Provided by Billy Osogo
Dr Brené Brown, in her insightful book, I Thought It Was Just Me, writes about “knowing laughter.” She defines it as “laughter that results from recognizing the universality of our shared experiences, both positive and negative.”
It is this knowing laughter that I so viscerally experienced when I first read AP2’s brilliant article titled First Solo. He described the feeling he had when writing that particular article as something akin to his first solo. He wrote of the moment, “that same sinking feeling – like I’ve missed a crucial part of my training.” In a brave show of sheer, artistic vulnerability, he admitted to being petrified.
I remember reading his article and feeling a profound tidal wave of equanimity. His words, the genuineness of his persona and how he wittingly recounted what was hitherto a petrifying experience, soothed my nerves. I laughed. That knowing laughter in cognizance of what he must have been going through. What I am now going through.
I was born in Nairobi, Kenya. I have been in love with reading and writing for as long as I can remember. This one time, the school, as it routinely did, brought in someone to speak us about careers. After giving his speech, he indulged us. He went round the room asking people what they would want to be when they grow up. When he got to me, I stood up, and in the most confident cadence I could muster, I said I wanted to be a story teller.
There was pin-drop silence. I could hear the frogs croak in my head. He looked at me instinctively, as though telling me, this is where you withdraw your tomfoolery and give an appropriate answer. I must have looked back at him as though to say, that’s my answer. What ensued was the most-deafening, roaring laughter, I had experienced up to that point. The room erupted. Even the sleepy-head in the corner who had drooled a river, startled and seamlessly joined the rest in laughter. I remember the speaker saying, ‘This one will make a good comedian.’ Then in a twist of irony, he went on to tell us the story of his life! As did the next speaker and the one after.
A lot of things have changed since then. Kanye has run for President, Maradona has gone to be with the Lord, the Undertaker has conceded mortality and my bag of potato chips is fuller now. Actually, it’s still the same. 40% chips, 60% air. Ah, you get the point. I failed at comedy. I am thinking I either spoke to my audience in tongues or the man was just a false prophet. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the answer I gave him almost fourteen years ago. I remain a storyteller.
I see, interact, interrogate and commune with the world through stories. I listen and I tell. With that in mind, one would have expected that when I received the wonderful news that I would be writing for Pointless Overthinking, I would have been elated. Sort of like Jordan when he was picked to play for the Chicago Bulls. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I found myself in the same ballpark as AP2. I was petrified!
It was as though I was handcuffed to a radiator somewhere in the annals of a dungeon. Unable to wrench myself free. Crippling doubt and stubborn anxiety hovered around me like flies over a carcass. I could see the smoke billow and the rafters begin to collapse. Self-pity crept upon me like a thief in the night. I could hear the steps. I could see the shadow growing bigger and bigger. I could feel the goose bumps forming.
Are you good enough?
16, 090 followers! What are you going to tell them? What makes you think they will be interested anyway?
You really must be a comedian!
It was brutal!
I couldn’t come up with anything. All the ideas I thought I had vanished. All the pep talks I’d give myself came to naught. It was pointless.
I watched a speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who had just been voted as the Winner of all Winners in commemoration of 25 years of the Orange Prize. In her speech, which I watched as I marveled at how after all these years, my chips still aren’t full, she said something that spoke to me. Chimamanda said;
“The truth is you cannot create anything of value without a little self-doubt and self-belief. Without doubt you become complacent. Without self-belief you cannot succeed.”
There it was. The problem wasn’t that my failure to think. The problem was that I was overthinking. Pointlessly. (*flashes that huge Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson smile). I was overthinking pointlessly about what to write for a blog titled Pointless Overthinking. Eureka!
To cut a long story short, I am excited to be here. In Swahili, we have a word for times like this. Mwanzo (pronounced as mwah-nzo). That’s Swahili for ‘beginning’. I hope this is the beginning of a long, fruitful, journey of telling and listening to each other’s stories. A journey of sharing that palpable knowing laughter. I am honored to be considered worthy to be part of this immeasurably gifted family of writers and passionate readers.
Here’s to pointlessly overthinking together (*raises a glass)!
Billy’s personal blog can be found here.