Choices

The Thing About Growing Up

Or what happens when you get a little bit mindful about your choices

I know you don’t read a lot of my stuff and…
I read your stuff- she cut in.
Pause.
Huh. Really?
Yeah.
So…you read about
the time when I got my heart broken and I cried for a day?, I said, half hoping she’d say no.
Yes, my Mum replied, I read that.

So, I had a Whatsapp Call with a special someone today. We’re a typical Cameroonian family: we talk about plans for the future without trying to express our personal, usually differing, ideals; we spend christmas together — the first few days blissful, except for when the undying skeletons creep; we love each other but, when anyone says “I love you”, there is this, slight, very, uncomfortable, pause. *clears throat*

Ergo, the idea of a conversation in which we’d talk about my career, plans for the future, my dissatisfaction with my role as the first child, my opinion about her career, my relationships, and my take on responsibility, goes further to cement a singular thought I’ve been having:

I may actually be growing up. Dammit.

You see, this year: I had the best birthday gift, I gained more gratitude for the people in my life, I loved, I destroyed ( single handedly, and I am not being self-deprecating here) one of the strongest bonds I had ever forged with a friend- a brother. I’m still reeling from that loss. I’ll be okay. Thanks for asking.

I’m still incredibly amazed by how much I have been able to handle these situations.

Disclaimer: I had help from colleagues, friends and family. I just like to think that I am a hero. Meh.

Anyway, my mother and I talked. Remember the part where I said we were a typical Cameroonian family? Well, I lied. What can I say? I love me some drama. *wink*

We’re atypical. My siblings definitely have their own narrative about this, but, from my vantage point, having parents who actually make an argument for their decisions in your life, isn’t exactly “ Cameroonian”.

Normally, if you’re smart, you become a medical doctor. No questions asked. If you don’t make it through entrance exam- you do biochemistry, ace it, get a scholarship and leave the country. And oh, if you’re the first child, don’t forget to reel in your siblings when you get “established”. Whatever established means.

I have a tendency to replay important conversations in my head- text messages, meaningful encounters- like that time in the restaurant. I seem almost out of my body listening to myself — fragmenting my thought process. Of course, in time, these recollections become flawed. I try as much possible to milk them before I can’t trust the details.

If the one with Mum today is fresh, then I can rely on my conclusions:

1. You’re never too old to be a kid

I have come to terms with the fact that my mother will always worry. Same for my father. It was a pain the size of a hard drive at some point in my life( read: until very recently). Now, it feels more like a piece of fish in my spacious teeth- it’s annoying, but I can take it out when I want to. Plus, it feels sort of nice, you know. *smiles*

I feel really old at 27. Well… sometimes. But, the people I hangout with make me feel like a kid. All the time. I love the balance. It keeps me in check. And I know I can always count on my mother — she’ll worry, complain, try to make me get a ‘safe’ career path — because that is her job.

2. Sometimes, you need to stop being a kid

I’m currently working with a team that suits and stretches my skills. I don’t get time to “relax”. The work is challenging. For a lazy, stubborn writer like me, I looove ditching projects half-way. Once I don’t like an idea- meh. Dead.

With work ( and with life), I can’t do that. The team counts on me. The mission must be completed! (Did someone say Metal Slug?) I cannot run to my mother and say: sorry. I know my parents will always (want to) be there for me. And I get it- I won the parent lottery. I am certain that when I my own child, it will be the exact same feeling. However, in gratitude for what they’ve done for me , I need to get my life together. For them. For me.

3. “Sometimes, you need to leave your family, so that you can be stable enough to help your family” — hK:

A friend said that to me months ago. I was worried about how best to get to my siblings on ze search of a career. Isn’t it ironic how good I am at proffering advice I have a hard time heeding?

Today, I told my mother about how much she had no choice when it came to worrying about me and my siblings. And how I did. I have a choice. I cannot let my first born son incontinence ( is that even a thing?) stop me from living “my life”. I have goals, dreams, and plans. Lists of books to publish. Podcast conversations to have. Scripts to finish. Ideas to test. Places to see. If I get hung up on solving family problems ( I don’t have that many, trust me. I just take them a tad too seriously), when do I get the time to make my dent? I need to chill.

