Going through 6 years of secondary school (in Nigeria, JSS and SSS are combined) is one of the hardest things I’ve done. JSS was particularly tough. I was the sardine in a sea full of sharks. Small, shy and far away from home, my only brief in JSS was to survive until vacation came around again. In between, I had many experiences; some so bad that I still have day and nightmares about them.
One lesson however, that has stuck with me since then was the inspiration for this piece. In my school, the normal J-boy (JSS boy) was dirty, wretched and hungry and so anybody who bucked that trend earned some sort of respect both from fellow mates and seniors. One way of bucking that trend was to always make sure ones uniform was always ironed. Easy right? Wrong! Sockets were few in the dormitories and most people had to go to their classrooms, which were far away from the dorms, in order to press their clothes. Irons were even fewer and were usually owned by seniors. You could bring your own iron but it wouldn’t last a term if you were a J-boy with no protection and the only time you saw an iron around was when about 20 different people, usually seniors, were all using it.
One time, a roommate, my senior by a year, was going to iron and I saw him carry all the clothes in his locker. I asked him if I could join him as I had only a few things to iron but he mentioned that about 10 of his friends were also going to join him. I was thus faced with the prospect of following this senior late at night to a classroom to iron where I’d probably spend hours watching his mates iron their equally numerous clothes or I could sleep on my very comfy mattress (believe me, having a mattress to sleep on was a blessing in itself). Well, I chose sleep and a very rumpled uniform the next day and I wouldn’t have had cause to regret it if another J-boy hadn’t mentioned in passing that he had been lucky to iron his clothes with my roommate the previous night. I was disappointed as I felt my roommate had lied to me about the queue for the iron so i confronted him about it. He told me then that none of his friends who he had expected to come, did and that if I persevered I would have ironed my things.
I have always, since then, had this experience in mind but in recent times its become relevant more than ever. I get doubts at times, sometimes about my writing, often times about my plans for life. But there’s always this experience at the back of my mind, teeling me if i don’t persevere, i’ll have a rumpled life tomorrow. I don’t imagine i am the only one who gets these thoughts at times. We all go through moments of doubts in one form or another (at least, i hope that’s the case and i’m not weird at all) and in these moments we need reminders like this to continue to persevere.
Often times its easier to quit, to damn everything to hell and stop caring at all. Persevering is hard; its tough; its difficult and uncertain. But men like Lincoln and Edison and the late Atta Mills and Buhari would not be the names they are if they hadn’t persevered. Go that extra mile; you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the end of that road.