Today’s Sunday Snippet is from the Young Adult Fiction, Personal Development novel The Power of Yet by Michael Benjamin. It was published in June 2019 by GoldenOne Dream LLC and is currently available as a paperback, ISBN-13: 978-1097922963 and an eBook, ISBN-13: 978-1097922963.
Synopsis of The Power of Yet by Michael Benjamin
SEVENTEEN-YEAR OLD NIA AKINTEWE lives in Notsuoh, Texas, an isolated unknown city on the outskirts of Houston where residents have two choices: FOCUS or FAIL. Nia remembers the demise of her brother when he veered off his path of focus (one time) as she attempts to avoid the same path illustrated to her. While dealing with her fears and insecurities, most notably her fear of public speaking, she meets a mentor close to home that teaches her the power of shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. As a college freshman, she learns financial literacy to assist her with the knowledge base required to rapidly pay off her student loan debt she will accrue over time. She’s equipped with the tools necessary to initiate this mindset shift, but it’s up to her to apply what she learns. Will she focus or fail?
Name of chapter: I Can’t… (Chapter 1)
Message: In the beginning, her heart was pounding aggressively, and it was about to be her turn to go up and speak. She felt she had a chip on her shoulder as she carried the burden of her struggle with public speaking, the weight of many blue whales weighing heavily on her feeble heart. Her name was Nia Akintewe.
From the outskirts of Houston, this seventeen-year-old Nigerian-American was in the midst of her first year at the local community college in Notsuoh, Texas. Nia’s relatives unfamiliar with Notsuoh assumed she lived in Houston and she would often correct them, regrettably informing them she lived hours away in the notoriously boring city.
Notsuoh was a deserted wasteland. Nia grew up in a city where there wasn’t much to do, and there were only two choices for inhabitants: focus or fail. Inhabitants either got influenced by boredom and participated in the negative influences that were abundantly offered, or focused and maximized the opportunity to excel under boring conditions to potentially relocate after a successful pursuit.
Boredom was an infectious disease, ruining the lives of Notsuoh residents, one life at a time. Nia fell victim to boredom’s unapologetic grasp upon getting in a relationship with her abusive ex-boyfriend, Kosey. Getting in a relationship with him to fill the void of loneliness and depression she felt prior to entering college, it was easily her most regrettable decision. She had declined him a number of times, but finally accepted when she thought he was genuinely caring for her in her time of need.
Kosey, lanky and gaunt in appearance, dealt with his own insecurities, evidenced in his verbal and physical treatment towards Nia. He appeared malnourished and was the same height as her, which made him throw many verbal and physical blows her way, because he lacked self-love. Nia often wore clothing that concealed the wounds sustained. Not only that, he maintained the view he was superior to her, because his skin tone was lighter than hers. His mother was African-American, and his father was European, so he felt superior to inform her he was “mixed” and had “good hair” while referring to her as an African booty scratcher.
He constantly alerted her she couldn’t accomplish her goals and would never become a woman in technology like she desired to be, for the simple fact he was misguided and undecided on his own journey. Two partners that didn’t love one another, but more importantly maintained no degree of self-love resulted in an imminent catastrophe as he broke up with Nia prior to their high school graduation upon finding another girl to terrorize and they never heard from one another again.
Conveniently escaping out of the abusive relationship she lacked the courage to leave, Nia was no longer receptive to male attention as she began her collegiate career. She was closed off in her attempt to protect the last piece of her heart. Their unnecessarily long, unhealthy relationship was a result of Nia’s negative fixed mindset towards men. She was nearly at her breaking point, still figuring out her own dynamic, but she knew she needed to figure it out on her own.
Although she lived many miles away from Houston, the notorious Texas heat did not discriminate. The disrespectful heat penetrated her pores without consent and would often form new blemishes at a moment’s notice on her already oily skin; this produced acne that protruded out her face’s surface like a pregnant woman’s belly, days before her due date. They told her oily skin would guarantee she avoided wrinkles in the future though. So there was that.
Nia was noticeably short with mahogany skin full of melanin, exuding off the aroma of Cocoa Butter delicately placed on her body. Despite what seemed like admirable features on the surface, she was teased for the size of her nose, the fact she had a lower pink lip and an accompanying brown upper one, and her height, or lack thereof. These features were desired, but not when someone that looked like her possessed them. Her college classmates often claimed her nose was excessively large, her lips appeared swollen up, and she was too short to be seventeen. They also teased her about the gap between her two front teeth, so she was intentional about keeping her mouth shut when she wanted to smile. Very insecure, she would often look down as she spoke to anyone in hope that they wouldn’t notice her features in her attempt to avoid any slander projected towards her.
Nia wore thick rectangular black eyeglasses over the big, brown beads of potential that were her eyes. The glasses, nearly encapsulating her entire face made it an easy avenue for her to remain the butt end of jokes. Whether she was called Steve Urkel’s long lost cousin or four eyes, she wasn’t a fan of any of it. She dreaded being labeled as a nerd, resulting in the concealment of her keen interest in technology as an aspiring Computer Science major, which she held behind closed doors, partly due to Kosey’s reaction.
