By Omoye Uzamere
Have you ever picked up an old picture of you and said, “Wow! I was fine oh”, or gone through any piece of work from a long time ago and exclaimed, “I was really good!” The real question is, why is this statement in past tense? Like all that’s left of that fire is cold, wet coal…
Some time ago, I sent my friend a throwback picture of us from University and she said, “I was so fine!… and I thought I was fat. Why didn’t you tell me I was hot?” I stuttered for a few seconds, not knowing what to say. After grasping for words of encouragement, I replied, “Well, you are hot right now… quite hot in fact. Don’t look back in 10 years and wonder why I never told you”.
Two years after that conversation, I found myself looking at old pictures and wondering how I never knew that I (too) was hot.
Watching a video of my performances in a stage play and a short film back in 2009, I was very impressed with my performances. I gave performances eight years ago that would be relevant even today.
Watching them back then, I remember squinting with disapproval. I even disagreed with Joke Silva when she commended us. “Really?” I said, “I think it can be much better.” She turned, giving me a “what do you know?” Indeed, I didn’t know.
I have always been my own biggest critic and being so hard on myself, I didn’t allow me celebrate my victories. A simple nod of acknowledgement and I moved along swiftly, my favourite phrase being, “Then what”? When people introduced me with adjectives like, “talented” and “wonderful” I would deflect it because I was on the quest for excellence and didn’t want to think I was that good (enough). No traveller wants to build a home at the rest stop. So, somewhere in my not knowing how amazing I was, I stopped being so amazing. Or so I thought…
Recently, an old friend reminded me about an opportunity I resisted back in college. I don’t even remember the debate, but I admitted that looking back now, I could have pursued that path easily. The conversation led to a train of thoughts and that’s when I finally put a hold on what I have been trying to articulate for a long time…
I have been living my life in retrospect.
I never had a sense of what I was worth. When someone complimented my work, the reply was “really?” not “thank you”. If I believed them, the sound of gratitude in my voice would surely scare them away, bewildered. Whenever I was complimented for my looks, I said, “Oh! Thank you” like it was a discovery – you know the accident that turned out great? Yes.
“So you are beautiful, then what?” “You’re doing primetime radio, so what?” “So what, you’ve produced and performed internationally?” “Does that mean you’ve arrived?” And someone who wants it ‘badder’ than you finds a way to get it (from you) and you still don’t know what just happened. “So you’ve just nailed a stellar performance, then what?” And you don’t know how to sell yourself or your work, or demand for better compensation because you don’t think you’re a big deal.
While this was meant to keep me grounded and humble, I started ignoring my victories and slowly gave way to waiting until something of great magnitude occurred to feel I was really worthy of the buzz. Until the ‘what’ of my “then what”… I know I’m an exceptional person but I have been operating at 64% volume, afraid to be too loud, too polite to outshine, too sensible to be soul full, too considerate to show conviction, too well raised to be robust. I realize that I shortchanged my self all along.
In retrospect, I am and have been all that and that’s that.
Again the question, then what?
Well, then I have to live in honour of the true value that I bring to people and to my work. I will stay adventurous and spontaneous, take advantage of opportunities even if the challenge makes me feel I’m way in over my head, I will bask in the glory of every achievement, now. Not tomorrow when it’s all in past tense.
Now, I am talented. Now, I am skilled. Now, I am super effective. Now, I am hardworking. I get the job done and I do it very well. I have the spirit of excellence. Now, I am beautiful. Now, I am hot. Now, I am perky and desirable. Now, I am a gift to anyone who gets me – they are the lucky one.
These are not declarations of faith for where I am going. These are testaments and realizations. Verbal assertions of who I am, presently… indications of the magnitude of my impending greatness.
Then that! Live now…
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