Today, I’m sharing a post exclusively written for this blog by the person who’s influenced me the most in the entire blogosphere, not Linda Ikeji, it’s Imisi Osasona. And that in itself is a story for another day. It’s a long post, let me not make it longer. Enjoy it (and please read the post inserted as a link).
“Of course, faith is a risk – but it’s one I would never risk living without”
“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong”
― Mandy Hale
While serving in the soon-to-be peaceful city of Maiduguri a few years ago, I got to thinking about an otherwise common tale. The strange realities around had a special way of messing with one’s mind; no surprise it felt like an ‘inside scoop’ as I distilled my thoughts into a post. The single overriding point to that post – illustrated by the poolside cripple’s experience – was that heaven had a precise plan for all of us.
It really wasn’t a hard angle to squeeze out, seeing as there was no account of the man’s benefactor really having any other business around said pool. Heaven knew that for 38 long and grueling years, all the cripple did was hope and wish he got in the healing pool. If nothing changed, he would almost certainly have died a cripple. So, heaven helped the man that could not (or, more critically, would not) help himself. Perfect tale of bliss and happy endings.
But, I’ve looked at that story again in the many years between that post and now – and one thing always sticks out. 38 is a pretty huge number in a world where opportunities are said to come “but once”. Whatever kept that man from taking a plunge must have been pretty compelling. Inadequate motivation, ‘comfort’, or just the fear of failure (and resultant shame of death by drowning)?
After 38 long years of being let down (mostly by himself), heaven must have known the cripple was never going to get in the pool. Maybe the intervention was borne out of tiredness from watching him NOT try. But, how often does that happen? How often does one just sit still, do nothing and have a life-changing experience? Today, more than ever before, I’m convinced the man should have somehow got in that pool – at the risk of shame or dying, he should have sought change with more determination.
It’s like Abraham Maslow said: “what a man can be, he must be”. That cripple could have been his own hero. Instead, he waited 38 long years to be saved by someone whose coming he could never have predicted. He certainly detested where he was, but still couldn’t resolve for better. Even a statue would have obliged a 38-year plea to drag this man into the pool – out of sheer frustration. But, the man made lasting peace with his favourite excuse: “I have no one to drag me in”. In fairness to him, it was a pretty dicey situation; the miracle was only for the first man to jump in. Still, he had a choice to make!
He chose the ease and certainty of his esteem (whatever was left of it) and condition. He probably told himself that lacking mobility was a lot better than the shame of drowning. Arguably rational call too, seeing as there was absolutely no guarantee his efforts would change his situation. He desired better – like many of us from time to time – but he just couldn’t/wouldn’t take that plunge. All, it just begs some wonder as to the actual value of comfort. Should we, in keeping with comfort, remain where we’re sure we don’t want to be (thus, being comfortably wrong) – or should one be willing to endure the discomfort of uncertainty in the quest for what they really want? That’s where the plot changes from one of guaranteed happy endings to a more tentative one of risk and resolve!
I’ve made a number of ‘funny’ choices in my day – some that shock even myself. At the bottom end of that spectrum, you’d find things like travelling across states totally unannounced just to surprise some person(s). But, what I did in 2013 trumps them all. It was the equivalent of squeezing my entire life into a single roulette chip and taking an all-or-nothing roll. By far the ‘stupidest’ thing I’d ever done.
That year, I was in what some might call a place of envy; I had gotten remarkably good at my job, was rising through the ranks and life was generally good. It was a place of absolute comfort – but, I was getting rooted in a career path I had said I’d never follow only a few years prior.
Life was dealing me the cards – good ones, no doubt – but there was very little actually within my control. I knew that and wanted to change it. And, as I reckon, the longer one keeps from doing ‘right’, the more comfortable one feels about being ‘wrong’ – and the harder it eventually gets to turn things around. So, I thought about it just a little, then decided to do the unthinkable: pack it all up and go chase a silly dream. We’re told to never leave certainty for uncertainty – but the lines fade when ‘certainty’ feels absolutely wrong, and ‘uncertainty’ just might lead to glory! Does one, for fear of being wrong, continue to be wrong?
No one expected it; many colleagues thought it was just another prank – but it was what it was. Leaving when the ovation is loudest can be a lot of fun. It might even work wonders for the ego – but you try cranking a dead ovation back to life; that’s the hard part. The year that followed was one where I had to live through the consequences of that decision. It brought reality right into focus: my cripple had plunged in the pool of no guarantees.
I suddenly found myself having to call in every favour I could access to stay afloat. I thought I had all the angles covered – but, like Mike Tyson put it “everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face”. It definitely felt like I had been punched in the face; it didn’t look like any of it was going to pan out.
In Bethsaida terms, it was about the same as the cripple jumping in the pool and struggling to stay afloat. It’s not just the water that smothers the individual; the waves of shame and self-pity are just as toxic. They just keep battering away at the mind. “I could have stayed right where I was”, “what was I even thinking?”, “It’s true what they say about people being their own enemies”, “this was a terrible idea”, “how do I face the world now?”.
It’s a terribly dreadful place to be, in all honesty: the not knowing, the ever rising possibility of advertised failure. Still, it’s the one place where uncertainty can always shame certainty. One may not know for sure where the road leads – but being certain you don’t want to be where you currently are is sometimes enough motivation to jump.
Funny how literature has its unique way of smoothing over the details. Between the story being told and retold, it may just begin to seem like I always had the master plan – that I knew all along what to do, when, and the precise outcome of it all. But, nothing could be farther from the truth. There were days when I was pretty convinced I had made a mistake; days when I almost called to beg for my old job back – days when fear raced through my spine and jolted me awake from sleep. For a while, my newest hobby was voluntarily admitting to my roommate that I no longer knew what I was doing. Still, the one thing I knew for certain through all the uncertainty was that I didn’t want to be where I was coming from. Sometimes, more than the articulacy of intricate planning – more than any assurances we seek from life – that’s all one needs to rewrite his own story.
The author is @bRinEstAKeS
PS: I dedicate this post to my friend, Ayodeji “Jacuss” Adekoya who’s taken a similar phantom plunge.