Monday 16 May 2011

Don't take your gifts to the grave

A few years ago, I was watching a dvd with my father about a famous Nigerian singer, whom we’ll call Samuel. Samuel, who by the time of narration was well into his 60s, recounted how difficult it had been for him when he first started out. When he was growing up, wanting to be a singer was akin to wanting to be an alcoholic or a drug dealer. It was a major league no-no. The origins of this belief are unclear, but it was every family’s worst nightmare for their child to pursue this career path.

Despite all the strong objections, when Samuel was a young man, he ventured out of his village to perform at a concert. Whilst there he received a telegram from his father saying that he was ill, almost dying, and he requested that his son come home immediately. Shocked, Samuel returned home quickly, expecting to find his father on his death bed, desperately clinging to life for just one more opportunity to see his son’s face. On arriving home Samuel was horrified to discover, as his family imprisoned him in their home, that not only was his father fully alive and well, but the whole thing had been a ruse to lure him back home and convince him using any method that the life of a singer was for those louche individuals for whom life held no purpose; singers were nothing but drunkards and no hopers.

Despite all their protestations, Samuel stood his ground and pursued his dream of being a singer, and eventually received national acclaim. My father told me that there were other professions that were scorned as well, such as nursing ("to do this meant that you were a licentious person; why else would a woman want a job peering at people's bodies all day?"!!!!). The only jobs deemed fit for any self-respecting Nigerian was being a lawyer, a doctor or something in the civil service. Again there was no point of reference for these beliefs.

I'm not sure if he is the actual author of this statement, but Dr Myles Monroe is often credited for saying "the graveyard is the wealthiest place on earth". He means that people have gone to their graves rich with unreleased or unrealised potential, robbing the world of the opportunity to benefit from the incredible gifts and abilities they had been blessed with. This thought played through my mind when I thought of the countless number of people who, because of lack of support from their parents or societal pressure, did not do what they had been created to do. It is such a sad thought. Not everyone has the courage of Samuel to persist with their dreams despite pressure to give them up.

That is one of the reasons that I decided to pursue being a writer. I didn't want to go to my grave without knowing what I could have contributed to the world with just a bit of hard work and self belief. Having turned 39 last week, I am fully aware that I have let a lot of time slip because of procrastination and fear and now really is the time to put my foot on the accelerator and get going!

Have you any dreams that you have given up on? If so, I would encourage you to pick them up again and see if you can still make it happen. Don't rob the world of your brilliance!

1 comment:

steve said...

I read this as I learned of the passing of Bernard Greenhouse - a great cellist. He saw his spark at 8 and was still performing three weeks before his death at 95.

Many find and follow their spark - I'm happy that you are and 39 isn't old. You should be able to get five decades of writing.