The Weight of Struggle

The-weight-of-struggle

It was few minutes past 8pm when I boarded one of the loading vehicles for the night before drivers called it a day. I rode shotgun, squeezed between the driver and a middle-aged man. The engines kicked to life as the light overhead cast its dim glow.

“Your money please.”

Hands stretched forth clasping wazobia notes. I helped him collect the monies so his hands stay on the steering wheel.

“Sister, your money.”

He was referring to me. I took my first look at the inside of his cab. Layers of dust coated the dashboard. I suspected the dust on the fake brown fur placed just below the windscreen would choke the occupants of the car if anyone bothered dusting it off. The stereo system could barely be called that, considering all it sported was a gaping hole—a testament to a vehicle that once was. The only thing that appeared in fairly decent condition was the seats. But then, wasn’t that all we really needed in a vehicle anyway. Every other addition, from the stereo to the air conditioning was for comfort and another excuse to attach ridiculous price tags.

The car wheeled into a pothole and I braced myself for impact as the hand brake dug into my thigh.

“I should pay half the fare.” I’m not sure what response I expected. It had been a lousy day and even the best of the people in this State would have lost their quip.

“My sister, no vex. I get just 250 naira per drive and in a day I might go only three times.”
That’s an average of 750 naira per day’s work. Take the mandatory 50 naira ‘tax’ to the garage administrators per trip and the total take home pay drops to 600 naira. That’s less than $2 per day. His family lived in the outskirt of the city and he got to pay them a visit once a week.

“No money in this business at all. When I pay my debt, I’ll carry my car to another place.”

The journey from the bus stop to my home is about five minutes and within that time I reconsidered everything I’d thought about my life. Earlier in the day I’d done a bit of mental cataloguing and brain whipping. I needed to raise money for a certain project to kick-start the next phase of my life, but too many projects in the pipe tend to drain resources—including the emergency stash.

Helen Keller once talked about lacking shoes and realizing the next man had no feet. I have my reservations about this eternal wisdom because while it asks that we be grateful for what we have, it also attempts to diminish the weight of our struggle by drawing a rough comparison with the next man’s. I don’t have to wonder where my next pay check will come from. I’m neither in debt nor have family miles away depending on me for survival. However, I understand this struggle, not because I live that life, but because in my little world I feel hard pressed to make tough decisions and find solutions, too.

A few months ago I would have felt shame for feeling the way I did. Here I was without shoes staring at another without feet. But whether shoes or feet, our needs were different and not in any way diminished by their size. What mattered was the value we placed on them, not some invisible measuring line deciding if our struggle measured up to a community standard.

If I learned anything in that old beaten car, it is that to share in another’s story isn’t to make mine of worth; it is the understanding that struggle is universal, irrespective of our destination, that expresses true community.

 

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Wazobia—Nigerian slang for 50 naira note. Derives its name from the pictorial representations of the major ethnic groups. 

 

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17 thoughts on “The Weight of Struggle

  1. chumacharm April 10, 2017 / 12:08 pm

    Thank you Uju. Opened this page down the day you posted it but just got to read it. Simple, rich and straight to the point. I’ve always loved that Helen Keller’s quote but after reading you, I’m looking at life from a new perspective. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • uju April 11, 2017 / 8:30 am

      Thanks for coming back and leaving a comment, Chuma. I’m glad to have given you a fresh perspective 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. George March 29, 2017 / 12:18 am

    It’s always refreshing to hear your thoughts, uju. Your words are always layered and well expressed. It’s great to have you back..for now..:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju April 7, 2017 / 10:00 am

      Thank you, George 🙂

      Like

  3. Nedoux March 28, 2017 / 12:18 pm

    Ah, struggle is struggle is struggle. Regardless…

    The weight of its burden is relative, the onus of deciding if its light or heavy must lie squarely on the bearer of said burden.

    Re: “it also attempts to diminish the weight of our struggle by drawing a rough comparison with the next man’s.” I agree with you.

    I think understanding the struggle of others somehow helps us understand ours even better. Problem shared; problem half solved? 🙂

    Like

    • uju April 7, 2017 / 9:59 am

      Sharing gives us perspective like Timi said. Perhaps within that perspective we’ll find solutions… or maybe just relieve ourselves of the burden.

      Like

  4. Adenuga Olamiji March 25, 2017 / 11:12 am

    Definitely, our struggle differs in life but it lingers on in our minds when we don’t move on. It’s part of the hurdles of life, one step at a time, slow and steady with strong determination we get better as in the intensity of the struggle. Thumbs up Ujulicious babe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju April 7, 2017 / 9:56 am

      Determination. I find it’s easier to get put of the pit once we will it. Battles are first fought in the mind.
      Thank you, Olami 🙂

      Like

  5. livelytwist March 24, 2017 / 11:12 pm

    I think that pain is pain. Sometimes looking at the guy without feet makes us grateful and helps us to change our perspective, which is a good thing. However, like you, I say that it doesn’t have to invalidate the pain we feel.
    Good one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 25, 2017 / 8:53 am

      I like the part about perspective. It’s one of the reasons I think people should share what they feel.

      Thank you, Timi 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ann Coleman March 24, 2017 / 7:44 pm

    You are a very wise person! I agree that what we have in common is the struggle, even if we struggle for different things. We don’t get to decide whose struggles count and whose don’t, I think. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • uju March 25, 2017 / 8:41 am

      You’re very kind, Ann 🙂

      A few months ago one of my colleagues lost her dad. When we got the news at work, the reaction was… appalling.
      One man began by saying she was lucky she lost her lived longer– he lost his as a teenager. Another said he never knew his father.
      All I could do was sit and watch and wonder why the age of someone we lost mattered. Dead is dead and pain doesn’t go away irrespective of time. What mattered was a loving parent was lost and she needed to grieve that loss.

      Sometimes it feels like aside everything we compete for in this world, we also have to compete for the right to be the ultimate fighter in a struggle.

      This world baffles me, that’s certain.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ann Coleman March 25, 2017 / 7:04 pm

        Me, too! There should be no competition for grief, or anything other feeling or reaction we have to the hard stuff that happens in our lives. It’s as if we’ve lost the ability simply offer our sympathy without having to chime in by telling people that things aren’t as bad as they seem, because others have it worse. It’s actually a cruel responses to someone who is struggling or grieving. I’m so sorry your colleague had to deal with that!

        Like

  7. Xceptional43 March 24, 2017 / 4:37 am

    Always a pleasure to read your stuff.
    I’ll share a medium post that mirrors this with you on FB.
    Welcome back . And hope you are in it for the long run?

    Liked by 1 person

    • uju March 24, 2017 / 1:56 pm

      Thank you 🙂 It’s nice being here. For now lol.
      Can’t wait to see the post.

      Liked by 1 person

        • uju April 11, 2017 / 8:29 am

          Hahaha. The next post is somewhat… I don’t know. So I don’t know how to write it 😀

          What happened to my Medium link?

          Liked by 1 person

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