A few days ago, I sent a message to my friend Sylvester thanking him for voting for another friend of mine who contested one of those online “face of..” stuff. Syl's reply was; “So where is the Hennessey?” Now this was supposed to be a normal reply. But it was not because Syl is not the type of guy whom one can call a 'drink freak'. So in a very casual manner, I dismissed his question and then quipped; “not that you even drink”. I said that as a joke, but Syl took it seriously! He went ahead to inform that alcohol is actually “overrated”.
Now “overrated” is a word that Syl uses carelessly. So I said; “one day, you will explain to me what you mean by that”. And that was it! Syl embarked on a rant about how young men look down on other young guys who do not take alcohol, smoke or get high in some way, and thus brand them as weak. He went on to say that he can do all that, but that he just does not like doing alcohol and smoking.
I believe that what I just recounted is almost an everyday occurrence in the lives of most young people. But what got me worried was Syl's vehemence. It was then that I realized that during those moments when we joking say; “abeg commot for here, you fit drink?”, we were actually emasculating him. Our carefree actions had created in him the belief that he is less than a man and thus is not worthy to talk where men are talking. In doing so, we had created a deep sense of inferiority in him. So to Syl, what makes a man, is his ability to consume enormous quantity of alcohol, party hard, smoke and perhaps do drugs.
Anything other than that means that the person is an inferior man. Thus Syl has become a young man with a distorted view of what really defines strength and weakness in a man. His position, is of course representative of the cosmology of so many other Nigerian (and by extension global) youths hence the need for this article.
I am not ashamed to accept that I fall into the category of Nigerian young men who actually consume copious amount of alcohol, and do all other sundry things. Belonging to this group thus makes me qualified in a way to explain away some things to the Sylvesters of this world. First, Syl, what we do, does not demand any type of strength at all. It is an addiction that has conquered us and some of us daily wish we can summon the strength to stand up to these addictions and quit.
Unfortunately, we are weak to do so. The really strong men in this world are people like you,Syl. That rare breed of young men who can control what they take, stay focused on their dreams and still strive for a very healthy life. To be that guy is not easy in any way and demands a whole lot of self-discipline. Syl, your type is rare and strong. You guys were the ones who did not allow peer pressure conquer you. Everyday, I wish I had your strength.
There are so many Sylvesters out there; young men who at this point are still in senior secondary school whom as I write are facing the dilemma of “belonging” or following their hearts to live a healthy life away from the drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. The lure and glitter of peer pressure are strong. There will be that guy out there whom you wish to be your friend but who cannot accept you except if you show that you know “what's up”.
There could be a very beautiful girl around too, whom you are fantasizing about and you are beginning to believe that being a “happening boy” is the only way to get her. Trust me, in years to come, that guy you so desperately wish to befriend may not be worth being your friend if you stay on the right path.
Even the girl may not even be worth it, but if she is, believe me when I tell you that she will prefer a more responsible version of you. Never for any reason see your decision to live the right life and stay away from alcohol and drugs as proof of weakness. In fact, it is proof of the greatest strength one can aspire to. Stay on your path and be proud.
You should also know that most times when your friends who take alcohol and the other stuff mock you for not doing so, they only seek for somebody to share their weaknesses with. And deep down, they envy you.
So to all the Sylvesters out there, you need to know that you guys are the true symbols of strength. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs do not make a man strong.