Still yet to have claimed her major, she didn’t want to ignite further judgment on her character if she pursued a major in a field where the only other person that looked like her remained in the reflection she observed on her laptop screen before it turned on. Black girls were a marginalized group in technology or Computer Science fields, so why bother right?
Her colleagues condemned her for her natural hair, deeming it unprofessional in their eyes, as she looked forward to deviating from the natural look to impress others that had no regard for her well-being. These criticisms thrown at her were both vindictive and personalized.
On the verge of being underweight, Nia wore layers of clothes in her attempt to evade the slander of being classified as malnourished. She sported a couple layers of plain t-shirts under her oversized yellow hoodie to appear heftier. She wore all white Nike Air Max shoes, contrasting her black jeans. She was insecure with her height so she specifically wore these to give her an extra inch. Observing her jeans revealed skinny legs that exposed her body type. The fact that the slim boys in her class didn’t get equally teased for being just as slim or slimmer than her was beyond her. The fact that they made fun of her made her chuckle as she was reminded of the Spiderman meme with the two Spidermen pointing at one another. Such were the natural struggles of a young black girl.
However, Nia’s insecurities weren’t limited to her appearance. She struggled immensely with public speaking. It made her stomach upset. The thought of all eyes being on her tossed her into the dark depths of despair.
Nia’s fear of public speaking was deeper than meets the eye. She had an elder brother, Simba Akintewe, she looked up to as a role model, but his life was cut short, sparked by an altercation he had with law enforcement a few years prior. She witnessed the exchange and was told to recount the events leading up to the demise of her brother.
Taken into a cold, dimly lit room, the brightest light shone on her as authorities requested her to recount the event. She was in the spotlight and all eyes were on her. As the attention was placed on her, she was at a loss of words and knew what she wanted to say, but couldn’t send the signal to her brain to formulate the correct words to leave her mouth due to suffered trauma from the tragedy.
During Simba’s funeral, she was called up to give a public speech, and because she still suffered from immense trauma from his death, she blacked out and didn’t recall the events that transpired after all eyes were on her initially. This became a recurring event when she was presented with the opportunity to speak in a public setting as she placed an emotional tie from Simba’s demise with speaking. She progressed through her life, unconsciously living with a fixed mindset that she would perpetually have a negative relationship with public speaking. Not only that, the death of her brother influenced her biggest regret of getting in a relationship with her ex-boyfriend.
The fact Simba died as a result of getting away from a focused path on one occasion ran chills throughout her body when she recollected the scenario. In their boring town, people unconsciously focused or failed.
Simba was deemed a genius. He was about to be on his way to college on either a full ride Track and Field scholarship or an academic scholarship at UCLA. He always focused and excelled, earning exceptional grades and staying out of harm’s way. The one time he chose to veer off on a different path was enough to end it all. His colleagues he claimed were his closest friends were suffering from underlying jealousy and set him up for failure, which was the beginning of his untimely death.
Week after week, his “friends” often went out on the weekends or wasted their time doing mundane activities, because they were bored and misguided. They invited Simba to join them, but time after time, he declined their offer. As time progressed, they grew jealous of Simba when he sporadically stated good things were happening in his life, because they saw a lack in theirs. The fact Simba nonchalantly stated his good news raised their blood pressures to dangerous levels because they thought he assumed everything came easy to him. Simba was simply humble. On one particular boring weekend where Simba agreed to go out for a movie one evening, they devised a ploy to get Simba arrested to add entertainment value to their mundane activities.
Yo! I’ve got a great idea!” Connor stated with excitement.
“What?” Zane inquired with keen interest.
“We’re going to the movies with Simba finally, right? Let’s get him arrested.”
“Whoa! You’re serious? What do you mean?”
“Like as a prank or joke. We’ll tell him to bring Nia to the movies and the rest is easy. Let’s just get him arrested, then we’ll pull up on the officer and maybe tell him it’s a joke and he should be good. I think it’ll be funny!”
“Say less! What are you thinking of doing?”
They initially thought the extent of the repercussions behind their actions would be a quick arrest and they would free him afterward, but deep down they didn’t mind if he got arrested and his dreams and aspirations were crushed to shambles. Jealousy mixed with boredom was one dangerous mixture.
Nia remembered that day three years ago when Simba confusedly brought her to the movie theatres with him following an argument with Kosey. She was fourteen and he was seventeen. He thought he was much cooler than her and had authority over her because he had just started driving at the time. She would never forget the look of confusion he wore as he wondered why his “friends” operated the way they did.
“Ni Ni! Hurry up! Get out my car already,” Simba stated.
“That’s not even your car Simba,” Nia began. “You know Dad got you that car anyway! But don’t rush me!”
“Where are they at man? I don’t know why they told me to bring you here, but the homies told me to bring you here with me.”
“Maybe they want you to be nice to me because you’re always so mean!”
“Aye man, shut up! You should have had little Kosey bring you here then.”
“He’s stupid! But don’t talk about him like that.”
“You’re hilarious. But I just realized something. It’s funny how people that don’t know you personally are more willing to support you than people you’ve known forever that you call your friends.”
“You shut up! Why do you say that though?”
“I’m just thinking how these two are supposed to be my friends, but they didn’t even really congratulate me on UCLA or even any of my accomplishments in the past. It was always random people supporting me. It’s almost like they feel threatened by me or something.”
