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On Resolution

This orig­i­nally appeared on mis​ter​agye​man​.blogspot​.com on January 23, 2015.

Pixels are atoms of colour.

It’s always dis­tress­ing when I have to do image manip­u­la­tion. When you zoom in on that crisply defined out­line, sud­denly the skirt begins to melt into grass, and the mask­ing tool becomes a mea­sure of your fail­ing sanity. The chang­ing of the cal­en­dar year evokes the same reac­tion in me. I mix up the num­bers until 2008 seems like any­thing between 2 and 10 years away. Beyond this organic Y2K glitch, I fail to see how the year is ‘new’. It was har­mat­tan yes­ter­day; alli­ga­tor skin still present today. Some people for­give debts and grudges on this day, which is espe­cially impres­sive when you con­sider that they did it just because the earth drew an oval around the sun. Most of us are less gen­er­ous; we just shoot some harm­less explo­sives and bestow harm­less hugs and kisses, and begin intim­i­dat­ing the green new year with tar­gets and dead­lines that its many pre­de­ces­sors could­n’t achieve. Then we go back to sleep on January 1, and dozens of other cul­tures get to pick their day to have a party. The Islamic cal­en­dar has around 354 days, so within 2008, they had two.

I know I sound like the Scrooge of New Year. I was. Now I don’t mind even the noise pol­lu­tion as much as I used to. Also, the hugs and kisses are actu­ally quite nice. And I enjoy coming up with orig­i­nal res­o­lu­tions for the year. Two years ago, I resolved to expand the sur­face area of my goatee by at least five mil­lime­tres. My word was my bond.

But behind all the hip­ster cyn­i­cism, I rec­og­nize the new year is as good a time as any to reflect on the pre­vi­ous year. As you step back from the dots, they grad­u­ally come together into a sen­si­ble pic­ture. So what did I gain last year? What did I lose?

I lost illu­sions. Generally, I’ve lived a shel­tered life. There are parts of my com­mu­nity that I only explored a year or two ago. Accra used to be an adven­ture for me, a mag­i­cal wilder­ness into which my sup­port­ive family would ven­ture to find me clothes and sup­plies. Any time I got to go, the excite­ment spoiled my sleep. This year I began work­ing and study­ing in this won­der­ful land. Now I know its ditches and traf­fic and ques­tion­able food, and I can mon­i­tor troski routes like a pro. (I got so good at sleep­ing in buses, I woke up one time in Ashaiman. Good times.) Of course, the job changed me in other ways too. I got to earn actual money, which wasn’t some­thing I knew I was capa­ble of doing. Also, I got to see the innards of the indus­try, this mon­ster I dream of taming. It chafed to see my efforts going to sup­port com­pa­nies who have failed me as a con­sumer, espe­cially because all that cam­paign money would be appre­ci­ated in actual prod­uct devel­op­ment. It didn’t have much to show me, but it was a useful experience.

I have gained humil­ity as a result of these expe­ri­ences. My improved per­spec­tive has com­pli­cated life, in ways. I’m begin­ning to under­stand that there are people I love who I can’t really respect, which is con­fus­ing and heart­break­ing because I need the heroes. But most of the per­spec­tive has come to define my place in the world, and I find it per­versely com­fort­ing to see how small that place is. As you feel your mind grow­ing, it is useful to think how many other purring skulls there are around you, and how much far­ther along they might be in the process. I’m also learn­ing to use advice and exam­ples from unex­pected sources, which is good.

I have lost ambi­tion. I’ve always been incon­sis­tent at work, but I used to have a clear direc­tion. The world was going to scream man­i­cally at me, beg for auto­graphs, and give me money. This men­tal­ity was slapped out of me, because a child’s schem­ing face is an irre­sistible temp­ta­tion. Gradually I learned that life wasn’t that simple, and that there are lots of hard­work­ing people who never get what’s due. More recently I have dis­cov­ered that the world may indeed be will­ing to deafen and objec­tify me and make me rich, but I have no moti­va­tion to do the work. It turns out there isn’t enough money in the world for 10,000 Bill Gates. Or room for 10 Biebers, for that matter; fame means less today because of the people who you’ll share it with. Perhaps when the world is brave enough that artists get paid more for respect­ing us than insult­ing our intel­li­gence, I’ll look into it again. I do have a really nice auto­graph, and my cheek­bones were made for paparazzi shades.

In the place of ambi­tion I have gained a modest burden to be useful. I still strug­gle with lazi­ness, but I am now aware that it takes hard work to keep the world right-side-up. My will may be weak, but I’ve dis­cov­ered what I’m capa­ble of when I have some­body to shout at me. Next step: being useful before some­one shouts at me. Making progress. Also, I’m learn­ing where the good people are hiding. If I can’t help any­thing by myself, I know I can help some­one who will.

I have also lost time. It seems almost pre­ten­tious to speak of wasted years at my age, but I have actu­ally lost time. I’ve wasted time I could have spent learn­ing, or work­ing and being useful. I dis­cov­ered quite sci­en­tif­i­cally that I was not a genius, but nobody else knew this. I didn’t have to go and show them. I also lost time being unhappy about things when it was in my power to change them, or adapt. I wasted time build­ing walls I didn’t need. Even worse, I may have hurt my body. I have oper­ated from an uncon­scious assump­tion that I would­n’t be around too long, for rea­sons I’m afraid to inquire into. After a decade of the neglect this atti­tude brought, my body’s feed­back system went all pas­sive-aggres­sive on me. Now it’s waking up, and I’m very uncom­fort­able. I’m unused to hunger or tired­ness or pain, but I reg­u­larly put myself in sit­u­a­tions that bring these on, and now my body kindly passes the mes­sage on. I have hunger pangs and aching limbs and hurt­ing eyes, and a dread of middle age.

But with age comes expe­ri­ence. (Sorry, but this sen­tence is a legal require­ment for adult­hood.) Finally I can laugh when some­body is labelled ‘anally reten­tive’; now I get the joke. I eat reg­u­larly, and sleep when sane people do- most of the time. And I seem to have learned to smile some­where along the way. It is a weird smile, sug­ges­tive of cyn­i­cism and/or douchebag­gery, which is as much a sur­prise to me as any­body else- still, baby steps. Also, I’ve tried things that most people will never have a chance to, which will hope­fully serve me well in the prac­ti­cal, hum­drum world.

And that’s my year. We say ‘where there’s life, there’s hope’. This is ques­tion­able; life isn’t a promise, it’s a vic­tory. Last year, most of us lost people; some are gone for good. Even when we do need to let go, the loss hurts. I wish I could keep every­body and every­thing, but the grip grows weak. Words come and get in the way, and trou­bles, and sick­ness. I’m grate­ful that I made new friends. I am grate­ful that 2014 was all about per­sonal strug­gles, because there are much heav­ier bur­dens that some have to carry. And I am very grate­ful for those who have car­ried bur­dens for me. Hopefully this year I can do the same for somebody.