My Onomatopoeia Experience – Josh Journal
This all began for me on a random afternoon in Junior Secondary School. I still can’t remember if it was on a Monday or Friday, or any other day in particular.
As a new student, just a couple of weeks after resumption, I was stumbling around school familiarising myself with my new surrounding.
Someone had recently pointed out an office to me and told me that it was the office of the vice-principal academics. It was just a couple of blocks from my classroom, and I made a mental note to avoid this office.
As I was stumbling around, one student I didn’t know just randomly stopped me. She turned around to a teacher beside her and told the teacher, “this boy is brilliant too, he can join them.”
The next thing I know, I was walking into the office of the vice-principal academics along with the teacher and the girl.
Inside the office, I met four other students. They were looking immaculate in their school uniform, meanwhile, I was looking rough and unkempt.
Realizing where I was, I quickly tucked in my shirt as the students looked at me like, “what is this one looking for here?”
The teacher soon rejoined us. She passed out a sheet of paper to each of us and asked us to get ready for a dictation exercise.
Each student brought out their pens to start writing. I quickly pointed out that I didn’t have one as I didn’t expect to be here at this time.
Again, the remaining students were wondering how I even got to join them. The teacher meanwhile gave me a pen and asked me to write.
She would go on to list out twenty words of varying degrees of difficulty.
After giving us the last word, she asked us to submit our papers, but then she stopped us, then told us to add onomatopoeia to the list.
I wrote it down and submitted my paper. Looking at the faces of the other students, I could tell some of them were confused. A few were confident in their ability while some were deflated in spirit.
We were asked to wait in front of the office while the teacher marked our works.
As we stood outside, I noticed all the students were giving deference to one student.
I pulled the girl who had recommended me to the teacher aside and asked her why all the students were respecting the boy.
The girl was shocked. She asked if I was a new student or something. I said yes I was. Then she asked if I didn’t resume with the rest of my colleagues. Again, I said I didn’t.
She looked at me like I was silly for asking. Then she informed me that he was the head boy for the school.
You should have seen the shock on my face. According to her, all the other students were JSS 3 students, and they were all prefects.
No wonder they all dressed neatly. Which student in my school gets to break time with their uniforms still sparkling clean and tucked in?
Before I could ask more questions, the teacher called us in to collect our scripts.
She then announced that only me and the head boy got all the twenty words right.
Then she added that I was the only one that had spelled onomatopoeia right.
She informed us that I and he will be representing our school at the local government level of the New Era Foundation Spelling Bee for the year 2002.
Wait. Hold on. Do you mean to tell me that I just participated in a test to go for a state-wide competition without being aware?
And I actually won without knowing what I was qualifying for?
With that, she dismissed us, but asked me and the head boy, along with the head girl and the girl who recommended me to show up the next day to go for the competition.
As we exited her office, she instructed me to ensure I washed and ironed my uniform before coming the next morning.
As soon as we were out of the office, this time around, all attention was turned on me. My script was collected and scrutinized.
The head boy then asked me how I knew the spelling of onomatopoeia.
They all stood with bated breath, expecting an insightful response.
I told them that this was the first time I have ever heard the word onomatopoeia. They were all shocked. Which Nigerian JSS 1 student throws the word onomatopoeia around?
We soon dispersed as the break time was almost over. As we left, the girl who recommended me congratulated me on my success.
I thanked her profusely for recommending me to the teacher. She waved it off and walked away.
It was the next morning, on our way to the competition that it occurred to me to ask her a pertinent question that had stuck with me when I got back to my class.
“Do you know me before, and how did you know I’ll be good at the spelling bee? I asked her.
She laughed and shrugged off the question.
I pressed and insisted until she eventually relented. She told me that she knows me before and knew I was smart.
When I asked where and how she knew me, she said she didn’t know, but all she knows is that she knows me.
I will one day write about my experience at the spelling bee. That is another interesting story too.
But my experience that day left a vital lesson on my consciousness.
Your reputation is very important. We have been encouraged to ignore what people think about us, but that can be a grave mistake.
People approach you based on their impression of you.
Some people will recommend you for an opening based on how they think you will be fit for it. Others will either withhold or present opportunities to you based on what they think you are capable of.
Very few people will come to you to clean up or confirm their expectations or beliefs about you.
Your reputation goes before you. It will either open or close doors for you.
It is years after the fact that you will hear that something didn’t get to you because someone thought it was beneath or above you. Whereas that was all you have been praying and preparing for.
Another important lesson for me is that of being in the right place at the right time.
A lot of Nigerian millionaires and billionaires cannot tell you the source of their wealth because all it actually comes down to is being present in the right place at the right time.
Someone is needed to supply something, they happen to be present, they get picked. Someone is needed to front for a business, they are available, they get picked.
It has very little to do with their ability or competence. They are only picked because they are available.
If I wasn’t in front of that office that day, would the girl have come to my class to pick me? Won’t she have met someone else she knows that is also intelligent?
Truth be told, did the girl actually know me before then? Because over twenty years later, I still have no idea who she is.
Someone said luck is opportunity meeting preparedness. That definition isn’t exactly wrong. Make yourself available in places that count. Work on people’s perspectives of you.
And in the places that count where you won’t be present, may someone be there that speaks rightly, highly, and favorably of you.