My year began with the worst menarche cramps I’ve ever had. I couldn’t even leave my room to enjoy the cooking and eating frenzy.
I visited an old friend days later. We were walking out of the estate when I saw the obituary of one of my childhood friends on one of the walls. Ocheme Stephen Ocheme, 20.
I tried not to lose composure till I got home and told my mum. Ocheme’s family and mine had lost touch when we moved from our previous residence.
I never got a chance to see him again, all grown up. It hurt so much. Lots of memories came rushing back. We later heard from his mum who told us that he’d suffered so much from a disease that even the Indian doctors didn’t understand.
Days passed, sleep was scarce. I only slept when I’d worn myself out crying.
News reached me that the school Mgt didn’t plan to give accommodation to students who weren’t in either first or final year. I started to worry almost immediately I heard. My only option was to go to school a week before resumption to search for bqs in the living quarters of lecturers.
While getting ready to leave for Ibadan, I received a call from my friend Oluchi whose only words were : “Jennifer, Itunu is dead.” I was distraught. Too hurt to even cry. Too hurt to believe it even. Why were my friends dying? Too young. The sadness got worse.
My best friend and I combed the entire school for bqs, but to no avail. I paid about three housing “agents” inspection fees so I could see the places they said they had.
On those occasions, I walked with them in the hot sun only to see horrible places. I knew I wasn’t prepared to live off campus.
My school doesn’t condone squatting and the punishment for defaulters is dire.
I cried, complained, prayed, yet no place came up.
I finally found a place.
I was so stressed from my search. School had started fully. Most of my 80 leaves notes had gone past their middle. I hadn’t even reviewed my first pages.
I was taking classical physics. I didn’t understand anything. Every single day while taking notes in that class, I rued its examination which was still a long way away. I tried attending tutorials, study groups, to no avail. All I did at these tutorials, was to stare at people who were way ahead of even the lecturer. Whenever someone asked “So which part don’t you understand?”, I’ll just point to some random topic. But in truth, I didn’t understand any part at all.
Meanwhile, my relationship with my best friend was strained. Superficial discussions and all. I noticed, from the beginning, but I was afraid that if I spoke up, it’d sound like an accusation and things between us would get worse.
Something I didn’t understand was happening to me. I was sad, really sad. But surprisingly, I wanted to stay that way.
Negative thoughts about my future pulsed through my mind. What if you fail and have to be withdrawn? What if you fall ill mysteriously and die? What if you finish school with ‘flashing credit’ for a grade and you never get a job? Jennifer what is the hope of your calling? Where in the scheme of things will you be when you’re 30? I didn’t want to let anyone in, because I felt they’d see how sad I was and all the negativity whirring inside me, and they’d flee.
I trudged on that way.
The night before my birthday, I had this short conversation with someone:
“I hear tomorrow’s your birthday.”
“Oh yes, it is.”
“So how old will you be?”
“What is it?”
“Well It’s that the nineteenth year of my life was the hardest. I’m not being pessimistic, but you’re in for a difficult year. I wish you God’s wisdom though.”
He didn’t lie. It was a difficult year.
I didn’t like my birthday. My best friend didn’t call at midnight. My roommates screamed, my neighbors joined in. I smiled, laughed, but I really wasn’t there. I kept staring at my phone, waiting for Chinwe’s call. But nothing. She showed up with a cake for me, but it was in the air and on our faces that so much was wrong.
I wished I didn’t have a birthday.
Exams, tears, fear, all-nighters.
JULY – DECEMBER
The worst and best months in the year.
I waited a month from the start of the strike(July 1st – August 4th) in Ibadan, hoping that it would be called off. It wasn’t. I planned to stay longer, but I got a call from my mum on the first day of August.
“Come home first thing tomorrow. Your daddy is very sick.”
She was trying not to cry.
I was scared shitless. She said his blood pressure had risen to 220.
I was crying and forcing my rumpled clothes into my bag while I was saying “God please don’t let my daddy die”, over and over.
The ATMs messed with me for two whole days almost as if to raise my own BP.
When I got home days later, he’d returned from the hospital. The pressure had miraculously found its way down to 160.
The doctor said he was very close to a stroke and was lucky to have escaped it. Ordered weeks of rest.
My mum called her school and explained that she might not be present for a while, and why.
My dad was swallowing pills upon expensive pills.
He got better fast. Everyone was happy.
My mum returned to work. She got a query. Infact, was fired, and called back days later. It turned out that the person she informed of her absence and its reason, denied ever even hearing from her.
Days became weeks, weeks, months and I was home, being the domestic help.
I started to have misunderstandings with my mum over the most trivial things. And like most African mothers, she’d talk for hours unend.
I was frustrated.
In October, my best friend and I finally sandfilled the gulf between us. It was the bestest feeling.
I was grateful to God for another chance at my most valued friendship yet.
Bouts of depression came and I couldn’t tell anyone. I’d just sit and think of my dead friends so much that even my body would ache.
My surprise was the way I concealed it so well.
Any time happiness tried to steal in, my sadness would knock it out.
I discovered that I’m not as social as I thought I was, the way I turned down hangouts I’d previously agreed to, without any reason.
One day, the depression and sadness I felt about the loss of my friends disappeared like fog. Slowly.
I’ve learnt that the prayers our mothers say for us, go farther than we can imagine.
I can now say I love my mother, with the full knowledge and understanding of what it means.
I’m learning to be more social and to extend an arm of friendship first.
I’m grateful for my family and my friends.
I’m learning to build a strong wall around my happiness, finding calm no matter how stormy things might be around me.
I’m learning to not over think and over analyse things. To not be my own enemy.
I’m calmer about my future, with faith that nothing beyond God’s control can happen.
I’m trying to stop being lazy about sharpening my abilities.
I’m forgiving myself and people who’ve offended me. Great load off my back.
I’m learning to share more than give. (This is because you can give to anyone even an enemy, but you can’t share with an enemy.) Sharing shows more love than giving.
I’m learning to accept responsibilities, to cast away the fear of not being ‘good enough’.
I’m learning that hearing a ‘no’ to a request isn’t so bad.
I love and value myself more. I can see the wonderful person I’m becoming.
And I’m thankful to God beyond words for everything.
Even choosing to write this review, showed me that things were getting better.
The best thing is, I’m positive about the coming year 2014. All that matters really.
Happy Boxing day! Have a wonderful year ahead!
Thank you for being so upfront with us. Thank you Jennifer