BY NKIRU NJOKU
On the first day of shoot of my film; Boom, I gathered my cast and crew together in what looked like the beginnings of an ‘opening prayer’.
But we didn’t ‘pray’. I had only called them together to do a small speech, to ginger them and bring them on the same page as I was.
“Things may go wrong”, I said to them. “Your equipment may fuck up, you may forget lines, locations and daylight might mess us up. But what whatever happens, DO NOT PANIC. I am the writer of this film, and I’m the director. If push ever comes to shove, I’ll re-write what I need to. No matter what happens, we will make this film. But there shall be no panic on my set, this is alI I ask of you.”
I grew up being such a scared person. Scared of talking in front of a crowd, scared of ‘showing myself’ lest I fuck up and be embarrassed. I was so afraid of life that I deliberately sabotaged myself whenever there was an opportunity to shine. Yes I was painfully shy, but I am evolved enough to now admit that I hid much of my fear under the veneer of shyness. People understood and empathized with shyness. But fear was often scoffed at and maniacally examined, so that one came away from such cross-examinations feeling depleted.
My mother taught me how to combat an aspect of my fear. She said if I ever needed to address a crowd, all I had to do was avoid eyes and focus on foreheads.
I didn’t get many a chance to exercise this method but whatever chance I did get, I used it. Then I fine-tuned it myself over the years.
I am bespectacled, you see. I’ve got short-sightedness as well as a great degree of astigmatism in both eyes. I found out that whenever I wasn’t wearing my glasses, I could confront scary situations with fellow human beings, and not ‘shake’. I couldn’t see their faces so I couldn’t make out their expressions of approval or disapproval. Therefore, I could say what I needed to say without fearing that I was fucking up. Because I couldn’t see, I didn’t care.
I had a boyfriend who panicked every time I took off my glasses. He would grab my hands and plead that I put them back on. “Because it is when you take these things off that you say heartbreaking stuff”. Heh heh.
On day one of the film shoot, we ran into some technical hitches. On day two, we lost daylight because all kinds of factors conspired against us. On day three, we had no location. For each of these times, I took off my mental eyeglasses and refused to see how big a problem we had. Then I rewrote scenes to accommodate the hitches we had encountered. We came out of the experience smiling. And I learnt things about myself that I didn’t even know I possessed.
Every day I want to be better at what I do. But I do not always succeed. What I however find is that I no longer have the fear of success. Which means I no longer worry that I will fail. If I fail, I shrug and try again, learning from my mistakes . Or I jejelly walk away if I realize I’m walking a path that really isn’t mine.
But when I want something, when I really want something, my personal circumstances NEVER hold me back. I take off my mental glasses and I grind. I might look blasé whilst at it – with my sweat pants and rumpled tee shirt. But I always do what I need to. Because life is short. And I want to leave here with a tank empty of ideas, mistakes and positive actions. I want to put it all out there whilst I’m alive. If I succeed at this, I think the people I leave behind will be happy. If I fail, they’ll hopefully learn how not to be.
By and large, ‘no look Uche face’ is a real thing. As you confront Monday, a new week and a new month, remember to take off your mental glasses. Uche’s face is distracting. Blur it out and stay with your grind.
I wish you success. Or failure that you will learn from. But in everything, I wish you love for what you do. It conquers all things.
This post was first published on Nkiru’s Facebook wall.