BY NKIRU NJOKU
I wrote once about how I had no ambition as a young girl. There were a few things I wanted to be. Doctor. Geologist. Teacher.
But they never really stayed in the ‘ambition’ box. I therefore never quite found it funny when people joked that some people were ‘NFA’, i.e. they had ‘no future ambition’. Me I was proper NFA and the thing used to make me panic.
What was I going to be? What could I be? What could I do? How would it matter? Would it matter? Make a difference? Be profitable? Make the family proud? Make ME happy?
I became the one thing that would have made me laugh had I been told it was going to become an actual career.
They said writers were poor. I had a boyfriend who ACTIVELY discouraged me from writing poetry and posting it online. “You are wasting your time. Nobody will pay you for this nonsense you’re doing”.
I didn’t believe him. I didn’t not believe him. I just shrugged and continued doing my thing. Not that I knew I would make a living and achieve fulfillment from it at any point. But I just couldn’t stop. It was the only thing I wanted to do, liked to do, and could do without thinking too long or hard about it.
“If you wake up in the morning and you can’t think of anything but singing, then you’re a singer girl”. – Sister Mary Clarence. Sister Act II.
I saved this quote and wrote it on my drawing board. Yes I had one. Stole it from my brother. Graffitied it with quotes and dreams and plot points and the beginnings of poems that never got written. It was pretty much a mess. But emboldened on it, was this quote that gave me perspective.
It didn’t promise me money. It didn’t promise me happiness. But it made me think maybe it made sense that I could actually follow the path of writing, after all it was the only thing I liked to do!
Many years later, the effect of that quote on me, also served to underline everything I believe about filmmaking. We can entertain and subtly rejig old ideas, plant new ones, give new insight, and offer different world views.
In Ken Wiwa’s book – In The Shadow Of A Saint, he talked about how his father Ken Saro Wiwa, saw ‘good writing’.
Summarily, KSW said that good writing touched him emotionally and intellectually (I paraphrase).
Essentially, that to me, is what good storytelling is. Whether it be film or prose or meme.
Something to laugh, cry, get angry about. Yet something to think about, which may affect the way that I see and carry on with life thereafter.
So Sister Act II gave me wings, with that single line spoken by the hilarious Sister Mary Clarence, excellently played by Whoopie Goldberg. I remember where I lay on the floor watching that movie for what had to be the one millionth time, and I remember how that line finally seized my spirit and became something more than mere entertainment.
Did it make my road smoother? Am I ‘there’ yet? Certainly not. But I have clarity. I have since known where I want to be. Every day that I lose sleep, every day that I’m on the grind, every day that I’m vulnerable about my art but put it out there nonetheless, every day that I break the yoke of inertia, it all adds up to form the canvass upon which the bigger picture will be painted.
It does tickles me though, to think that once upon a time, I was an actual ‘loafer’!
And I am grateful that I somehow found myself, and that this journey is what it is right now.
So, as your week ends, I send out a wish for you – that clarity will come to you in areas where you struggle. Whether it’s a line from a film, or a song, or from the cheesiness of an Internet meme – may the universe conspire to help you chart your course and may you be sharp enough to kickstart the process, see the signs, interpret them in your favor, and have the grit to put in the required work.
Have a happy Friday.
This was first published on Nkiru’s Facebook wall.