“Simba, I think you’re thinking about it too deeply.”
“Eh, you might be right Ni Ni. Well, let’s go.”
Still perplexed and alarmed at the fact his “friends” didn’t show up when they invited him and pestered him to bring Nia along, Simba and Nia watched the movie, both fixed on their phones for a majority of the movie. They didn’t even recall the title of the movie. The only thing they recalled was the inflection of the speakers nearly shattering their eardrums to smithereens. Nia sporadically glanced over at Simba during the screening and witnessed his phone screen shining on his mahogany skin, as he texted aggressively wondering where his “friends” were. As the movie ended, Nia and Simba began to leave as Simba looked frustrated.
“Did you get in contact with your friends?” Nia inquired.
“No! I’m going to scold them for that when I see them. That’s disrespectful.”
“Yeah. How did you feel about the movie though?”
“Man, I don’t know what movie you were watching, but I can barely even hear your question. Those speakers were way too loud and my ears are still ringing right now.”
“Yeah. Mine are kind of the same. I think I heard you?”
“I’m never going out ever again! I’m just going to focus from here on out and get ready to go to UCLA in the Fall. There’s too much nonsense going on in Notsuoh and I’m not trying to be a bum and fail like the rest of them.”
This was the last interactive conversation Nia had with Simba before their dynamic changed forever.
As they stepped outside, police cars swayed in their direction. Initially, they didn’t make anything of it until a couple officers approached Simba rapidly and yelled out a few obscenities before telling him to get down. Neither Nia nor Simba heard what was stated.
“What?” Simba inquired with his hands spread out confusedly nearly as far as if he was on a cross being crucified.
“Are you threatening us with that tone? Stop being aggressive!”
“Wait!” Simba stated animatedly, flailing his arms as he went into panic mode. “I just saw a movie and I can’t hear what—”
One shot to his right forearm was the beginning of the end. An officer in the distance assumed he wasn’t complying as the other officers nearby chastised him for pulling his trigger. Simba’s “friends” revealed themselves, crying excessively as they informed the officers that they falsely reported a murder, describing Simba and stating he kidnapped a girl they described as Nia. They were arrested for defamation of character shortly after.
As Simba recovered in the hospital, Nia realized he wasn’t the same prior to his nearly fatal encounter. He seemed more extreme with his emotions, either extremely happy or extremely depressive. Other times he would be nonchalant about everything. He eventually made a full recovery physically, but never made a full recovery spiritually or mentally as he lost the charming faith he once possessed. Losing his UCLA scholarship opportunities, Nia avoided the conversation and wondered how it occurred.
There was one particular day where Simba gave away a plethora of his stuff to Nia. He was known to be a giver, but this day was different. One thing after the other, he gave it to her.
“Nia!” Simba yelled from his room in their old house. “I know I’m giving you all this stuff, but remember, if you’re misguided and undecided, knowledge and wisdom can be provided!”
“What does that even mean?” Nia inquired confused.
“Exactly what I said! It’s grown man talk between me and Dad. If you know it, then you know it! I’m busy though and working on something, so I’ll see you later!” Simba replied energetically.
This was the last interactive conversation Nia had with Simba.
Simba was having one of his extremely happy moods and Nia didn’t know what to make of it at the time. Hours later, Nia was informed he committed suicide. His struggles were detailed in a written letter. He claimed the altercation with law enforcement changed his life for the worst where he fell into a depressive state partly due to the altercation, but more so because he felt betrayed by individuals he claimed to be his brethren. The tipping point was the high medical bills sitting at astronomical levels. Money became an issue to him and took control of his life, and when he lost his UCLA scholarship, in his eyes he lost it all. Simba’s “friends” plotted to get him arrested, but their prank went too far, resulting in an eventual self-inflicted blow.
If Nia learned one thing from Simba’s death besides her desire to go to UCLA to live the life he deserved, it was that one time is more than enough to lose it all. The bad outweighs the good. However, her brother’s legacy was forever remembered, so he was perpetually alive, gone only in the physical form. Ever since that day, she made a promise with herself to never allow money issues to stress her to the point of taking her own life. Culturally, money was a stressor for many, but it was important to be intentional about one’s relationship with money, and taking control of it, rather than letting it take control of you, and your mind. Nia’s father reminded her of that frequently following Simba’s death as he often coached her on tips and strategies to pay off the student loans she would accrue in an accelerated fashion.
Regardless of whether or not Nia thought about her brother, she was now scarred in her ability to perform public speaking. Her public speaking was as good as it was going to get and she would always faint no matter the situation. She was fixed in this mindset and very sure of it.
Her name was called by her professor. A hefty woman with a mole on her right cheek and pale wrinkly skin, most of the students couldn’t tell whether she was smiling or if her face was just wrinkled, but she was genuinely smiling at Nia.
“Nia! You’re up!”
They were nearly halfway through the semester and this was their first project where they had to perform public speaking. The rest of the class was most likely about to find out Nia’s little secret.
Palms sweating and beads of sweat forming on the surface of her forehead, she made her way up to the front of the classroom and turned around to face her peers. Her professor welcomed her with a genuine, yellow crooked smile and encouraged her to begin, nodding her head profusely in the process.
