A friend of mine once remarked that the titles of my reflections could pass for Nollywood movie captions, and I went, “seriously?” I couldn’t tell if it was a compliment or not, but you know me nah? I eventually took it as a compliment sha.

That’s by the way!

Have you ever wondered why many teenagers totally love adventure? Or why they love trying new things, especially the dangerous ones they seldom understand? Some say it’s youthful exuberance. Do you know what that means?

Simply put, exuberance is an almost desperate desire to be heard and taken seriously. It has to do with the longing or the actual expression of self in an obvious manner. We just want to belong. And the average young person does almost anything and everything to belong. This much is exuberance.

I believe that the phase of youth is a purgatory of sorts. We get in there and undergo sub phases of purgation, where maturity, development and growth takes place, and hopefully, we get out of this purgatory better for it (some never really do).

I wrote something about depression the other day and it struck some sensitive chords in some of my young friends. The purgatory of youth is such a confusing state that without actual guidance, many may never find their way out.

You see, someone once said that the only difference between purgatory and hell is that one has an end, and the other is eternal. So imagine being condemned to an eternal purgation of youth. I mean, what’s the point of purgatory if it doesn’t lead to heaven? Lord have mercy!

There are a few things we could learn (or unlearn) to properly pass through the purgation of youth without ending up totally depressed and disillusioned about life itself. We are all familiar with this phase of youth that’s become a purgatory. Aren’t we?

Remember the feelings of not wanting to pray, or go to Church, or do those fun things you loved as a much younger kid? Yea? That’s part of it. What about these long and terrible mood swings, uncertainty about the future, the overwhelming sexual fantasies and urges? And how about the constant falling in and out of love/relationships?

It is from this terrible state of emptiness and boredom and lack of interest in many things that we begin to seek whatever is interesting and dangerous. Yes! That’s when our exuberant nature kicks in. The need to belong to a group, to be loved, recognised and appreciated, takes on new meaning. We begin to listen more to those who tell us we have blue sexy eyes, or become more attached to those who take us to exciting places to see new, sometimes inappropriate things, and so on. Pleasure soon takes center stage, since it promises immediate escape from the nagging boredom.

So Valentine is here again and many young people are already getting overwhelmed with anticipation. WhatsApp and Facebook are agog with suggestive messages. I even saw a list titled “names of guys who will get girls pregnant this Valentine”, and I am like, “seriously?”

Pregnancy is a serious thing brother, and before that happens, one ought to be in a committed legal/divine union. We can’t just make up lists that would give young people the impression that this is the month to make babies.

I feel it’s unacceptable to joke with pregnancy, no matter how comic we feel. We do have a responsibility to lead our young people right. Fornication and condoms won’t create life’s goals, trust me. At best they’ll lead to broken hearts and aborted babies. Drunkenness and drug abuse won’t give us a destiny. They’ll rob us of the one we already have. Expensive gifts and vulgar poetry won’t take us to heaven. Don’t forget, narrow is the way.

So listen to me my dear young people. I know we love fun and fun places and fun people. But this Valentine, we must promise ourselves we will not become sex toys, or someone else’s plaything. We must promise ourselves we won’t take gifts that are overwhelmingly expensive.

Some gifts are baits. They have long hooks attached to them, once you bite, you die (quite literally). Don’t be fooled by castles in the air. Anything without a foundation dies quickly. Valentines come and go, and people remain. You can avoid making a mistake just by refusing to be greedy. Don’t try to play smart. There’ll always be someone smarter.

This phase too will pass. We just have to seek what matters, and chart the course of the kind of future we want for ourselves. The most important things aren’t that easy to come by. We need to work hard for them. Pleasure is not happiness. And some, in a bid to gain a fleeting moment of pleasure, have sacrificed an entire lifetime of happiness. We must struggle not to become like these people!

This Valentine, it’s important to find those we truly care about. We can decide to surprise our abandoned granny in the village with a visit. We can call a relative/friend we’ve not spoken to in ages. We can buy sleeping mats for the roadside beggar, and assist a younger sibling with that difficult homework.

And if we decide to go on a date, let’s do it for all the RIGHT REASONS. And frankly, if we take our own money, and pay for our own food and drinks, we won’t feel pressured to SLEEP OVER!

Happy Valentine!

© Oselumhense Anetor, 2017. UPDATED, February, 2021.