Our paths crossed 35 years ago at a job in the city of Providence, Rhode Island on the East Coast of the United States. I was just about two months into my sojourn in God’s own country. Francis emigrated from the West African country of Ghana two years earlier. He knew the tough terrain of a strange land 5,000 miles away from home more than I did. I worked alongside him in the sweltering battery-manufacturing company outside of Providence, pushing to make a living to pay my bills and fight for my lonely life. One summer eventide as we slaved off, I noticed that Francis took frequent glimpses of me as I struggled with the machine spewing out battery tubing. He must have perceived misery tattooed all over my face, and probably also in my gaits. I didn’t have to tell him I was already sick and tired of America that many, till today, die to visit or call home. Francis then sparked off a jabber:
The six feet three inches heavily built Ghanaian young man laughed grindingly. He knew I was far from ‘fine’ the way he guffawed. I was not fine at all. The factory job was like labouring in a hellhole. Two months prior, I had a comfortable seat as a Deputy Sports Editor in an air-conditioned office at Punch Nigeria Limited in Ikeja, Lagos. I also doubled as the Secretary of the Lagos State Sports Writers Association.
My life was far easier than the one I chose for myself in the land of the white man. Hard and physically wearying job was not my thing. News reporting was my bailiwick. My dependence was on my brain wired to think how I would weave words to be published as news for Nigerians to read the next day. Francis later pulled me to the side and then spoke some words that I’ll never forget. These words reinforced what my mother always spoke into my ears as a roisterous young man:
When I run into young people who express how fervently and feverishly they must dash to acquire their million-dollar homes in the poshest places in America and around the world with a speed that doesn’t interface with life’s reality, I laugh. You may have run into a few of them who dream about amassing millions and billions of dollars in raw cash as if it is a piece of cake commanded into existence only with a snap of the fingers and mere wishes.
I have eavesdropped on the conversation of my own children with their peers as they banter in arguments as to who among them will buy the biggest house for daddy, and the most expensive car for mummy, and vacation spots for relatives when their big cash comes in different heights of stacks. Well, when I was a young man, I dreamt similar dreams that were a notch more audacious and resolute. But time and experience got me to quit waiting for the billions in different currencies of value. I have left the rat race to young daydreamers, and to anyone reading this who is numbered among billions of beings dreaming of becoming deep-pockets and fat cats. Dreams do come through, without a doubt. But I adjure you by God as you read this; take life one day at a time. And don’t be in a hurry to hit the milk and honey of life.
Everywhere you go around the world, you can hear the noise as human beings, young and old, clamour for success. My son, if you are reading this; success is a journey, not a destination. And any journey is a process that precedes success. Whether we are rich or poor, we all became who we are through reverence for process, or disrespect and contempt for the same. No man attains the highest peak in his career or endeavour by precluding process. And many young people forget that God designed the whole world through a process. Readers, I adjure you to remember the following line even if everything else in this article hibernates into your amygdala and prefrontal cortex where memories are kept in the brain: Take life one day at a time.
In Atlanta Georgia a few years ago, I had the rare privilege to speak to hundreds of Nigerian young professionals who do business in the US, and younger ones who were students at different American universities striving to become professionals. Anywhere around the world I run into young Nigerians, I am jostled into engaging them in talks. They are a snazzy slice of Nigeria’s crème de la crème; and some of these young minds had just immigrated to the US. I knew they needed a constant reminder and candid explanation from my humble experience how the American system works. Like their contemporaries anywhere in the world, I knew they were in a hurry to break through, make big money; buy mansions, and relocate their poor parents. I knew many of them were under pressure to have their names sung in songs and published on the pages of newspapers as new Nigerian millionaires living abroad. They didn’t have to tell me what they were thinking; once upon a time, I was in their shoes. The snapshot of my speech to them urged them to respect the process and take life one day at a time.
Nobody runs ahead of God and runs well. Quickness of feet does not necessarily win a race; and the muscular man may be emasculated easily in a brawl with a bony being. Whoever is in a hurry to get the honey will get bitten by wild hornets and stung by beastly bees. Hurry takes people to places undesired and undesirable. You want to hit a gold mine? Hurry will not take you there, my son. You want to keep your dream alive? Hurry never brings a dream to fruition; it accelerates it to ruination. When you pay your dues in process, you will not be unable to pay your bills when they come due. One wise man once wrote this in his kitchen before he died.“Hurry involves excessive haste or a state of urgency. It is associated with words such as hurl, hurdle, hurly-burly, and hurricane. The simple essence of hurry is too much to do! The good of being delivered from hurry is not simply pleasure but the ability to do calmly and effectively. We should take it as our aim to live our lives entirely without hurry. We should form a clear intention to live without hurry. One day at a time.”