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What would you do differently?

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Any time the question pops up and the respondent says: “nothing,” I scream hypocrite! That is what you are, a hypocrite if you claim you will change nothing about yourself or situation if you were to start all over. You also deny your fallibility if you claim you will not change anything about yourself or situation if you have the opportunity to start all over again. I am not talking about situations beyond our control like our heights, looks, breast size, penis size, complexion, etc. But you even find some people artificially altering these features that are supposed to be outside our control through breast augmentation or reduction surgery, facial plastic surgery, bleaching, etc.

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As fallible mortals, we make decisions every day. Some turn out to be favourable, while others turn out to be unfavourable, especially in the long run. Some of these decisions were taken when we were less experienced and as we grow older, we realise that we made mistakes in taking such decisions or would have done things differently if we knew what we know now when we took the decision. Incidentally, our lives are the sum total of the decisions and choices we made/make. So, it is ridiculous for anyone to claim that he would not change anything about his life or situation given a second chance.

This topic was actually the theme of the sermon in church today (Sunday, February 16, 2020). The priest specifically told the congregation that some of us would marry different spouses if we could rewind the hand of the clock and that is absolutely true. He also said some would have studied different courses in school and chosen different career paths if we could start all over again. This again is true. He said some would have fewer children if they were to start all over again. This is also true just as some would have more children and also space their children differently. There are many of us who would do some things in our lives differently if it were within our power. Let us not be hypocritical about that.

Rather, we should review our lives and look at situations that we can remedy and do just that. For instance, a man had five children over a period of 20 years. He sent the three eldest ones abroad to school. Now they have graduated and refused to come back to Nigeria, contrary to his plan. What does he do about the last two, who are aged 16 and 13? If it does not matter to him if all his children turn their backs on Nigeria, he can take the risk of sending them abroad for their university education. But if it does matter to him, they have to attend university here. But that is no guarantee they will not relocate when they become adults because they will decide how they want to live their lives. But it does increase the odds for the father. Metaphorically, the older children are the cement that has solidified; the father cannot do anything about the situation, but he can do some adjustments in the upbringing of the teenagers. But again, when making decisions in respect of your children, whose interest should be uppermost: yours or your children’s? Of course, your children’s. There you have it.

Currently, there is a growing army of Nigerian parents who are full of regrets. They sent their children abroad to get the best education and come home to chip in their quota, but they are done with schooling and do not want to come back home. They are contented with the better organised, functional and relatively predictable western world. Some were supposed to come back and run multibillion naira family businesses. Some parents are now singing: “had I known.” Such parents will certainly, do things differently if they could rewind the clock. The truth though is that the children have their own lives to live and choose their own course. That does not lessen the pain of the parents. Some of these parents have a sentimental attachment to these businesses, but my advice is that when you get too old to run your business and your children are not willing to take over, sell it off or take it to the stock exchange and sell off a chunk of your shares. Add the money to your retirement money and enjoy your life.

Again, a man wants his children to speak his indigenous language, but the older children are not responding well. Grown-up children are not easily amenable to learning new languages. What should he do? He should concentrate on the younger children, especially on those of them below 10 years. They are more amenable.

There are some people in their late 40s and 50s, who are in professions or jobs they would rather change if they had their ways, but it is too late. Scarcely, do employers engage people above 45 years, except the person, has some specialised skills they are interested in. You have spent the last 20 to 30 years pursuing a career that does not really excite you; you cannot spend the whole of your life living a drab life. If you are in paid employment and you are close to retirement, what is that thing you have always dreamt of doing? It is time to put your plans in motion so that you can work and have fun for once.

Even if you have had a great career, there are things you wanted to do but could not while in paid employment. Now is the time.I know a few people who have had great careers and are doing some wonderful things in retirement, instead of idling away and living in boredom. A friend of mine, Chief Jacob Diedjomahor, retired as an exploration manager in a major oil company and went into farming (poultry, piggery and fishery). Now, he is building a world-class resort in his village, Ovwodokpokpo, in Olomu, Delta State. Each time I visit the resort, he talks about it with a glint in his eyes like a teenager falling in love for the first time.

The project is a win-win. It has re-energised him, rolling back the years for him. After a very successful career, he is doing something totally different that he thoroughly enjoys. In the process, he has brought life and excitement to the hitherto sleepy village. Jobs are also being created. There are a few other retirees like that. Some are big-time farmers but live in highbrow Ikoyi and Victoria Island, Lagos. Retirement is time to live your other passions.

A life of contentment is very important, but it does not happen by chance; you create it. Take a critical look at your life. What are those situations you cannot do anything about; learn to accept and live with them. That is contentment.  Those you can do something about, start today and achieve them. That will also bring contentment.


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