot to say, I reach, grab my cup, smile, sip my drink.
I tell her I’m finding it hard to answer the where do I want to live and die question. She ask me would I go back to Nigeria, I said yes. She tells me her sisters all married into different races and their family gathering is like a UN meeting. She then asks me, what do you like about this country? haha, I laugh. She then says there’s a lot not to like, I agree. I ask her what she likes, she says individualism. Funny enough, that’s one point I count as a disadvantage but from her view it’s a significant advantage. She feels people do not have to be in shape if they don’t want to, while she herself is in shape. I think people should want to be in shape and not let themselves go. This just becomes even more interesting to unpack. My friend is still nowhere to be found.
Me and lady talk some more but let me get to the main part I want to share with you. She tells me she loves this particular state and city where we live. If she could live anywhere in the world it would be here or Japan. Here, being the city and state where this conversation is happening. And, I — want to move out of this city and state.
She asks me do I have to like the city I live? I tell her I only have the one life, why live in a city I don’t like? she tells me if you’re prospering in this city, like you are, why leave it? I tell her I want different (and better). She calls me ungrateful.
And, boom! just like that, what would have been an interaction I would easily, eventually forget turned into a conversation I would remember a long time.
Before yesterday, there was only one grounding perspective that’s shocked me. And, that also came from the mouth of a young lady. A different young lady. I’ll tell you that story.
Myself and this young lady both play competitive table tennis against each other, we are rivals so we don’t interact much. I’ve known her for some years but we never really spoke in depth.
However on that day, at a different (not table tennis) event, we found ourselves in conversation. We were discussing about books and I said something to the effect of . . .if only people would read and discover agendas working behind the scene to keep them always wanting and never reaching. They are more so blind to factors making sure they don’t actually quench the taste nor satisfy their thirst. Well, something along those lines.
And the young lady responded with something like. . you shouldn’t look down on the people who do not read, they have to work two, sometimes three jobs to take care of their families, and have no time to read. You are privileged to have the time to read and resources to purchase these books. And that shocked me because I did not at any point think it was a privilege or see things from that perspective before she “opened my eyes to it” — I would think if it were available to me it was available to you too, unless you just choose not to pick up a book. But, she’s saying even having the choice to pick up a book, which suggests you have free time, is a privilege— its probably three years now and I still remember that conversation and better appreciate the opportunity to read.
Up until yesterday that was the only grounding perspective I look back on (apart from shared wisdom from family) to make sure I am appreciating and more so recognizing the things that are easy for me to do that I no longer recognize. But yesterday, for the first time, I was called ungrateful. Not as an insult but as a wake up call.
I am grateful to God for all I’ve accomplished through Him in such a short life. I’m grateful everyday actually. I think the lady meant a different type of grateful. To her I am ungrateful to the city and state and even country for what I’ve accomplished here because I am keen on leaving, almost an unspoken expectation of loyalty. Like I’m disloyal to the city if I want to leave the city after “everything it’s done for me”.
As I drive home, I think of what she said, do you have to like where you live? well my answer remains yes. If things are working out for you, why would you want to live? because my focus is not in the accumulation of stuff.
My focus has not been and still is not in expanding the physical at the expense of the internal. Who is to say things would not work for me wherever else I choose to go? Who is to say things would not be better even? Who is to say it will? I’m a traveler, I’m an adventurer, we don’t just stay where we know is good, we go where calls us. Our home is good and comfortable but we go stay in sweaty hostels, thousands of miles and many countries away from home just to experience different, which my dad will not understand.
Am I ungrateful? Yes, I have not been grateful to the city, state for what I’ve accomplished here. All I’ve talked about is moving from here as opposed to thank you for what I’ve created here. My friends would echo my thinking because we’ve discussed this so many times for so many years, we resound each others thoughts, but here goes a lady (the happy birthday lady) I’ve never met before and probably will not see again and she challenges my perspective. I remember she asked me, “what if you are meant to like this place?” since she likes it here, she doesn’t understand why I’m running from living here.
A few months back, actually I believe it started sometime last year, I started noticing a pattern. A mental processing that I was unfamiliar with. You see, I play soccer regularly and I’m a striker, which means goal scorer.
After one of my games, I realized after I score a goal, I do not score another. And if I were to score two, I very rarely score a third. It’s funny because after you score a goal, your team would feed you as many balls as they can, so you can score again and again similar to having hot hands for dice rollers. But I found out, after I scored a goal, I give up essentially.
To go for a second goal becomes much tougher mentally than going for that first goal. It is so weird. You would think after getting the confirmation that I can in fact score against this goalie that I would want to pounce on said goalie and score a hundred goals but no. After that first goal its like “mission accomplished, we’re winning” and muscles begin to chill and relax.
Can you imagine a UFC fighter landing a good punch then stepping backwards? A UFC fighter lands a good punch and immediately goes for the kill. It looks so easy and common sense when you watch it but that doesn’t come easy. For a normal person, the first thought is to call 911, not to go for the kill.
UFC discipline takes a high mental strength and lots of training and reinforcements to get one in and go for another. It’s like being greedy.
We are taught to not be greedy when in reality you have to be Oliver and always ask for more.
Why am I telling you this? here’s why.
It’s boring to win a second time at the same place. Even in table tennis, if you win a player, you want to play someone else. If you win them twice, instead of playing them a third time, you tell them you’re going home.
Can you imagine being enthusiastic to play the same level of a (video) game you’ve won over and over? you’ve won the same level multiple times before. It’s the same game! How do you manufacture the enthusiasm?
It’s not as exciting (for me, might be different for you) going for a second win. You think you’ve conquered this, onto the next. Don’t worry I did not forget about the happy birthday lady, I’m going somewhere with this, hang in there.
So just as it is difficult to want a second, third, fourth goal in football, that’s the same way it is difficult to want to win again where I am. To live here another five years to accomplish much more would make me cry, actually.
Interestingly enough, on one of those nights thinking about whether or not, outside of my friends anyone else thought the same, I found this post.
While I can educate myself and motivate myself to score as many goals as I can in soccer, and not be satisfied with one or two but instead stop counting goals and take all my good shots to help my team and cement our win, that is still different from wanting to stay in one spot in life just because “things are working out”. Or is it my young age talking? would I feel different if I had more wisdom? Would I see different if I were in my 70s?
To her point, do you have to be happy to live where you are? you can postpone your happiness, get all you can from here, then get some more, milk it completely and save it for your old age then nod off to wherever you want to go. Who knows what the right thing to do is, who knows what I’d regret and what I’d high five myself for doing?
Either way, to make sure I am sane and if you’re in a similar situation also, you have to ask yourself, at what expense would you seek different?
I don’t know what I will regret in my old age, but I am going to live by what comes natural to me and keep my faith in God that that which I seek would bring about a quality life for me overall. And He who brought me this far, through this way, can still do great things in my life, either here or else where.
I am a forager. By nature, discoverers. An explorer. We wonder where to wander and ponder when to wonder.
I did not do great things here because of here, though here did help. I did not do great things here by myself. I did great things here because God made it possible. Not my power, nor my might. Faith requires you to jump from one branch, believing you will reach and take hold of the next branch. If Monkeys can do it, you can too.
Better would not compete with good. You have to leave good, for better.
Live your best life, a simple life, the way you know how. And hopefully, just hopefully, your future self would be proud of you.
God is with me.