Friday 2 July 2021

Really, how are you?


Last year, a friend, who was far away from home, had asked about my welfare.

It was during one of our intermittent chats on WhatsApp, where we tried to catch up on the latest events in each other’s lives.

“I’m fine!” I had replied, adding an exclamation mark to emphasize how happy I was.

I was indeed happy…and content. I had a paying job, a fast-growing blog, a great and caring family, a perfect state of health…I mean, what else could a content person ask for?

“How are you?” I had asked the same question.

“WellI’m in between. Not happy. Not sad,” the message had popped up on my phone.

I recall chuckling after reading the message. What had I expected from a friend whom I’d tagged as being ‘weird’?

“That’s impossible. You have to be happy or sad,” I had argued.

“I’ve told you exactly how I feel. Not happy and not sad,” he wrote with affirmation.

Well, a couple of other topics sprung up and we ended the conversation about an hour later. Several conversations would come up weeks later and my friend would state the same thing.

Not happy. Not sad. Just there…in between.

Fast forward to 2020 when several unexpected events occurred. Plans were disrupted and dreams were dashed. Just like everyone, I had no flick of an idea 2020 would turn out this way.

Then, I remembered my friend’s statement and realized that 2020 sums up that weird feeling. Not happy. Not sad. You are just…uncertain. You don’t know the next event that would strike and the extent it would go. I think it’s a combination of several feelings- not happy, not sad, sad, happy, uncertain.

Sometimes, you’re happy. You’re over-excited your stomach flips and your heart beats faster than normal. You are so excited you smile broadly until your cheeks hurt. Other times, you feel so desolate your forehead creases into three folds. You sit alone and wonder how to solve the mysteries in your life. Tears trickle down your face and you wish these hot tears could wipe away the feeling of anguish that clogs your throat.

Other times, you’re not happy. You’re not sad. You’re just uncertain. You don’t know the next hurdle you’re going to face. You can’t say if you’d be able to make lemonade with the next lemon life throws at you.


Let’s assume we meet at a wedding ceremony. Music fills the air and the atmosphere whiffs of a combination of jollof rice and fried beef. I glance at you and notice your scrunched-up face. You’re just as anxious as I am. You’re feeling claustrophobic and you can’t wait to grab your bag and jostle your way through the teeming hallway.

Our eyes meet and share a similar concern. You stand up and saunter towards where I am sitting. You grin at me and I smile in return.

“How are you?” I ask as you stare tiredly at the couple with nervous and tired faces.

“I’m fine,” you respond and gulp down your cold cup of fruity wine.

“Really, how are you?” I ask this time and you lower your eyes in thought.

You take a minute to process all you’ve been feeling…maybe to give a second thought as to why to share your story with a total stranger. Then, you clear your throat and start to talk.

You’ll talk about how you lost your job…how some of your friends had lost their loved ones…how you had shed tears when chaos broke out in your state of residence.

You’ll express your feelings as your eyes brim with tears. I’ll pat your hand and fill your ears with comforting words. I’ll tell you that it is normal to feel any of these. But you shouldn’t let them overcome you. I’ll ask you to write down all you’ve achieved this year and marvel at what you’ve been able to achieve, despite everything.

I’ll tell you to make every moment last. To laugh hard, cry loudly, drink a bowl of ice cream…I’ll tell you to do the things that make you happy. Because that’s what matters.


I’ll end this by asking you a question. I know the popular question ‘How are you?’ has an automated answer ‘I’m fine.’

But I’ll still ask: Really, how are you?



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