Courage Born From Disobedience aka I Used To Be Afraid Of The Dark

Fears… phobias are just a few of the things we often keep close to our hearts. We don’t like to talk about them for fear others will ridicule us or worse, use the knowledge against us. Fear is a powerful thing; it’s enough to start entire revolutions – or stifle them. Fear can win wars or lose them. And yet sometimes the smallest thing can help spark the courage you need to overcome that fear. I used to be afraid of the dark. “Used to be” because I’m not anymore. In fact, anyone who knows me knows I now prefer a dark room and night time to day time. All for one simple, ridiculous reason.

From the 7th grade onwards I developed an insatiable appetite for reading. This was a localised fascination, it had to be fantasy (and largely still is) simply because of the creativity it inspired within me. *I’ll discuss how I became fond of reading in tomorrow’s post.* However high school loomed and the work grew more intense. I would no longer have the countless hours to pore though fantasy and science fiction novels the size of dictionaries day in, day out. I had to be realistic. This is what my parents told me.

“Focus on school, read the books later.”

Now I know what you’re thinking. This post is about fear of the dark, what does it have to do with reading novels and high school? Firstly let me rephrase the term “fear of the dark”. I possessed (especially in my younger years) a quite incredible imagination as often is the case with youth. All I needed was space and time to create whatever universe my whims led me to. I only fell just short of the imagination Oscar for never having had an imaginary friend. I had an imaginary army but never the one friend who would take up space at the table etc for that would have been near suicidal. It was this intense imagination coupled with the housekeeper’s fascination with horror movies, ones I had to watch with her at all costs, that made me fear the dark for a long time… yes even into my teens.

So I would sleep with the light on. “I need to read,” was the typical response. It wasn’t nearly as intense as the phobia I wrote about earlier in my blog though. So long as I was already in bed with my eyes shut, I’d have been fine. But that was rarely the case so the light stayed on… until I was told to stop reading novels at night. I had to wake up early in the morning since my bus to school left at 0630. Immediately my mind went into detective mode because the love for reading was too great to let go instantaneously, much less for something as mundane as waking up on time for school. How to beat the system? That’s what I pondered for a few hours at most. The answer finally came.

“Good night. I’m going to sleep.”

Then I would switch off my light, proof that I was actually sleeping… only to go into my  blankets, produce my latest novel from under the pillow and switch on my Nokia’s torch. This is how I read Stephenie Meyer’s ‘New Moon’ in one night. I did this often enough that the fear of the dark evaporated. I needed the dark for me to do what I loved; read. And I read. I went through 6 to 8 books a month this way. In a school of 700 students the librarian new my name and would set aside new books for me to devour. So repetitive and exciting was the new habit that even my study habits tweaked to accommodate this mindset so that even now I’m extremely productive in the hours from late evening to early morning.

And that’s it. I told my parents about it a while ago and they had a laugh. It was silly beyond belief. But one can’t deny that it got rid of an unnecessary, hindering fear… even if it may have replaced it with a less than necessary habit. The young man no longer feared the dark… he was just borderline useless early in the morning.

Good Pain

From the balls of my feet to the nape of my neck is a low-burning sensation. With each motion (more likely attempted motion) the flames are stoked and burn brightly. My limbs have been rendered near useless. I feel as if my bones have transformed into jelly – my muscle fibres into marshmallow. Sitting up my lower back screams at me, crying tears of sweat for the slowest motion. As I lie down again my calves beg for relief. Just one session of parkour, “just a taster” they said and I feel I’ve had my fill for seven generations. And yet I absolutely loved it. I’m no masochist but I’ve never felt better. Each step takes more effort than the last. At times I feel as though I’m one hundred years older; putting on clothes or getting out of bed feel like impossible tasks. But each time I manage to do something, even the really simple things, the euphoria kicks in. I have gained a greater appreciation for every part of my body – because at long last I now feel every part of that body. Oh it’s pain alright… but it’s so damn good… it’s good pain.

Perhaps I should have listened to myself and one funny brunette I know. Maybe I should frequent the best place for my body, the secret the world would love to hear about; in her own words: “Gym!” 

Or maybe I’ll go back to the parkour session next week. Maybe I’ll shake off the cobwebs in my underused muscles and awaken them with a sweet, sweet dose of good old pain.

Man O’ My Word aka Be My Hammer, I’ll Be Your Thor

Dear Blog,

 

Hey you! Yes you! Haven’t you heard?

You can count on me – I’m a man o’ my word.

And you’ll believe it, coz I’ve said it, then it’s gotta be true.

You won’t believe me? Fine then – believe you!

You say it more than I do, I know it sounds absurd.

“Ayanda Joe Munikwa, you’re a man o’ your word!”

 

Maybe if we say it enough times it’ll finally happen.

Coz the sheer number of promises I’ve been snapping is amazing!

Now I’m not making excuses, I put that PhD to the side.

I laid down my pride and decided I wouldn’t ever lie.

Even if it’ll save me trouble later, better to stay humble now.

I don’t want to stumble so I’ll mumble, goo goo gaga, ciao.

 

In the future, even now, trust is gold.

So I’m sorry I’ve been missing truth be told.

I said I’d take care of you. I didn’t even forget!

The truth of it is I just chose to neglect…

 

But I’m a man o’ my word. That’s what we said!

So I think it’s time we finally prepared,

For a rollercoaster ride like never before!

Where you will be my hammer and I’ll be your Thor!

