I did not know it then but in retrospect, this place is where I spent some of the happiest times of my childhood. Compared to most of the schools around at that time, we seemed to exist in a cocoon of idyllic separation. We enjoyed activities seldom found in other schools, we had a library, visited “sister” schools, put on events at the end of each term and when we graduated we got a proper send off.
Although we started off with about 30 students in year 3, at our exit in year 6 we were 15: 9 boys and 6 girls and I can name them all. Boys: George, Aka, Nkeng, Claude, Fritz, Nsangou, Leo, Billy and Kang. Girls: Yvonne, Yaya, Candy, Sandrine, Doreen and myself. We did have tiffs and disagreements but we were close. In our last year after evening classes, we would walk home together and sometimes even use the long way so that we could spend more time together. I can even recall…my diary can recall us starting a school paper called “Class 6 on Echo”, I have no recollection of what we wrote about but I remember I was president; more nods to my creative writing genius. It may speak to my age that I have been getting very nostalgic about the past of late and maybe idealizing my experiences in this school but I do not think so. I consider myself a grinch of sorts and believe I suffer from a disability to hold on to friends in my adult life, however I am proud to say that I am still in touch with friends I made in PNEU.
While visiting my parents about a week ago, my dad asked if I still wrote; I had to think about it. As a child I was always writing something: poetry, the next great contemporary novel, slogans, anything. I won several awards for my writing but as I got older and especially while in college, my writing tapered off. I still kept journals like I had since I was 9 years old, but the creative wiring slowly faded away until I felt like I had lost my gift. In secondary school, when it came to the choice of which branch of studies to pursue, I chose sciences. I wanted to be a doctor like my dad. I remembered him taking me on rounds to the hospital and while at home, I kept the key to his medicine cabinet while he was away. I was so proud of this duty and even more so because I was allowed to dispense medication to the household. So when my dad disputed my decision to go into the medical profession, I was stunned. His reasoning was that i had a talent for the arts but I could not see it. It wasn’t until I declared Psychology as my major n college that I realised how easily the liberal arts came to me. I half heartedly pursued a couple of writing opportunities but I never put as ,much effort into it as I should have partly because I felt like I had lost my talent. Two days ago as I logged in my blog for the first time in months, I saw a quote by some famous dead guy – writing improves with writing. Therefore, in vein with the initial goal of this blog, to better and enrich my life, I am determined to make an entry every two days. Writing about what?I do not know. Let the words flow and hopefully, my gift shall return.
I have survived a fire twice before. Or maybe I should say, my stuff have survived 2 fires before. In April 2010, the home I lived in sustained a fire. I lost some things I but the majority of what I owned was saved. About 3 months later, the basement where my things were stored while the bottom half of the house was being renovated caught fire. I lost some clothes but once again, the majority was saved. As a result of the fires, I realised that I have a lot of s#*t! However, this was not a light bulb going off moment. I have known for years that I have hoarding tendencies. Several times, while watching Hoarders on A&E or TLC’s Hoarding:Buried Alive, I have had nightmares that I would end up a hoarder, displaced from my home because of all the stuff I refuse to get rid of. I could already see the patterns forming for like the hoarders on the show, I must pick through every piece of paper I own before throwing it away. In 2010, I still try to justify the need for owning 2005 pass tickets for the London underground. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, I can remember making a sign and putting on the walls in an effort to get rid of some stuff. The sign read: what if you lost it all? In spite of that sign, I found it near impossible to get rid of stuff.
Last month I moved out of my townhouse because I had had it with the management at my complex but being the procastinator that I am, I had not yet found a new place and so all my things had to go into storage. As I packed and began loading the truck, I was stuck by the sheer magnitude of all I own. It was sobering, annoying and utterly ridiculous. I own trinkets and knick knacks from as far back as 1993! If there is some little justification to be found for owning the nub of an eraser, I will find it. By the end of the packing, loading and unloading, I promised myself I was going to deal with the problem once and for all if it killed me.
Two weeks ago as I left for a trip, I realised the smoke I had seen the previous night in the sky was the storage unit that contained all my belongings, burning to the ground. Funny enough, I was not as emotional as I would have expected myself to be. These were the things that I have spent over 12 years collecting and holding onto and now they were all gone. My third and what I came to consider my cleansing fire had struck. As I related the story of the fire to my mum, cousins, I found myself almost relieved. Maybe the fire had done what I have been unable to do for years. Maybe this was some sort of weird gift from the heavens. As the days went by, I realised I was not even upset. My only regrets were my pictures but I realised that I will always have my memories. As I move forward now with no worldly possessions, my only hope is that I have learned something from this experience. Hopefully in my new life, I can learn to value things for the quality they bring to my life and not in quantity.