About a year ago, poetry took me to Maiduguri, Bornu State. So when I called my dad and I said to him, “Daddy, I’d be traveling to Maiduguri for a spoken word show”, I could literally hear his heart beat faster, because you see, it is one thing to know that a fire is burning, and it’s another thing to step into it. Now, tell someone, especially someone you love, that you’re stepping into it because of your passion and they will call you crazy.
But you see, when I boarded that flight together with the rest of the MadeInNigeria Team, I wasn’t thinking of the bomb blasts and throat-slicing jihadists, no. I was thinking of the message we carried with us – the type no bomb could explode.
So when we landed at the airport in Maiduguri, and I saw what I believe to be a fighter jet as well as dozens of military men armed to their teeth with the kind of guns I only see in Hollywood movies, I said to myself, ‘this is indeed a war zone.’ It didn’t matter to me that General Gowon had been on the same flight with us, and the heavy security was there for him. All I could see at that moment was danger. The beautiful feeling I had that we were about sharing a powerful message to a town ravaged by terrorists was slowly giving way to a different thought – fear.
Let me quickly tell you something about feelings and thoughts. You know this: control your thoughts, and you can control your life. But then, with your thoughts ranging between 50,000 to 70,000 per day, how do you handle every single one? This, right here, is the beautiful thing about feelings: they can either be positive or negative. Since your feelings can determine your mood, a negative feeling is as a result of a negative thought. Change that feeling to a positive one and you can effectively subdue any negative thought.
And that was exactly what I did. Boy, did I have an amazing time in Maiduguri! An awesome impromptu picnic with lots of laughter and catfish. An electrifying show that had the audience begging for more. And yes, the camel meat Suya! (I didn’t eat that, some of the guys did.)
This story is a reflection of many other stories we all experience in our lives, though in different ways. Like when a young boy I know who many years ago wanted to become a computer scientist at the time when computer wizards like Zuckerberg was on the rise, but his father said to him, “You are too intelligent. Do you want to waste your life in photocopying centers ‘pressing’ computers? You must be a doctor.” Why? Because of fear. We fear what we don’t know, what we don’t understand, sometimes, all because of the single story we’ve been fed. Not that dangers aren’t real, they are. But what is even more real is your courage to live the dream your heart yearns for despite the fear.
Because this fear is what stops us from greatness. So you can watch your favourite actress all the time, and no matter how much you feel you can do better, you will never, unless you take that first step and go to that audition, or register that business, or write that first book draft. It doesn’t matter the statistics. They may tell you that 90% of businesses fail in their first five years. How about the ones that succeeded?
Block out your fear, and watch yourself soar.
So pack your bags and take the trip. The world is more beautiful than what the media projects. One thing I’ve discovered that is a major factor preventing people from exploring the beauty of our world is fear – fear of lack, uncertainty and of course, fear of the unknown. When it comes to travel and fear, there’s something that Albert Camus, the French philosopher and Nobel Prize winner once said. He said, “What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country … we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits … this is why we should not say that we travel for pleasure. There is no pleasure in traveling, and I look upon it more as an occasion for spiritual testing … Pleasure takes us away from ourselves in the same way as distraction, in Pascal’s use of the word, takes us away from God. Travel, which is like a greater and a graver science, brings us back to ourselves.”
Yes, I stepped into fire, but like the biblical Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I came out unscathed. Because, sometimes, all you need is to have some faith.