May Your Road Be Rough: Blessing or Curse?

by Ogunyemi Oluwaseyi.

At the turn of the new millennium, I was just a young boy looking forward to the prospects of attending secondary school and literarily take my place at our ‘family school’, the prestigious Mayflower school Ikenne, founded in 1956 by the enigmatic Solarin’s with my elder brothers who were already enrolled there.

I studied so hard for the entrance examination as if every other school in the country had denied me admission and going to Ikenne was my last and only resort. In an age where GSM was just making inroads into the country, and ICT was just on the rise, checking of result had to be done by visiting the school’s notice board and the exercise was carried out by my mum who returned home to inform me that I didn’t make the cut.

I exerted a promise from my parents that we were going to visit Ikenne the next day to check the results once more as I was sure I had done enough to earn my place in the school. The night was longer than usual but morning came in due course and I was set to embark on the promised journey before I was taken out of my misery that I had been admitted.

Preparations for resumption started in earnest and the prospect of staying away from the comfort of our home dawned on me but I was buoyed by the prospect of new adventures and having my brothers around.

On resumption, at a gathering of new students at the hostel assembly where our orientation was ongoing, we were taken through the traditions of the school and what was expected of us as students and leaders of tomorrow, the hostel director ended his talk with the charge ‘MAY YOUR ROAD BE ROUGH’, one of the favourite maxims of Tai Solarin, and no one dared to say amen.

At this pronouncement, a boy from behind shouted ‘epe’ (Meaning curse in Yoruba). The director took his time to explain further that life isn’t a bed of roses as challenges are bound to pop up along the line and it’s our reactions to them that makes us stronger and better.

This brings me to the topic of this piece, May Your Road Be Rough; BLESSING or CURSE?

At the end of the orientation that fateful day, my young mind was in an itinerant state devoid of any sort of conclusion as I was torn in between discarding the philosophy, adopting it as a guiding principle or just bury my head in the sand like an ostrich as if both ideas never ruminated in my mind.

As a Christian and young boy who wanted the good things of life, I was perturbed about how one would want to go through a rough path filled with thorns, when there are well paved roads with roses on the sides.

I was out of my muddled state few weeks later as I stumbled on the original piece titled ‘May your road be rough’ which was published in the Daily Times of January 1, 1964. Moving on from that point was made somewhat easier by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s quote which reads thus;

‘The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night’.

From that day onwards, I saw every challenge as an opportunity to become a better person and appreciate more what I have worked for. As a Yoruba adage translates, ‘whatever we don’t labour for do not last’

In hindsight as an adult, away from the days when I just came in contact with the adage or maxim may your road be rough, I have discovered that it encompasses the stages one has to go through in life to become successful, and the lessons learnt are meant to act as checks to keep an individual up the ladder of success

As we all move into the New Year, note that,

‘I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year. I therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year, may there be plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are not so sure what you should say back, why not just say, ‘Same to you’? I ask for no more’. (First paragraph of may your road be rough published in Daily Times of January 1, 1964)

When I walk into the dry but certainly cool morning air of every January 1st, I wish myself plenty of tears and of laughter, plenty of happiness and unhappiness, plenty of failures and successes. Plenty of abuse and praise. It is impossible to win ultimately without a rich measure of intermixture in such a menu. Life would be worthless without the lot. We do not achieve much in this country because we are all so scared of taking risks. We all want the smooth and well-paved roads. While the reason the Americans and others succeeded so well is that they took such great risks.

If, therefore, you are out in this New Year 1964, to win any target you have set for yourself, please accept my prayers and your elixir. May your road be rough!(Last paragraph of may your road be rough published in Daily Times of January 1, 1964)

I will not force you to accept this wish or prayer (depending on how you see it) in your journey through 2017, it’s up to you my readers to decipher whether it’s a blessing or curse. By the end of the year, I pray we all would be alive to appraise the saying MAY YOUR ROAD BE ROUGH

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