“Go ahead, sweetie.” She displayed an animated hand gesture. “Begin.”
Nia glanced over at her and then looked back at her colleagues. Various confusing faces spanned the room of about 20 individuals anticipating her speech. Half of these initially confused figures grew into menacing smiles. They now looked like monsters preparing to attack her as she grew defensive while being confronted by her perpetrators.
The room was spinning and Nia wasn’t certain what to do. She was having an out of body experience and felt like she was from the outside looking in, attempting to return back into her body to perform simple bodily functions. Fingers twitching, it felt like an eternity had commenced as she attempted to take control of herself.
Nia began pondering deeply about her brother’s letter regarding his financial struggles his mind couldn’t control. She remembered being questioned by the authorities with the bright light shining on her in that cold, isolated room that lacked forgiveness. She started to feel cold again, despite having layers of clothes underneath her signature yellow hooded sweatshirt.
She was able to slightly focus and zero in on her classmates once more. She wasn’t aware of how much time had elapsed. Now they all transformed into blurry silhouettes as her glasses grew foggy.
She blacked out.
She faintly heard her name called, whilst hearing a familiar ringing noise when she was about to faint from attempting to speak.
It was all black.
“Nia! Wake up Nia!”
Nia woke up abruptly. She quickly realized she passed out in her classroom before giving her speech. She also realized her entire class knew about what happened to her. How embarrassing. How would she go back to any of her classes ever again? That was a topic for another day.
Although Nia was now aware she had fainted, she was still confused as she hovered her fingers over her face in an attempt to fix her glasses. To her surprise, they were nowhere to be found on her face. Her eyes meandered her surroundings aimlessly, and the first thing she noticed with her limited vision was a meme pasted on the wall many feet away from her. She could see enough to only see a blurry silhouette but knew it was a meme. Not only that, her ears ceased ringing and worked perfectly as she heard Beyoncé’s music ringing throughout the premises of her surroundings.
“I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils.”
Nia felt chills running through her body as she recollected the number of times she was teased for her nose. Hearing those lyrics spewed upon her waking up empowered her like no other force or IV could. Regardless, every time she heard Beyoncé’s “Formation,” she was proud to be from Texas, even if it wasn’t Houston. She was practically a Houston resident, and no one could tell her she lived on the outskirts when Beyoncé became a topic of conversation. Because Nia’s town was a boring one, everyone seemed to grapple onto Houston culture for the sake of not being excluded from Houston pride. The music selection she heard threw her off, but a couple more scans of her surroundings and Nia was aware she was in the school’s infirmary.
It was filled with various attractive gadgets she hadn’t laid her eyes on since her last annual physical examination, so it struck her with a bout of amazement. The things doctors utilized and understood never ceased to amaze her. The aroma of the room she was placed in had a homely atmosphere with fluorescent bulbs shining brightly on her.
It was then, she began to panic to a small degree, but she made her best effort not to imagine that the spotlight was on her. After all, she didn’t want to pass out again. She began perspiring slightly while attempting to deviate her mind from the fact the lighting in the room made her feel like she had to speak again. Attempting to avoid a relapse, her handicap eyes wandered around the room with a sense of urgency, despite the fact she felt like her eyeballs were about to explode out of each of their sockets at a moment’s notice.
She attempted to focus her gaze on the meme once more in an attempt to view it clearer for reassurance it was what she initially thought it was. She suffered from nearsightedness. This meant objects close to her were clear, but objects in the distance were blurry. Many of her classmates gifted with exceptional vision didn’t understand this concept until she explained it to them. Beyoncé kept infiltrating her ears as she squinted her eyes trying to make out what the meme was, but she failed to.
“Okay ladies, now let’s get in formation!”
“Because I slay!”
A random voice was heard yelling in the nearby distance, startling Nia.
“Sorry! Didn’t mean to scare you there.”
It was the nurse. She was a young-looking stylish woman that couldn’t have been pushing past thirty years old. The nurse possessed a unique swagger to her walk and the way she communicated that made Nia feel comfortable instantly. Her dark complexion was enough to welcome her. She wore a neon green wig, sported scrubs, and wore various rings on her fingers and different colored bracelets, giving herself a unique appearance.
“I hope you’re alright now sweetie,” she began. Nia squinted to look at her, scrunching her nose in her attempt to see the nurse clearly. The nurse walked closer and Nia was welcomed with a whiff of her aroma, a fresh alternative to the smell of the room. “What’s that?”
“I can’t…” Nia replied maintaining a throbbing headache.
The nurse quickly realized something appeared different about Nia.
“Oh! Your glasses. Wait just one second! I got you.”
She quickly left the room once more and returned with Nia’s thick black spectacles in a jiffy.
Nia never thought the day would come, but she was pretty excited to be reunited with her glasses she deeply resented. The same nemesis she had a sworn issue with that contributed to some of the slanders she had to endure on a daily basis was back in her possession. It was a love/hate relationship they shared. The fact that they would fog up when she was nervous or in a humid area like her city, made her disgusted. This occurred more often than not. The fact that they would be a liability to function when it was raining heavily outside, made her disgusted. However, they were a necessary ugly accessory for her to view the beautiful world. She lay them back on her eyes. She felt refreshed.
