When I was much younger, my family was friends with a family with whom we visited often. They had a daughter who was close in age to my sister and I so we did house chores together very often. Imagine us doing the dishes for instance, whilst singing and harmonizing our favourite songs.
However, this family had a different background/ orientation from ours and one of these was using the traditional grind stone to mill fresh food items. At our home, when there was no power to use the blender, our mum would have us use the grater or a small traditional mortar in which we simply pounded. Our interaction with this family was frequent and somehow not being able to use a grind stone began to make us feel inadequate. Each time we brought it up, our mum laughed it off and said that even our grandmother didn’t have a grind stone because she used a blender and that she (my mum) hadn’t used one since her early teens.
But that didn’t do much, the more we visited and saw how little we could do to help when the stone was being used, the more we clamoured for one. There was nothing our mum could say to change how we felt. And so sometime in our mid teens, just before we got into the university, our mum got us a grind stone and we learned to use it just to ‘feel among.’ It was such a backward, hard and laborious means in the face of the available technology but it felt good to be able to use one and earn the ‘ajepako’ tag.
Today, like my sister and I did, so many of us feel as though we need to adjust our normal to fit the realities of the environment we are in and that is what this post is about. For instance, I have a really intelligent friend who does a great job at work but constantly has to prove herself more than double because of her last name. Some of her colleagues still feel she has not earned her position because she has a wealthy father so there is the constant belittling of the work she puts in because she is a ‘trust fund’ kid. Every little challenge is belittled with ‘do you know what it is to grow up on the streets? As though she needs to rewrite her history for her journey to be valid.
Another example is the way we make it seem as though the best success stories are those of people that came from very negative circumstances and rose through adversity to make it through life and by doing that, we unconsciously invalidate the day to day struggles of the people whose adversities do not appear as colourful as the typical rag to riches story. We shut them down as though saying ‘what do you mean?’ when they try to share their challenges.
In faith also, we thank God for amazing testimonies of the prodigal son. We love how God transforms us from darkness to light but we tend to play down the journeys of those that stay on the path. So we pass comments as though those who were raised by godly parents and remained in the faith with no dark stories do not really know what being saved means and it takes one who strayed away to really understand the grace and the love of God.
We do same with prevailing societal norms. We superimpose what appears to be prevalent and assume that it is the reality for everyone and when people say it is not for them, we subtly mock their divergence or want to force them to accept that.
Going back to my story, the truth is that, we could easily have lived with the identity that we did not have a grind stone and did not need one. It did not in any way make the reality of our family friends sub-standard, it just was what it was and now I wish we were wiser. But we really wanted to show that we could be ‘ajepakos’ and went ahead to do that.
As I look back on this whole grind stone episode and the unnecessary labour just to prove a point, I realise that many people are doing the same today and from my experience, it is totally unnecessary. Why harass a man for not drinking alcohol because most men drink? Why berate a child for the soft landing having a parent with influence offers them? Sometimes, even teachers in schools pick on children with wealthy parents.
The crux of this post is that whatever your reality, it is what it is and it is important to your personal journey. Everything that has happened along the way, like your exposure and value set has a purpose to your journey. There is no need to spend valuable time trying to recreate another’s reality simply to prove a point because it appears ‘more acceptable’ or more normal in that context. In the same vein, many tend to present their experiences and associated solutions as optimal to others with differing realities so we ought to also be careful what the basis for the advice we receive is.
Do people mock you for having certain standards as though your own is too much? Fantastic! Let that be a criteria for who you offer your time to. Don’t dumb down being proper or well-mannered for instance because you are in an environment that subtly encourages bad manners in the name of being real. Do you own something or have access to someone that is considered a privilege? Be grateful for it, never apologize for it and make sure you optimise it. Is your reality way different? Embrace it and make of it the best you can, especially because there is no end to learning and improvement and we can all be and do more.
Your story does not require rewriting up or down according to a popular script to validate it. Your reality affects your expectations and maybe you are trying to dumb down your expectations to match the realities that most others have. Please stop that. Own your history and your journey and let that uniqueness reflect in the day to day decisions you make as you find your path. There are people who will be inspired by your journey just as there are those who will be inspired by another’s. Own your path, be committed to constant improvement as you journey and find peace in who you are.
Have a very unique week every one!