R-Earth-Lity Friday is the day we share the life changing stories of certain significant individuals to encourage and teach us vital lessons to smoothen our journey through life. I made a shortlist of people who are qualified for this category; sought few out and listened to the tale of how the fought through pain to victory. In the process of confirming with my proposed debutante that I was going to feature his story today he said this to me in a chat,
“I was willing to share my story because you inspired me to do so. If you can do that you should as well take the lead. Let others draw inspiration from the well of experience that made you. Tell them about the emergence of the cooking pen.”
For certain reasons I wasn’t willing to do this until this morning. You deserve to know about the man who has dedicated his life to making sure yours is better. Mother I know you have your reservations about this, kindly permit me to summarize the tale of how we conquered. I love you.
I didn’t plan to be the cooking pen, life happened. Born in the eighties as the first child of my parents, I grew up to be elder brother to a talented instrumentalist and two beautiful girls. Life began in 1999, before then it wasn’t good enough but it was worth it. Ours was a family with little but great happiness. We created beautiful memories together; a selfless dad and supportive mother gave us everything. Sorrow crept into our joy on the 8th of June, 1999; dad gave up the ghost after a not so brief sickness. It was about the time when I was preparing for my common entrance, my world paused. He wasn’t just my father, he was also my best friend and lesson teacher. I couldn’t comprehend what life without him would look like. Imagine the bond between a man and the son he takes to school on his neck, walking miles every day.
I’ve heard people say staying in the presence of people weeping moves you to tears, I was in the presence of dozens and I couldn’t cry. There were so many things I wanted to say but I remained dumb. My silence got my mother worried until I was handed the condolence register. I filled it few hours before he was buried and wept like I child that I was. That was my first attempt at writing. I wrote a letter to him every day till there was no blank page left. On one of those sorrowful salient silent night my uncle took me to the stairs and said to me,
“Your father’s story has ended. It is now your turn to write your own. You have to be strong for your mother and siblings, you are now a man.”
Fortune smiled on me, I had one of the best results in common entrance that year. I passed the federal government entrance exam too but there were no funds. Before the end of the first term a Good Samaritan purposed in his heart to see me through school. I transferred to Federal Government College Ido-ani. Through that journey my mother and uncle were never absent but my father’s relatives seem to have been buried with him. Not one cared to look for us (until later); they simply spread the accusation that my mother was a husband killer.
Boarding school wasn’t much fun for me. I struggled in my academics as I spent more time missing my father than studying. I wasn’t failing but my performance had dropped. I was in JSS 3 when I fell ill. It became so scary that mother had to abandon her job to tend to me. We toured several notable hospitals without improvement so we resulted to attacking it in the spiritual realm. We prayed and fasted, enough to last me for the rest of my life. I was a young teenager who was experiencing in first hand travails fit for a man. Think of a type of fasting, mother and I did it back to back. Climbing mountains became a form of exercise. On one of our numerous church adventures we met a certain prophet who doesn’t receive visions except he drinks a bottle of Chelsea Dry Gin. He told my mother I was a wizard and that everywhere I went members of my wizard-hood went with me. He locked me up in a room, stripped me naked and whipped me silly with a broom, he was delivering me. That was the last time we saw him. Mother and I stuck to a church with focus on God, I got better. All that while I owned a diary where I wrote everything so it wasn’t difficult back tracking how long I have been out of school, nine months.
I transferred from F.G.C Ido-ani to a new school closer to the house. My mates were ahead of me when I returned to school but I was myself again. Paying my tuition fee was never a problem (the Good Samaritan kept to his word) but taking care of four children wasn’t as easy as mother envisaged. I spent my weekends at our family friend’s place until one night mother and I decided that living there was a wiser option. I moved over and that earned me new parents with more siblings. Father is a businessman and mother a caterer. They trained me to become whatever I am today. With daddy your best excuse is an excuse. He made me responsible for so many things and exposed me to certain life principles. I wasn’t willing but mother made me watch while she cooked. We executed all jobs together; serving tea and snacks during university senate meetings and Nigerian jollof at owambes. One way or the other it all stuck.
When it was time to choose a career mother wanted me to study law. I didn’t know what I wanted because I was good at many things so I settled for art class. My path became clearer when I scored the highest mark our essay teacher had ever given to any student, 76%. My literature teacher took keen interest in me for a similar reason, my narratives were good. When it was time for the next phase JAMB happened, I didn’t meet up with the cut off mark but my O’level result was very good. Father didn’t let that derail me; he bought me a pre-degree and a POLY JAMB form. My chances became slimmer when we realized both exams were fixed for the same date. Daddy called me that night and said,
“Now that you can only write one of these exams I just want to remind you that you only have one shot. Make it count or stay home for another year.”
I passed. Got the admission but still had to travel home from school every weekend. Daddy paid attention to my development. He reminded me that as a pre-degree student I only had a premature admission. I was still a mummy’s boy, staying with her in the kitchen every time there was a job. I allowed school pass through me, in my final year as a philosophy student I was vice-president of my fellowship and dance group respectively. I served others and never failed a course. I made friends who taught me loyalty. I graduated, served the Fatherland and began my job hunt. I wrote my first fiction as a corp member but it still didn’t make sense. I was on a quest for the million naira job. It is yet to arrive. All the jobs I took were short-lived but meaningful; it kept preparing me for what was to come.
I was jobless but never idle. I was investing words, embraced diligently the duties of a freelance editor and creative director for two magazines respectively, with no pay. I couldn’t keep up with my rent so I moved in with a big brother I met on the street.
I dedicated more time to my blog (that I opened earlier) and began to cook again. I saw an opportunity and I took it; someone wanted salad for an introduction ceremony and I made it. Before then I had never made it alone before. Everybody loved it but that wasn’t enough, the jobs weren’t coming. I had dedicated readers who loved a Femi Fragile that was struggling to be himself. Frustration and desperation set in and so I decided to motivate myself by writing myself a letter. I read the letter and realized someone probably needed it more than I did. I shared it and that was how I started my daily motivational piece. In the process of inspiring others I found purpose. I developed the zeal to be a doer of my words.
I took baby steps and began to encourage myself to be better. Greatness is in me, all that is required is for me to manifest. I purposed in my heart to do it scared, it’s better to fail than not try. I made worthy sacrifices. I took up cooking jobs for free and launched a platform whose purpose is to help those who are emotionally hurt find inner peace (for free too). I began to confess what I want for my life, “I am a hot prospect for the future. I am the best storyteller the world will ever know.” I branded myself by putting a self-sustaining structure in place. I built my art; wrote meals and cooked words. Hence, I became the cooking pen.
I am still emerging but I know this: my life will be meaningless if what i have been through doesn’t inspire me. We all have stories to tell, some worse than the others. Every experience is knowledge; let your past experience inspire you to shape your future.
If it isn’t you, it can’t be someone else.
What have you learnt?