I don’t know what we were talking about the other day with my mum and cousins, and my mum said something about being okay with small weddings. I had to stop the conversation for neither I nor my cousins could believe what we just heard: my mother, whose primary hobby is hosting, is OKAY with small weddings! I started getting all excited and talking about how I had been dreading that my wedding – not that I’m even planning one – will likely crowded with people I don’t even know, and just before I could thank her for her for being “cool” she stopped me saying: don’t kid yourself young man; your father is not going to have any of that.
Yes, if I ever get to marry, I’ll have something like a thousand invitation cards printed out, but I’ll only get to keep like one hundred – two hundred at most. For that’s how many people I personally know well enough to invite to my wedding. I’ll pass the rest of the invitations to my parents who’ll make sure they invite everybody they know – because the wedding won’t really be about me and my future bride, but our families. In fact, in Burundi a wedding card invitation will most likely say something like… “The families of Mr & Mrs S, and Mr and Mrs T are happy to invite you to the wedding of their children XS and YT” – you see who’s doing the inviting here?
Growing up, I used to get annoyed when adults were more interested to know who my father is than to know my name. But with time – and some wisdom – I realised that’s just how things are here. Before being individuals, we are our parents’ children. Nowadays, I actually find it amusing when somebody presents me as my father/mother’s son before even stating my name. Growing up, I also learnt another truth which isn’t so obvious: our parents are, well, their children’s parents… Confused? Let me explain.
One of the things that make me happiest and feel honoured is being called my father’s son. Up to now, I have mostly heard good things about the man. I could count the number of bad things I’ve heard about him on one hand, and even then most of them aren’t true – I’m not just saying this because he’s my father; you can ask around. He may not be very rich or famous, but he is a respectable man; appreciated in society and for his work. Growing up I realised that if he had wanted, he could have had more “fun” with his life – he could have had girlfriends, played dirty politics, been corrupt, spent his money on useless things, but he didn’t. The man knew that there is more to life than individual freedoms. He knew that above all, he is a husband and a father. He knew that in this World, our actions and decisions affect the image of the people close to us.
Life has taught me that we do not belong to ourselves but to our families, and sometimes our communities. I know that there are certain things I cannot do, not because they are bad, but because they are not suited to the family, the employer, the Church, the friends that I represent. The other day, some friends laughed at me when I said that, in my head, I look and behave something like the artist Will.I.Am. It’s true though. If I could really be how I want to be, I’d have a funky haircut, a few piercings, wear fancy clothes and make awesome music videos… amongst other things, but I can’t, because most of these things don’t fit well in my environment I live in. I always find it strange and a bit ridiculous when I see a grown man ‘rocking’ earrings in Burundi; but put me in a more liberal and ‘accepting’ society and I’ll find it perfectly normal. Anyway, my point is, some things just don’t work here.
A devoted activist would be quick to conclude that I’m unhappy because of these ‘limitations’. Guess what? I am not; because I’ve understood what really counts for me. It began with appreciating that my parents sacrificed a lot of things to get my brother and me to where we are today. The least I can do is have a conduct that will honour their efforts. One would think that I’m not fully enjoying my life, but if they have met people who do everything they want and ‘enjoy’ all their freedoms, they’d realise that they aren’t any happier. That’s because happiness depends on a lot more! In fact, you’d probably find them worrying about how other people can’t enjoy the same ‘rights’ as them.
Instead of focusing on all the things that I can’t do or can’t have, I’ve decided to focus on all the opportunities put in my reach thanks to the selflessness demonstrated by the people who brought me where I am. Don’t you think my life would have been a little bit more complicated if my parents had been murderers or criminals; even if my bank account was loaded with money?
Now before I close this off, I’d just like to tell you why my mother actually supports small weddings. She’s been looking at the rising rate of divorces and her opinion is that people – read, our generation – don’t take the whole marriage business seriously anymore. Therefore, if one’s not sure they’ll put enough efforts into the life after the party, they might as well have less people witness the ceremony – and less money spent on it for that matter. It’ll spare the family some embarrassment, she said.
Finally, I’d like to share with you a quote from my favourite series at the moment, Game of Thrones (which you should watch if you aren’t already!), that I think sits well with today’s topic.