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Akanna Okeke: But How Can I Be Happy?

Akanna Okeke



dreamstime_m_49841045A few years ago, my brother was about to complete his Youth Service program.  He had served with an oil exploration company and had prospects of being retained or even just doing very well in that field as a whole.  I was getting excited because that, for me, meant being taken care of as a little brother and of course, him taking care of my parents.

To everyone’s disappointment though, he passed away due to an illness a few days after his ‘passing out’ ceremony.  This hit me hard!  We were close and I could argue that he was the only one who truly understood me.

I carried on with life as we all eventually do and I went on to study for a master’s degree abroad.  While there, a friend of the family –whom I considered an uncle because of the huge age difference between us and the numerous life lessons he taught me, growing up, when we were neighbours; made it a point to reach out to me weekly.  He always called me and even complained when he couldn’t get through to me.  I always looked forward to our conversations and was excited whenever his call came through.

On one of those days, my mum’s call came through instead, informing me that he was dead.  This hurt really bad again!

Not long after that, a dear friend who also made it a point to keep in touch and had even named me the CFO of one of his many companies, that I was sure would do very well just because of his entrepreneurial and relational spirit; lost the battle to cancer.

Now at this point, I was thinking it would be wise to stay away from people close to me, especially the kind-hearted ones. And I actually did!  Subconsciously, I stopped reaching out to friends and family.  My sister would send a message every now and then rebuking me about it.  I still did not change.  I just couldn’t; I’m still even bad at it.

After two years of staying away, physically, from family, I returned home for my dad’s 80th birthday.  It was such an amazing celebration.  I was the Master of Ceremony.  Cousins, uncles, aunts, and long time friends of the family gathered; some even stayed around for about a week or two, including my dad’s youngest brother.  He was everyone’s favourite uncle; favourite perhaps because his age was the closest to ours of all my dad’s siblings.

A few days after the event, at the peak of excitement and about that time when those who came from far were returning, my uncle did not wake up from his sleep.  We all tried to wake him up but he just wouldn’t budge.  A doctor later came in to declare him dead.

Now, that one hit me extremely hard! More so because I had just reconnected with him, and was right there as all this played out –unfolding before my very eyes, having to accept that it was final.  Nothing else could be done.  That was hard!

This happened at the peak of excitement, the celebration of life. So, how could I dare to be happy?  Those close to you pass on and when you celebrate those who didn’t, another passes.

These kinds of events could make us decide to ‘reserve’ our happiness lest it be cut short by an unpleasant event.  But thanks to personal growth and development, I am beginning to learn that happiness is actually a choice.  There are things we can control and there are those we can’t.  Our own happiness is actually one of those things within our control.

I remember a line from a poem written by an extremely wise man. It says: “there is a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what was planted”.

That line hit me hard –in a positive way this time!  We cannot control when people are born or when they die, but we can certainly control planting and picking up what we planted.  The fact that we know that death is inevitable does not mean that we should throw our hands up and refuse to plant anything –to go about the normal business of life; making new friends, building new relationships, starting new enterprises, being grateful for the things we have, and being happy.

Life, for me, is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I choose to respond to it!  So, I choose to be grateful for the moments I got to share with family and friends who are no more; to enjoy the relationships I currently have with those in my life; for the good times and, yes, even for the bad times.  Because strength doesn’t come from winning; your struggles actually develop your strength.

As we approach that time of year when families come together to celebrate the season and the turn of a new year, I encourage you to be grateful for your family, your friends, your good times during the year and your bad times as well.

An attitude of gratitude determines our happiness in life.  It helps us to live in the moment, and to see the good in almost everything just because we have decided to say “thank you” to those who have made our year count; both those who are with us,  and those who have left us.  And that attitude is a choice, dependent not on others, but on us.  So whenever I look back and ask myself: “but how can I be happy?” my response is: “because I choose to”.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Akanna is an avid reader, writer, Risk Analyst and a budding Social Entrepreneur. He’s passionate about personal development, and influencing others to succeed!


  1. esther

    December 6, 2016 at 10:26 am

    What an interesting piece.

  2. GraceOfGOD

    December 6, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    @Akanna Okeke,

    Good morning SIR. Sorry for your LOSSES and THANK YOU for sharing those GREAT advices. Indeed we do NOT have the CONTROLS over certain things like DEATH… BUT we do have the CONTROL over our HAPPINESS. Have a great day and stay BLESSED 🙂 🙂 🙂

  3. sarah

    December 6, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful article.

