By Morak Babajide-Alabi

Another year has dawned in this human endeavour.  My hopes, dreams, and aspirations remain as clear as ever. The blockades, obstacles, and barriers are many. But the true leader in me must not succumb to any. In this journey, I’ve come a long way. But the way before me is still very long. Happy birthday to me – Author Unknown

April 7 is a special day for me. It is my birthday. It is a day I set aside to reflect on happenings, not in the world, but about and around me. It is a day that I cast a glance back to see how far I had come in the journey of my life. It is also a day that I make mental notes of the challenges and successes ahead of me.

It is a day I have in recent times looked forward to with excitement. I agree that as you grow in age the things that matter not to you in the past suddenly become priorities. No one has been able to explain this. It is a lesson of life that no one teaches but as human beings we grasp naturally. As we pile up the years, we start viewing life from a totally different perspective.

Many things have changed in my life since I got married and started my family. Of recent, I have begun doing a few things my father used to do, that as a teenager, I thought were embarrassing. I have recently started listening to the music of the likes of Don Williams and Jim Reeves. I now find this genre of music very meaningful and comforting, rather than annoying as they were when my dad played them repeatedly some thirty, forty years ago.  I have realised that there is no magic that will reverse age or stop getting old.

This year’s birthday falls on a Sunday and very special for me. Sundays are my best days. It has also offered me the opportunity to do a public reflection. This is the first time in four years my birthday is on a Sunday since I started writing for this column. The last time was in 2013. So today let me indulge in some self-congratulatory while I invite you to join in wishing me well.

I decided that this weekend I will put aside the worries of all topical issues in the world. And come to think about it, there are many troubling issues now. So today, BREXIT, the resignation of the ailing Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the developing Libya problem, Joe Biden’s inappropriate touching stories and many more will take the back seat.

Come to think of it, some of these stories have been making rounds for years and with no sign of an end. BREXIT is going on in circles like a horse in a circus, the Algerian story is a shameful one that should not have developed to this level at all, and we all know why Biden is in hot water. With deep analyses, we can deduce that some of these stories are senseless. But nowadays common sense is not an assurance of knowledge. So why should we let them rule our thoughts?

Today is a time of personal reflection. It is time to look back and count the blessings. The hymn – “When Upon Life’s Billows You Are Tempest Tossed” – is one of my favourites. I love singing it as loudly as I can. I love the chorus:  “Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done”

The hymn gets to me every time I hear or sing it. It is a reminder that even when we think we are despised, or we are tossed up and down by the challenges of the world, we should reflect and count the “gifts” we have. It is understandable that at some points in our lives we tend to look only at the low points and forget that even in the darkest periods, there were flashes of lights that allowed us to pull through.

With the distractions and craziness of the world, we tend to count and name the bad “stories” one by one. In the process, we get carried away by the doom and gloom and indirectly lose our souls to the dark matters and sad situations.  There are many depressing stories that we think we have opinions on. Some affect us directly, while the majority of them happen far away from us, but we still get depressed by their thoughts.

I have come to respect the fact that of all these happenings, there is none that undue worries or thoughts can change. Therefore the reality of life is to know when to pause, restock and design strategies for things that matter most to us. No matter how much we flog issues such as BREXIT, the Middle East or the political violence in Nigeria, the solution lies with the players and not the analysts.

Birthdays are special days when we celebrate the start of another year and rejoice that we are still alive. They are opportunities for us to express gratitude for life.  As there are no laid out patterns, individuals have different ways of celebrating their birthdays. Some roll out the carpets, bring out the best wines and paint the cities red. A few barely pay attention to the day or mark it as quietly as they can.

The social media platforms have made it easy for us. They remind us and our “friends” when our birthdays come up. So every year, there is always no dearth of messages from “friends” and “followers” some of whom you only interact with once a year. The waves of messages give you the false sense of love, but in reality, the hearts of some of these people are far away from you. Take Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat of the equation, we would only remember a couple of these “friends” on their birthdays. It is the age of social media “friendship”.

For me, until recently, birthday celebrations were no big deals. Just like every other normal kid, I did have a few celebrations in my growing up years. They were times to eat, drink and be merry with family members and friends. The framed photos of the cake cutting sessions occupy prominent positions in the family collections on the walls of the living room.

As a young adult, birthday celebrations were not part of my agenda. It was a different world for me, as I watched and sometimes helped some of my friends organise their birthday parties. But for me, it’s always been days of reflection. I perpetually came across as strange to some of the friends as they wondered why I got excited about their birthday celebrations while I set mine to mute.

I am not a loner or a sad individual but I always enjoyed the solitude of my birthdays. It was always an opportunity to reflect on my being, look back at the various mistakes committed during the year and think ahead on how to avoid repeats. To me, birthday celebrations had always been time to crawl back into the shell and peep at the world from a protected point of view.

Happy Birthday to Myself.

As written for the column Diaspora Matters, Sunday Vanguard of April 7, 2019.