One of the things which I grew up struggling with was a constant reminder from my parents, teachers and the society at large that I was “just like all the others”. Sometimes, this created in me the desire to indeed be like others even if it meant subjecting myself to conditions which were almost synonymous to self-punishment. During my grade seven exams, I remember finishing in half the normal time in all the four subjects. I had just developed a lot of traits to prove to the society that not only was I like others but that I was better than them.
One day when I was still new at college and doing my under-graduate degree, I was invited to a social function. I made sure to dress up smartly much to the pleasure of my friend who had invited me. The function was sponsored by a local NGO and was mainly attended by young men and young women to discuss issues to do with college life. When I arrived, I didn’t have anyone to talk to except for my friend who had invited me. That didn’t bother me much because I was socialised to know that I was ““just like others” even if it meant putting twice as much effort as others for this to be realised.
Discussions started and the facilitator was good at his job. “Ladies and gentlemen,” the facilitator said, “today we are discussing compass life but before we even start, I urge you to feel free. Do not feel at home but be at home.” Discussions were very lively and various people contributed. Throughout the discussions, we were laughing and enjoying ourselves. However, as someone who was “like others”, I was very cautious, almost keeping my comments to myself.
When the discussion was about to come to an end, I made up my mind to make a contribution.
“Dear friends”, the facilitator said, “Our talk is coming to an end. But before we conclude it, I feel like just taking one person. I need someone who has not said anything.” I vivaciously raised my hand. “Yes yes, the brother in dark glasses.” I didn’t know that he was referring to me. Yet I was supposed to be “like others”. “I mean you.” The facilitator said pointing at me. This did not even make sense. My friend had to whisper into my ear that they were referring to me. I stood up, cleared my throat and as I was about to speak, a high pitched voice from the back shouted “Waal! he looks dapper.” I started speaking cautiously. I was still a fan of big words those days.
“ladies and gentlemen. Let me commence by expressing my heartfelt gratitude for being afforded this glorious opportunity to share with you a few thoughts on the life here at college. The few months that I have stayed here have presented me with a very perplexing paradox. I have found myself with the greatest independence yet from me is required the highest form of responsibility. The university has thrown upon me a pool of people from which to choose my friends and foes. The university is a place for equal opportunities for the extrovert and introvert, garrulous and reserved, profligate and parsimonious and yes! prophet and prostitute. However, at the end of the day, I remain guided by the desire to please that old man and woman that I left at our humble abode. I mean, that old man and woman whose sweet, amorous acts brought me into existence. Therefore, I hope at the end of it all, I will come out of this place proudly holding some paper in which my academic achievements will be recorded but alas! there is nowhere in such a certificate where the oxymoronic situations I will have gone through will ever be recorded. Indeed, it will never be recorded that the University is a society where I can, be called upon to speak at a workshop and never have the wildest imagination that the facilitator is referring to me.”
By the time I finished, there was a huge round of applause. Some were clapping and whistling while others were shouting, “seva uba”. That talk gave me access to a lot of opportunities but I want to talk about one of those because it was an opportunity that came but never was. At the end of the program, it was time for some free drinks and snacks. My friend told me to remain seated as he would bring them for me. As I was seated, a gorgeous sweet-scented and sweet-voiced young lady came to sit next to me. In order to protect her, we shall call her Grace, (not her real name). She sat and remained silent for sometime. I guess she was trying to see how to start a conversation. As someone who was taught to be “like others”, I helped her by warmly greeting her.
“Hi beautiful”, I said. “How are you?” She appeared caught off guard. I noticed that all along she had been staring at me. She just tried to get past the confusion and without much thinking said, “hey. How did you notice me? I mean how did you know I was here?” Poor Grace, would I need any miracle to notice that there was someone seated close to me? This was not an issue so I decided to pull another tool from my bag of socialisation.
I said deliberately, “who can fail to notice the presence of such a radiant , exquisite and unmatchable beauty?” She blushed and said, “Oh please, don’t be such a charmer. We started talking about many other issues as we had our drinks. We exchanged contacts, (By contacts I mean room numbers for I didn’t have a cell phone by then), and I was trying to make sure that she sees that I was “just like others”. I was now developing a very great interest in Grace and then she threw all of it into the mud ,
“by the way you said you are studying law?” She paused and then said thoughtfully, “So do you learn with other normal people like us?”
I leave to your fertile imagination what followed but the lesson I took from my interaction with Grace was to stop trying to be “like others” and start being myself. This is just one of many of my experiences in my blind life in this sighted world.