1

To grow up, or not to grow up…is that the question….?

I was one of those kids that could not wait to grow up. Ok, I guess that probably made me like every other kid in the world. I knew that when that time came, when I was old enough to go to the store and buy as much candy as I wanted, I would get what I always wanted: freedom, freedom, and more freedom!

Funny how much freedom I had then and did not realize it. I lived by one motto, tried and true, faithful throughout the ages….”Let’s play!”. I played my life depended on it. Some kids lived to play, I played to live. That was all I knew to do. This, of course, thrilled my parents to no end (did I ever tell you one of my favorite literary weapons is sarcasm….). They did all they could to redirect my energy in any way they could to make sure they still had a place to live, because I played like the Tasmanian Devil. The day I didn’t break something or write on a wall was a great day…and they were few and far between.

“Read this to me.” My dad would say. He would pick up a newspaper or a magazine and select a ‘child-friendly’ article and have me read it out loud to him. If there was a Christmas/Easter/Mother’s Day/anything program in church, my mother made sure the speech I had memorized was the longest one she could find. People marveled at my ability to recite these long speeches and my seemingly endless knowledge about politics (my dad read Time Magazine and The Economist, so I had reliable sources). Pretty soon I was that half-American, half-Nigerian girl who could read so fast and so clearly they wanted me to read at every program, no matter what it was….not only was this getting overwhelming, it was NOT FUN! Ok, the attention was, but suddenly I felt pressured to always know the right way to pronounce a word, or to know the details of presidential campaigns in America when I still lived in Nigeria. I was really pressuring myself, because I felt like I had to live up to some standard that I think I had created in my own mind.

I needed to play. Now I really needed to grow up so that I could….play?

Now, I don’t want to sound ungrateful about my parents grooming me to be a genius….I really am a prolific reader, and I have never lost my interest in world events. I was also raised with Star Wars in my life (episodes IV, V, and VI, thank God), and for that I am eternally grateful. But I started counting down the days till the time I could call the shots, and do WHATEVER I wanted WHENEVER I wanted. I thought that this would happen when I got to high school….nope. But college….yup.

In college I got up when I wanted to. Went to bed when I wanted to. Partied if I felt like it. Did whatever I wanted with whoever I wanted. I was in full control of this cruise, baby…….and nearly flunked out of college.

Ok….reality check. All those years I focused on trying to play as much as I could……you mean growing up means no playing? When I finally sobered up enough to save my own life and successfully graduate (finally!) I came to a not-so-exciting conclusion. Apparently you can’t play all the time as an adult. My childhood was dying a slow and painful death. This was going to ruin everything! I had to find some way to survive in this new and alien ‘adult world’ I had found myself in.

Bills. Getting a job. Getting married. Having kids. Moving to America. So much going on, moving to our first home….being an adult. The only way I would survive would be if I could redefine what I knew as ‘play’. As long as I could play, I would be fine. But recreating what the concept of ‘play’ meant to me was going to be the challenge.

My husband is a nut and I love him madly: Play.

My kids are wild (talk about coming full circle): Play.

We can pay our bills, we have a roof over our heads, and I can watch Star Wars anytime I want on Netflix (episodes IV, V, and VI anyway): Play.

I think the biggest thing that I had wrong about growing up was the definition of fun. Fun and responsibility can go hand in hand, it’s just the balance that is the challenge. And that is the most fun of all.

 

Aside
0

It actually took me four days to finish this. Well, here it goes.

 

Five years ago this past Wednesday, Michael Jackson left us. For me, it was my JFK moment (you know you will always remember where were you when it happened). That comparison may sound strange to some, or almost offensive, but for me, it is a reality. To say I loved and admired Michael Jackson would be an understatement. I know how people feel about his life, the weirdness, and all the accusations, but my feelings stem from the artist that he was.

I have been singing for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical home; my mom played organ and piano, and she sang. My dad was a guitarist in a band when he was younger. We always had music in our home, and it made me rather eclectic in my taste. I love so many different types of music- r&b, gospel, jazz, country, classical, you name it. We had it all in our home, and my parents’ music collection transitioned over the years, through the vinyl, the cassettes, all the way through to CDs. The medium may have changed but the variety only grew. I was the only kid who knew all Luther Vandross songs and loved Tchaikovsky with a passion. When I discovered Michael Jackson I immediately knew I was in the presence of something that had never been done before. Suddenly this guy had summed up in his music the bravery it takes to stand out, and I was enthralled forever.

So it began. In my eyes, Michael was the standard that justified my own feelings of being different, and being that kid who seemed to be an anomaly that no-one understood. I accepted all of his eccentricity as one of the things that you knew had to come along with being such a genius.  I was not a fan- I was a follower. I made it my business to know everything I could about him, his family, his music.

When I became a Christian, I began to put this affection I had in perspective. Like everyone else, I knew most of the weird happenings in Michael’s life were spiraling out of control. I knew that if he could feel the peace I felt when I prayed, he would know true happiness. So I prayed for him. I prayed that he would come to know true peace. I prayed God would take away the people around him that were not helping him. I prayed the allegations against him were not true (ok, maybe that prayer was really for me to be able to handle what I was hearing…).

Then, one day I was at work and I got a call from my mom. At the same time, my store manager was calling me on the other line. They both knew how I felt about Michael, and were both calling to give me the news that Michael Jackson had passed away in California.

Shock. Confusion. Disbelief. Suddenly I was flooded with all kinds of emotions (ok, I know most of you at this point are probably like, seriously Nimi….he didn’t even know you existed!). I was in denial for a few days, but I eventually come to several realizations.

No matter how famous a person is, or how amazing they may look on TV, they are only human. We sometimes look upon them in awe and admiration, wishing to be like them or to have what they have. The allure of  walking the red carpet, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, and signing autographs for people who adore them…this overshadows the reality of the hours doing annoying interviews and meeting with so many different people to pick the dress to wear on the red carpet, sitting next to people you probably don’t even like, and never being able to eat out in peace  without someone asking you to sign a napkin…

Having awesome stuff and lots of money DOES NOT give you happiness. I mean, Michael Jackson lived in an amusement park! One of his best friends was a Beatle! He married Elvis’s daughter… ok, that one may have been a bit strange…

Being a celebrity is not all it’s cracked up to be. And to be bluntly honest, it would be difficult to survive the pressures of living your life in public everyday without Jesus. Just saying. Even Christian celebrities do not have it easy…..just saying.

Michael Jackson’s death saddens me because there was so much God had planned out for him, and he never got a glimpse of it. The joy and peace of mind he died looking for was in a Power higher than the power of celebrity; the love he constantly searched for was in the One whose love is not based on how many Grammys you win or how many times your albums go platinum. In spite of all his weirdness and eccentricities, Michael Jackson was unconditionally loved by God. I wish he had known that.

Ok. I’m out.