It was my birthday yesterday and I hated it.
No. Not like something spectacularly bad happened. Just a series of tiny incidents that made me lose interest in the day. I’d been sick with food poisoning the day before. I woke up and somehow twisted my foot as I was getting out of bed. And then I tried to go live on Facebook but my guitar that was properly tuned right before I turned on the feed suddenly distuned itself as soon as I started singing (it’s never happened with this Epiphone SG). And then I forgot the lyrics to most of the songs I tried to sing (again very odd because they’re my favourites)
The bus was late. I spent about 35 minutes waiting for a bus ride that would last only 10 minutes. This is why I’ve been taking Uber to work everyday- it costs slightly more than taking a bus but it gets me there in 5 minutes without all the delays and stops. And then work just didn’t want to end. I already told my boss that I wanted to close early since it’s my birthday and he DID agree but then completely forgot and kept giving me tasks after 5pm. Seeing that all the subtle cues didn’t work I just came out straight and told him i had to leave. It was awkward when he wanted to crack open his liquor cabinet and pop a Moët – then he remembered I don’t drink (at his birthday party last month I nursed a glass of orange juice 😀 ). He looked at me and said “you know, NOW would be a good time to start drinking. But it’s fine, are you going to have a party?“
No sir. I’m a boring old man with no friends in the city.
Then I forgot something In the Uber that took me home. It took the guy 15 minutes to come back and return my stuff and I didn’t understand WHY. He left me less than 5 minutes before I noticed my stuff was gone! Well gradually the time began to speed by. I had plans to walk with my friend Nikki to the Harbourfront last night but we were both so hungry we decided to get some food first. After some hemming and hawing about choosing a place we went to this restaurant called Canyon Creek (because she’d been there before). The waiter, Kevin informed us that there was a fixed-price deal where we could get a three-course meal for $34. Didn’t sound so bad you know? It WAS my birthday so yeah, no problem. Except that the abomination that came to my table after we ordered looked nothing like what they promised. The dipping sauce or whatever it was supposed to be tasted like toothpaste, the “prime rib aged for 40 days” was so stringy I knew I could have done a better job on that. The only thing that didn’t suck was the desert (again looking nothing like what was described on the menu).
It was good to talk to another human that’s not from work or church. I hadn’t really seen Nikki in months and catching up was good. I wondered aloud, “why haven’t we done this before?”
But halfway into dinner I felt a sudden loneliness attack. Why am I here tonight? Why am I not having a party or doing something wild (exciting)? Why am I eating this terrible food and overpaying for it? Nikki will be late home and her mom will be mad, and it’s my birthday! I’m going to go home and who knows the next time I’ll see an actual friend again? This soulless city is just sucking me. The contrast with living in Abuja is so stark I wonder why I ever left. Even if we didn’t spend any money, my friends and I would have gone somewhere, done something. And it’s something that matters to me- that human connection. I saw all the Facebook messages and they were nice. On a regular day I would be all soft and mushy but yesterday it all made me sad. People I haven’t seen in years (or ever) had a story or two of when we did things together and that was touching.
But yeah you see I figure living in Toronto forced me to restart my life. You know make new friends, go to school, get a job, join a church, play some music- essentially build a new life. It’s like a baby learning to crawl, then walk, then run, then leave the house. And here I am, a societal baby being fed pap. I’ve taken this pap so long I hate it now so I spit it out. But I need it to grow. That distaste should mean it’s time for something new, something stronger.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I set aside childish ways.” – Paul of Tarsus
This is where I am now. Everyday I have to make decisions that are difficult in the short run because of the fun I’m sacrificing. I have to work a full time Job and it’s keeping me away from friends and family,from an extra hour of sleep, from a marathon gaming session, from a concert I’d have really loved to go to. It’s keeping me away from getting on a plane and returning to Abuja, my ultimate comfort zone. But I have plans to take some professional exams soon and this job is a pre-requisite. It’s a sacrifice, it’s an investment, it hurts, it sucks. It keeps me away from my blog; I’m basically at work all day and I hardly have time to even get groceries.
Oh and I’m taking my health seriously. After that time I almost died last year from high blood pressure I had to change my sedentary lifestyle. Now I have a bicycle I ride to work. It’s 8 minutes each way and I feel a lot better; my blood pressure is normal; I feel more alert. My thighs hurt like somebody slapped them with a sledgehammer but that’s just my muscles rebelling against the unusual exercise. I’m alive and to stay that way I may have to do some things that are uncomfortable and painful for a season.
The light at the end has faded away
One terror after another
Somewhere in the fire
The embers of faith
Will burn through tomorrow
It’s worth the pain
God’s in the rain
It’s not too late to start again
It’s worth the pain
So hold on tonight
Your passionate eyes try to explain
All the blindness you’re feeling
The six feet of lies exposed in His fire
Resurrecting your sunrise
When you’re at your wit’s end
Begging for it
He’ll take you by the hand
when I was going home I ran into Ronnie, this old woman at the Union Go station begging for money. She’s almost 70. I stopped to say hi, squatted beside her and talked with her for bit. She was hungry and would later go to McDonald’s to get some food. I didn’t have any coins on me and I was contemplating what to do.
“where will you be sleeping tonight, Ronnie? i asked
“oh I hope I can get a room”
“it’s almost midnight, where will you go?”
“I’ll go to BackPackers. It’s $28 per night. I hope I get enough to pay”
To think I’d just wasted $34 for a meal that was tasteless and had evaporated from my stomach in a few minutes when another human couldn’t find a place to sleep.
“it’s my birthday tomorrow”
“It’s my birthday today Ronnie”
“oh happy birthday!”
I knew what I had to do. This lady would get a meal and a place to sleep. So I opened my wallet and took out the last $20 bill. Her eyes widened in shock. She quickly asked, so excited, “is that 20 bucks? I have change! I have $13” and she eagerly poured out the coins from her begging-cup. And she gave me change. I didn’t want all of it because I’d planned to give her all- I just needed $3 for the train. But she pressed the coins into my hands and I accepted them. She was so happy and she put away the $20 like it was a million. I could see she was happy and why wouldn’t she be? a place to sleep for the night!
My birthday totally sucked, but helping Ronnie get a better start to her birthday sort of took some of the sting away. And I got to really really smile after all.
Happy Birthday, Ronnie.