“Well Nia,” the nurse began. She analyzed a tool that was plugged to Nia’s arm and pressed buttons, making a tapping noise because of her long, polished white nails, sharp enough to penetrate the bone of a living human. Nia found them fascinating since she personally didn’t typically keep up with her appearance. She kept makeup in her bag, but never used it. “I hope you’re feeling better. Your vital signs are good, but you’ll want to get some rest when you leave and sip on some fluids. Water is preferred, but Gatorade would work too. You want to get some good electrolytes in your body girl!”
Nia simply stared at the nurse as she presented herself animatedly with enthusiasm. She stopped her enthusiasm, seemingly absorbing Nia’s diminished energy and reciprocating her gaze.
“Uh Nia, you’re making things awkward. But anyway, basically you passed out in your class when you were about to give a speech. Like I said, you’re good now, but we think you may have just been dehydrated at the time and the stress of that situation contributed to your fainting. Have you ever had anything like that happen before when you had to give a speech?”
Nia’s pupils widened; her heart was pacing like a lion hunting a gazelle as it attempted to escape where it beat. She initiated her best attempt at making her lips move, twitching them slightly.
“I…can’t,” she muttered narrowly.
The nurse placed a finger on her own chin, appearing to be in deep thought, captivated by Nia’s couple words, separated by a dramatic silence. She knew Nia wasn’t a huge communicator thus far, so she placed a high value on anything Nia said.
“You can’t what?”
Nia stared off into the distance, evading a gaze with the nurse as she grew cognizant of her insecurities.
The nurse quickly realized that this wasn’t a typical situation of a student being dehydrated and passing out.
“Okay honey. Wait a minute.”
She walked a couple of feet to retrieve a pen and began scribbling words on a sticky note. Nia assumed she would be handed this sticky note.
The nurse finished her manuscript.
“Nia, your father is here to pick you up if you haven’t picked up on the fact our session is over, so you’re free to go into the lobby and go home.”
Nia glanced at her with a confused gaze as if the nurse had just directed disrespectful bants her way. The nurse crossed her arms and looked back at Nia. Nia didn’t fret, despite this slight change in the nurse’s attitude.
The nurse retaliated, finally losing her patience, but still maintaining a level of professionalism.
“Nia sweetie! Listen to me.”
She moved closer to Nia and put her arm around her. “Between you and me, I know whatever you went through, it was daunting, and I’m coming to you woman to woman,” she continued as she looked left and right as if she was searching for a fly on the wall nearby. “I’m coming to you black woman to black woman, if you need some help, please have your father give me a call, but we have more patients coming in so you have to leave right now.”
The nurse let out a reluctant sigh as she stood up and showed Nia out the door. She noticed the nurse had the formation of poignant tears appearing to fall down her face momentarily. She sincerely cared about Nia, but she was caught in a dilemma where she had to perform her job; this was a battle many faced daily, making money for the owner of their institution while receiving a fraction of return for their contribution. Nia understood, making it easier to walk into the lobby and be in the midst of the real world once again. She wanted to continue hiding in the secluded room, but quite frankly, that wasn’t a feasible option.
As soon as she arrived in the lobby, she saw her father, Rufus Akintewe. The moment their eyes met, he rushed towards her and welcomed her with a warm embrace. She needed that. It was a long, short day for her.
Letting go, Mr. Akintewe followed the front desk’s directions as he signed out. The nurse rushed over to her father and whispered something in his ear Nia couldn’t make out. She figured it had to be related to the sticky note she scribbled on, because she handed it to him afterwards, and her father gave an acknowledged nod of approval. Nia was left befuddled, to say the least.
The nurse retrieved back to her sanctuary Nia so desired to return to. Nia and her father walked side by side leaving the premises of the school ground, an unnecessary battlefield to dwell on any longer from Nia’s perspective.
As they arrived outside and the door to the office shut, Nia’s father glanced back for confirmation, before beginning to start a conversation that was meant for the two of them.
“You want to talk about it? What happened today, sweetie?”
Nia felt comfort in hearing her father’s deep voice, a symbol of protection. If he told her everything was going to be alright, it was going to be alright in her eyes. Despite the feeling of comfort from his words, Nia’s feelings of inadequacy outweighed her desire to openly seek comfort with her father. She scrunched her face as she attempted to keep up with his steady pace since he had an unfair advantage on her of long legs Nia wished she would have in the future in hope she wasn’t done growing taller.
“You can’t what?”
Nia evaded eye contact with her father as she let out the embarrassing circumstance.
“I fainted from trying to do my speech presentation in class today.”
Her father laughed. She immediately regretted coming out of her shell and telling him. “Don’t be so hard on yourself sweetie.” He maintained a steady laugh as he used his left index finger to push his glasses upward to sit back in place on his face. “The same actually happened to me one time when I had to give a speech for my class way back in the day.”
Nia confusedly analyzed him, waiting for him to admit he was lying to her, but he didn’t budge. This was news to her. She slightly felt better, but still regretted informing him to a certain degree.
He looked up as he glanced off into the distance. “Yup, I remember that day. Just waking up and not knowing where I was.” He lay a finger on his chin, implanting a finger in the scruffy bush protruding out while unlocking the door and opening her door for her. “You really are my daughter.”
