My mother always said, ‘There are three things that can happen if people throw stones at you. One, you can take the stone and use it with your catapult to attack others. Two, you can take the stones and be swallowing them until they kill you. And three, you can take the stones and use them to build a house’
I never gave much thought to those words until my senior secondary school. In junior secondary school, I had no reason to be ridiculed because most of the people I hung around were still young, rascally,and occasionally confused.
However, when we went for our long vacation and returned to commence senior secondary school, it was as though I did not get the memo. All the girls had grown breasts and all the boys had their voices broken. The girls had a way they now walked, swaying their waists and the boys had a new swagger to their walk. The girls now walked in groups and giggled to some funny secrets and the boys had an air of suspicion around them.
But me? I still bounced along while I walked; I couldn’t possibly move my waist – I tried. I still carried my Afro comb in my bag because I wore a low cut. I still did not understand the use and importance of wearing lip gloss or extra makeup; white powder was enough.
I was not hurting anyone but the problem with the world is that if you do not join them, they’ll come over to see why. And when they come over to see why, you best be ready to put up a show!
I was walking one day to my class and bouncing extra because I had sprained my right foot in a stupid race I had engaged in earlier that afternoon. I felt the presence of 4 tall boys walking behind me, dragging their feet and laughing about silly things. I kept my pace and bounced along.
Suddenly I heard one of them say, ‘Hey! Tarzan! Walk fast abeg.’ The rest burst into laughter and although it was not intended to be funny to the recipient, I also found myself snickering.
You see, that day, I had three choices.
One, I could have taken great offence and reacted out by tongue lashing them; thereby hurting them as well.
Two, I could have believed the words they said and felt less of a person; had less of a good esteem and felt incredibly insecure.
Three, I could have taken those words and used them to build my story to my advantage; controlling the way they will affect my life and directing them on the role they will play in my growth.
It’s funny how whatever choice I had made would have built my story anyway, but the third choice gave me a chance to decide what kind of story it would be and how it would be told.
Guess who is now popular and super influential on social media and bears the alias ‘Tarzan’ as her unique ID?? Guess whose booming business is named ‘On All Fours’??? Guess who now runs an impactful charity program to provide priority and quality care for athletes who get injured on the track; it is called ‘Bounce Back!’.
My people, you cannot control the words others will spew out to you and about you… But you can control how they affect you. Our reaction is 99% more important than our circumstances.