You know what, I’ve been blessed. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I owe a lot of who I am today to what the adults in my life taught me as I grew up. And there were many of them – adults AND lessons.
Of course, at the time, I didn’t always realise the value of the lessons I was being taught. In fact, if I’m honest, I was a difficult child.
I was stubborn, obstinate, insubordinate, and at times, downright ungovernable. It wasn’t because I was generally opposed to any kind of authority, no. My problem was that things had to make sense to me before I did them. So I only followed the instructions that I understood.
As you know, Ghanaian society doesn’t really have the time or patience to sit a child down and explain the rationale behind every instruction, and as a result, I was constantly in trouble with my teachers, my seniors and my parents throughout my teenage secondary school years.
Of course, the more trouble I got into, the more I felt like an unfairly and unjustly penalised victim. I felt misunderstood. Like the whole world was conspiring against me. The only adult I could have a conversation with was my favourite teacher, Ms Linda Forde.
She always took the pains to explain the world to me in a way that my hormone-soaked teenage brain could somehow recognise and understand.
In addition to the time she spent listening to, and advising me on my endless list of “issues”, Miss Forde would occasionally invite me to her home to share meals with her family.
I remember one particularly angst-filled conversation I had with Ms Forde while she prepared lunch one afternoon. She was cooking Ampesi for her family and making a pot of tea for herself, while I moaned on and on about how I hated my parents and my teachers were out to get me, and nobody understood what I was going through, blah blah blah…
I blabbed on for ages while she put three pots of water on the gas cooker. As I chronicled my woes, she placed slices of yam in the first pot, some eggs in the second, and a teabag in the third. Before long, all three pots came to a boil.
When everything was ready, she emptied the yam and eggs into pyrex bowls, and the tea into her favourite white mug.
Just as I was coming round to blaming God and the Universe for my latest batch of miseries, she cut into my rant with her favourite interjection, “Kojo, shut up and listen”.
So I did.
She pointed to the yam, the eggs and the tea, and said, “I just cooked these three things. What happened to the yam when it was cooked?”
“It became soft”, I replied.
“Good”, she nodded. “And the eggs?”
“They became hard”.
“Exactly. Both were put in hot water, but each came out differently. You are not the first person to be a teenager, you’re not the first boy go to secondary school, and you’re certainly not the first kid to think nobody gets him. Many have been put in your situation. It’s like being put in hot water; how you come out is what matters.”
I started to nod. What she said made sense. “So I can either choose to let life harden me or make me soft, right?” I asked.
She laughed. “Or you could choose the third option. What happened when I put the teabag in hot water? It changed the very nature of the water, didn’t it? That’s the real choice you face in life, Kojo. You can either let your circumstances change you, making you either hard or soft, or you can change your circumstances”.
My people, in this life, we’re all in hot water. It’s up to you whether you come out as yam or eggs, or whether you go in like a teabag and cause a change.
My name is Kojo Yankson, and it’s breakfast time. How about some tea?
GOOD MORNING, GHANAFO!