Daydreaming at my desk when I was twelve years old, I considered the originality of my life. A few days earlier, I read somewhere that the population of the world just crept past six billion. A few seconds into thought, I realized that not much in my past distinguished me from the millions of Africans in the world, the thousands of Nigerians living in America, or the hundreds living in Austin.
A few more seconds into thought, I wondered if I could achieve originality through another medium. So I decided to think my way to originality. I sat and thought, and thought, and thought some more. I believed that if I spent enough time thinking, exploring the unseen, obscure corridors of my mind, I would stumble upon a thought so remote that it had to be an original idea—my original idea.
Thanks to my 12-year old, four minute attention span, my plan failed.
But, as abstract as it was, the mental exercise embodies one of my beliefs.
In a world that has seen countless faces, supported numerous lives, and witnessed just as many deaths, I believe in individuality. I realize that the belief is ultimately futile. But I also believe that that does not matter.
Family, friends, and memory—the most prominent items on a short inventory of my life.
I believe my family not only molded my character, but is a part of my character. My parents had four boys and a girl. And since I was a child, I have always thought of my siblings in pairs. The oldest boy and youngest boy, me,—both posses faculties for writing and biology, along with the liberal arts major mother. The middle two brothers, along with the father, are aligned on the left side of the brain. These tandems and many more like them, will forever connect me to my family.
I believe my friends are as much a reflection of me as I am of them. I believe that the fact that we laugh at the same jokes means more than that the joke is hilarious. I believe that because my friends are the people that will remember me when I am gone, my life is unique—is worth remembering.
I believe my memory is a never ending movie reel in my head. This belief, I hold on to the most.
I remember growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, a ghetto within a ghetto, surrounded by ghettos, connected to more ghettos, built on the ruin of old ghettos, deteriorating to give way to even more ghettoes. I also remember softer days in my old life. I remember walking to local markets with my brothers, buying dried fish and bean cakes, and eating the once-a-month meal by kerosene lamplight.
And after remembering, after enjoying my friends’ company, after talking with my family, I realize that time will corrode all memory of my life, but that, as hidden as it was, my life will have been original.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.