Despite the similarity in their situations, Nia’s father didn’t know the source of her panic. He didn’t know about her abusive relationship with Kosey. He didn’t know her public speaking trauma was partly traced to Simba’s death. Although Nia was his daughter, Simba was of no relation to him, because he was Nia’s half-brother from her mother’s past relationship. Her father welcomed him like he was his own child, but wasn’t as impacted on his death as Nia was. Nia grew closer to Simba because they spent incalculable quality time together and competing with one another. Nia’s mother’s impact was another story for both Nia and her father.
Nia never met her mother, as she only heard from Simba and her father that she passed away from giving birth to her. Simba was barely old enough to know his mother, but he swore he knew her to acquire a competitive edge over Nia. Not only did Nia never meet her, the extent to which she knew her mother was the fact her mother crowned her her name as she took her last breath before passing. Her last words were instructing Nia’s father to give Nia her name, meaning purpose in Swahili. Her father’s interpretation of the event was that her mother knew she was passing away as a sacrifice, and Nia was created with that purpose in mind. She was to be the golden child and perpetuate their legacy. Her father told her that her mother lived in all their spirits and she was specifically Nia’s guardian angel. Nia often watched videos of her, witnessing her smooth skin full of melanin attached to the soft, unique inflection of her voice.
Nia’s father often had random bouts of guilt as he recalled her death. He had survivor’s guilt because he was a survivor and watched his wife take her last breath. He emotionally blamed the medical field, but more specifically blamed the nurses at the time when he gathered his thoughts for a more reasonable judgment. As Nia’s mother gave birth to Nia, he picked up on the fact she appeared unusual as he ran to scramble and alert the nurses, but they simply told him Nia’s mother was not a priority. A couple of minutes later, and she was gone.
Her father often preached about the fact that there was a deep prevalence of racism and discrimination in the medical field towards black women when it came to handling them with care. He would often communicate this to Nia with passion, citing examples with data showing the statistics backing up his claims. Nia didn’t make much of it and let him rant, because that was his reality. When he referenced her mother, this was enough to capture Nia’s attention and inform her of the fact that it was an issue. She recognized it was an issue initially, but when her mother was brought into the picture, it shed a different light on the situation.
As the car maneuvered toward their house, Nia sat in silence, coming to terms with her inability to avoid fainting when giving a speech. Her father picked up on the silence and turned the radio on, because he didn’t want to harass her with a conversation. The first sound she heard shifted her entire mood as she danced along.
It was Megan Thee Stallion’s song, “Big Ole Freak.”
Nia’s father shook his head as he witnessed his daughter dancing and smiling effortlessly. She was in her element and he was happy about that.
“What are these kids listening to these days?”
“It’s Megan Thee Stallion Dad! This is one of her old songs!”
Nia continued dancing to the beat and repeating the lyrics, not missing a beat and failing to censor the curse words.
“Hey! Don’t cuss in front of me. That’s disrespectful,” he corrected her playfully. “This is a great beat, I’m not going to lie. And I can tell she can actually rap. She needs to rap on more classic beats though to put it to the test.”
Nia smiled like she had prepared the most potent response to refute her father’s point. “She actually went to a lot of radio shows and showed her ability to rap in the beginning of her career.” She smirked as her father’s facial expression changed to being shocked, as he gave a congratulatory nod.
“Oh wow, okay I have respect for her game. Not a lot of rappers are doing that these days so much respect to her. I’m a fan then.”
“Yup. Told you!”
“Hey, relax with that excessive energy.”
“Alright old man,” she began, anticipating her father’s response in her attempt to elicit a reaction out of him. He smiled and shook his head. Mission accomplished. She stretched her little arms in the car as she yawned and was noticeably in a better mood. “Well, it’s the weekend now so that’s good.”
Her father saw this as an opportunity to check in with her since she was now in a better mental state. He turned off the radio.
“Well…how was your day sweetie? Aside from all that stuff that happened?”
“I guess it was good up until I got embarrassed.”
“You guess, or it was good? Which one?”
She rolled her eyes.
“It was good, Dad.” Her father was a motivational speaker and often would dive deep into human behavior and analyze specific word usage. “I just can’t though.”
He appeared slightly annoyed.
“I’ve been asking you. You can’t what?”
“I can’t. I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything successfully. I can’t be successful. I feel like a failure. I can’t.”
He appeared even more annoyed as if she spat in his cereal he consumed that morning.
“Now hold up! What did I tell you about speaking negativity into your life? The power of words are so powerful, you need to be careful what you wish for because negativity is not a force to be reckoned with. The power of the mouth is powerful, so prophesy your words into fruition!”
Nia puckered her lips, appearing annoyed as she listened to his spiel.
“It’s time for our routine! Who are you and who am I?”
“I’m Nia Akintewe, and you’re my father who loves me,” she replied unenthusiastically.
“What do you deserve?”
“I deserve all the love in the world,” she replied with noticeably more energy.
“What are the three pillars for financial freedom to get rid of your student loan debt or overcome anything you encounter?”
“Believe. Plan. Execute.”
“Why should you practice patience?”
“Patience allows me to take risks without repercussions, because it gives me the mindset to focus on the fact that I have time.”
