For over a year, my email signature has been a source of much amusement to my friends. They never fail to comment on it – no matter how urgent the content of the email itself is, there’s invariably the “please change this your signature” addendum. Naturally, I left it as it was because I’m nothing if not contrary.
But the main reason why I didn’t succumb to my friends’ heckling at the time was because of how the sentence made me feel. It was very simple and quaint, almost innocent. It said, “Bloom wherever you’re planted”, and though it sounds cheesy, I very soon acquired the taste for this particular kind of cheese. It made me feel like I could bloom, that I was made of ‘bloomable’ material. And that’s what was important to me, after a lifetime of feeling like I had nothing else to display asides from what people could already see.
I changed that signature a couple of weeks ago for two reasons.
Second week in March, I attended one of these conferences where policy recommendations are decided, and on the second day, there was a “youth panel”. Now, here’s a little backstory for why I put that phrase in quotations. The policy recommendations in question will affect young people almost entirely – what we’re taught in school, our healthcare opportunities and the extent of our civic engagement. Session after session, geriatric academics threw around buzzwords like ‘sustainable’ and ‘cohort’ and ‘economic implications’. I think I stayed awake out of sheer excitement (I’m a hopeless nerd) and for the fear that nobody would wake me up for the spectacular lunch (it really was a thing to behold. So magnificent. Trays upon trays of the most magnificent spread – but this is not why we’re here). So, I was suitably expectant when I saw on the schedule that there would be a youth panel. My expectant mien experienced some major faltering when I mentioned it to one of the aforementioned geriatric academics, and he all but patted my young head with his much-wrinkled hand while marvelling at my naiveté. Did I not know, asked he, that these youth panels were a traditional token? Youth panel day was basically recess, said he. A little time for the geriatric decision makers to drink some water and catch up on Facebook.
Reader, he was absolutely right. The panel began and these University students sat down and began to throw around buzzwords like programmed robots. The delivery was mechanic, the message uninspiring. To be fair, one made me sit up and take notice, but the other three were almost painful to watch and listen to. And then, someone leaned towards me and whispered, “You should be up there.” Immediately, I thought, yes, I should. I could do a much better job, I knew. But I wasn’t up there because I’ve spent all my life shying away from the serious stuff, seeking the cool, hipster options. I could’ve read the news better and with more insight in my secondary school press club, instead I turned it down and underlined articles in newspapers for others to read. I should have been the class representative in university; I would have done a damn fantastic job, instead I decided that I couldn’t be bothered. I could have gone to the Zain Africa Challenge in university and I would have probably done exceptionally well, but I didn’t, because stress and study would have made my soul explode. I could have been a figure of authority at work, but hey, I’m not a leader. I’m worker bee, I told myself. I think a bit of “What the hell do I think I’m doing, being this average when I can be exceptional?” hit me that afternoon of the youth panel, and I didn’t even know when I put my hand up to put forward my own ideas and recommendations– a thing I would generally never do, not because I’m shy, but because, stress.
Fast forward to that evening and reason number 2 for changing my signature. I was watching The West Wing, which is only the greatest show that ever graced our lives. The amount of knowledge and life lessons I’m gleaning from it is staggering, and I can only marvel at how television CAN be an instrument for positivity. Listen up, parents. Anyhow, I was watching the What Kind of Day episode, beaming at my favorite people, when President Bartlett, responding to a question about how the young people felt apathetic towards their government, made this statement.
“Decisions are made by those who show up.”
Now, this was a ‘shut down my laptop and sit in silence for an hour’ moment. Coming on the heels of what had bugged me through the day, the recollection of how I’d always taken the path of least resistance and recognition all my life only to end up in a conference where the quality of the sample size of my generation left a sour taste in my mouth, this was equivalent to the heaven opening and a scroll dropping into my lap.
Decisions are made by those who show up.
It is those who turn out to contest for elections, those who turn up to form political parties and avail themselves of civic knowledge and power, who are in charge of our future as a nation. It is those who go to the market who decide what foodstuff to buy. It is the people who speak up and have the pertinent conversations who are eventually recorded in history. I know it’s not this simple most of the time; Nigeria particularly can frustrate you back into hiding. But I don’t want to be so jaded as to not even try. And try again. And try until I’m noticed.
It’s doubly interesting because, sometime in January, I had read a book where this line jumped at me: “Ninety percent of life is showing up.” That line has niggled at the back of my mind since then, and the picture was suddenly complete.
I have a history of not showing up. I am the person who sits in the audience and murmurs the correct answers at the game show of life. I’m the one who laments at the state of those in front while parked on the last row with a decent skill-set. The one who always says, “No, YOU go forward, I can’t bear this pressure.” The thing is, I will continue to be dissatisfied and disappointed in people and in myself because nobody can represent me like I can.
I changed my email signature because blooming where someone planted me is no longer enough. I want to decide to go places, to show up, to be important. I changed my email signature, because that’s the academic equivalent of getting a tattoo. But I don’t need to, the words are imprinted on my mind.
Decisions are made by those who show up.
Let’s carpe the hell out of this diem.