About a year and a half ago, it rained so hard that the front of my school was flooded with water. I gauged it to be about 12 inches above the ground. This wasn’t unusual but this was the first time I actually had to cross it. Now, I saw my school mates hitching rides in cars and paying the bike drivers to carry them across. But why would I enter a stranger’s car or pay anyone money to cross such a short length of water (because it was literally like 11 feet from my school). I mean, I could cross it. What was in it? It was water. Greenish-black, garbage-filled water but still just water all the same. And I was wearing trousers so at least, I would have no direct contact with it. I was set to go. I would cross this water on my own without asking for help or spending a kobo. And I would get to the end unscathed.
So I began. I placed one leg in first, just to test the depth. It wasn’t that high. I put my other leg in and kept walking. Then halfway through, I placed a leg in but it met with no ground. It kept going in. I scrambled for something to hold on to but there was nothing around but water. So I sank. Yes, I sank in what was supposed to be 12 inches of water. My bag felt heavy on my arm. I opened my mouth to scream and gulped in a mouthful of gutter water. And after that, I felt nothing. My life didn’t flash in front of my eyes. I didn’t see a bright light. It was just nothing. Calm. The sound of still water around me.
Then suddenly something disturbed the calm and I was being pulled out of the water. Air rushed into my lungs and my mouth opened of their own volition to gulp in more air. There was noise around me but I didn’t hear anything. My ears were blocked with water. My mouth scratchy and bitter.
Then there was a pop in my ear and the noise bombarded me. All at once, everybody was yelling. Not at me but to me. Was I okay? Did I need help? Why did I attempt it? That was the single most embarrassing moment of my life (but then this was a year ago and knowing me, you’d know that I’ve already topped it). I was dragged into a car which a classmate of mine had hitched and where she proceeded to fuss over me, increasing my humiliation. We were dropped within the school gates, safe from the hell-water.
Even then, after such a humiliating display of my humanity, I still attempted to brush it off as nothing. I didn’t have a hostel within school and it was beyond me to ask a classmate of mine for help with that so my plan was basically to wash my mouth, my face, my hands and hope to God that nobody sat too close to me in class because I reeked. All I needed to do was some damage control. i could handle that on my own. But the girl who picked me wasn’t hearing any of it. She directed me towards the hostel and gave me a number to call when I got there. And she stood there until I started going as if she knew that I would run the moment her back was turned.
So why have I bored you with this nightmare from my past?
Because I want you to understand that I’ve always had a superman complex. There was nothing I couldn’t do. No limit to the number of things I could do at a time. No strain my body couldn’t handle. After that experience, my complex was gone for a while but then it returned in full force. If presented with the same situation, I still wouldn’t ask for help. I would go it on my own though I would watch where I step and avoid the gutters and potholes. And keep my mouth shut just in case (garbage water tastes like… garbage water).
Now, I’m in a place in my life where I’m so busy. I’m in the hardest level in my course. I have so many notes to read. And then there are commitments at church because I happened to join all the groups there. Then there are commitments with my student association. Then there are piano classes and regular classes. And some others I can’t really mention. So the question is, why do I keep accepting new commitments? Of course it never once crossed my mind that I couldn’t do it all, because, well I’m me. I can do everything. It still didn’t occur to me that I had taken too much on my plate until the result for my tests came out. I was shocked to the bone because I had forgotten what a 58 or a fifty-anything looked like. This couldn’t be my score. But then, it was.
So it seemed I had stretched myself so far that the one thing I came to this place to do was suffering. The one thing above all that had always stayed solid was crumbling. I know if something doesn’t change fast, it will turn completely to dust.
So this is an official statement to myself.
YOU ARE NOT SUPERMAN.
You can’t do everything. No one can. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re stressed. There’s no shame in telling someone ‘No, I can’t do this right now. I’ve already got a lot on my plate.’ It’s not the same as admitting defeat. God knows where you got that idea from. There’s time afterwards to do everything you want to do. There’s time afterwards. Finish this first.
And also, for everyone else who is taking on too much responsibility. Know that it doesn’t have to be you doing it. The whole team or task or whatever will not crumble if you aren’t there to take charge. Prioritize. Do the most important things first. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity are seldom ever once in a lifetime. And even if they are, better opportunities will come by later. Don’t make the mistake of letting the most important thing suffer at the expense of many irrelevant things. It’s good to be an all-rounder. That’s my goal too. But the aim is to be round not big. I’d rather be a small full circle than be a huge ball that’s caved in on one side.
Okay, that’s all. Hopefully, when I read this back, it would really sink in and keep me focused on the important things.