Inner self: yeah dude, chill ( I just watched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” *grins* * does 3 second air guitar solo*

4. You always have a choice about how you feel

Like when I said “ I love you” at the end of the conversation. We’re not living ze dream. Our bank accounts aren’t sputtering passive income. My job isn’t “fun”. My parents are not “the world’s best parents”. Heck, I don’t even have a couch! ( I’m working on the couch part though. Thanks Q. 🙂 ).

After my recent break-up, I internalized my pain. It was a lot of pain for me. I justified it with messages, texts, contexts. I even went back to work with more vigor. Then, I had a one day crash — and a one week crash. Then I wrote this.

With my return from ze dark side, I started mindfulness: I label my thoughts — useful, useless — depending on what they are at the time.

I don’t need to “delete” the thoughts. I just need to know — is this useful? Is this useless? That’s it. It takes practice. And I am pretty bad at it ( getting there…). But I know this keeps me from replaying unnecessary conversations. I may not be the happiest person on earth, but I know I am responsible for how I feel about whatever happens to me.

I still have a lot of things to figure out. I still want to travel and write. I still want to have epic conversations (even though my LGG4 gave up on me and I lost months of conversations and pictures that I will never recover * takes deep breath to calm himself down*). I have a lot of things I need to work on. And, I have someone who will die for me if she needed to.

I know she won’t read this ( she actually hardly reads my work. I mean…come on…why are you reading this self-deprecating renegade ramble?), just know that I love you Mum.

And I love you too for reading this far. Thank you.

This is not to all the Mums. This is not to all the friends who make our lives worth it. This is not to hard workers and sweet colleagues. This is not to adorable siblings and best friends.

This is to you who finds a reason to be grateful and to keep being better at growing up.


Tchassa Kamga lives in Buea, Cameroon. This part of the country just got its internet reinstated! Previously, he’s had to travel a long distance to post. However, this was written in his pyjamas. At home. Under myopic influence.

He’s learning the intricacies of curating events and documenting them at the fine dining restaurant and cultural hub- IYA Buea. He has three episodes on his podcast . He also takes blatant pictures on Instagram.

He co-writes with C. Befoune ( he has a not-so secret crush on her) on this publication — Self-ish . Their goal is to share the lessons they’ve learnt from multiple sources in the domains of Self-improvement, Content Creation and Human Relationships.

Easily get him on Twitter.

 

…And I am Culturally Incorrect.

I’ve been thinking about the responsibility that comes with being at the receiving end of a gift, a favor or a service. One that doesn’t require an exchange of any sort other than the traditional “ Thank you” or “ I am grateful”.

How far do the impacts of such acts of kindness go? For example, someone buys you a birthday present, do you have to in return, purchase the said friend a gift as well?
Now, if you do, is it because you received a present as well, or is it because you actually wish her well?

Or siblings, when you do something for your brother- that white lie( we both know lies aren’t ever white), does she have to lie for you back?

How far does this “reciprocation” reach? How long does it take to eventually pay a debt?

Actually, my question is more of: is there a debt?

Does a child owe the parents his/her life?

Because you are on this earth only because two people made it possible by the heavenly guided meeting of a sperm and an egg( never thought I would ever use a variant of “heaven” and “sperm” in the same sentence in my lifetime), does this mean all your actions, your dreams, your desires, your goals must be approved by your parents.

Is that it?

I have a feeling that I will be called out as trying to copy the West. You know what? Spare no expense. I am copying the West. But keep in mind that I am very mindful of my context. I know where I come from- a Christian family, with catholic married parents. I went to boarding school for seven years and I have a degree from one of the best Universities in the country. So far, I haven’t been convicted and I am not a father. I neither drink nor smoke for sport.

If that doesn’t establish my “uprightedness”, I don’t know what will.

( Then again, worse crimes have been committed by people with a “saner” profile. But…just bear with me)

There is a term I have been fascinated with recently-“Cultural correctness”. I define it as :

“ deliberately avoiding cultural offense;relating to or supporting the use of language or conduct that deliberately avoids giving offense when it comes to what is acceptable by a community.

Yes, you’re right, I stole the term from political correctness.

