When you look up, remember to look round and down too.

I saw the life I pray for; the type I envisage in my imagination.
They acted like it was nothing. It was their normal everyday lifestyle; all they seem to do was “chill”. They casually strode in, in a subtle dress down mode yet the fabrics’ worth hollered loudly. They mostly talked about where next they were going to hang out and all the many places they had been at and would be off too soon enough. Then, they ate, drank, smoked and played a little then drove home in cars with values that would conveniently solve all my “problems.”

I went home too but, not without a lot of questions. My heart ached terribly; I tasted an awkward slimy substance at the back of my throat. I wished I could roll my tongue and talk about all the places I had visited. I wished I could say how easy It would be to “chill” again and pretend like hiring a cab doesn’t scare my pocket. I wished I could buy another drink without having to contemplate about all the many other things I could use the extra money for. But I was in Rome; I was Roman.

I usually didn’t do this; I usually wouldn’t scroll through pictures on gram with green eyes. I know too well all rules about gratitude. But it wasn’t about knowing them, it was about how to apply them in a moment of desperation.

First, I remembered the little boy I had seen on my way home; his clothes weren’t torn neither did he look like he suffered from malnutrition. He, however, looked barely thirteen and had a vast knowledge of how labour works; he worked hard to survive. He held his large tray in his hand chatted with his friend, as they journeyed home after a long’s day work. Probably all he wants is a normal childhood where he could feel like the child and not have to labour for a next meal right after six hours of government paid lessons. I had a good childhood; at thirteen all I had needed to do was greet my parents.

Then, there was also this woman I had seen a couple of days back. It had been pouring and I was desperately seeking a shelter to hide in. Not her, she just sat there letting the cold droplets hit her back. It didn’t move her neither did the angry wind make her bulge; all she wanted to do was sell her tomatoes. There were about four plates left with five in each. It could not have cost more than 2000 naira, not to say the figure is minute but, I can’t recount the countless times I have blown that same amount on something insignificant yet, she risked her life over it.

Again there was a time I visited an orphanage for blind and partially blind kids. It had given me so much joy. I was beyond grateful for my life and how much I was blessed by being healthy. Despite the fact that, I held to myself a holding of pity for them instead, their happiness left me startled. They seemed far less worried than I was. They simply held each other and walked in cycles talking to each other and not about each other. If there was one thing they understood, it was the gift of every new day. At least with them, I could still find words. There were others I had seen so sick that all words left me and all I wanted to do was shout “thank you.”

I am a fraud, I looked up without looking down. I felt sad for what I thought I lacked without seeing what I back. My yearnings for better things are not absurd in its nature. In fact, such hunger breeds creativity but if I forget what I have now, how then would I gather more? How then would I hold what I chase when it eventually surfaces? For when I ultimately get that, I would still want more. Should I then go on looking up without looking round? How miserably pathetic can I be?

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labours and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.


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