There is something frighteningly fascinating about facing your worst fears. Come to think of it, I was as hyperactive as the proverbial rabbit on the eve of the appointed day. My stubborn eyelids would not shut! My yen to start the activities of the next day knew no bounds. “Ah! Not I, perhaps it’s the banku I gobbled up last night.” That was me, sleep talking, or so I was told, on the night before our very first meeting with the cadavers (dead human bodies).
Written By John Bravo - Right there in the exams hall, amid the fears and anxiety of several students, I sat glued to my seat, darting eyeballs to and fro, desperately seeking for a chance to unzip my shorts, and unleash the piece of paper I had hidden under my pants. Then with a quick, shuddery blink my eyes came flashing back wetly and wistfully at the invigilator, Miss Baffoe-Bonnie, hoping that she turns her gaze from my trembling body. Slowly the frigidity of the room died away; and despite being under two swiveling fans, I felt a sea of anxiety deep down, and a bucket full of sweat dripping down slowly into my boxer shorts. Like flames of fire in the chest, my body parts knew no rest. Teeth were clenched, fingers flexed; my eyes, all red.
Fate, surely, must have been at loggerheads with me on that sunshiny day. I had succeeded in smuggling the solutions of a French-essay Exam to the exams hall, in spite of a rather strict and thorough search by the invigilators. The difficulty and novelty of the illicit task ahead had already drowned me in the pool of jitters. With a faith as little as a grain of mustard seed, I hoped fervently that, at least, Miss Baffoe-Bonnie would excuse herself from the hall for a minute, so that I could copy the solutions from my ‘apor’. Much to my chagrin, fate seemed to wear a strange, hostile look on that day; my hopes of having the chance to transfer the answers from the illegal ‘weapon’ grew darker and darker.
Within the next couple of minutes, I heard a sound from behind me; a sharp sound of Miss Bonnie’s moving chair against the ground, being dragged nowhere other than toward my seat. At this dark and scary moment, my soul had almost fled from beneath my skin. I was tongue-tied. My heart throbbed ceaselessly under intense fear. The heat energy I harbored under my skin was considerable- it could have burst open a clinical thermometer. Was she going to catch me red handed in a shameful act I had never done before? Were my mates going to sling the mud at me for trying to swindle my way through the exams? Was I going to be sent packing from a school I had recently been enrolled in? I wondered!
Before one could even say Jack Robinson, I had my butts clenched -the obvious hideout of the apor-hoping to save myself from the wretched humiliation that was yet to unfold in my life. “Hey! Are you already done with the paper?” Miss Bonnie asked, as she plopped her body unto her armless chair barely an inch from my seat. A bit of a scare shot through me- a touch of uncomfortable suspicion. “Yes. Ma’am,” I stuttered, “I’m just adding finishing touches to my essay.” Her face beaming with a hearty smile, she gave me a thumbs –up, oblivious of the fact that I had not even written a thing on the answer sheets. She then made headway to the next person on the row. The immediate next student happened to be the girl who had had the first-hand tip-off to the essay question. Knowing about my plight and weakness in the subject, the kind-hearted girl had offered to show me a book, the specific page even, in which I derived my answers. From the look of things, my Good Samaritan was no newbie to this act. I could tell from the boldness with which she spread her “apor” on her thighs, as she copied word for word, letter for letter, unto her answer sheets. She had probably done it a myriad of times and so there was no room for any fear or anxiety. By the time the invigilator got closer to the girl’s desk, which lasted not longer than I expected, she had already accomplished her mission and hidden it far from sight. Smart. Very smart. Impressively smart. On the other hand, I had no prior experience in this act; and my fear was that, my reputation would be derailed if I got caught in the shameful act.
As I struggled harder to scribble something on the paper, I felt a sudden, pensive regret for leaving my previous school. You see, it’s not as though I wasn’t performing in the other subjects. I always scored enviable marks in the other subjects; except for the French Language in which my scores were nothing to write home about. And it was mainly due to this: The subject was new to me. I had never studied French in my entire life until I enrolled at that particular school. The most interesting aspect of it all was that, we were in our second year - just a few months away from the final examinations (B.E.C.E) - and I was required to sit for the French paper as well as the others. Hmm… If you were in my shoes then, what would you have done - write the final exams with a French-empty head, stop schooling right away, or go back to primary one to learn the basics?
Sitting there helplessly and under a gloomy state of mind, all that I heard was, “A minute more to stop work!” Ei! I could not believe my ears. My brain rebelled against what I was hearing. I could not face the reality of the failure that stared me mockingly in the face. Truth be told, I had not written a single word on the sheets. I searched long and wide, North to South Pole, East and West, throughout my brain for something, just anything French to pen down. Every failed attempt dragged me much closer and closer to the final bell. Fortunately for me, few seconds to the final bell, my brain pulled up a surprise. Hold on, don’t jump to conclusions yet. All that my brain could offer was only the first word in the apor– Samedi. (Are you laughing?) It will interest you to know that, beside my full name and the day’s date, I wrote just “Samedi” on the answer sheets, as my answer to an essay question that required a word count of not less than 180 words. Yes, Samedi! Just Samedi - it means Saturday.
