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THE ROAD FREQUENTLY TAKEN

THE ROAD FREQUENTLY TAKEN

Every 40 seconds, somebody somewhere thinks of life as not worth living and ends their own life. More than 700,000 people do this unholy ritual yearly. In America, a person commits suicide every 12 minutes and for every successful suicide, there have been 25 failed attempts at suicide. Lesotho has the highest suicide rate in Africa and Nigeria ranks 15th in the world for its suicide rates (one of the few times we’re not at the top of the list for something terrible). 

Shocking and depressing, right? Especially for a world that seems to give us plenty of reasons to live due to its level of civilization and advancement in science and technology. Sad! We live in a world where the gospel to look happy is more preached than being happy.

Kolade died last week. It came as a shock and hit us all like a bullet train. Who would have thought that he, the stallion with the energy that is larger than life, would wake up, hit the road, pull over at a spot and jump off the bridge? Just like that. No sign of sadness, no prior notice, just the cops calling us to identify a body that was seen floating lifelessly on the shore. Growing up, he was the child every parent wanted their children to be like-gentle, quiet, never questioned instructions and obedient. A parent once described him as too mature for his age, an adult-child. This sounded cute and adorable at the time. Now, I understand that being an adult-child isn’t really adorable. It is like jumping the gun in the order of life’s cycle. Children must do childish things. 

The Cash Cow of the family, Kolade had more responsibilities than the average youth. And being the kind-hearted soul that we’ve always known him to be, he was always there for everybody—financially and emotionally. He gave the best advice and made the largest donations. It was easy to need and demand his help. He never turned us away. He never asked for help. Or maybe we didn’t notice. Maybe we were too busy making demands on him and setting standards for him that we forgot that he was also just another human like us. He made us bloom while we wore him out with expectations and demands. He was never spared for his flaws and mistakes. I remember how family members lashed out at him for donating such a “meagre” amount for his brother’s wedding because they felt he could do more. Nobody believed him when he said he was broke at the time as he had lost out on a contract he had hoped for. He had, in fact, split his savings in half for the wedding. He was called proud for missing family gatherings and taking rain checks at the last minute with friends one time. But they didn’t know that his wife had just had a miscarriage, business was becoming unbearable and his health was failing. They didn’t know that his blood pressure had gone up again and the doctor had advised him to get plenty of rest. 

Why didn’t he speak up? 

I remember one time at the bar where he hinted that he wasn’t really happy and the rest of the guys had asked him to “man up and mask the pain”. Some have gone on to compare problems.

with him and made him understand he was lucky and should be grateful instead. He had also reached out to his family when he called to inform them that he would not be attending a funeral because he was going through a phase and needed to clear his mind. They had called him “arrogant” and had turned the whole thing to mean him avoiding his family because he’s now “rich”. He was heavily criticized for going on a vacation with his wife, and not being a major financier for the funeral. He could not explain to them that the vacation was needed. He had once mentioned at a management meeting that he needed to see his therapist, and they had all labelled him “mad,” as if mental illness was a crime. He almost lost his job. All he needed was to depressurize—just someone to talk to and someone that would listen. Just listen. 

It’s funny when people ask you to “Mask the pain” and “don’t share your problem with anybody, to avoid see finish” and still turn around to say “Why didn’t you say something” when things go sour? These are the same people who will not listen and stigmatize you when you speak up. 

When we speak of suicide, depression and other mental illnesses, we forget to mention one of the salient boosters; the hypocrisy of the people. This is an unsung villain that has helped deepen the decadence and depravity of our society. I think of Kolade and I see how we built a system earmarked for our doom. I see how the world is filled with so many Kolades who want to speak out but are afraid of the resultant effect of a two-faced society that would see them as weak and failures. 

And so, as we gathered in our mourning dress, I came out of our reverie and it hit me that this wasn’t a suicide, this was murder. He was an adult as a child. He was not allowed to make mistakes. The expectations and standards we heaped on his shoulders daily pressed him to the ground. When he wanted to ease the burden, we put it back and made it even heavier. We really were the ones that killed Kolade.

Dhesert Chequer

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