A camel gets to just about enough old an age that puts its name in the long list of longest living animals on earth. According to a report from NHK in 2014, a Japanese national media outlet, a female bactrian camel named Tsugaru died at a zoo in Japan’s Yokohama. It was believed that the camel died at about 120 years in human counting.
A camel, popular for being a burden beast, could live up to a good number of years in a world where animals living under normal conditions seldom approach their maximum possible life span because high rates of mortality (majorly at infancy), diseases, predators, unfavorable weather, habitat destruction, or competition for food and shelter.
The life of a camel is both fascinating and noteworthy. It lives its length of days bearing the burdens of the past, the burdens of today, and the burdens of the thoughts of tomorrow’s burdens, and yet, despite being encumbered, the camel finds a means to accept it all and keep breathing.
A camel’s yesterday is possibly a memory of quite a far journey with loads and loads of loads – between its humps, tied to its bony back – that could quite as much be more than the troubles of a day before. Along the way, the camel could have encountered a failure, run out of water, lain flat on its belly, and would go no further no matter the counts of nudges and cusswords thrown at it by its master.
A beast of burden, a subject of abuse; this is what the past and present of a camel looks like. However, the reality of how long a life the camel manages to live against all odds only goes to prove a possibility of firm acceptance. The camel accepts its history and everything else in between – the recurrent failures, the throes of mistakes, the consequence of wrong choices, the sturdy chains of agony, the lightless depths of shame, the demons of the past – and gets going on with its life.
We are no camels, but we are not so different. As much as we still have a future ahead of us, we have had a past that could possibly never be blotted out of memory even if we had a brainwash. It could be a history that could have us staring up at the wide, endless, lightless expanse of the night sky, being completely serenaded by it and giving us a reason to crease our faces into a smile, or we could be the moonlesssness of the sky, soaking up our pillows with a pool of tears, when we sift through our dusty records of the past. Whatever effect our pasts have on us, they are still truly, in themselves, our histories, and can only be wholly accepted.
Suicide has become an epidemic in our society today. We have grown weary of the burdens we carry, and we have got to the point where quitting it all has become a solution. One of the most depressing realities that gets most youths to the point of accepting suicide as the best option is the chains of disappointments from the archives of their lives. When a youth looks back into the not-so-distant past, how far he has come, and he finds that his counts of failures surpasses those of his successes, there could be nothing more reassuringly depressing. Hence, the suicidal thoughts do not sprout within a day. They come from all of the failures that have happened in the past, and finally, there is one that is just enough to pull the trigger.
Maybe the past is some very old phantom. She has been so dead, but no one ever told her to rest in peace. Her owner abandoned her to so cruel a grave, thinking that she is as gone as the dead ought to be, and has gone on to chase a future for himself. But alas, the past still roams the land of the living. She walks about with a very bitter heart, and just like the old saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, the past is hellbent on making mincemeat of everyone that has despised her. The past could always want to resurface in our future if she has always been denied, refused.
The failures of yesterday are but a dream that need to be worked on, adjusted, corrected, built on, today to achieve tomorrow’s visions. Even a second ago has been added to your past and history. Hence, if a second ago of your life had been misused, you could only learn from it. Just like the camel, you could only bear the burden of the misuse, the consequence of the expensive mistake made. If ever there were means to correct the past, suicide would never be an option.
Your past could be a man; your father who used to sneak into your room at night. Your heart sank into the pit of your belly the first night he stole into your room in the deep of the night. You could not make out his features in the shadows he stood and he wouldn’t move out of the darkness into the dim moonlight that poured into your room through the glass windows. Fear’s coldest claws gripped your heart and wouldn’t let go as moments of horrible gusts of silences passed. You finally found your voice and asked who it was. He stepped forward, and you could see it was your father. Your heart was almost relieved, but for the beads of sweat that broke out on his open chest and the whimsical need in his dark, hooded eyes.
Your father spoke with just as much desire as was in his eyes. He said he wanted to play a game with you, and you could not tell how important the game was that it couldn’t wait until dawn. He told you that your part in the game was just to spread your girly legs apart, and he did the rest. When he was done, he told you that the game was a secret between you two alone, and that your mother didn’t need to know. Games were supposed to be fun, but you couldn’t tell why there was just far too much pain creeping from between your legs up to your spine.
You still believed your father and did as he asked. He came many nights afterwards until you were seventeen years old, and had had enough. So, when he was on top of you that night, you bashed his head in with a hammer that you had kept ready at your bedside. He went limp, and was soon dead. Since then, you have been looking up the easiest, least painless ways to commit suicide on Google. My dear, whatever happened is in the past. Accept it. Forgive yourself and live.
The past could yet be a fair damsel whom you had loved so much. You were the only child of your parents, the apple of their eyes, their sunshine, their hope, their all, but this young woman was all of those things and more to you. Just like your parents who would rather go hungry than see you drop out of school, you would rather give up your academic ambitions than see your miss not achieving hers. And that was what you did. You sent her to school with the money your parents saved up by sacrificing their meals. You were meant to be the one that got a B.Sc, but love did not let you think straight. She called you every night, and told you how in love she was with you. One day, she called you ‘brother’ and you could not contain your rage. She hung up on you, and for days, she would not take your call. A month after, you saw her wedding pictures with a man that stank of just about the same level of education as she. You have hung a rope from your ceiling, and a noose is ready. It is in the past, my dear. Accept it, and breathe.
Your past and its failures could be worse than these examples, but they are just as valid. If we had a shot at changing our pasts, we would have no success at changing them if we were dead. You do not need to kill yourself to make your past mistakes go away. The past keeps on hunting us probably because we have not accepted the past. Accept the past, forgive the mistakes you made in the past, look away from the failures you have had in the past, and set your gaze on the future. We are all survivors, and just like the camel we carry the burdens of survival. You matter as much as your burdens. Carry on. Keep surviving. Accept your past. Move beyond your past. Control your future. And maybe, just maybe, the past will cease to be.
Johnson Onyedikachi is a teenage Nigerian creative writer who has unpublished manuscripts of poetry and plays. He recently picked interest in crime fiction and in August 2019, enrolled in an online course where he gained proficiency in article/journal writing including the use of referencing formats (MLA and APA style). He wrote in via email@example.com