In a few weeks, I will be 40, even I am amazed at how quick life seems to have turned. I still remember my first thought when I heard someone was 40 "wow, what would it be like to be 40" I asked, partly to myself and the other out loud. Shrieks of laughter echoed through with one gentleman saying "my dear is only then that your life is just beginning". "What," I thought, confused and dumbfounded, but hesitant to engage further. I let it slide and off to other things I went. Ironically, it is only now I understand. The past 36 years of my life, being able to be cognizant of my environs, has been filled with life's lessons, from the jab of betrayal to the razored cut of forgiveness, from the cold of a heartbreak to the scorching agony of moving on, and from the pain of being wrongly accused to the tenderness of walking away unavenged. I felt the very foundation of what I learned as humane move from underneath me, threatening to flee and be replaced with anger, bitterness, and strife. Life has taught me so much, so much that to remember it I coil in the passion of the pain and want to scream from the fervor of it all.

I remember vividly when I would think about graduating and the fear that succumbed my soul would make me tinge in fright for the unknown. The unknown of all the horrors from the stories told and untold, while mixed with the glory of the victories from men in suits and women standing tall. I knew what I wanted, but how to get there I knew not at all. Every word spoken to me seemed to be in Latin, Greek, or unknown scribes. All I saw where giants of impossibilities masked with smiles and firm nods of disapproval. I never thought I would be a graduate, yet here I am with degrees piled up like what one of the student ambassadors called "a degree taker". Only if she knew of the times I felt I would never succeed thanks to the words of those who told me I would never amount to much.

My eldest sibling accused me of always wanting to tread the road alone, this is true because I have had the chord of trust broken from those closest to me, let alone strangers, and I have also been guilty of doing the same to others. Yet through it all, I learned what it is to love and still learning to be loved. I learned what it is to forgive even when you feel the warmth of your blood force flowing out of you from the pain of the eventful stab from the one you would never have thought would commit such an unkind act of betrayal.

I learned so much that now I stand unabashed of who I am, proud of my scars, that the memory of it all sends through my tear glands the need for a spill. Everything I have gone through has taught me to be focused, and resilient that for every scar I have no regret, nor hate, only gratitude. Gratitude for the strength it has built in me to be able to tackle the next coming years of my life, that has made me know that no matter the storm, turbulence, wind, or weather, las las (in the words of my fellow Nigerians) I will be alright. Nothing should ever be so strong to shake the foundation I have fought mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically and yes even financially to uphold. When I look a cheat in the eye and decide that money won't be the one to bring my morals down, I do that with pride that I am not able to forgo my values for an amount I could have at anytime I choose to work hard for again.

To sum it up, life taught me that regardless of what one goes through we work hard, to be honest, working productively not only for mankind, but for self. Cause through it all, when I lay my head to sleep at night and know my integrity is in check, my morals and vaues are also in check, my health, and most importantly my mental wellbeing is in check, I know I am alive to live another day. Living in peace, even through moments of weakness, shewing courage even in the face of adversity and being kind even in the midst of ignorance.

My eldest sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday, to be honest, I know not what I want in terms of material needs, but in terms of mental need - gratitude. Gratitude for it all. I am and always will be grateful for everything I have gone through because without it I never would have known my strengths and limits, nor would have learned how to challenge myself, so yes gratitude. To the next years of my life, I wish for me all the tidings of good health, good job and a good life, knowing that I have the last years to thank for the strength established to take me through these next coming years.

Life at 40 is just truly beginning, so to it I say Hip Hip Hurray and Happy Birthday to me in advance.

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