Some thoughts I wrote on the plane ride from Paris back to Accra.
The sting of defeat is not an easy pill to swallow. This I know. It becomes even more painful when the defeat comes in an arena in which one has a history of victory. What can you say to the mirror in an attempt at self-consolation when you have just failed on the biggest stage of your life? Do you take pride in the fact that it was a rare loss and you are blessed to experience the success that you have? Or do you lament the fact that when push came to shove, you were unable to perform in the manner that has so convincingly pushed you to achieve new heights in the past?
There are those who tell me that I’m young, I’m ambitious, and I will have a crack at this again. I realize all three of these things. But this realization does little to dull the pain of knowledge. Knowledge that I will never be what he was, that I will never do what he did. But is that my goal? When I pause and reflect, I realize that I don’t know why I hold myself to the standards he has set. Is he God? No. Is he a god? Well, some might call him one in moments of awe-inspired hyperbole (at least in the realm of spoken word poetry,) but when all gold, be it in the form of lavish earrings fit for royalty or conversely, the simplest of wedding bands, is melted down, it becomes the same: a mass of yellow liquid. I am not a lavish earring; that much is certain. But he might be. And to compare myself to such grandeur does nothing for my soul, though it may humble my ego.
Ultimately, however, I think I’ve come to understand this – gold is gold. All that glitters is not gold. God knows that much glitters in this world, hoping to pass itself off as gold. But the true gold is tricky. It is boastful at times, lavish and grandiose and extravagant almost to a fault, though one can never fault it because, well, gold is lavish and grandiose and extravagant. But it can also be painfully shy sometimes, subtle and unassuming to the point where those around can barely recognize its value before it decides to shine. Sometimes, this gold wishes to be more extravagant. “I wish to be more extravagant,” it thinks, observing lavish gold from afar. “I want people to see me as they see lavish gold, as something worthy of praise and honour.” Meanwhile, simple gold continues to toil on in relative obscurity, always thinking to itself that lavish gold holds a superior position and hoping it could attain the same status, but not realizing that there are just as many people who appreciate a simple gold band all the same, and perhaps even prefer it to extravagant gold earrings.
Perhaps this analogy only makes sense in my head. Actually, I’m SURE it only makes sense in my head. Sorry, my head can be an awfully convoluted place sometimes. What I’m trying to say is this – I’ve spent so long in an imaginary shadow cast by others who do what I do and do it well, that I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way I can measure up is to follow suit. To some measure, I’ve succeeded. There aren’t many people who have achieved what I have in the arena in which we choose to compete; in fact, there is only one. He whose footsteps cast gigantic waves of doubt across my mind every time I step up to the mic and see potential greatness, but also potential wasted. So often I’ll beat myself up over missed lines or jumbled rhythms, even as I pocket the prize money and head home. To what standard of perfection do I hold myself, that even in victory, I am defeated? The answer, in truth, is that I don’t desire to be perfect. I just want to be known as the greatest. Call it the most contrived ego trip known to mankind, but I believe every man, or at least the everyman, considers greatness as an attainable goal at some point in their life. It’s the disillusioned ones like I who never give up on the dream, if only to prove something to themselves. But what have I to prove? When it comes down to it, I know I am a winner. I know that I win. I know this. And yet, it is not enough. I want to be in a position where my name becomes synonymous with success, and considering the occurrences of the past few days – I’ve royally screwed it up. Missed my proverbial boat, so to speak. See, success is defined not by achievement, but by the totality of said achievement. Derrick Rose and Steve Nash can each score 25 points any given night. The difference is that it takes Rose 23 shots to get there and Nash, maybe 15. The totality of the latter’s achievement rings so much clearer than the former’s, because it is in its totality that the standard of perfection becomes apparent. Even if I one day return to achieve what I could not yesterday, it doesn’t change the fact that at one point, I could not achieve it. And that is a shadow that will cast a heavy pall on my shoulders, whenever I choose to carry some measure of responsibility on them. Responsibility for our scene, for what we do, and for the pride of those who do it.
I have returned a failure. Grant me this one, however, because I promise it will not happen again.