THIS IS ON YOU


At the tail end of my SSCE exams in secondary school, I was walking from my class to the exams hall and I walked into my dear Chemistry teacher, Mrs PM Joseph. As usual, we had our chit-chat and she said something that was remarkable to me. I did not know it then but looking back I am happy she said it. What she said stayed on my mind.

Let me back up a little. I had three God-sent teachers in secondary school and they were all women. They looked out for me. They were my mums. They cared deeply for me …. till date. I went to an all-boys school and if you know what it is to be pressured, try being among boys with pubertal tendencies. These three women independently took on three aspects of my life. I will write about them on a different day.

Gabriel, you are no more your father’s son. You are now a man. You cannot hide under the cover of your parents, and anything you do henceforth will be attributed to you.” Mrs Joseph said.

I nodded without thinking through what she said but after the exams that day as I walked back home, what she said was on my mind. It meant I had to take responsibility for my actions. It meant I had to be prepared to face life. It meant whatsoever I did was on me. It is either I sink, or I swim and that was up to me.

This was Mrs Joseph’s farewell speech to me. She had seen many students come and go and so she felt she needed to drop that final line with me. Looking back, I learnt many things from that. First is to say what is your mind to people you deeply care about. Second, is not to be afraid to say things that matter. Don’t worry if the recipient will be able to decipher. Just leave it there on the sands of time. Things have a way of coming together when it matters most.

It was not about what she said on that day. It was about the fact that you should speak regularly with young people when you have the time. They may find it intrusive, but some words can linger a long time in their subconscious and then those words may create the required effect.

Another of such moment occurred when I was about to get married. I had told my parents that there was someone in my life. My parents and I had never discussed marriage up until that point. They never talked about that aspect of my life. I knew they had their preference but graduating from an all-boys school and leaving home at sixteen to attend University about 500 kilometres away had its implication. It meant I was likely going to marry someone from school and that was beyond their knowledge and influence. It was definitely going to be someone they never knew but would have to welcome into the clan.

When I brought her home, my parents gave her a warm welcome and treated her as well as they could. One of those evenings, my dad called me into his room and the following conversation ensued.

“DeGab, have I ever brought up the idea of marriage to you?”

“No, sir.”

“Did I bring the woman?”

“No, sir.”

“That means that this is on you. This is your marriage. That is going to be your responsibility.”

I did not need any interpretation of what was said. My Dad rarely bothered me with my life’s choices. But this was a big one and he wanted me to know that it was BIG! He wanted me to know that it was “for better, for worse.” He wanted me to know that this thing that I initiated was on me. In few words, his talk was screaming, “You are responsible.”

When it dawns on you that you are the captain of your ship; that everything you do will be on you:

You will be forced to look at life differently.

You will look before you leap.

You will budget before you embark/launch out.

You will be mindful; you will be careful.

You will not do things mindlessly.

You will be a better person and the world will be a better place because you CHOSE to be responsible.

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