When I was young, all I wanted to do was grow up. As a kid, I couldn’t do anything I liked. I couldn’t watch TV beyond the 9pm news bulletin, I couldn’t eat ice cream for breakfast, I couldn’t wear my Sunday best to school, and on top of it all, I had to do my homework.

It was frustrating. And every time I protested, my parents would tell me not to worry, and that once I grew up, I could do whatever I want.

That became my lifeline. I clung to that promise for dear life, just waiting for the day when I’d be a grown-up and could stay up all night, eating ice cream in my Sunday best, without a page of homework in sight.

So now, I’m a grown-up. I don’t remember the last time I watched TV at all, let alone the 9pm bulletin; I’m diabetic and so am not allowed ice cream; I DEFINITELY can’t wear my Sunday best to work; and I stay up until 1am every day, doing my homework. 

I grew up alright, but I still can’t do whatever I want.

Here’s another thing I dreamt of when I was a kid. I was seventeen years old, on holiday in Tema. I was washing my Auntie’s car one morning when my elbow hit the radio power button by accident, and the interior was suddenly filled with the smooth voice of Tommy Annan-Forson hosting something called the Super Morning Show. 

He was funny, he was clever, he was full of emotion, and he seemed to know everything in the world! From where traffic was worst in Accra to who was speaking at the Auditorium. From the cost of a movie ticket to the various flavours of Poki… he knew everything! Not only did he have conversations with famous people, he also finished work at 9am!

Immediately, that seemed to me, the coolest job in the world, and I wanted it. Badly.

So now, I have it, and I realise that I really do not know everything in this world – in fact, I know nothing, so I must keep asking questions. I must keep reading. I must keep researching. I have conversations alright, but not so much with famous people as with smart people. And you know you can’t come empty-headed into a smart conversation, so I spend more hours reading now than I did when I was a full-time student.

As for finishing work at 9am… well, my last meeting yesterday ended at 8:55 PM.

There’s only one simple point to all this: when we dream, we often imagine the pretty big picture and leave out the gritty details. We know what we aspire to be, but we don’t always know what it takes to live our aspirations.

Many young people are in medical school right now, who don’t yet realise that their fancy job as a prestigious doctor will one day involve telling a little girl that she is about to die of leukaemia. Many future lawyers don’t realise that they will have to keep learning every single day for the rest of their lives. Our tertiary institutions are filled with budding politicians and future leaders who have not yet clocked that they are signing up to be hated, insulted, scorned and reviled by people they have never met.

Many of us were relieved to hear the numerous “goodies” (if we can call them that) the President announced last year for the nation to help ease the pain of COVID 19. Free water, free light, no Dumsor, free transport, soft loans, no tax and time and a half for frontline medical workers.

It was like Christmas in April. We all hailed the Chief for his benevolence. But the dirty details of how it will all be paid for did not quite preoccupy the national mind.

As always, we saw and embraced the result, but cared very little about the process. Now we are facing unprecedented tax hikes to pay for the dirty details of the shiny dream the President sold us last year.

The shell of your dream may be pretty, my friends, but there is a gooey mess within that you cannot afford to take for granted. Keep your expectations real, and steel yourself for the unprecedented hard work that must go into living your dream. The more prepared you are, the more successful you will be.

My nme is Kojo Yankson, and I dream with my eyes open.