Now, my “special” definition limits to the behaviors governing those of children towards elders. In the Cameroonian African environment.

Case in point: You’re 16. You love biology. You watch discovery channel in the morning afternoon and evening. When asked why you don’t watch cartoons, you don’t even get the point of the question.
Duh!
Now, you pass the GCE advanced level. You have 5 papers. Awesome grades. You’re going to the Uni.
Yay!
Not so fast.

Mom thinks you’ll make a great doctor. Dad agrees. One of your Aunts is a medical practioner. Both parents call her name with so much respect.

You would love to study biology. Probably get a Phd. Even have your TV show. You try to argue.
Mom isn’t happy. Dad broods. You consider their option.
“It’s not so bad..” you tell yourself.
You’re smart. So you write the the entrance exam. You make it. Every one is ecstatic! The new family doctor is born!

The family biologist just died. You just became a victim of what I call: emotional blackmail ( note to self: write blog post on this. You’ve been a victim way too many times).

How often do we not stand up for what we really want?

How many times do we sit silent and just do what we are told even when we know that we don’t want to. When we can feel our stomach and every nerve in your body telling you this is a bad idea.

Here are some of the verbal cues of emotional blackmail:
This is Cameroon. Not Europe.
You need experience.
You’re in the virtual world. Reality doesn’t work like that.
Who will pay for this??
Where do you think you are?
You’re going to give me a heart attack.
What about your brothers?
What kind of example are you showing.

OR my favourite…

You’ve changed. I don’t recognize you anymore.

You see, I know all too well all (or a lot) about emotional blackmail and cultural correctness. I have suffered from it for a while. But, recently, I have fought my biggest battle ever.

The battle against the voice in my head. I haven’t won the war. But this post, is part of the battle. The war never ends.

And here are ways to recognize people like me- us- who wage this battle everyday.
We are labelled: stubborn, reckless, selfish, rebels, inconsiderate, bad examples, {Insert other derogatory term to describe someone who does what he or she knows to be what is true to his or her DNA.

( Ok, there is a fine line between someone who knows exactly what he or she wants, and someone who is plain confused. Both seem as confident, only time will tell the difference.)

There are others who can stay culturally correct and live a truly decent and happy life. Many who follow what their parents and elders tell them and find true happiness. I have a friend who wrote the entrance exam even though he didn’t want to be a medical doctor. Today, he’s one of the happiest people I know.

There is no harm in listening to counsel and doing as you’re told.

But if you’re not one of those people, if you’re not built to follow orders, if your heart knows what you’re good at, if your DNA tells you the path to follow…if you’re like me…

Then by all means, I urge you to be culturally incorrect! Please!

Learn the rules, break them- but don’t break the law. Give the world an authentic, true, original version of yourself.

By all means- do not listen to me , your parents or anyone. Find yourself. Shine your light.

Am I asking you to be disobedient? To leave home and be stranded because some idiot on the internet said so?
Nah. I won’t take responsibility for what you do. That’s the whole point of being culturally incorrect.

You make your choices. And you deal with the consequences. No pain, no gain.

But, before you chicken out , let me give you a list:

Steve Jobs, The Beatles, Ev William, Bongajum Leslie, Spielberg, Cameron, Bekolo, Francoise Elong.

These may all be artists. But I want to believe that if these people (and many like them) who have changed the face of music, movies, the internet – if they had listened to those who loved them and wanted them to be safe, we would not be benefiting from their true art.

My name is Tchassa Kamga. And I am culturally incorrect.

What about you?

The Indecency of Choice

The dots should not make sense.
Even gut feelings cannot be measured.
Right, wrong, individual compasses.
Nurtured half by nature.

Connecting the dots.
Backwards; ‘they’ say it makes sense.
Forward, however, sheer chaos.
The wake of decisions . Unknown. Unclear. Dark.

Permission vs forgiveness.
Most heroes choose the latter.
Other heroes meddled with the former.
What is the perfect balance?

In the end, we always have a choice.
Some say it’s not the case.
I strongly disagree.
Even deciding that we don’t have a choice, is a choice between accepting my point of view or not.

Now, how indecent are you willing to be?
Would you seek permission or forgiveness?
Can you measure your gut?
Do you have a choice or do your choices have you?