Waiting for Bus 21…

The evening breeze, cooled by the frigid NorthSea never fails to welcome me to this place.  Nonedescript, marked only by a pole and a small 4×4 plaque, it can seem like Oya or her  Viking consort Njord chose to channel their chilling breath  through this spot. For 40 days now, I have had to endure the icy chill the wind brings. Sometimes it can feel like the wind reaches out an icy claw and grabs the heart, as though it would yank it out and leave me for dead.

We all gather, like bees drawn to precious nectar, different faces, different colors; sometimes grumpy, sometimes affording the luxury of a fleeting smile –  all united by a singular  objective – jumping aboard Bus 21. The most we exchange are curt nods, or on a particularly good day the obligatory comment about the weather.

They tell me this is the coldest winter in 50 years.  That is scant consolation for the waves of shivering that wash over me – whilst my teeth beat out an incohenrent rhythm. Seconds stretch into minutes – which seem like hours – as the gods of this deserted place seek to seize their pound of flesh.

The cold reminds me of one thing. This is not my place…. I am me, journeying through… But standing for a moment…

Life’s Like That..

In retrospect…. Life happens.. With or without our consents…. And in its wake often comes change.. which we by default detest. Over time, we develop safe routines, coping mechanisms and default positions to deal with life – ultimately acquiring some semblance of balance.

Sometimes change is subtle; imperceptibly modifying the place where we are on the continuum of life, instigating minor perturbations – little oscillations if you like – around our equilibrium positions. The pragmatic thing to do then is to try to hold the fort, to resist change and maintain the status quo.

At other times though, change is radical – make that destructive – ripping to shreds the semblance of normalcy that we have settled into and forcing us to ask the ‘why me’ question. This change is frightening, and it can often feel as though all we have laboured for has been washed away in a flash flood.

The good thing though is that life is like a non-conservative vector field for which the closed line integral is not zero. Even when we seem to have come full circle, work has been done in moving us around the field. We have been changed and improved, and can face the daunting challenge of re-starting life with the confidence of the experience garnered the first time out.

Perhaps then calamitous change is good – new wine cannot co-exist with old wine skins – and old structures need to be removed from the state of play for the new to be built.

In many ways, I am seemingly back to Square One… The view from here though is that it is time to go back to the drawing board and retool a leaner, meaner machine!

Bring on the New Life….

Not pining.. Just saying…

Moments like these, when insomnia induced by deep thought strikes, are when the harsh reality of the things we try to suppress often come to the fore. The overwhelming desire of my heart and my hand is to pick up my phone and call long distance. But my head – ever pragmatic – intervenes, short circuiting the commands and forcing me to think.

I wonder if she remembers me, or if indeed there is someone else making her laugh, hearing all her foibles and making her giggle at pointless jokes and wise cracks into the wee hours of the morning.

Rethinking… Life.

I had an eccentric- if morbid- pastime whilst growing up; fantasizing about dying; and that for as long as I can remember. This was not a simple hit-by-a-car death, but a major drawn out event complete with ambulances, flashing lights, weeping family, and heart broken friends. The object of those fantasies was to convince myself I was that important to all of them; and assuage my battered ego after being blasted to bits by my mum. I would imagine  Mother crying; eyes puffed up, hair flying in the wind, scarf wrapped around her waist, totally inconsolable, attempting to throw herself into the ditch, mourning her great loss – ME.  Often I would have Di in the background, bawling like a chicken deprived of her entire brood in a sweeping attack by hawks – only a slightly more dignified version of mum.

Lately though, a different twist to this has developed – I find myself pondering what my life will be remembered for. Typically we ‘die after a brief illness’, are ‘ survived by x, y and z’, and will be ‘fondly remembered by a, b, c’ – not exactly exiting the earth in a blaze of glory, but keeping things simple and ticking.  In all my typically detailed plans – elaborate exercises in wishful thinking, hopefully scrutinized through the lenses of pragmatism, complete with contingency plans B to D and a fail safe option – I have had grandiose targets.  I have found out in the last year though, that life isn’t as defined as I would think it is, and in reality fail safe options only exist in the pristine world of strategy games and to a lesser extent Chem E classes and Process Design software. The precociously talented Carlang says Life’s a gamble and I have the empirical evidence to agree. I am have been forced into rewriting the infamous 5 year plan – and for the first time in nearly 9 years the under-girding assumptions are not 100% in my control.

One thing is clear though – Life doesn’t roll over and offer easy pickings. Life is a no-holds barred, toe to toe contest, and I need to take life by the scruff of the neck; there are some gambles I need to make, major changes that I need to ring and I can already sense the flak flying in my direction, but the key question burning a hole at the back of my mind is the same one Jim Malone (played by Sean Connery) asked of Elliot Ness (played by Kevin Costner) in the film The Untouchables.

What are you prepared to do?

The bird in hand…………… Worth two in the bush?

They say a bird in hand ‘is worth two in the bush’… But where do we draw the line between being content with what is in hand versus craving the potential two in the bush……

Sometimes I fear I have a death wish – an inordinate attraction for the eccentric and the esoteric – to the detriment of the normal and available.. When I was younger, I chalked it down to an insatiable curiosity; that essential criterion for a life of continuous learning. Now though, I fear it runs deeper than that, maybe it is a desire to be unconventional, or a longing for the adventure that comes with the risk, or plain old restlessness.. I don’t know anymore….

Ponderings…….

