Most times, we are the cause of our misfortune. There really is a consequence for all our actions, and even thoughts, and until we are deliberate and fully rational about all we do, we’d keep making mistakes and having regrets.
Have you ever thought that if you could go back in time, you wouldn’t make certain decisions? Especially when you could easily have chosen otherwise but instead chose to do something that would eventually haunt you for a long time? I’m sure you have. It happens to everyone. At least, it used to happen to me quite a lot. Still happens to me but gladly, not as much as before. We act foolish and then have regrets. We feel bad about decisions we have made. At times, the period of regret lasts for few hours, days, or months, even up to a year; depending on what it was we did. I did something I regretted for 10 years. I told only two people about it; for 10 years, just the 3 of us, and a certain government agency, ‘knew’ about it. I’ll tell you about it, but before I do, let me ask this: how many times are you allowed to give a second chance? What’s even a second chance?
When someone wrongs us, we feel justified to mete out some type punishment. The wrongdoer eventually apologises and usually asks for a second chance. Do we just simply forgive and erase the wrongs of the past, wipe a slate clean and go on relating with the person without exercising any form of caution? It seems that’s what the person expects, but because we were wronged, it’s not the easiest thing to just automatically forget the past, and so we don’t readily forgive, and we are perceived as being difficult. We eventually forgive; we let go of whatever grievance we were holding on to, we become friendly with the offender again, and boom, we get hurt again by same person! What do we do ….? To forgive or not to forgive? Of course, we should forgive, but I think the more pressing question is, do we consciously choose to limit how we relate with the offender going forward? Do we put up a fence/wall to ensure the past does not repeat itself? I’ve found that putting up a wall creates stress; it’s too much work. I’ve tried it several times, and I only just get stressed; especially when it’s someone I really do have to relate with for some reason or another. Putting up a wall is stressful and hard and really can’t be the best way to handle things. It seems people will always mess up; after all, we are human. I think what must be done is to increase our capability to handle surprises from others; whatever that means. But holding on to a grievance never pays; we’d just get burned up inside from all the negative energy. After all, it’s a relationship …. it’s a ship. There’ll be ups and downs. Holding on to the ‘down’ moments will only stress you; it’ll weigh you down. Letting go and moving on will help you sleep better, think better and clearer. Your head and your heart will be in a better place. Holding on to grievances can cause you to lose your magic, your essence … that thing that sets you apart from others and helps you live well or live right. We must forgive and let go, and give that second chance, even a third time.
Now back to my earlier predicament …. I sometimes, jokingly, pride myself on being an international guy. I happen to know about places and cultures foreign to me, a bit more than the average person, and i’ve done a little traveling. But how can I really claim to be an international guy if I can’t travel anywhere without restriction? How can I call myself an international guy if I’m not able to go to the UK, somewhere that’s ordinary within my reach and means? So what happened 10+ years ago (2008)? Because of false representations in applications for travel documents, I was restricted from applying for a visa to the UK, for 10 years!
I felt like I was imprisoned for those 10 years; not because it was a ‘big deal’ to travel to the UK, but because I was not able to do something that I ordinarily could, something that I had the means to do, and especially because of the restrictions to life it presented …. I would not be able to visit family and friends who lived in the UK, I would not be able to attend any event in the UK I was invited to, if there was a need at work to officially go to the UK, issues may surface which could have rippling effects. I met persons of the fairer sex who lived in the UK but I ‘couldn’t’ start relationships with them! How would I explain if asked why I don’t travel to the UK? I felt some shame when I considered all these, but an even greater amount of regret.
I have been fortuitous with regards having the means and ability to do those things I wish to do. I like to travel, and because London is London (rich history, cosmopolitan city), I wanted to go to London. I could afford to go to London, but I couldn’t go to London. Early on in the 10 year period, I’d cast my mind forward to that time I’d be able to visit London, again, not because it was a big deal to go to London, but because it would mean that I had got past my mistakes, that my sins had been forgiven.
I’d think up ways to ‘get out of prison’ before my time was due. Maybe through good behaviour … In 2010, I submitted another application and ‘chose’ to be honest! …. my passport was returned to me in a few days; of course I was denied. The rejection letter I received mentioned that I didn’t get the visa because I presented inaccurate information, or something like that. Now, because I thought I was smart, and because I had put in an honest application, I decided to send a letter to the High Commission for a review of my application (not to challenge the decision, but a compassionate plea for a review). The High Commission responded in plain, simple concise terms to tell me that the restriction still subsists and so my request cannot be granted. That was my first attempt to escape my punishment.
At one time, on a trip to the US, I selected a return leg that routed me through Heathrow. I just wanted to pass through the UK, to be in the UK, to be as close as possible as I could get to the UK, to overwhelm the sense of misery that I had battled with for the past 7 plus years, to not feel defeated at not being able to go to the UK; after all, if I did stop over in the UK, I would have been in the UK, no? Silly me. And then, something interesting happened. At JFK, I tried to self-print my boarding pass but I was unable to …. hmm, strange. So I went to the BA desk to get help with the pass. Gentleman who took my passport started playing around with his keyboard and at the same time looking from his computer to me and then back to his computer. I thought to myself, this is it, I’m going to be told I can’t board that flight and would have to find another way to get myself out the US. Gentleman took my passport away and came back 5 minutes later with my boarding pass. I didn’t even ask what the issue was, I just took my travel documents and proceeded to security. I didn’t get that sense of conquering my misery I had desired.
I started writing this piece back in Lagos but i’m finishing it up in London; yes, I finally am in London, England. The UK did not forgive, and of course they will never forget, but they gave me another chance.
Honesty really is the best policy. We have heard that phrase time and time again but maybe because we are able to circumvent things and get away with it, we are not always honest in our ways. We don’t religiously live our lives with that policy in mind. But just like they say, everyday is for the thief, one day is for the owner … our foolishness will always catch up with us.
Something else I’ve learnt is perseverance. This requires not just patience but great exercise of self control. Because of my self imposed ‘ordeal’ I’ve been able to better understand myself and my limitations, and cultivate an appreciable level of self-discipline which has transcended to other parts of my life. I think thrice before I speak, I measure twice and cut once when it’s time to act. When one is in solitary confinement, he has time to do a lot of thinking … because of my deliberations, I have a better understanding of what it means to forgive and why we must forgive all the time. We have to give another chance because we are not God, and life and relationships will go on one way or another.
Now, I am free. I have no regret that overwhelms me. My mind is at peace … as long as I don’t make any more silly mistakes.