My brother, my sister, Time will show you pepper – Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

My brother, my sister, Time will show you pepper – Abiodun Kuforiji Nkwocha

I stared at the five words my friend had written:

“And steadily my idealism dies…”

There it was written, the words that captured exactly what I felt about my life. It fit me like a well-tailored jacket. I had struggled previously to correctly explain that thing which, with the passage of time, had eroded the strong sturdy me. Lydia said it and I recognized it.

When we were wee, Lydia and I knew exactly who we were and what we wanted. We made quite a pair. We were fighters with a holy cause that no one could wrestle away from us. We talked incessantly about where we were going and what we would do when we got there. We had big dreams and tall plans and it was all supposed to fall into place. We had the jigsaw puzzle figured out, the big picture was there. All we had to do was pick up the pieces and carefully fit them together. What a hoot! It turned out that the pieces were not lying down idly on the floor waiting to be picked and joined together. The pieces were strewn all over the place; some were even outside, in the bush, on the roof, buried in the sand, hidden in a tree… so we had to look for them.


“And steadily my idealism dies…”

We thought we would pick up the pieces but we had to go searching for them. And the more we found, the more confused we became. The picture before us did not look like the big picture. We were putting together the pieces but another picture was emerging. So it became a journey of discovery. Sometimes we were motivated and eager, we would run around digging, climbing, searching and excitedly fit the new piece we had just found. Other times, we were tired and weary and wary of new experiences. It did not take us long to find out that all we could do was to search for each piece, the big picture was not up to us.

Some times we would stumble on a piece of another person’s picture and we would waste time trying to force it to fit into ours. It was futility on crack. We would then have to throw away that piece and search for only ours. The pieces were little in size. Some had a lot of pain, some had failure, some had loss, death and uncertainty… it was not bad all the time. Sometimes they were good, really good. But those pieces were rare. Because they were rare, we barely had the energy to celebrate them. We hid them to make the impact last longer. We also hid the ones that brought pain, the ones that said we were not where we hoped to be. We hid pieces that mocked us, mocked the children we were. We hid them behind our smiles and reviewed our expectations.

“And steadily my idealism dies…”

The big picture was slowly coming together, only it was not our big picture, it was not the one we saw when we first started searching for the pieces. The big picture was not one picture. It just kept on evolving. And when we clapped our hands at what we saw, it probably chuckled because when we woke up the next morning, it had changed. We are the brunt of someone’s joke.

For some of us marriage came, and for others it did not come.

For some of us the marriages did not last, for someone of us they did.

For all of us, our partners were not whom we expected and some of us adapted and some of us didn’t and some of us died.

For some of us, our careers walked in a defined path, for some of us our paths left us at different careers. Some of us had no careers, we just were.

Some of us had children when we shouldn’t have, some of us did not have children when we should have. Some of us wanted children but never had.

The little pieces were like that. It was as though our collective pieces were mixed up in a jumbo bag and a blind folded person was in charge of reaching in to fetch pieces for each of us. It felt that way because sometimes the pieces did not make any sense. We steadily stopped expecting fairness, we steadily stopped expecting. We took what we saw and found ways to cope with it.

“And steadily my idealism dies…”

So we look at the younger ones burning with passion, we look at their eyes gleaming with the promise of the big picture. We shake our heads but we do not warn them. It is futile. Sometimes it feels like there is something defective in us that makes us feel like we are the exception. Each of us. So it is futile warning those coming. They think they can beat it. They think that they will conquer it. They are the Picassos and Rembrandts and they will paint their own masterpieces. We like to watch them and sometimes we cheer them on. It reminds us of us. It is the only way to live isn’t it? With huge expectations and well-designed plans. It gives the young ones drive and we bring out our lawn chairs and we watch them. We watch them scrambling after the pieces.

They won’t listen when we tell them it won’t fit. “It is our picture, not yours” they scream at us. We shrug. They are right, we do not know the picture. But we do know the hustle, the search and the disappointment. If they listened, we would tell them about the paradigm shift and tell them the whole point was not to get a perfect picture exactly as the mind designed. We would tell them that it was not up to them. We would tell them it was all about the pieces. How to manage each piece, how to discard quickly the ones that do not fit. How to savour the moment when a pattern begins to emerge. We would teach them not to be afraid of the pain or the failure and also not to dwell on them. We would tell them not to beat themselves up when they don’t like what they see. Why beat yourself up over what you had no say? We would teach them to adapt to the changing picture, we would tell them it never just one picture.

“And steadily our idealism dies…”

The winds of time blows softly and blows strongly. It gently erodes our beliefs, our desires and our expectations. Sometimes it is a whirlwind that crashes all that we have ever held true. Sometimes it is as detailed as a palaeontologist gently brushing away dust so as not to destroy his find. We stand powerless before this wind. We cannot stop it, we cannot change it. So we brace ourselves not in the manner of those that have given up. No, if we did that it would blow us away. We stand unflinchingly meeting its gaze. We allow it to polish us and even when we fall, we get up and stand.

I must admit, that this wind called time takes away my idealism. It replaces it with something real and tangible. Our idealism dies and gives way to our humanity. Our humanity is the only thing that is unquestionable and real.



About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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  1. Victoria Daaor

    I can identify with this biodun. I remember our time in jos when we thought we would conquer the world. I remember the day I got married and the excitement on all your faces. This story could very well have been written by me except for the masterful command of words which I lost somewhere while searching for other pieces. I have chosen to make my reality my ideal to save my sanity. Well done biodun, my regards to Lydia.

  2. Damie A

    As Victoria puts it, I have decided to make my reality my ideal. Whatever pieces I find in the course of the search, I make into something worthwhile. Thanks.

  3. ashau

    Awesome! My first time of reading your piece, captivating till th end; this moved me to tears “it was as though our collective pieces were mixed up in a jumbo bag and a blind folded person was in charge of reaching in to fetch pieces for each of us” I relate. Well done


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