A Journey is a gradual passage from one state to another. It may be a translation of spatial coordinates- in which case an object physically changes location, or it may merely be metaphorical – an evolution of an idea from a crude, undeveloped state to a more refined one. Sometimes the journey is deterministic – the number of steps is known from the beginning; at other times it is iterative – involving little steps that seek to approximate an unknown solution. There may be fellow Journey-ers; there may also be assistance in the form of vehicles that seek to mitigate the drudgery of the journey. The key though is that change occurs and hopefully there are clearly defined metrics that show that progress is being made. When all is told though, there is an end in view, a destination,  a target box if you like, within which the Journey terminates………….

Occasionally, the vehicle takes on a life of its own; the methods, the strategies, the trappings, the apparent gains all become the metric, rather than the finite increments in absolute location that should define progress…At that time, a cold eye review should show that the vehicle has seemingly become more important than the Journey, or even the Journey-er. The danger though, is that it is all too easy to get caught up in the hustle. Entrained amidst the madding crowd, it is often more dangerous to attempt to stop than to keep walking. At such times, we often require the clarity of a third eye, someone who is far removed from the euphoria of the moment, who can candidly alert us to the fact that we have stopped Journeying, but have stopped to gawk at the vehicle that should be taking us to our destination.

When the line is crossed between Journeying and Gawking, the discerning one should realize that it is time to get off the treadmill, to step out of the morass and ponder for a season………..

Letter to the future…

It seems only like yesterday that I stood in your shoes, on the verge of turning twenty-one. My mind was a maelstrom of feelings; not all of which I could understand. On the one hand was nostalgia for all the memories of growing up and on the other trepidation. I had just left the University and I was going to miss the ‘mountain top experiences’ – the uninhibited exuberance of worshiping together on a Sunday afternoon, the wonderful friendships that had been developed over the tenure of my stay, the nights spent in raucous laughter as we talked about everything under the sun – everything. I felt some trepidation, a nagging concern at the monstrous changes that I was on the verge of undergoing. Lots of issues swirled around my mind – what final grade would I make? Where would I be deployed to serve the nation? Would I get a job? Was a Masters’ Degree the ultimate coup de grace I needed to launch myself into my chosen career? Had I learned all I needed to succeed in life? I had plans, that had me doing things I had only seen in my dreams.

You too, my dear, face these issues today. Rather than relenting, conventional wisdom seems to suggest that these pressures have increased from my time till now. You will be required to perform at peak levels relationally, spiritually, financially and in your chosen career. Thankfully, you do not tread an unbeaten road. So many years ago, a motley of ex slaves and their children also faced a test of courage – The Exodus – leaving the known however uncomfortable, for a promise of a greater tomorrow. Like them you too have spent a significant portion of your life in training – lectures, tests, exams, managing conflicting schedules, finding time to connect to other people, spending money you haven’t earned, engaging stakeholders and customers and learning to honour the women in your life. Like them too, you stand on the verge of crossing a major milestone, beyond which everything changes. Be warned, that anticipation and excitement often mask the requirement for hard work and concerted effort.

Young man, I can call you that, truly succeeding will require a major effort to flesh out the details of your future. The man who does not sit down and count the cost of a venture runs the risk of getting stuck mid-stream. You should therefore consider this a time to count the cost before stepping out into the world. Also remember that Society has expectations of you – to get or create a job, get married, have children, and then in the African context, provide for family – parents, siblings etc. May I add, that in addition to all that, you as an individual have unique skill sets that will enable you to do something different for your world; using your influence and abilities to hold the fort and speak up for those who are less blessed than you. Each passing year will lead to an increase in the level of these expectations, something you must be prepared to shoulder.

You, my dear must show your maturity by learning commitment and demonstrating responsibility to succeed at this. I consider “commitment” as the acceptance of a responsibility for something or someone and “responsibility” as taking definitive action to fulfil those commitments. In my experience I have come to find out that commitments define the frame work on which our value system is built as well as define the intrinsic premises that characterize the extrinsic qualities of our lives – how our lives are to be led on a day to day basis. You cannot afford to be wrong here, or else all else will be fatally flawed.

Kindly consider five critical dimensions where you will need to commit to – a balanced world view, family, the larger society, your future employer as well as the mentors that will come in and out of your life. You will also have to take responsibility to take ethical decisions at some stage of your life, whether in a personal capacity or on the behalf of others, function in and provide for a family and serve at some level in the society. Take these five categories to heart, study them, seek out information on them, and continuously improve.

As you stand on the verge of manhood, let these words ring in your ears. Go.. and make a difference in your world. Me…

Sometimes I wonder………………

Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between……………

  • Self-delusion and Dreaming Big
  • Hypocrisy and the Gap Trap
  • Narcissism and Self Esteem
  • Love and Admiration
  • Pragmatism and  Foolhardiness

“If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way because I am staggering from side to side?

– Leo Tolstoy

The cycle of life

Age, chronological or otherwise, slowly creeps up on us. Once upon a time we were a tiny cell, birthed by the fusion of gametes which then morph into a tiny organism. With time, we grow bigger and then get birthed – being thrust out into the hardened world called life. We age: grow bigger, develop facial hair, deepened voices, broader chests.. and then the gray hair… leading to the inevitable slide towards old age and death… ..a self-perpetuating cycle.

Damn! Time has flown by.. I need to wake up to the harsh reality and start demonstrating the seriousness age demands..