I believe one of the hardest things to do is to talk or write about oneself, especially if one is not self-critical. Self-examination often requires one to look behind the curtain of strengths,successes, and certainties into a room filled with insecurities, failures, and uncertainties. So, it is with great pain that I write this piece.
Three years ago, my parents decided it would be best for me to move to Canada to complete my education. Like most Nigerian middle-class families, we lived in the city, we had food, a car, and faith, in the power of a good education.
My name, Obinna means “heart of the father” in Igbo. My father often told me stories about his childhood in the village. His favorite stories often had to do with the adventures he had on his way to or back from school. At the time, there was only one British missionary school in our town. My father had to walk at least 5 miles to get to school.
Whenever he told the story he would ask me or my siblings, “una fit do am?” This question was not meant to be answered. In fact, it was not a question. It was the sound of my dad blowing his horn. I later understood that hard work never feels hard in retrospect. So, if you accomplish something extraordinary, it is acceptable to ask others, “una fit do am?” which translates to “can you do it?”.
Before leaving for UPEI, my parents, especially my mother urged me to always remember my traditional values as an Igbo man. In Igbo tradition, it is the duty of the first male child to take care of his father’s affairs in the event of his death. The proverb, you are not your own man until your father dies, is emblazoned in the mind of every Igbo male child. Igbos also take great pride in hard work. If a man is very hardworking, he is made a chief. Chiefs are often the most outstanding people in their community and they are responsible for making important decisions that affect their communities.
I arrived PEI with great aspirations. The most pressing of them was to join the Panther basketball team. Unfortunately, I had missed the try-out dates, but the coach gave me an opportunity to workout with the team. You would expect me to blow him away with my crossovers, behind-the-back passes, and Lebron-like athleticism, but, that was not the case. On the second day of practice, Coach politely told me not to come back.
Eventually, I recovered from the heartbreak of not making the team. I decided to focus on school and politics. My political career on campus got off to a rough start. In the fall of 2015, I ran for a council position and lost. I was devastated. But, I still kept my ambition alive. So, in the spring of 2016, I contested again. This time I ran for an executive position. But, I lost once again. Ironically, these losses stirred up a desire to learn more about public service and the qualities of an ideal public servant.
Currently, I am a 5th year Honors student in the faculty of science. My research focuses on the effects of individual probiotics on the absorptive efficacy of antioxidants in blueberries and cranberries in the body. In other words, how can probiotics (helpful bacteria) assist the absorption of blueberry and cranberry antioxidants (helpful substances) in the body? Also, I do policy work for the Student Union, write for the Cadre, and volunteer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
As one of the on-campus managing editor this year, I look forward to receiving articles, stories,op-eds, anything written on paper. The need for greater university engagement, especially among international students cannot be overstated. Writing for the Cadre is one of many ways to be involved on campus. If you have any piece you would like to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also add me on Facebook, Esomchukwu Obinna and/or send me an email at email@example.com.
Well , that was not so painful after all!