I met Valerie towards the close of last year, she was working as a domestic assistant at my aunt’s home. However, I realised she could not really read and write. I found it quite surprising because my interactions revealed that she did not grow up in an educationally less disadvantaged area and she confirmed that her older sister with whom she resided before taking up this employment had a degree. It was odd given that they were raised by the same parents in the same home. That felt like the first onion peel as the more I peeled, the more my eyes stung. She was so bitter. She was bitter at her dad, her mum and her siblings, first for not sending her to school to get an education as she blamed that for everything that had happened to her life up until now and she blamed them for how her life turned out. She could still not write or read, stuck right where she left school many years ago. She was so bitter that she blocked her mother and brother out and lied that they were dead. When she was found out, she said flatly that they were dead to her. As we spoke, I saw a 27 year old woman who had wasted almost 15 years refusing to move on from who hurt her. She was so bitter that the bile was beginning to define her. You know how poultry tastes bitter when the gall bladder bursts, and that beyond remedy? That is what speaking to her felt like. She was unable to move forward and even her bitterness against others made her unattractive because she had no joy. For that reason, she created a certain force field around her that made her appear somewhat shady.
Some weeks later, I met a young man who braids hair. I was impressed with his craft but beyond that I was impressed with his attitude. And he could talk, boy he talked for the entire introverted community. So it did not take me too long to unwrap the onion bulb that he was. In contrast to Valerie, he was refreshing. He dropped out of school just after primary school because he did not like going to school but he learned to braid hair from his sisters and gradually built a craft. If you saw his braids, you would love the precision and attention to detail. He built a career in Lagos which he has kept up over the years. He caters really well and also mentioned that he was looking to learn how to sew. Whatever his hands found, he intended to do with all his might. He was earning his quite a tidy sum from catering and hair dressing and was living quite comfortably.
There is only one reason I am contrasting both stories, although they are not perfectly symmetric. The reason is to dissuade you from allowing a bad history consume your today and future. It does not matter what your past says, you can change the narrative by owning it and refusing to allow it consume you. Valerie stayed in the past and allowed her unforgiveness make her bitter, so bitter that it is still affecting her today. Her lack of education is not her only problem although she seems to think it is because then she can blame others. She could have since returned to school to earn an education or get a skill but it is typically easier to hold others responsible and that is the choice she made. Whatever her family’s reasons, they are living their lives and she is allowing them continue to write her narrative through her bitterness. But for the young man who braids hair, even though it was his choice to, he has gone ahead to develop himself and brand himself so well, one struggles to believe he actually did not attend high school or university even from interacting with him.
Every now and again, I meet people who blame their present day dysfunctional choices on something their parents or loved ones did in the past. It’s time to own your stuff. Some of those habits you are content to blame your parents or an ex for, you allowed to be formed because you refused to let go. This is the time to own your journey and refuse to be held back by the actions of others or yourself. This tale of two young people and the divergence in outcomes is very instructive.
We can all do better and save our souls from reliving past bitter experiences in the present. There is a deliberateness to this because it never just happens. We choose to forget the past and look ahead. A wise man said it is foolish to say that the past was better. Whatever the best days that lie behind, there is better ahead.
“…I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…”
Have an amazing weekend