Nonfiction: Empty Barrels Get Filled Too

“I wish you could see what I can see in you and love it all the way I do. – Self-esteem”
-Natasha Dubalia

 

As humans, we have the tendency to impress, prove wrong and in the process prove our worth. We crave to be wanted, admired and accepted. God forbid it goes the other way. A lot of times, we are so eager to please, prove to the world that they are wrong. We are not what they say we are; we are not empty barrels. Forgetting the fact that whatever is empty has the potential to be filled to the brim. The empty barrel makes the loudest noise. How dare it? Imagine pouring a bucket of water into one that has been empty for so long. I think being filled is worth the celebration, so let it shout all it wants.

We are eager to prove that we are loyal friends; ever present shoulders to be leaned on. We want to prove that we are faithful lovers; cutting off sensible friends who keep our heads in check just to prove our devotion to our lovers. Feeding their egos. 

We want to prove to the society that we are all they have trained us to be. Boys and girls who know their roles. The former; masculine, fearlessly suave in blue. Being the heads that sit straight on their necks. Providing for families and in some cases, take in many wives. We are not expected to show emotions, except anger. We are to dominate and take whatever we want, even if the owner says no. The latter; feminine, graceful in pink and knowing our places as women. Not aspiring to be more than we have been ‘created’ to be.

In the church or mosque, we are expected to learn Bible verses or go to classes where we learn the words of the Holy prophet Mohammed (SAW); reciting every word in both and adhering to them. We aren’t allowed to ask questions, but take them as our forefathers whose forefathers’ forefathers who had direct contact with the original owners of these religions, had taken them.

We are to learn things in school, we don’t want to. More like cram; mentally assaulting, abusing ourselves, and rehash a lot of words on paper, only to be given a paper in the end. A paper said to be the sole determiner of whether we would move forward or not. The school most times does not care for the skills we possess, but prepare us for jobs that will keep us stuck in boxes for the rest of our lives. Sadly, most of these courses were picked by our parents who feel it’s the best thing if we follow our passions. The only condition; they must be courses they can brag about in public gatherings. God forbid that we spend four years learning English language or how to draw a human anatomy. God forbid that they pay over a hundred thousand naira, just so we could dance away our time. Oshi! We shall hear questions like ‘Shey you want to be an English teacher ni?’ or “how do you expect me to tell my friends that my child is learning how to dance in the university?”
. . .

Remember that the eagerness is still there? A lot of things and people we want to prove wrong. We need to stay more relevant and we tire ourselves out till we are sent to the knackers like Boxer (from George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Read that book please, if you can). We never feel appreciated enough, even though we lay flat for them to walk over us. We want to prove that we can do a whole lot of things. When we write; we write with the aim of letting people know they are wrong. We want to prove to them that we can blow their minds through the fluency with which we use our words. We churn out words after words, make them available to the public, expecting they cup copies for their friends and foes. And when it doesn’t happen that fast or at all, we ask questions. 

Ask what it is we are doing wrong. A question we have no answer to; a question we can’t ask anyone because we don’t want the people to know that we don’t have confidence in ourselves. We don’t want them to know that we are falling apart while trying to hold this in place. We don’t want them to know that like William Butler Yeats’ that we have seen things fall apart, with nothing to hold the center. We don’t want them to know that we have given away all our pieces to pave way for them. We go to bed and wake up with questions.

Voices in our heads, telling us the world will be a better place without us in it to hold the people back. That maybe God made a mistake, letting us go from heaven to our earthly parents whom we are now failing. Some of us listen to those voices and decide it’s time to rest and blow out our candles. We put out the light thinking it will rid the world of our inadequacies. Our inability to give them what we believed they needed from us. We leave them with questions no one can answer. With pains in their hearts and possibly, regrets. And the rest of us who are brave enough to carry on; crying inside and wearing big superhero smiles outside to convince those who are curious enough to take closer looks; we talk about how we felt the wind blow and your lights go dim and suddenly out. Forever. We talk about how we heard them say your time was up, but you were still standing tall – recently crafted. We walk on boulevards of shattered hopes, carefully placed in the hands of those who didn’t want them in their care. Not knowing who will go next.

. . .

You are yours before another’s; take care of yourself

Treat yourself

Grow and glow

It doesn’t happen immediately; take your time, trust the process.

The growing process takes a time.

The flowers don’t attract anymore the moment they start to grow, except the one who cares for them. When they blossom, everyone wants them – in their vases, presented to their loved ones, to immortalize them in ink or in paint

Don’t be eager to show yourself; wait, learn, unlearn, relearn

Ask questions; don’t keep anything in.

Talk to loved ones or strangers who could help, in case the ones in the first option aren’t available.

Get in touch with old friends, you never can tell who is hanging by a thread.

Express yourself plainly; don’t hide behind fancy words.

Cry out for help

Don’t push people away when you need people to pull you in

Trust the wait and have faith. You are known, valued and loved.


  • Written by Adedoyin Adetutu O, Senior Literary Editor