“And why is gratitude so important?”
“You can’t be great without being grateful, it’s in the word if you reverse the letters.”
“Good! You have to love yourself sweetie. You have to learn to love yourself before you can engage in love with someone else. With our routine, I inform you I love you, but you must love yourself first before you engage with someone else because that isn’t fair to the other person if you aren’t fully loving of yourself or know a great sense of direction in your life.”
Nia felt a burning guilt in her spirit. As her father spoke, she thought about her regretful relationship with Kosey. It was as if her father knew about her past she desired to erase from her memory.
“Those words of affirmation are a lot more powerful than you think too. I saw you change as we progressed with the questions. You’ve been asking me about financial literacy for a while. We’re going to touch on some financial stuff later on, but let me put you on introductory game. This is prerequisite information to the financial literacy game I’m going to lace you with. Just trust me and follow along during this journey.”
“Here we go again,” Nia responded as she exercised her thumb, scrolling on Twitter searching for a funny tweet to disengage from the situation, regretting her ‘I can’t’ rant.
Her father was not amused.
“If you don’t put that phone down,” he began. “Social media has crippled the mind and it even makes people think they’re better than others! You want to dive into the financial information so bad, I’ll just give you a quick tip: take a day off from that social media poison. It isn’t real. You’re running away from our conversation, but you should be running away from social media for a day! It’s a poisonous invention that’s used to capitalize on insecurities. It’s the cousin of boredom, an obvious disease. Therefore, social media is a disease. Look around Notsuoh. Everyone’s constantly on it acting a fool and plagued in the mind to the point they think it’s reality. It’s good when you use it for a purpose to provide value, but most people, including yourself, don’t. You better tighten up and focus if you don’t want to lose yourself. That’s all I’m saying.”
She set her phone down and gave her father her undivided attention, noticeably angrily, but understanding his point at the same time.
“Whatever Dad. You’re right.”
“Your health has to be a priority Nia, and it starts with up here, mentally. Take care of your mental health and care about your physical health. How many hours of sleep did you get last night by the way?”
“I don’t know.”
“No, just understand me,” he continued as Nia began glancing out the window with her arms folded. “You have to sleep! Make sure you rest when we get home. Remember like I always tell you: less is more! When you get those extra hours of sleep you need, you’ll have less operating hours in the day, but you’ll be more energetic and equipped to accomplish a lot more in that smaller window versus being tired with more time and not being effective.
“Nia baby, listen. I know you’re always in a rush and eager to talk about money, but you have to master preliminary steps before we get there. Most people don’t understand that and assume you just wake up one day and get rid of all your debt instantly. It doesn’t work that way.” Her body grew less tense as she attempted to listen to what her father had to say. “Everyone has their own unique gift and you must find yours.”
She didn’t appear moved.
“Listen here, baby girl. I got something really special for you right here! This is about to be a golden gem I shouldn’t even give out for free!”
She rolled her eyes once more because she knew it was her father acting excessively dramatic as a motivational speaker. She didn’t think she needed his motivation. After all, she was an adult in college. What did her father know about life?
“You know,” her father continued his speech. “If I was at a speaking engagement right now, I would tell the audience to write down everything I’m saying right now and they would write it down and if they didn’t understand it that day, eventually they would understand it. I know you view me as your old man that doesn’t know anything, but I’ve seen and experienced things you haven’t and you can gain value from me. I’m still learning this fatherhood stuff, but we’ll learn together as we continue along the way.”
Nia was taken aback.
“It’s like he’s reading my mind,” she thought.
She still maintained her stance of doubting herself.
“I can’t,” she muttered to herself quietly.
“What did you say?”
“Okay sweetie, let me continue. Before you identify your strength, you have to take control of your spirituality; this is having a belief system. When it comes to anything in life, you have to believe the idea before taking action to ensure it comes into fruition. You have to believe the idea before it goes into planning. Belief. Believe! You have to believe that you will get over your fear of public speaking. Believe, then you plan, and then you execute. This is why we perform our daily regimen when I take you to school. We’re going to talk about this more later, but I first want to give you time to rest. I just wanted to give you a high level explanation of this.”
“I can’t Dad. Everyone was making fun of me in my class and laughing at me. I just can’t. I don’t know why you don’t understand that, but I just can’t. I can’t.”
“I understand, because I was in your shoes before. You can, and you will.” He continued driving in silence for a couple moments before continuing the conversation. “When was the last time you read a book?”
She lay a finger on her chin as she scrunched her nose attempting to recall her last experience looking at words and flipping pages. It had been quite a while since she read a book, because she never performed assigned readings in her classes. Nia didn’t like being told what to do, especially when it came to reading. If she was going to read, she would read with her own consent.
“I would say probably when I was reading your draft of that book you wrote that never came out,” she replied with a playful banter.
“Come on! So my daughter got jokes like that? I didn’t know I was in the car here with Kevin Hart!” They both laughed genuinely. “But I want to give you the opportunity to get back into reading since that was a long time ago. You said that your classmates will make fun of you for what happened to you?”
“Not just that, but they make fun of me for everything,” Nia began speaking passionately, feeling her eyes watering up. “My glasses. My hair. My nose. I talk. I breathe. They make fun of me. I can’t.”