Love,

Joe

 

 

No

No. Such a short and simple word yet for some reason I find it very hard to say lately.

“But I say no all the time,” you say. “Why can’t you?”

Well I can. I like to think I’m very good at saying no, maybe even among the best.

Q: “Wanna go…?”

A: “No thanks.”

Q: “Wanna try?”

A: “I’m good.”

Q: “Would you like…?”

A: “I’m perfectly fine but thanks for asking.”

This is how it would go on many an occasion as I relentlessly pursued independence – individuality. Yet I eventually felt shortchanged. I’d been closing doors to opportunities, gifts and friendships because of my affinity to the word ‘no’. My friends and family felt the barrier I was putting up. I was essentially isolating myself. I had to learn to do otherwise. I had to learn to say yes, and like most things I put effort into I learned it really, really well… in this case too well.

Now we’re at the other end of the spectrum. My incessantly saying ‘yes’ has had a detrimental effect recently. It’s taken away my time and has slowly leeches part of my joy. I guess it’s time to take that back by saying what I used to say all the time when asked to do something beyond my means.

No.

Call Me Morgan Freeman

A memory just flashed across my mind accompanied by a tinge of nostalgia. Someone (I know not whom) used to call me Morgan Freeman presumably because of my voice… you know, as opposed to my looks (I’m only 21 after all). I cannot for the life of me recall who it was or when they said it but I genuinely miss the nickname for one reason or other.

Maybe I should stop watching all those “best-acting” compilations on YouTube. After all, Morgan Freeman is in a lot of those.

I Am THAT Guy

I am THAT guy. That wasn’t always the case. I used to be that guy. I started out really petty, for what reason I will never be certain. I craved success and absolutely detested failure, I still do, but my attitude towards obtaining both has changed. Young Joe would pout if he lost. He’d think about it all day and all night and would not be consoled until he either forgot or won at something else. If I’d lost in a competition then whoever would have beaten me couldn’t be my friend. At the same time though, cheating wasn’t something I would take pride in. I remember a race I took part in, in 1st grade. We were meant to race to a building touch it, then return. I remember racing to the building, turning back without touching it, taking first place for the majority of the return sprint and… I still finished 3rd. In the end it wasn’t coming 3rd that hurt – it was doing so after having cheated. I didn’t talk to the boys that beat me, that was the way I was back then.

I liked being top of the class. In 2nd grade I didn’t; I came 7th instead. Who remembers what position they came in 2nd grade? I do, isn’t that odd? Well it’s because it pained me greatly. I went to the prize-giving ceremony and felt like a big helping of poop watching my peers receive prize after prize while I was relegated to just watch and clap. I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t let that happen again. I was beyond jealous and couldn’t even bring myself to applaud the winners.

That was the old me.

After teaching from my lovely parents and role-models as well as a bit of first-hand experience, I shed that skin off. I decided to be THAT guy instead. You know THAT guy? THAT guy who celebrates your victory more than you would. THAT guy who you can always tell your success stories knowing you won’t receive resentment, just encouragement and an supermassive dose of enthusiasm. Part of the transformation was being taught to value the success of others and never to moan when someone one-ups me in anything.

Use the success of others as inspiration, as motivation. Celebrate them as you would celebrate yourself and if possible, find out how they earned that success.

So what if we went in for the same scholarship and you got it and I didn’t? So long as you don’t follow me on the way home saying, “Sorry you didn’t get it,” or “I totally smashed you!” (You probably wouldn’t do that because you’re not a certified prick) I would be glad for you. I would probably want advice on how you edged me and feedback from those that made the decision so that next time I have a greater chance at the scholarship. Of course I would be sad I didn’t win it. I’m bound to be if it’s something that I wanted but I would also be happy that you did. I will strive to congratulate and motivate, “You did fantastic! You deserve it! Keep up the good work! Hopefully next time we’ll both get scholarships.” It’s in my nature now and whether you think it’s cool or not, I’m not getting rid of it.

That’s what I’m all about. Tell me about your victory, it motivates me to pursue my own. You need a hype-man to bounce your excitement off of? I got you! I am THAT guy, I like to say probably even the best THAT guy! If you didn’t know that by now, you probably don’t know me very well.

P.S. You can be THAT guy too. It’s so much more liberating than being that guy.

Anime: “Rap” (Poem)

Look around in any direction, what do you see?

More than big budget movies it astounds me.

Colours flashing, the whole spectrum on display.

You have to watch this! What’s in your way?

People’s opinions? The fact it’s drawn?

Wasn’t the Mona Lisa? Psssht… (Yawn!)

You’re missing out on so much – of that I’m cert.

Embrace boredom, be a knowledge introvert.

 

I like when you resist. “It’s Japanese!” you yell.

So is your TV. What? Now you gonna sell?

Look – I won’t persuade you. I don’t feel I need to.

Watch Boku no Hero and you’ll know it’s true.

Feel Angel Beats burrow into your brain.

Cry as Naruto pleads with Pain.

Moan as Subaru dies over and over again.

Rejoice as he stays strong nonetheless.

When his voice is hoarse and his bones have cracks.

A determination Hollywood ain’t grasped yet.

 

What moves my heart? What keeps it going?

It’s that rhythm the music ain’t slowing.

It’s in the back the whole time in every moment.

The same in anime, it’s why I love it.

The joy is tangible. The pain is agonal.

The love is actual. The grit is cannibal.

 

It’s as real as it is fake.

It’s more than admirable.

No greater point can I make.

(Watch it I say!)

A good anime’s infallible.