My birthdays had always seemed like a foredoom. It’d start with the winding down of December, then the new year would barge in, startling me into a depressing realization of my new age. Adding one would feel like I’d added five. I would somnambulate through January. Every one of my inadequacies would be its own fire, everything I had not achieved would grow convoluted thorns, scorching and jabbing, everything peaking just before the 29th day into the new year.
It is usually an unremarkable day, the 29th of January. It had served only to remind me of, not who I am, but who I have failed to become. A heavy cloud that is a culmination of my perceived mediocrities keeps the sun at bay, like exposure to sunshine is a privilege I’d not merited. I’d find myself retreating more into the only safety I know – the abyss of myself. In these days, I’d fail to see anything of merit in the backlog of lived years, I’d roll everything into a ball and toss it out the window, over the fence. I’d let the days slither away uncontested.
But the mind always finds itself threading the path to comfort. In recent years, it had always been family, a few friends, and books. But since I am predisposed to avoid human companionship during these times, my most trusted solace has been in books. Literature, good literature, has never failed me. It is the one place where I am energized; when, after dropping a book, I could walk the length of countries and climb the height of mountains and still have energy yet untapped.
This time around, it has been a disoriented experience. The gloom had been heightened by the stark reality of my unemployment, made worse by the knowledge that the few jobs I can imagine taking without sinking into paralyzing dissatisfaction are like sprinkles of mist against a sea. There are only few friends who have not condemned me to absolute abandon. An undeserved privilege still, considering the meagreness of my contribution to our association. Then there is a new friend who I’ve known for a short while, and whom I know I should be in touch with more often, considering the unsaid but generally acknowledged terms of our friendship. This new friend may not know how much delight it has been; how much cobweb, however little, our friendship is melting away from what I’d since accepted as my normalcy.
Today, I’ll go to the library and continue reading Marilynne Robinson’s Home. Maybe I can even read Lila before the week drains away. Then maybe I’d walk, listen to the rhythm of things, stride against the wind and let it wash over my face, the dryness scurrying up my nose, settling into my lung; watch as the day yawns into sunset and promise myself to live as much as I can, fill the overlarge stillness with an unforced gratitude, for despite it all, there is always something worthy of unreserved gratitude; let myself “open like the love of a child*”.
* A line from Open, a poem by Gbenga Adesina