With Rohey Samba
There are a number of qualities more relevant than gorgeous legs, perfect features and great hair. These are self-confidence, sense of direction and strength of character. These intrinsic values that no New Year’s resolutions can make up, are the reasons why I hate to make any New Year’s resolutions at all…But there is more.
While we live in a frequently phase-obsessed society, wherein every new phase, Tamxarit, Christmas, Koriteh and so forth, has to be addressed with acknowledged worth as well as confirmation that we are not outcasts in a globalised world – well, a lot has gone on since last week -and we all know it. Yes, we are part of the world!
New Gambia welcomed the New Year, as any other country with magical displays of fireworks, jubilant moods and get-togethers of family and friends and so forth. For the longest time, New Year in The Gambia has not been feted with so much pomp and pageantry, especially in Banjul. There was Jamil Cham at Mosque Road, Odileh and Ekumbapah in Fitzgerald Street and the promulgation of new hunting societies, caravans and ehgehrehs all over. 1st January 2018 was a day to remember!
Scores of transformative changes have occurred since ‘Gambia Has Decided’ and without a hint of doubt, I’m sure these changes will continue to pick up steam in these coming months.
Ok, I know older folks would pray like, ‘Su daywayn nah rey nyaw, yal na mel ni renn,’ (if this new year is going to be a bad year, let it be as it was last year). Implicit in this imploration, is an element of doubt and yet still a return to the source of Creation as the Controller of our own affairs. Most of us Africans and religious people are stoic. We kind of believe that we have little control over our own affairs.
Perhaps hinged in this notion is the concept of belief in predestination espoused by all monotheist religions, namely Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As a Muslim, I do not particularly appreciate the concept for a number of reasons.
First of all, I do not believe that we are created to accept fate, as if fate in itself were a creation. This belief endorses lethargy and is usually fodder for the lazy, who would claim in their weakest moments that ‘If God or Allah or the Lord hath so wished, He would have made me a better person than say, a thief, a prostitute or otherwise, than I am today’.
I see these in many expressions of despair to justify sloth, and truth of the matter is, this misguided belief naturally results in resentment and estrangement from the very religion one professes to follow in the long run. Thus proscribed in my religious vocabulary is the shoehorned expression of predestination.
Now, this does not reduce anything from the belief in destiny prescribed by the six articles of belief in Islam. As a writer, the only way I can find expression in this article is to relate it to what I know best how to do, which is writing. I believe God to be the Greatest Author of all. He completed His Masterpiece with the creation of the world, imbued with the Knowledge of each and everyone’s particular destination/end, for indeed He is Omniscient.
As the Greatest Author, He does not control events, He allows us, humans, a degree of choice, volition and free will to do or not do His bidding on which He shall judge us in the end. Indeed any stoic must know about Judgement Day?
So how do I relate? As a writer, I start a script with an end in mind. I create characters and blow life into them, and that is where it ends on my part. To formulate the bigger story, I allow each character to breathe and live its own life with the end already known to me. That’s what authorship is all about. Even with this script for today’s article, I only started with the heading, and everything is just evolving to fit into the wider script. So there you have it!
Often we wonder, especially as Muslims, why God endears us to read the Holy Qur’an. Still as a writer, I can relate very well as to the reason why. After all, the greatest achievement of a writer is not to have his/her books sold, but to have them read. In fact, nothing gladdens me more than receiving someone who has read my works and critiques them – whether positivity or not. The knowledge that they have read what I have written is the biggest gift to me. Thus the Greatest Author endears us to read His Masterwork, the Holy Qur’an, promising us not only huge worldly rewards in return but greater success in the hereafter.
So coming back to the New Year, I know many people are going to make resolutions that sound like this, ‘I wish to lose more weight this year’. Or more like, ‘I wish to stop doing this, or that and that’. Well, I have nothing against these resolutions, if they are firm decisions in themselves. Yet, I would specifically recommend we make better statements of intent in the specific areas of our lives we seem not to have control over.
Such areas that deal with our attitudes towards work, success and how we relate with other people, how we deal with our finances, stress and so forth. In a nutshell, how we deal with niche areas in our lives that we choose to revisit when we have sleepless nights, but fail to acknowledge in our waking moments.
Many people for instance are very unhappy in their workplaces, in their private activities, in their marriages and so on. Life is way too short to minimise these emotional failings by defections. Hanging on ‘for the sake of…’ may offer a perfectly stoic solution, but it can never erase the consequences in one’s mind even if fear holds one back, as is mostly the case.
Bravery is not the absence of fear, but rather the repulsion of fear in our lives, in order to achieve our goals for our own eudaemonic wellbeing. In this vein, when we make resolutions, we must be brave enough to be introspective. We must ask ourselves why we choose to make those changes, what we stand to gain from the changes and for what?
It’s not enough to say, I wish to lose weight. What is the reason, the target and the goal for losing weight? Is it to please your inner cycle – to try to fit in, is it to satisfy your husband who has been nagging you for a while now about your weight gain … or do you want to do it for yourself, in order to be healthy, to feel more confident about yourself? And so on.
The same applies if you choose to stop smoking, cheating on your spouse, stealing from your own boss or gossiping about anything under the sun, just for the love of it.
With respect to your work, the first fear to overcome is to absolve oneself of guilt when you start seeking employment for any open vacancy under the sun, which matches one’s qualifications. Most of us Gambians are so unhappy where we work, after undergoing all the relevant trainings, that anywhere else we can get, where we can earn D1,000, more or less, we would venture to, leaving our existing posts to languish. The cacophony of bad bosses, bad institutions, pitiable salaries and poor management are the bane of Gambian society and I see no end in sight of these for the moment…
Leaving a job where you feel undervalued, derided or unworthy is not a referendum on your commitment to the company but rather an offshoot of your competence, your personal ambitions for growth and your goals in life, even if it means placing oneself at the low end of the economic totem pole. Start planning an exit strategy now, I endear you.
Often, finding a new job is affirmation enough that you are not a loser, but a self-confident human being who cares for his/her own self-respect, more than a mere positioning in an unworthy company. Yes, worthy companies retain their staff, and motivate them to stay on. In effect, to any good institution, losing a good employee is like losing a good arm. Very debilitating.
That said, another resolution to make can be about one’s emotional well-being. If one is easily peeved, has a short fuse, that is, easily angered, or not a very good communicator – where one inadvertently hurt other people by one’s words and immediately regret it a few minutes later, then now is the chance to do something right about your attitude.
People make all sorts of excuses for their own excesses. We can all meaningfully repair our bad behaviours if we choose to. Our characters are not fixed. Many of us are not able to steel ourselves and acknowledge that we are plain rude. If you are rude, then chances are you know it already. So, try to repair yourself.
Now to the final resolution. And this one, I am talking particularly to women. We don’t have to endorse anyone’s advice, even our mothers’, at the expense of our own feelings, when things go wrong in our marriages. You do not engage with the promise of hell or patiently endure when your man continually abuses you or makes you feel worthless.
The concept of mou nyal, (be patient) has taken many women to their premature deaths, caused many preventable strokes, triggered untold suffering and great unhappiness to women for generations. If it is financially tenable for you to leave an unhappy marriage or a bad relationship, leave and never look back… Your emotional well-being is more important than what people think about you or have to say.
Now that’s all for sweating tears and crying sweat. Next week, we start a series on broken hearts.