Today, January 9, 2015, is the start of my new year. I am older today. So, happy birthday me!
I am 27 years old today! Wow! I cannot imagine I am putting that out for the world to see but then again, I guess the time is ripe. I am going to say this again; I AM 27 YEARS OLD TODAY!
I am not big on celebrations; birthdays, New Year etc. For me, my birthday is a time to reflect on how I have done so far.
Many of you who know me know I wrote out my life plan when I was 9. As I grew older, some of those plans changed. I went from wanting to be a Doctor to realizing that I would suck at being one. Oh! I would have had compassion and all but I would have been mediocre at my job and I DON’T do mediocre! Eventually, I would have hated what I did and felt trapped in life. Opening myself to that train of thought was one of the most insightful times of my life.
You see, rather than focus and build on my strengths, I kept pushing at sciences. Until I got to the university and was totally unserious about school, I was exceptionally good at science. I loved to research and find out why things happened. Even today, I still read researches, follow what is happening in the world of science and technology and my desire to find a cure for cancer is ever fresh. But as much as I love the sciences, it is not my core strength. It wasn’t until I was in 400 level studying Biochemistry that I came to the realization that I would not pursue science further as a career path.
I am naturally better at the arts. As clichéd as it may sound, I can boast of being able to act from the womb! Hey! Don’t hate! I really can! When you give me a script, I can translate it almost to perfection; what with being a perfectionist and all.
I am also good at imagining stories, following the sequence, putting images to words and writing. I have probably written a hundred books in my mind and directed a thousand documentaries, movies, talk shows and stage performances in my head. Problem is, they have mostly been in my head.
I so wanted to excel at science that I was strangling the essence of who I am. It wasn’t until I got to Yola, Adamawa that I started doing what I really loved. I did church theatre, ran my radio shows and eventually got on television. I also started my blog where I write about the issues affecting Africans and people of African descent. I can tell you that there were days when I was poorer than a church rat but happier than a well-loved dog. This was because I was doing what I knew defined me!
My acting took another blow when I had to work with certain people who didn’t want to be professional because it was church. I stopped acting almost totally because I just couldn’t find a place to fit in. Oh! I kept my radio shows going and my blog updated but I knew something was missing. The moment I stopped acting, I stopped being great at it. I used to boast that I could wake up from sleep, take a script and translate it to perfection. I got a rude awakening when I went for an audition for a soap and didn’t make the cut. I fell into depression for, quite literally, months! One thought keep nagging at the far recesses of my mind; if I couldn’t act, what then do I have?
I am sure you would wonder why I became depressed over missing out in an audition. It sounds simple and a bit trivial. In truth, you are right. But that ‘simple’ and ‘trivial’ thing is one of the major ways I am gifted and is an outlet to influence my world.
Why is this important? Let me explain.
Right from when I was a kid, I had this burning desire to tell the stories of dysfunction in families and society. I wanted to bring out the cases of spousal abuse, rape, incest, child abuse and labor, gender discrimination, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, trafficking in persons, forced labor, prostitution, after effects of wars and crisis and other such societal dysfunctions. I was always very vocal about these issues; vocal enough to get some people hot and bothered. I remember when a gang of boys came to beat me for daring to get my friend out of an abusive relationship; and this was in secondary school!
I wanted to act to show some of these problems to people who are ignorant of their existence or to give hope to those who share similar problems. I wanted to direct movies, documentaries and talk shows to shine light on these problems and proffer solutions that are viable and simple. I wanted to write scripts that weren’t jaded, weren’t seen through rose colored glasses or misogynistic; scripts that didn’t attempt to only sexualize women, scripts that didn’t require that we sell sex to sell, scripts that showed an Africa that the rest of the world refused to acknowledge or accept and scripts that showed a broken people rising out of the fire like a phoenix. I also wanted to do documentaries on astounding Africans, the love and respect for family, the pros and cons of tradition and religion as it relates to us, survival stories of dysfunction and the comparative analysis of rural and cosmopolitan Africa.
So far in my life, I have been putting that off because I felt like I had no money, I had no equipment, yada yada yada. Well, I want to use today to admit that fear has been my biggest opposition. I was plagued by fear-fueled questions: Would I do well? Would I be great? Would my stories matter? Do people care?
This same line of thought hunted me when my friend Charles suggested I put my writing on a blog. It took me months to do so but when I did, it was worth it! It has been worth it! So far, I have had over 10 thousand views and they are just going to keep coming. I have had people who have told me they are inspired by my writing, that until they read my pieces, they never understood the depths of dysfunction expressed in each article, that I have given them a voice where they couldn’t speak themselves. It has been uplifting to be able to influence even one person. Recently, I was told that a couple of girls quoted me on a basketball court when some guys mocked them about being unmarried in their late 20s. Little old Ramat! They used my article to put the guys in their place! I can only just exhale!
I believe that we have the power to, using history and dysfunction, rewrite our lives and stories. I believe that telling stories perceived as taboo will allow victims shirk off shame and heal faster. I believe in openly campaigning and living for the change you want to see. I am convinced that giving your best to the purpose for which you were created is the ONLY way to live and I am committed to doing all these….and so much more!
So starting today, starting at my own new year, I am going to be the person GOD has endowed me to be. I am taking a fresh turn in the direction of my life. Acting was the first gift GOD gave to me and I am going to give it back to HIM! I am going to source for roles that fit my purpose and I will translate them to perfection. I will write scripts that reflect our society today and get them out there. I will direct movies, documentaries and talk shows that are not just creative, but detailed, concise, and filled with applicable nuggets. And I will write for Africa! I will continue using my blog to talk about THE issues and give voice to millions of people out there! THAT is the big picture!
But starting where I am right now, my Vlog and Podcast go up today. Each article I write will be translated into audio and video so you can hear and see the nuances in my voice and persona. Trust me, you might not get a grasp of some of my articles until you hear how crazy I sound when I say them.
As I improve in my editing, the Vlog will show interviews, mini movies, documentaries/docuseries and short movies. So I welcome you subscribe to my various platforms and hopefully, let me grow on you.
Here are platforms where I express myself;
Facebook: OCHEKLIYE RAMATU ADA
Blog: SHADES OF BROWN (www.shadesofbrownnigeria.blogspot.com)
Vlog: SHADES OF BROWN (www.youtube.com/c/RamatuAdaOchekliye)
Podcast: SHADES OF BROWN (www.shadesofbrownnigeria.podbean.com)
This is how I celebrate my birthdays. My sister Sadiya said I need to loosen up a little, eat a cake and throw a big hurrah but for now, that is not me. I just want to be better than I was yesterday and impact my world a little better than I have done my entire life.
This is me! Happy birthday RAMATU ADA OCHEKLIYE!