It took me about thirty years to finally embrace my childhood. I got to the breaking point where all I had was one last chance to change my past, by living out the present in freedom. I did not know that the insecurities from my teenage years stuck on me. I had no reasons to believe I was any good let alone bring good fortunes to anyone anywhere. Well, in all honesty, I had nothing to offer. No talents, no love, no skills, no intellectual reasoning of any sort. Down and out, was apt to describe my predicament.
I was raised by a single parent; Nana. She took me in from an orphanage at Sekondi- Takoradi when I was only five months old. I remember staying at our neighbours often till half past nine on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays because she worked three jobs. Earning more was critical to our survival and she pulled sleeved with a grin to bring the cheque home, month on month without fail.
Nana was tough but somewhat quirky which helped her land a job all the time. Though endearing, this never warmed her heart to love any man. After her last husband moved out of the house she decided she could do better by herself by working harder and enjoying life on her own terms.
When I was old enough, not requiring babysitting by our neighbors, I made friends on the streets. It was my antidote to boredom as I couldn’t be bothered with extra work from school. I will never forget Reny. She was a mixed-race Ghanaian girl. It was quite easy to get along with her because she was friendly with a sparkling personality. I was more of an introvert needing a truck load of fun. Reny was quite fashionable too. Her sense of style got everyone talking at school. She was always on fleek; a new age term to describe someone who has an appealing style game. She wore new trends and big labels all the time. I wanted to be like Reny. I liked all the attention that escorted her arrival to school. I knew Nana could not afford all the nice things the other girls had. So, I thought if I became friends with Reny, she may be kind enough to give me some hand me downs.
Reny offered me more than I desired. We became best friends and in no time, I became a pro shoplifter. School no longer fascinated me, I wanted everything that glittered. Clothes, bags, shoes, watches and rings. The price for affluence was expensive but I paid in full. For fifteen years I was bound by a routine characterized by lies and emptiness. I lived a false celebrity life. Chasing price tags, designer apparel and burdened with debt.
To be candid, I enjoyed a bit of that living. I would have enjoyed all of it if there was a promise of significance, of satisfaction and contentment. These, despite the partying and cash spinning my heart craved more and more. Of course, I knew I was morally bankrupt. I required no therapy session to make known the fact that shop lifting, drug abuse-and all that your wild imagination has imagined- aren’t decent. After some night outs, in the most beautiful hotels, I would sit up all night and cry. Those explainable tears would go on and on. A few drug episodes with Reny and I forgot the need to question those tears. I would simply move on to the next blinging thing on our schedule.
On December 25, in 2005, I traveled from Boston to Accra. Hadn’t been home for about twenty-five years. Nana was a good reason to visit but let’s just say I got carried away with life. Lost in my own world but not completely forgetting the woman who loved me to existence. Each time she reached out, writing letters or putting a call through I was convicted but not repentant. Instead, I would immediately go to the stores, buy some expensive stuff and I’ll send them to her. She was ever grateful, though expressing her desire for me to visit.
Nana was terribly ill. Her back and joints ached from rheumatism. She looked frail; her thick black hair laced with white strands and her veins protruded on her arms. She greeted me the same loving way. Then we had a talk. A very long talk about Takoradi, the people I left behind and the people here today. Then she asked if I had called to commiserate with Reny’s parents. Surprised, I asked “Why?” Speaking slowly, she said “She died in a ghastly car accident last week her mum mentioned.” I hadn’t seen or heard from Reny since I moved to Boston. We both got busy with no time to wander. She also had her hands full; a single mother with five children. The fifth was on the way when I moved to Boston. Reny had planned to send her grown up children to her parents in Takoradi so she could have some free hustle time.
Nana comforted me, tears flowing ceaselessly from my eyes. “Who will take care of Reny’s children? What about the little one? Her parents are retired. I can’t adopt them.” I thought. Memories flooded my mind. “Reny made me into the woman I am today. I whispered. Yet my heart aches!” In the moment of pain; Reny’s sudden and unexpected departure made me realize how much time I had wasted chasing tangibles and how my life could also end abruptly. Life isn’t promised to anyone after all. My heart sank, my stomach tightened. “I don’t own myself. I have been selfish all these years. Gosh! What have I given in appreciation for a gift I don’t deserve?” I thought out loud. I had wasted my life! Allowing it to ebb out slowly rather than living for something higher than I.
I changed inwardly in the instance. That was all it took, a decision to make a U-turn. I decided to rule within and reign without, to be responsible, to work, to be honorable and to respect all. I decided to make a difference whilst I still had breath in my lungs. To give a leaf of hope and love to everyone I meet on my journey. To redeem the wasted years….
My life has a new meaning and It is called PURPOSE!