When I was in my first year of uni (100 level), the slush and smoothie kiosk (Fruity Life) was exactly where you could find me every single night in Covenant University. I loved the blackcurrant and orange combo so much and it became a regular for the same reason I order pasta at every restaurant. Fried pasta, Grilled pasta, Toasted pasta, Baked pasta. My love for pasta transcends cooking processes.
So did my love for slush, or so I thought.
I would always meet one person on the way back to my room that “hadn’t tried that mix before” and wanted a sip. Of course, someone that knew me enough to ask that; what we refer to as “friend” these days. Now this is not a problem right? Just a sip or two, right? Wrong. I shivered every single time I got that request – not because I skipped kindergarten and wasn’t taught how to share, but for the singular reason that my dad had raised us to forbid sharing straws, spoons and everything remotely related. My father is quite a thorough person. He made sure to leave us with mental scars of mouth infections and terrible diseases to ensure his point was well driven home. In case you haven’t noticed by now, he succeeded.
Now here I was, torn between a personal principle and social acceptance. What if they start to call me stingy? What if I lose friends because of this? How do I start to explain to these people that this is not JSS 1 boarding school behaviour and sharing my straw with them would just genuinely make me uncomfortable? “No, I don’t think your mouth is smelling, don’t be offended. It’s just a me thing.” They would never understand that. They don’t see the pictures I see in my head. Sigh.
So you know what 16-year-old me would do? Give it to them and say, “You can have all of it.” while secretly hoping they suddenly develop disinterest and say “Oh! I think I’ve tried this combo before. Never mind.” But instead, they would audaciously reach for it and still have the guts to thank me. Ugh! I would smile and say “Sure,” then proceed to my room, sad and unfulfilled. But at least I had made someone else happy right? That’s important too right? But I’m not happy, I still want slush.
This cycle continued for a while till I decided on a new tactic: getting two cups of slush. One for all the people that “hadn’t had that mix before” and one for myself. Genius, right? One would think that would solve the problem. It didn’t.
Get this, I resolved to spend twice my entire slush budget because I couldn’t say two letters, “No.” Right now, it’s so easy for me to say it like that, but it wasn’t six years ago. It wasn’t black or white, it was grey. It was not yes or no either, It was …yo. My two-cup agenda worked for a good minute, until I realized how unsustainable it was. How long would I have to buy two cups of slush, take two spoons from the cafeteria or go hungry sometimes because someone used my spoon and there was no water around to wash it?
So I decided I would start to stand up for myself more, at least for the sake of my wallet and stomach. It was a huge decision for me, but I had a strategy. It was quite a simple one; TELL THEM, BUT AHEAD OF TIME. The logic behind it was; that way, I won’t feel pressured in the moment to say yes or no because they won’t ask. They won’t ask because they already knew it made me uncomfortable. I was excited. So I started out, one random gist to another, chipping in tales of my childhood, how I was raised to not share straws and how much I hated it. Some people understood and got the message, some didn’t. But it was okay, I just needed to keep slipping it in every chance I got. After a while, I ran out of creative ways to do it, so I unconsciously started being more straightforward about it.
What was different? I had said “No” a few times and guess what? I did not die. Shocking, right? I know. I realized that I was so scared of how people would always remember that I didn’t share my slush with them and tag me “stingy” when in reality, nobody cared that much. Everybody had their own issues. Everybody still does. The minute I realized this and actually let it sink in, I found the power I had been seeking. The power to say no. One hack that has helped me on this journey is spending more time with myself alone – early mornings or late nights. This has built my self awareness, which is the most solid foundation for making social decisions like this.
Now, I wouldn’t tell you to, “do whatever makes you happy, because you don’t owe anybody anything.” That would be false. We owe each other two basic things; EMPATHY and COURTESY. So if you have a personal principle that seems to be socially unpopular, my personal advice would be to share it. Wear it on your sleeves. It is called “unpopular” for a reason. No one would know if you don’t tell them. And when you tell them, do so with empathy and courtesy as a yardstick. You know what this communication also does? It releases you of the burden of being the sole narrator. The people who understand would “fight for you” when you’re absent, if you still care so much.
This mostly applies to close relationships, friendships, tribes and communities. You should already know by now not to seek validation and acceptance from strangers on the internet. So basically, if you have any principles that you think may affect your friendships or close relationships, find the best time and the best way to communicate it, and gradually you’d find that you feel more comfortable. Finally, keep this in mind:
Everybody cannot like you, you’re not fried plantain.
On the good side, one of the things my dad taught me is to drink from here (see picture below) if I ever had to use a public cup because it’s the most unlikely place for anyone to drink from since that’s where they would be holding.
I hope this post helps you in your path to self definition. Please share with someone who needs to see this. But first, please tell me; is there something you were raised to do, or personally just like/don’t like but is socially unpopular/unacceptable? How do you handle it? What do you do?
Shout out to Alpha (The Anomaly Factor) @alpha_mg for these beautiful pictures and to all my friends who respected and still respect my principles. To Mimi for inspiring me with her comb thing: to Omarosa and Ore, especially for constantly warding off people who wanted to use my straws. And to YOU, for taking time out to read this post, regardless of the length, I appreciate you. Thank you so much.
Till next time,