There are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who live, constantly aspiring for growth, change, wealth and ultimately perfection. Then there are those who live, work, eat, and breathe but are surviving. For some reason, the latter is where a vast majority of us lie.

A few weeks back, I happened to overhear the entire conversation of two old friends who only reunited after many years apart (I was not eavesdropping). It was the perfect reunion and for some reason, they were loud enough for everybody who cared to listen…to, well, listen.

The conversation was in some major Nigerian pidgin language but for the sake of the ‘noble Englishmen’ here, this is a short except of what one friend said, that got my attention – in plain English.

“We used to be so smart. If the economy and conditions we’re in was any better, we would have been way ahead of where we are today. Right now, all we can do is survive. Have food to eat and a place to live. You know what they say, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”

The other friend, strangely agreed to the same ‘reality’ and that was when I entered my own head. Now, no doubt, there is a possibility that they just said it with without putting much meaning to it. They might have dang good desires and are doing as much as they can to get there. However, I would choose to assume they meant every word of it and that is where the problem lies.

It used to really irk me to hear people say things like “whoever was destined to pass the test, would pass it” or “at the end of the day, the people that would be rich, would be; those that would be poor, would be poor”. I never really understood if those comments were between-the-line quotes from the holy books that spoke about destiny, or simply laziness speaking.

I mean, if the most of us were born with the same features, why would some be ‘destined’ for greatness and others be relegated to the background. I would very much understand if the reason behind the paradigm shift was based on the inequalities that surround our birth.

You know, things like opportunities – that some were born in wealth and as such have better chances of being wealthy themselves. Maybe even a level of luck, but we all know luck never met anyone who was unprepared. However, when your reason for choosing penury over wealth and survival over pursuing your aspiration is destiny or the economy, then I could never be more on the opposing side.

In Africa – forgive me for generalizing – it is easy to blame the economic environment and lack of too many opportunities for obvious reasons. That is no denying the fact that, sometimes, these excuses are allowable. I would even say they may be true for certain children, old folks, and those who are too poor to do much. However, where educated youths with college degrees – as those guys – conveniently blame it on the poor state of affairs; it gets really appalling.

Of course, not forgetting even greater ‘excuses’ like racial profiling, sexism and again class prejudice. These are definitely things that can hold you back. Yet, as immensely pressing as these issues are, so many people still strive to be great and get there against all odds. I honestly cannot imagine spending many years on earth, simply surviving. So let us get back to this popular quote “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”.

Too many people use it as their cue to cope with the changes of life – whether it is in their favour or not. Like our ‘friends’ above, they see it as a reason to change their plans and make do with whatever life hands them instead. It is one of the most ill-quoted phrases ever. So misunderstood, that people mistake it for its exact opposite.

Its real meaning? Wikipedia puts it this way:

“It is a proverbial phrase used to encourage optimism and a positive can do attitude in the face of adversity or misfortune. Lemons suggest sourness or difficulty in life, while lemonade is a sweet drink.”

The phrase should ordinarily spur you into pushing and striving and not to accept the ills around you. In essence, when life gives you lemons, you are not required to ‘enjoy’ the juice from the lemons. Making lemonade was supposed to mean using these challenges to your advantage.

However, in order to fully grasp the message and not misquote it; I would say, when life hands you lemons or throws you lemons, pick them up, throw it right back, and do whatever you were going to do anyway.

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