“It’s OK to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave” – Mandy Hale

“To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around” – Richie Norton

 

It was the D-day. I am not talking about the 6th day of June in the year 1944 – the day of the allied landing in France, World War II. No, I am talking about the day ChuChu, my younger cousin, would make a speech (we had prepared together) on his graduation day. As the best student for the academic year, he was chosen to make the speech. It was meant to be a summary of his stay in high school, his experience and then, whatever he felt like saying. Actually, this would be the first time he was going to stand on stage to address an audience of such magnitude. The first time he ever made a speech to a group of people was on his nineteenth birthday get-together. My uncle, David, asked him to explain to everyone gathered, how he felt leaving the ‘teen age’ for good. Well, his performance wasn’t bad though.

I could remember the first day I delivered a lecture on stage. I was meant to talk on an issue I knew next to nothing about – The history of the Ibos: A ruined people with a bleak future. Gathering the necessary documents and materials was never stressful; the main task was preparing a juicy lecture, candy-coated with humor that would be both appealing and educative to the audience. At last, the weeks of sleep deprivation and spending endless hours in the study room came to an end, paving way for the D-day, when my efforts would be judged by people of different cultures.

On the fateful day, I woke up at about five o’clock in the morning to the harmonious notes of birds, said my morning prayers (specifically mentioning the event of the day to the Almighty) and spent the next few hours going over the prepared document. At about eight thirty, I arrived at the obi – the town hall where I would either be declared a great orator, a good-for-nothing copycat (by the sadists, of course) or a guy that still needs to improve on the skill with time.

The compère called me up about thirty minutes after the guests were seated. Slowly, I walked up to the podium, taking care not to miss any step because it would spell disaster. On the dais, I removed my handkerchief from my breast pocket (with my head still down) and cleaned up the sweat on my forehead. My knees were jerking at the same time. On lifting my head high, I almost fainted. Everyone’s eyes were on me; a mean-looking lady (I guess she was a trader) with a thick snout and fat chin was looking piercingly at me, as if saying: “Young man, be fast and get out of here so everyone could go have lunch”. On the left side, a light-skinned man was looking directly at me and all of a sudden, his serious mien gave way to a broad smile. Immediately, I found an inexplicable refuge in the man’s smile, like the harmony of the cool oceans. The smile wrapped around my heart with the comfort of innate acceptance. At that instant, I made the conclusion that even if my appearance was not accepted by some people, there were still others who would never judge me by my appearance (back then, I was spotting beards that would make Bin Laden envious). And with that, I set to work with the introductory part of the lecture and the remaining part followed. In between sentences, I would take time to look at the audience and discover how keen they were to hear the remaining part of the discussion. At the end of the lecture, everyone stood up to offer high ovations (except the ‘fat-chinned’ lady). Well, I wonder what I did to her. Maybe she saw me in her dreams with a cutlass in hand, chasing her around the village square.

I could remember the first time I smashed a girl. She was a neighbor’s house help. I literally spent the whole day, pacing up and down the balcony, ungodly thoughts racing through my mind, hoping I don’t bust my nuts too fast, and hoping my erect ‘man shaft’ would occupy ‘the whole territory down south’. Well, all I could remember now was there was virtually no foreplay, and with my ‘gun’ in hand, I headed down south and within five or six minutes, I made a pigeon sound (or was it a squirrel sound) and my gun shot up the whole place. Kai! Tragic!

I could also remember the first time I had a Greek cuisine: Ground beef gyros with spiced sweet roasted red pepper (na wa o…see long name sef) for lunch; when I had the privilege to dine with my parents in a five star hotel. As my folks were making their orders, I was busy spying on a young girl with blonde hair. I winked at her and she blushed. I was called to order by the waiter as he presented the carte du jour to me to make my selection. I decided to impress the blonde-haired girl so I shouted aloud: “I would like to have the ground beef gyros with spiced sweet roasted red pepper”. Lord knows my countenance when I had my first taste of the dish and the embarrassing laugh from the blonde-haired girl.

In life, there is always a first time for every activity; the first day at school, first day for a child to act a play and first day for your kid to say ‘daddy’. There’s also a first day to get a job, first day to propose to your lover and first day to hit a million bucks. Of course, there is still another – the first day to die (just kidding). Really, foundering in any ‘first’ performance is not something to be ashamed of; it has happened to almost everyone.

But whenever you find yourself in a ‘first-time’ situation, just keep your head up, brush your shoulders off and enter the act with boldness. At the same time, close your eyes and imagine the unrivaled acclamation that would follow. The very thought itself evokes images of attention-grabbing greatness and sparkling glory; it is these thoughts that burn in the heart of every great achiever. And all these function together to bring about a spectacular feat on your ‘first-time’ performance. But remember, don’t let these thoughts transform to pride because pride certainly goes before a fall. Na so!

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