Everyone Knows What They Need To Grow

“If you come back home with either 1st, 2nd, or 3rd position from school, I will take you to Tantalizers.”

My Dad in the Y2K

This was the first promise my Dad ever made me as a kid. I attended Police Children School Obalende, Lagos and because it was a public school, we were about 70 in Primary 1 White. It’s not an excuse for not coming 1st or 2nd, I promise. We were just so many.

I’d come home with the 17th or 25th position but with mostly As in the 16 subjects we did. My Dad thought I could do better so I accepted the challenge.

Why was Tantalizers the prize?

There was only one Tantalizers in the area we lived. It was at CMS which was close to Marina and Kakawa. I loved Marina because of the skyrise buildings and how adults used to run around in their adult clothes looking like they were saving the world. Then Kakawa because that meant new books. So it was a trip to Tantalizers but we’d be doing more than eating. We’d be walking among the tall buildings and buying new books.

I was six years old and I remember reading and practicing my maths, French, Igbo, Hausa, and Science because those subjects were the ones I struggled with. I also got serious with assignments and extracurriculars, especially P.E. cos it was an actual subject. I gave it my all. I didn’t take all my breaks, didn’t form any serious friendships, and reduced my playfulness.

Parents were the only ones that could pick up report cards at my school. So I asked my Dad to get me on the day of reckoning and he told me he’d try. I went to school with an extra dose of anxiety more than the one I usually carried about. I kept looking out the window for my Dad as parents trooped in to sign off on their kids and talk to teachers about their children’s overall behaviour. My heart was racing:

What if I disappointed my Dad?

What if hard work doesn’t pay like the adults make it seem?

What if I’m not built like Anthony Bethem who was always acing everything?

What if I really belong on the 17th and 25th floors?

What if I was overreaching?

I stopped peeking at my window after a while to ease my nervousness. I just wanted to hear Miss Aisha’s sweet voice calling out to me “Adebola, your Dad is here.” I started telling my classmates at the back of the class stories when I heard Miss Aisha’s sweet voice calling out to me but she didn’t announce my Dad’s arrival. It was my mom that came.

I wasn’t expecting my mom but I was so happy to see her that I raced to the front of the class and greeted her. She signed on my report card and for the first time ever on my report card, just before the parent’s signature line; I could see that Miss Aisha’s remark was “Excellent result. She is a great girl.”

The ‘great girl’ part was a no-brainer. It’s the ‘excellent’ part that got to me. It was always “Very Good. She’s a great girl.” or “She did well. She’s a great girl.” It had never been “Excellent”. Excellent felt good. It felt right. It felt true.

My mom was happy not because my Dad was going to take me to Tantalizer’s but because I am doing better than I was. At this point, my parents were separated and co-parenting had been hard on her. But despite her four jobs and the unique way she was raising me, I still was reaching for more inside of me.

I inherited my loquaciousness from my mother. From my class, till we got home, she told everyone that greeted her, smiled at her, waved at her or even try to walk in front of her. She told everyone how I had straight A’s. How I was now in the 90th percentile. She also exaggerated that I was the best student in my school. Maybe this was my introduction to exaggeration.

My mom just last year

When we got to my mom’s, I took my report card and dashed to the door so I could head over to my dad’s. My mom wasn’t having it. I was sweaty, panting, and dirty. She ordered me to take a shower, comb my hair and eat before I go show my dad the victory I’d just wrought. I didn’t even bother getting into an argument with her because I was the happiest I’d ever been. I carried the small bucket I usually use to the backyard and poured all the water at once and rushed back inside. I pretty much rushed every other thing including racing to my Dad’s.

When I got to my Dad’s, he had company. His friends were over for their usual FaajiFriday. This was Lagos Island, every Friday was an unofficial party. My dad and his friends usually set up their mini bar, plastic white chairs, and loudspeakers in front of the house and cars wouldn’t even dare pass or they would beg to. I was happy because if there was something my Dad and I had in common is that we were show-offs. I knew my dad’s friends would not only give me money but would also go home to their kids telling them how brilliant I was. I needed the street cred.

When I showed him, he got up, picked me up, and started chanting my oriki. “Agbeke, omo Baba” That moment is a core memory and in it, I didn’t think of Tantalizers once. In fact, that was the first time in all of the journey from 25th to 2nd that I didn’t think of the way the Tantalizers at CMS smelt like. People came out to their balconies to see what the noise was all about. Everyone on the street knew that I was also a brilliant Williams girl just like my elder sisters. This joy was something I didn’t think I needed.

What does this story have to do with everyone knowing what they had to do?

I think we are all born with a deep sense of ‘knowing’. We know what we should be doing, and what’s right and wrong for us; the world dampens that knowledge. Society is almost like a polluted environment that chokes the life out of that knowledge and the more we let it in, it releases toxins into that sense and we are left with a deep hole of misery.

As you read this, you know what you need to do. You know what you need to do to become that person you’ve always known you are. As a writer, you know you should write as you breathe. As a designer, you know how much of your time you need to commit to doing better work than you currently do. As a business owner, you know you should commit to bridging the knowledge gaps you have so your business can grow. As a content creator, you know it’s not about the tools or gadgets. You know how to get started with what you have.

I think adulthood is all about restoring that sixth sense we were born with. We’ve allowed the world, society, and other learned behaviours (fear, doubt, etc) to dampen it so much it has died. Your job as you keep growing chronologically is to make sure that you keep waking and using the sixth sense. The best part? The more you do what you know you’re supposed to do, the more that sixth sense awakens and the more you grow.

I hope you take those steps you know you should be taking and as you do, my prayer for you is you grow and find your sixth sense.

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Adebola Williams |Africa’s Top Brand Storyteller

The crux of great writing isn’t when an action is taken but when transformation happens. I dabble in great writing and the occasional transformation.