  4. Baby gurl

    December 6, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    This hit close to home. I lost my favorite uncle to Boko Haram. Remember the twin bomb blast at Jaji Kaduna years ago? He died from the second blast. He was in the Air Force. This was someone who gave to people like there was no tomorrow. A man of integrity. Someone who was denied promotion twice because he did not succumb to politics or unnecessary godfatherism despite having two first class degrees. When he died I was like, we don’t even think like God. God does not regard what we regard. Our ways are not his ways if not how would a man like that whom up to 100 people depended on him for their sustenance just go like that. I really miss him and think about him every now and then. Now I am weeping uncontrollably. May God comfort us in our time of sorrow because sorrow is inevitable. We cannot hide from it. All we can do is pray for divine comfort. Thank you Akanna.

    • Aisha

      December 6, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      I’m deeply sorry for your loss!

  5. Bisola

    December 6, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Adama, sorry about the people you lost.
    I lost two friends, and the last one hit me hard. Took me years to come to terms with it. I am still wary of having close friends though but who am I kidding, everyone needs friends, I still have a few close ones but not as close as I was with her. I loved her so much. We had plans of being environmental lawyers and and making loads of money.

    Anyway, I understand. I had to make the decision to move on. At times it hurts though, knowing she didn’t get to live her dreams, she would have been an amazing lawyer.

    Six things I did In November

    You are a prophet- God wants you to hear from him too

  6. Loki

    December 6, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    How can I be happy when I just read this article? This is quite a lot for someone to take.
    My two cents- please try ensure you “grieve properly”. Particularly in this part of the world, we never really take time to grieve. We are encouraged to put pain behind us and move on with life. Because that is what is expected, we smile, and say “it is well”. But it never really goes away because we do not deal with it.
    Don’t force yourself to be happy. Cry if you have to. Be angry and punch a wall. Make sure you mourn.
    May God give you strength to deal with these losses.

    • Xoxo

      December 6, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      I agree with you Loki. I understsnd that it comes from not wanting a person to wallow in sadness but its okay to let people grieve. As long as its not affecting their health. I remember when I lost my dad, I was just 7. I remember how neighbors kept telling my mum she has to move on for her children and all. It was one woman that stood up and shouted let her cry. I know people mean well when they ask you to move on and let things go but allow the person grieve. My dad’s death really hurt me(still does) even though no one really asked how we felt after they broke the news to my brother and me. I guess it was weird to explain it to kids. Then in uni my friend/boyfriend just went missing. Till date no one knows what happened or where he is. His 2 friends were found dead weeks later. I remember how people kept telling me to move on with my life, how I’m still so young to hold on to grieve blah blah blah. And it pissed me off because I didnt want to hear it. Truth is I didn’t want to move on because I was scared I’d loose another boyfriend and, moving on will mean betraying him. I became so lean my friends were worried about me. That period was bad for me. I’m glad God and good friends got me through it. I’m still praying for his safe return, hoping it’s a really bad dream. Loosing a loved one is never easy but I think its okay to let them come to terms with it in their own time as long as their life and health is not at stake.
      Thank you for this lovely write up Akanna. Sorry for all your losses. It is well.

    • Xoxo

      December 6, 2016 at 5:54 pm


  7. Sisi

    December 6, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    *Hugs* timely reminder. Make the most of the season folks, spread love and choose to be happy.

  8. Marian

    December 6, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    So sorry for your loss.

    Happiness is also a process. I agree with Loki about making sure you’ve taken time out to grieve. I lost my favorite cousin when i was about 11. No one talked to me about it cuz i was a kid so i really didn’t know how to process it. Thank God for a wonderful prayergroup when i was a freshman in college. We were talking about the things that inspired us to choose our major and the tears just started pouring out. I was shocked but coundn’t hold back. I discovered that night i was mad at Nigeria, my aunt and the doctors that treated my cousin. I still hate the word “ti ese ile bo” till today. Coming to that realization helped me to deal with the hurt and let go of it bit by bit.

    It’s okay to be sad sometimes. True happiness is an outcome. Sometimes it’s not immediately accesible but you continue to sow your way to it.

  9. purplieciousbabe

    December 6, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I am speechless.
    How you found strength I dont know but I do hope it is permanent.

  10. Akanna Okeke

    Akanna Okeke

    December 7, 2016 at 1:42 am

    Thanks a lot for the kind words guys. And yes, I have grieved and mourned at the appropriate times. For the more recent ones, I am gradually transitioning from the mourning phase to the phase of appreciating their lives, their good works and the times I got to share with them!
    Cheers! 🙂

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