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Life in the Raw

I thought about what I could possibly share that might ensure at least 64.5% of this very diverse audience would be awake at the end of my allotted minutes. I won’t try for didactic- I don’t do it well; I’m not going to go for funny or humorous because awkward silences are only fun on my own terms; I won’t go for meaninglessly abstruse because all mildly confounding poeticisms are in direct opposition to the pact I made with Rima to make this simple and straightforward. (Ergo TB will flail his arms frantically when I come within 3 words of violating this, at which point it is advisable to head briskly towards these exits).

What I will try to accomplish is this: I will attempt to be myself, whatever that means, and be entirely selfish by saying only what I would hope someone would tell me on the threshold to grown-up-hood: everything fun and childish, that may not mean much, but sounds wonderfully nice.

 However, I figured that while I have you here, I might as well endeavor to be mildly insightful, maybe even quotable. Thus the epic story unfolds:

Since everything else I say may or may not comply with speech making protocol (I couldn’t find the app), I thought I should at least insert an inspiring/meaningful quote. However, true to form, I figured I would have it at the start, rather than in closing:

"Holland, 1945:
But now we must pack up every piece
Of the life we used to love
Just to keep ourselves
At least enough to carry on"
-By Neutral Milk Hotel.

So this is essentially what my speech is- it is signing out, throwing any superfluous things away,  packing up all the little mosaic pieces of this ALA experience and getting ready to head out. But I want to catch you just at the doorstep and grab your hand and speak to you about what we had. Even for one last time - especially for this last time.

I am thankful for this charged, intense 2-year experience for many reasons - most importantly, that I can now proudly spell entrepreneur without spellcheck. And then of course for loud, gruesome, silent, slow motion, fast-forward, bloody, blood-less, sad, funny, brief, protracted, real, dramatized, slam poetry-Bollywood-musical-complete-with-choreographed-steps collisions. Of this, in all seriousness, I am most grateful. It is the one thing that I have begun to appreciate about life, which in essence, is a series of collisions of varying gradations. This is the only worthy thing my mind could churn out that deserves to be spoken of today.

After a whole year of SciRes class it would be unjust not to begin with my hypothesis: I am going to convince you (well, try) that not only are collisions beneficial and entirely necessary, but that they are also beautiful. Most especially that last part.

I have many favorite words, they change fast and frequently, and once upon a time ‘smorzando’ was one of them. Now Dimeji will argue words of foreign origin don’t count and I would suggest he take up Latin then. Smorzando means ‘extinguishing’ to put it simply. ALA was smorzando. Many of us arrived here that seminal day in September 2010, young and eager. None of those 94 people who came in through the gates (back when it was just one manual set anyway) will be walking/driving/flying out of here today. None of them. And for this, I lay both the blame and praise at ALA’s door.

ALA was smorzando because this is the place of collision and stasis comes here to die. ALA was smorzando because it propelled 94 African leaders in varying stages of youth into a plethora of collisions. I am thankful. I am very thankful.

Like man is often inexplicably drawn towards classification, and labeling and packaging, I also have a penchant for pigeon-holing. And I have done the same for my little collisions:

Intellectual or ideological- the matrix is more than a cool movie with awesome scenes, and Morpheus is more dramatic than Tebello; piecing together fragmented identities, ‘not all pigs are equal.’

Emotional- rejection from more than just colleges as AL Hassan taught me, humility, joy, and that satisfaction of making the deadline before Mr Eltayeb took the submission box away from the admin.

Cultural- it’s bobbing your head to house music and singing in kinyarwanda, eating yassa, chapatti and jollof rice all in one sitting, doing the gully creeper (to various degrees of success), wearing Senegalese pants and ‘choppin’ someone’s money.’

Lingual- It’s jerking up from a dream when you realize the fire-breathing dragon just threatened you in a whole paragraph of English. It’s creating a whole new ‘hectic’ language, where Nigerians say ‘ati’ more than Kenyans and South Africans use ‘abeg’ more frequently than can possibly be healthy; and everything is deep-o nowwww.

Physical (duh) – it’s Ammar running into the lib pillar, it’s Ammar falling..down, up, sideways and internal civil wars .

I am most concerned about the last. Internal personal collisions are the most potent, I have gathered, and therefore, according to me, hold the most potential to instigate significant change – positive or otherwise.

ALA catalyzed the collisions within ourselves- those that completely change your trajectory and leave you walking away with burn marks (in lovely patterns!). We have expanded and stretched and pulled back together and come together and come apart at the seams due to the fallout of 2 years of a succession of internal explosions.

See I like collisions for many reasons: they are colorful and hot and often come with loud booming noises- all very dramatic.  ALA was smorzando because it extinguished certain parts of our selves, but it also ignited others. I like collisions most because in the aftermath of the loud explosion, new things can come. This in my opinion is why we must look back at our two years (even without the nostalgia) and be glad we landed that day in OR Tambo or that bus station.

I said I would not be didactic. Seeing as I broke nearly all my promises at the start, In I will leave this one and instead, extract a promise from you.

Repeat after me: "I [insert name] solemnly promise to embrace and when necessary, seek out magical collisions; and to do it in style."

As I conclude, in all honesty, I am not worried or sad for the 1st years we will be leaving behind; or even for the graduates as we go out into the big and bad world. Rather, I am more worried about the people we are inevitably going to collide with in all the places we’re heading off to because I can bet all the purple things in the world that they’ll never have met any better critical thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs, dreamers, leaders, or anyone with more drive, passion and excellence than this set. Than us.

So pack up all the pieces of your magical collisions – large and small- of this 2 year experience we loved and are now waving off, but keep yourself just enough to carry on.

Here’s to Making More Magic!

Alexis Teyie from Kenya is a dynamic, creative young lady with a passion for youth engagement. Alexis was nominated as ALA’s Graduation Day Speaker and the above blog entry was her address to her fellow graduates at ALA's graduation ceremony. She will be attending Amherst Collge in 2012 on a full scholarship.