Hiding my face from the invigilator, I submitted my work within the split of a second, and then fumed out of the examination hall, heading straight to the house. I locked myself up in my room throughout the evening of that day. Tears scurried continuously from my eyes as I reflected on what had happened earlier on. The night was growing old; I was still in the crying mode, but my fate remained untold. Sleep eluded my body; my own bed rejected me. I had just one important decision to make – either to give up on the French Language or start learning the basics afresh.
After what seemed like the most difficult decision ever made in my life, I walked boldly to Abena, my then eight-year old niece, who was then in primary three, and asked her if she could be my home teacher in the French Language. The young girl could not understand the possibility of my request. “How can a primary-three girl teach her high school uncle French?” She probably quizzed her mind. It was a puzzling irony for her eight-year-old mind to comprehend. I explained to her the urgency of my request and later she agreed to help me with the basics.
Every evening, right after dinner, it was an interesting scene to behold at the balcony, as my eight-year-old niece took me through her primary one, two and three French books. She would stare at me with an austere face, point me to a page in her book, saying,” Uncle. Make sure you don’t forget this… I will ask you again first thing in the morning.” It was a great and an unbelievable experience for everyone who stopped to steal a glance at us. She was that good; she could easily put herself in the shoes of her French teacher and deliver just as expected.
Days went by and my proficiency in the French Language intensified. It was like a dream to everyone; my mates marveled at the unrivaled contributions I gave during the French lessons. I was ever determined to get better at that subject - I would run to the library, lay hands on any basic French book I see; and when I didn’t understand anything, I sent it to my French teacher, Mr. Nuru, for explanation. He grew to love my zeal and zest for his subject.
Some months later, I was called to represent my school in the annual French language competition organized by CREF (Centre Regional pour l’Enseignment du Francais) for schools in the whole country. Under the cameras of GTV and in front of the French ambassador to Ghana and other dignitaries; to the glory of God, I was declared the student with the highest score in the competition, and was sent back to my school with the Gold Prize. Amidst the thunderous rounds of applause from the audience full of students, tears streamed down my cheeks as I delivered my acceptance speech. To date, many think that, that was where I got my name ‘Bravo’ from.
Now; my friends, this story happened more than five years ago, but I was only reminded of it recently when one middle-aged man I know, had his business collapse entirely after spending all his youth building it.
You see, it’s hard when life puts you in a situation where you need to start all over again: It’s hard when you’ve worked all your years on a job and suddenly your boss sacks you from work. It’s hard when you’ve spent over ten years with a man, and suddenly he calls out for a divorce unexpectedly. It’s hard when you apply to a University and your application isn’t even considered. It’s just disappointing to go through the vicissitudes of life, only to be brought back to the starting line. But hear me out friends; giving up is too easy for you. You were built for something greater than that. Choose the best way out - start all over again.
Hello lovely reader, an ordinary pen has markedly been inspired, so get inspired! When life snatches everything from your hands, please start from scratch.
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"No age of life is inglorious. Youth has its merits, but living to a ripe old age is the true statement of value. Aging is the road that we take to discern our character. Fame and fortune can elude us, but our character is immortal. We must encounter a sufficient variety of experiences including both failures and accomplishments in order to gain nobility of character." Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
According to Dr Rob Long “The use of silly and meaningless safety language matters, it creates a distraction and delusion that safety and risk are being addressed. We may feel good about speaking such words but they dumb down culture and distract people from taking safety seriously.”
Stephen Chbosky in his novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower argues, “And all the books you've read have been read by other people. And all the songs you've loved have been heard by other people. And that girl that's pretty to you is pretty to other people. And that if you looked at these facts when you were happy, you would feel great because you are describing 'unity.”
I am a strong believer in the teachings of history. Many assume systems change because aliens arrive from outer space and engineer change. Truth however is that, most change occurs simply because many dissatisfied with the status quo begin to challenge it. Many of these activists aren't perfectionist by any stretch of imagination but often even beneficiaries of the status quo. Some, may even be enjoying the pecs that the current reality affords. Hence, the cliche "often change comes from within."
Richelle E. Goodrich in Smile Anyway argues, "Many times what we perceive as an error or failure is actually a gift. And eventually, we find that lessons learned from that discouraging experience prove to be of great worth."
Most early medicines originated from plants. Stephen Harrod Buhner ones wrote, “Fifteen years ago I had an odd dream. In it, a medicinal plant that I was interested in, an Usnea lichen that is ubiquitous on trees throughout the world, told me that while it was good for healing human lungs it was primarily a medicine for the lungs of the planet, the trees. When I awoke, I was amazed. It had never occurred to me in quite that way that plants have some life and purpose outside their use to human beings.”