I used to be the kind of person who talked about problems. I developed a keen sense of awareness, and a remarkable knack for perceiving many of the far reaching consequences of existing problems. Perhaps I am blessed to come from Ghana because here, we have many real problems and all one has to do is look to find broken systems, corrupt people, weak leaders, and many other things that need fixing. But after attending Smith College, one of the most socially conscious and politically active colleges in the US, perhaps second only in that regard to Wesleyan College right down the street in Middletown CT, where most students were passionately championing one cause or another, I changed.
I turned from one who talked about problems to one who talked about solutions. At the time of my transition, I was very active on a number of internet message boards, notably Ghanathink, Clubgh, and Odadee (Presbyterian Boys' Secondary School, Legon, Ghana) forums. One on of these message boards, I recall viciously lashing out at KSM after reading one of his articles in which he’d expounded further on Ghana’s problems. I felt that we all knew the problems and did not need anyone to explain to us the state of our own backyard. I’d expected more, more in the way of practicable ways of solving our problems, and was disappointed that
Time passed and like wine, I matured. In time I started to get dissatisfied with my own methods. I started to see the futility of talking about solutions. I no longer enjoyed calling up my friends to talk about what
It is worth noting that Databank, the most respected company in Ghana received its seed money from a Ghanaian bank, and even though access to capital remains a major hurdle to be surmounted by would-be entrepreneurs, I am now convinced that chief among our liabilities as a people is that we lack the will to do, and we do not believe enough in our own power to create change. The real there that is not there is the will, not the cash. Several reasons account for this lack of will certainly, among them, poor financial planning on the part of our parents which makes them over-reliant on their children when they are no longer able to work. This saddles us with burden of not only providing for our parents but also for our siblings, and makes us more likely to remain in the stable job, instead of taking a risks that are required to start businesses or pursue careers that are less lucrative but which we are passionate about and in which we can be truly creative and exemplary. Just as many reasons account for our own lack of confidence in the power we wield to change the world. As an example, one big-mouthed friend of mine told me that I am able to take certain risks because I am a woman and therefore the Ghanaian society does not expect me to be a bread-winner. As a woman, I am not expected to build a house, or be financially independent. I’m not expected to purchase items on a list provided by a would-be bride’s family. Now that stung! This guy was unwilling to allow that maybe, just maybe, I have more gumption than he does and so he chose to justify his decisions by saying that the world expects more of him, never mind that he was speaking to a woman who had never showed a lack of ambition, who wants the house, the job, the respect, and will marry someone’s son and pay dowry if she needs to. But I need not tell you all that because you already know. My point is that the Ghanaian youth has headaches, but those headaches need not weigh us down. My friend did not believe he could do all that he wants to do if he lets go of what he currently holds and jumps into unknown territories. But, I believe he can!
Somewhere along the line, I stopped talking about solutions and I decided that I needed to implement, to do, to talk less and do more. If I say the presenters on some of the morning shows in
So the next question that springs up in my mind is, how do you get to the point where you let go of all your fears and jump in? My answer? I don’t know. It is probably different for everyone, but I’ll share how I got to where I am. (Where I am meaning, I’m at the point in my life where I’m jumping into everything, doing what excites me, trying all that I’ve ever wanted to try and not thinking that I’ll fail but knowing that if I do, I can live with myself because I tried and I’ll have a basis for talking later). For me, so many things converged to provide me the will. I’ll share two for now.
The first is that someone insulted my pride. I’ve always been fiercely proud of being Ghanaian. Have always loved
The second is that at Duke I joined a small community of intellectuals and dreamers who were engaged in the spiritual search and who met regularly to discuss books, life and self-knowledge. I was heavily influenced by writings of Jung, Emerson (particularly self-reliance) and Krishnamurti among others. I wanted to lead a meaningful life, I wanted to be happy and most of all, I wanted to stop preparing to live and live. I’d already figured that school was getting in the way of my learning. I wrote essays about myself for myself, I wanted to know who I was. Who do I want to be, who do I love and how does every day of my life count towards answering those questions. The one that impacted me most was when one of my friends asked me, Esi, what would you do if you had six months to live, and I blurted out, without thinking, without having to think, that I would move back to
How does being in
One may wonder about the Ghanaians who have never left
How do I anticipate we will find the time to do all that? Well, you know what they say. Where there is a will, everything else is secondary. The only problem is that "the there is not there". Or is it?