I was thinking about my man Chinenye, that I grew up with back during my epic teenage years in Naija. We lived in a quiet community in Owerri, many returnee families from abroad. The community was relatively new, and many of the top state Oga Commissioners lived in this community. Chinenye's dad was a big time commissioner and his family was even bigger. Eight children (back then that one na normal occurrence, people looking at the five in my family like "what kind of laziness...?), Chinenye was the last boy and second to last kid.
Tomtee, as he was known at the secondary school we attended together, was a beast. Fine boy. I mean, the girls had no chance in his presence. Shoot, neither did the bobos. See the word "charisma"? Its etymology comes from "chinenye" and "arisma", go ahead and argue with me. Got him the senior prefect role, the top student post at Federal Government College Port Harcourt. When a guy tells you another guy is fine, that dude is fine. As in fineness. And he was brilliant too, which essentially made him our own 007 at Federal Housing Estate—charming, smart, and fine. It was a fun time coming up with Tomtee.
Earlier this year, Tomtee lost his mom. Just like her son, she was larger than life. Big time business woman, and the pure definition of a matriarch. Whenever I showed up to their house, she would be sitting in front of her big home and command everything in sight. So, of course we showed up in person and in spirit and in alms to support Chinenye as he laid his mom to rest. This has been happening more and more, as me and my age cohorts get older and the parents get to the ends of their fabulous and amazing tours of duty.
Which is why I am still struggling to fathom that my man, my friend, and ace Tomtee passed away just months after burying his mom, this past September. On my high school Whatsapp group, the loss is still unreal. We just celebrated his posthumous 50th bday on Nov 22. Just weeks prior, he was throwing bombs in the group, arguing politics and current affairs with the motley crew of classmates he led back in our secondary school days.
Gone. Just like that.
(shaking my head, and sighing)
The crazy part? Ike, his elder brother who was my sensei and my pseudo elder brother back in our FHE days, also passed a month or so b4 Chinenye.
I have been ruing on time for a bit now. With a clarity and lucidity that comes with introspection. I responded to a "how are you?" from a good friend recently with "just living my life and dying gracefully" and the ensuing back and forth was illuminating. On the surface, it sounds morbid and cavalier. But I said it cheerfully, it is a freeing mindset. What is it they say, "We are given a terminal diagnosis the day we are born"? Which means the clock is ticking, right?
Time no dey.
I actually had been planning to see Chinenye this year in Nigeria, to pay my condolences in person to him and Ike, catch up on time lost. We discussed this on the phone, and we were looking forward to seeing each other after a long gap. See now?
Time no dey.
Folks who know me can guess that I am vicious with my time. I can't stand meetings. Anything more than 30 minutes and I am ready to jump out the window. Useless arguments are exercises in madness that I participate in not at all. I got more miserly with my time the older I got, and the more I realized that my clock's tick is depleting and could end anytime. And I don't agonize about that part at all at all o, that is also a colossal waste of time. I don't care who you are—client or family or friend—I protect my time, this non-renewable resource, with a vengeance. I see folks handing over their time to other people willy-nilly, spending inordinate amounts of invaluable and irreplaceable time on yama-yama, and I wish I could poof all that wahala away.
The inevitability of the clock ending is not only freeing but also clarifying. Jobs, relationships, projects, partnerships, friendships, world events...these have to be time spenders giving you a good return, allowing you to live. Not misery or dark days. Can't be wasting time on BS. See case o? When someone says "I no get time", ah...I hear you abeg.
Let me end with a couple of Seneca quotes, that I have plastered above the workstation, to keep me honest when I get that Zoom invite from hell:
It's not at all that we have too short a time to live, but that we squander a great deal of it. Life is long enough, and it is given in sufficient measure to do many great things if we spend it well. But when it is poured down the drain of luxury and neglect, when it is employed to no good end, we're finally driven to see that it has passed by before we even recognized it passing. And so it is—we don't receive a short life, we make it so.
No person hands out their money to passersby, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We're tight fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers."
Have a great weekend. Or even better, have a great time this weekend.
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