Saturday, June 7, 2008

Lean On Me

My name is Ifeoluwa. I want to tell you a story that goes way down to the bottom of my heart. It comes from some years back when I was a secondary school student.

I entered secondary school a very little girl who had never left home but loved adventure. I found it exciting to be in boarding school, a world away from home. I settled into my dormitory, went to my first ever prep class and experienced lights out for the first time. It wasn’t so bad. I would get used to it. As time went on, I became acquainted with the students and made some friends. It wasn’t for long.

For some reason, everybody began to hate me. I really don’t know what I said or did to warrant such treatment. I was neat, quiet, prayerful and on time for all school programs. I didn’t step on anyone’s toes but minded my business all the time. So, why then was I being treated so badly? There was hardly a name I wasn’t called, from ‘silly’ to ‘witch’; none of the names escaped me. I became a constant object of ridicule and hate.

There was this particular senior. Her name was Jane. For some reason, Jane seemed to hate me the most. She punished me without any reason and never stopped insulting me. She would collect my provisions and call me stingy. She would send me on errands and say I was lazy. When everybody was having siesta, I was busy running one errand or the other. I was evidently the least favored among my mates. Jane just plain hated me. I particularly remember one day when she said to me, “right from the very first day I saw you, I hated you by the look of your face.”Wow! I went to the mirror. You know what, I cried. I looked at that image in the mirror and said “Ife, see how ugly you are. You are so ugly that everyone hates you.” That was the start of a very terrible decline in my life. I began to hate myself. I felt I was terrible, probably the worst creature God ever made.

Nobody else helped matters. I wore glasses. They called me ‘four eyes’, ‘oju igo’, ‘blind Bartimaeus’ and other silly names. I remember one night when my bunkmate, who was also my senior came back and told me she didn’t want me as her bunkmate anymore. More tears. Could someone please tell me what I did? Honestly, where did I go wrong? Nobody ever told me what I did to warrant such hatred. I felt they all just decided not to like me since one person had started the cycle. It didn’t end.

With time, I resigned to my fate. I gave up thinking that I’d have any friend. I became filled with self-hatred, self-pity and the likes. Inferiority complex set in. I couldn’t stand up to even my mates. Whenever nobody wanted something, I got it. I was their bin. I walked with my head down everywhere I went. I walked alone, ate alone, sat in front at assembly, was everybody’s messenger and never got to participate in anything. If I wanted to join in a game, they would say “we don’t need more people” or “you can’t do it”. I got the name “lonely soul” or “sojourner” from my mates. Because there was hardly anyone on my side, I began to think “I can’t do it. I’m no good.” I got the “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat cockroach” kind of approach. My pillow was never dry. I constantly wet it with my tears. Why did they do such terrible things to me? I had no answers.

I was a Christian. I only felt good when I was praying. And it wasn’t the “fell-good-because- I’m-happy” kind of feeling. I was continuously crying but just glad I could pour my heart out to God. I prayed and read my bible everyday. I began to table my problems before God. I always thanked Him and told Him He was the only friend I had. And I begged Him to send me a friend and help me forgive Senior Jane and all the others.

Somewhere along the line, God sent someone. She stepped in for me whenever somebody stood up against me. She told me that nobody could make me feel inferior except I allowed them to. She also reminded me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. She would help me with my assignments and ask me how I felt whenever I was down. For the first time in a long while, I felt that someone apart from God cared about me. Not that I didn’t believe that God cared or I didn’t know that I was special in His eyes, but there was nobody I could see physically who would let me know that and so, He sent Chichi my way.

When I got to know that someone cared for me, I began to feel better. I prayed to God to help me forgive all those who hurt me and more than forgiving, help me to love them. With the help of God and Chichi my friend, I began building up my self confidence. If I felt low or whenever depression began to set in, I would run to Chichi’s room and we would cry and pray together, and I would feel better.

Somehow, a lot of people liked and respected Chichi and since she liked me, some of them began to like me. I started joining in games and having reading partners. I mustered up confidence to join the school choir and though I never sang a solo, I was glad to belong.

I started working on myself. I forgave all those who had hurt me and worked towards loving them. I would ask them if they needed help with their assignments, if they were feeling well, if they needed to use Panadol and stuff like that. I even went to visit with senior Jane. All the while, I asked God to let his love radiate from me and let all those who hated me begin to like me. I got a lot of surprises.

People who never wanted to have anything to do with me suddenly had reason to come and meet me. Those who often looked down on me began to seek my opinion on different things. Even Senior Jane started being kind. She often asked me how I was feeling, greeted me if we met on the way and never sent me on errands. By the time she was graduating, she told me I was her best junior. My mates also started making amends. By the time we were graduating, we didn’t want to leave each other.

After forgiving, I started working on forgetting all the bad things they said and did to me. It wasn’t easy but with God’s help and constantly loving them, the bad memories began to fade.
Today, I’m still in touch with many of my friends from secondary school and you know what, I don’t even bear the slightest grudge against them. We call each other, catch up on what’s been happening in our lives and even pray for each other. It’s a whole new world of joy. I’m so glad I learnt to forgive.

*Ifeoluwa Ogunkanmi

If Ifeoluwa’s story applies to you and you want to identify with it, please send a mail to
If you are past the teen age or still a teenager and you have a story to tell that will help other teenagers, please send your story to the above e-mail address also.

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