Guest Blog: The Human Condition @ 26 by Asiatu ABK

Asiatu ABK is my guest blogger for December. She is is a graduate and all-around dreamer, in pursuit of the next big adventure.

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So I turned 26 in November, well one month ago to be exact. The quarter life crisis I had experienced upon turning 25 a year earlier had dissipated a while ago and I was slowly coming round to the idea of turning a year older and being on the cusp of that once elusive 3-0. This doesn’t mean I had a shindig to mark the occasion of turning 26. Not my style. I had once (quietly) convinced myself that there would be no birthday celebrations for me until I achieve something significant in life – something worth celebrating. I have stuck to the plan fairly well – notwithstanding this one time I had dinner with friends while I was at university. It doesn’t count anyway – not really – because a) it happened days before / after my actual birthday (I can’t quite remember) and b) these formal dinners were a recurring event at my university. There was nothing special about this one, as far as I could remember. So yeah I have stuck to my guns and not had a birthday party in a long, long time.

Some would say far too long – by some, I mean my mom. I can totally see her point though. As her only child, it is understandable, and sweet (don’t let her know I said that) that she would want to celebrate the day of my birth. To take pride in this wonderful specimen she brought into the world (I kid you not, I’m special). Besides, growing up in Sierra Leone, I had had several birthdays before the age of 10. Although somewhere down the line birthdays had lost their lustre for me, they were still pretty special to her. Perhaps that happens when you grow up (but what can we make of mom who is much older and still loves them – oh, she also loves Xmas too).

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I think my aversion to birthday parties is more a symptom of the fact that I no longer had easy access to my extended family who were always willing and readily available to celebrate with me. I have also come to the conclusion that African parties are way too much fun and whatever I do here would pale in comparison. My expectation of birthday parties these days is being invited by the celebrant (most times, a friend) and asked to pay for your own food and drink. Who does that? Things couldn’t be more different where I come from. There is an unspoken yet religiously observed rule that when you invite guests to celebrate (for any occasion), you are responsible for the feeding and quenching of their thirsts. In return, they bring you gifts. Also, from experience, kids are excellent gift-givers and adults – well, not so much (albeit it’s the parents that buy the gifts for their kids to give away). As an adult who has a poor track record of gift-giving, I stand by what I just said. Kids are excellent gift-givers and adults – well, not so much. That said, I now work in an office where there is literally a birthday every other week (I wish I was joking!). I have made so many contributions to gifts in the past year alone to equal the amount I could have spent on gift-giving in the last five.

Coming back to the matter at hand, what started this whole thing in the first place. I had a birthday in November. It was my 26th. I did not have a birthday party – again, if you had the patience to read this post from the beginning, you should already know this. Instead I had what most people would consider a quiet one. I took some time off work and had dinner with my mom. It suited me fine – thanks for asking.

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Except. Thinking about it, I’m starting to feel restless. I have been so preoccupied with not celebrating my birthday that I had almost forgotten a salient point. Buried within my oath was the promise that I will one day celebrate my birthday when I achieve something significant. In a manner of speaking and however foolhardy it may appear, this is self-sacrifice. I don’t have a problem with getting older. I don’t even have a problem with celebrating birthdays. I love to eat and drink (non-alcoholic beverages only) just like the next man. Good or bad, rightly or wrongly, what doesn’t sit quite well with me is the thought of growing older without a purpose. And I’ve sort of spent the last few years fixating on the wrong end of the stick. Time for a change me thinks. I don’t necessarily have a fixed definition of what it means to “achieve something significant.” What I do know now is that it matters to me to live everyday and every minute of every hour with a purpose (notwithstanding the 9 to 5 we all do in-between to make ends meet). I’ve started on this new path. I see myself putting the effort and time into the things that I’m interested in and the dividend is the excitement I feel whenever I learn something new and it sticks. Case in point, I am currently learning Maths – algebra to be exact (after 9 years of dearth) and I felt on top of the world when I scored full marks in the section on the three laws of indices.

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 Who knows what will happen years down the line (though I foresee a lot more Maths in the horizon). I’m just here to enjoy the ride, perhaps celebrate a birthday or two along the way. Watch this space!

Article Written by: Guest Blogger Asiatu