An Open Letter to Myself and other Cameroonians Like ME Who May Need Some Hope
To you, the young start-up CEO with bold dreams and drive and talent struggling to survive in a country that is outright discouraging for business
To you, father and mother fraught with worry over your child’s safety, over their future, over the possibility of them being all you would hope they would be, doing all you have hoped they would do in a country such as ours.
To you; farmers and market wo(men), working 20 hour days. Undervalued for your work even as you sustain the country. Grappling with everything from market fluctuations to war to the arrogance of a middle and upper class who would bargain the value of your goods down to nothing- like a sport.
To you, immigrant by force rather than choice. Working multiple jobs and long hours to support a family at home. To live up to the hopes those who saw you off at the airport had on their faces.
To you, civil servant stuck in the system you would like to change but unable to. Fighting not to become ‘one of them’. And still fighting yourself because you need that work.
To you, journalist afraid to do what you have been called to do. Forced to negotiate your right to self-expression every day. Slowly transforming from bard to silenced victim -or worse- a sycophant for survival.
To you pensioner, tired, so tired. After years of saving up to survive if not enjoy your retirement in the country that doesn’t care… Yet you are now chased from the house you saved up to build, you are now an IDP, your life’s effort seemingly futile.
To you, the doctor, to you the nurse. Underpaid and at risk every single day. Regularly confronting illness and death which could have been avoided, if only… if only we were better….
To you, activist, development worker, advocate striving for a better future. Investing your money, time, effort, health… sacrificing your relationships, safety, pleasures and loads more… with very little rewards, and little hope of future rewards.
I’m sorry. Very sorry. But I must ask you still to hope.
I know too well how we all try. I know too well how tired we are. Sleep no longer helps, food no longer satisfies. We have made do until we are about done. We want to give up. There is enough reason to. Why believe in something that is set up to self-destruct. Why fight for people who cannot appreciate the sacrifice? Why not just leave? I have asked all these of myself. I am even now asking this of myself. I would like to teach myself to give up, to learn not to hope any longer. I am struggling to dream a new dream a dream other than a Cameroonian dream. I truly wish I could.
Actually that is a lie, I do not wish I could. It is not a wish, rather it is something I know I should, for sanity and a different life. My real wish, what I pray for is that I had some motivation- just a bit of relevant encouragement to keep trying. So I am writing this to me and to you too. To all of us that may need some reason to go on after that mockery of a presidential speech. After yet another trip past threatening soldiers wielding guns at what used to be your local hangout or after yet another lockdown imposed without care. This is for all of us at the brink.
Sister, brother, mother, father…
Remember, try to remember who you once were.
Try to remember what birthed the dream you now want to give up.
Try to remember why you started.
Take it out, that motivation. Regard it again, even if it is now an empty bottle.
Drop your tears in it and shake to capture any residue of hope left.
Never throw away the bottle.
You may need it again.
And even if next time only the scent of what the bottle once held is left to flavor your tears. Repeat.
Because hope is a fragile thing but hard to completely remove. Some dregs must remain like oil drops in a narrow-mouthed bottle.
So please try again.
I am sorry to ask. I know it’s too much.
But if I don’t hope. If you don’t hope. There will be no hope.
So let’s try. Perhaps just a little more.
Let’s hope, just a little while longer.
We do not do it for this government. Not even for the country. We do it for ourselves. And for others who like us will have a dream, much like ours, and will need to see an example of those who didn’t stop even if they slowed down.