“I understand you,” he replied genuinely. “I’m going to recommend you start with The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I think you’ll find value in the second agreement. I’ll give you the book when we get home.”
“What’s the second agreement?”
He let out a ferocious laugh. He was passionate about reading.
“You’ll have to do your homework, baby girl. You’ve got the entire weekend and it’s a short read. And you probably didn’t realize it, but you do read noticeably faster than your peers and the average person, so use that and recognize that. I don’t want to hear ‘I can’t’ anymore. Rebuke it!”
Nia thought about the accuracy of her father’s claim. She did find the act of reading a quick activity for her, but it didn’t occur to her everyone didn’t have the same experience as her. When you’re gifted at something, it comes natural to you so you don’t think about the fact other people have to work harder to be just as good as you when you aren’t exuding as much energy or effort as they are. Nia was just realizing this phenomenon and was beginning to see why her father was being paid for speaking.
He was good. He was effortlessly good.
“Another thing to remember sweetie,” he began as he yawned. “Most people in the world have a fear of public speaking and I’m going to want you to be familiar with a growth mindset. You know what a growth mindset is?”
Nia’s thought process was to break down the word.
“Isn’t it just a way of thinking where you know you can grow?”
To her surprise, her father was content with her response.
“Exactly! Growth mindset is basically the mentality or mindset where you know that your basic talent isn’t limited to where it’s at and it can be developed over time.”
“That’s basically what I said, but you said it differently.”
“More or less what you said, sweetie. So with a growth mindset, it’s important that we distinguish between its opposite. What do you think the opposite of a growth mindset is?”
“A non-growth mindset?”
“You are so cute. Another true statement, but the mindfulness term we use is fixed mindset. You’re basically fixed in your way of thinking and think that your ability or talent is limited to where it’s at and can’t be developed. Right now, you’re operating in a fixed mindset and we want to rebuke that spirit out of you!”
Nia grew offended.
“Me? Fixed mindset? How?”
“Think about your word choice. You keep repeating the phrase, ‘I can’t’ when we’re discussing your day or overcoming public speaking.”
“I can’t,” Nia replied jokingly.
Her father didn’t receive it as a joke. As they approached a red light, he grabbed her hand with his veins popping out and embracing her as he looked into her eyes intensely. He had a muscular build, so loosened his grip slightly. “You have to be confident in yourself, sweetie. It’s a survival skill I’m going to need you to develop. I’m going around the world speaking about success and my own child isn’t taking the lessons from me. That’s messing up the brand. I’m going to need you to tighten up for me.”
He let go of her hand and put his other hand back on the wheel.
“I’m going to help you identify your strength and say you have great discipline. You know what discipline means?”
“Discipline? Like self-discipline? Isn’t it just being able to have control of yourself or something like that?”
“Yes ma’am, that’s exactly what it is! Don’t be afraid you’ll say the wrong answer. Own your words!”
“Discipline though? I don’t think that’s one of my strengths if I’m being honest with you, Dad.”
He used his left index finger to push up his glasses.
“We don’t view our talents as talents because of the fact it comes easy to us, and we think everyone has it like that. But think about it, obesity is a huge issue, right? Discipline is about self-control and not everyone is an expert on self-discipline. Because you can simply control what you eat, that’s your unique gift in my opinion.”
He wore a smirk that screamed he had an ulterior motive for saying this, but Nia didn’t know what that was.
They pulled into the driveway and went inside. Their home was a large secluded house, nearing the size of an impressive mansion, with African antiques arbitrarily placed all over the area. It smelled like fresh incense was being burned as they were welcomed with a whiff of it upon their arrival.
Nia’s father ran to his lengthy library and scanned the selections, rummaging through the books. He pulled out a book and she noticed the style from a mile away. It was The Four Agreements. He placed the book in her hand, simultaneously as he maintained a grip on it.
“I know you don’t have the greatest GPA, but you definitely have a talent at reading relatively fast, so I have higher expectations for you than I have for anyone else. I know you are busy with your UCLA appeal application and other stuff so I’ll give you one week to read this and report back to me. Deal?”
Nia looked down at the book and her father’s powerful clutch on it.
He let go of his grip and it was now in her hands. She felt the book and stared at it in awe. Its surface had a unique finish that couldn’t be described, and its aesthetically pleasing appearance made her excited to start reading books again. It had been quite some time, but she still felt a sense of confidence in her accelerated reading ability.
Nia retrieved back to her room for privacy. She needed to mentally unpack everything that had escalated throughout her day. She felt new-found confidence after the car ride home with her father. When she would start driving herself home was a topic of discussion for another day, but she was satisfied at this moment to say the least.
She had no regard for her dusty, black backpack and threw it across the room. Its rough condition suffered from years of wear and tear. Taking off her shoes welcomed her room with a sweaty aroma from her socks. She then threw herself aggressively on her bed, lying down on her back. Staring toward the ceiling fan oscillating like a perpetual rollercoaster of peace, she thought about the possibility that she might get out of her depressive approach to public speaking.
“Home sweet home.”
If you enjoyed reading this long snippet from the Young Adult Fiction The Power of Yet by Michael Benjamin, please buy your own copy using my Amazon affiliate links below