Before I saw an ìrókò tree for the first time, my dad used to tell me about it. He would excite me with vivid features of the tree that make it stand out among other trees in the forest. Its smoothness, its height, and the fact that it can’t be climbed as easily as one would climb a palm tree to tap wine. I wanted to see an ìrókò tree badly. My wishes became granted when I gained admission into secondary school and the how is that, to get to Efon Alààyè, where the school is located, from Ado Ekiti, my place of residence, one will have to pass through towns like Aramoko-Ekiti, Igede, and Ẹriọ. These towns have large forest reserves. While traveling through Igede, for example, you will see more trees than people.

I can’t remember if it’s Ẹriọ or Aramoko-Ekiti that my father told me, while traveling to school, to get ready, he’s going to show me an ìrókò tree. Goodness! I was brimming with happiness. I was finally going to see an ìrókò tree! So, I got ready to see it and when we got to the part of the road that has the view of the ìrókò tree, my father pointed it to me and it was exactly what I pictured in my head. Towering and smooth with branches that bore leaves that gloriously shone green. I screamed in delight and my dad smiled at me. Hahaha, I finally saw an ìrókò tree! I kept looking back as we drove past. It became a moment of forever so whenever I passed by the spot afterward, I jumped in excitement. My mom said every tree I saw became ìrókò but what did she know?

That ìrókò moment is one of the few moments in my life that I have known genuine happiness. The kind I didn’t have to get used to because I didn’t see the ìrókò tree regularly, so I looked forward to the times that I would see it (every resumption and vacation day), and somehow, it made it special. I’m older now (I was 10 years old then —October 4, 2010) and even though I yearn for the undiluted joy I experienced at that time, I have come to reconcile myself with the fact that sometimes, in life, there is mess. Most times. I haven’t settled down enough to point out the things that bring me genuine untainted happiness these days but I can mention a few things and more that makes life messy for me. On the top of the list are expectations. I expect reciprocation mostly. I expect that things should be given to me, not always exactly as I gave them, but at least, a resemblance. I want friends that won’t make me relate to the bridge of ’tis the damn season by Taylor Swift. I want relationships that won’t end up like the one Taylor Swift and The National sang about in Coney Island.


In Happiness Is A Butterfly, Lana Del Rey compared happiness to a butterfly and how it escapes in the chorus. It goes thus;

“Happiness is a butterfly,

We should catch it while dancing high,

It escapes from my hands into moonlight”

I didn’t understand the metaphor of happiness and butterfly the first few times I listened to the song because, at age 19 when the song was released, I was still pretty naive. I didn’t know the full weight of happiness and how much it influences people. My notion of happiness was shallow, scratch that, my notion of it was a direct influence of what other people thought about it, not mine. The ìrókò moment was at the back of my mind because I didn’t understand the gravity at that age. But I liked thinking of it and I would remind my dad about the time he showed me the ìrókò tree for the first time. The nostalgic trip used to fuel me with joy but at that time, I didn’t try to extend it to any other part of my life. I didn’t even know I was supposed to.

Now that I am 22 and my eyes have seen hardships that we Nigerians humorously refer to as shege, I understand the impact of happiness better. When I listen to Lana’s Happiness Is A Butterfly now, the chorus gets me every time because my life, day by day, is akin to trying to catch happiness but it keeps escaping into moonlight. At times though, I can’t help but ask myself if maybe I’m trying too hard. Maybe I’m expecting things to just be sweet like the nature of sugar but I know I’m not that naive, so no, I don’t expect things to always be okay and from what I have seen butterflies aren’t exactly easy to catch. When you are doing your thing, minding your business just like a flower, and living your life as it comes to you, they flutter their wings towards you and settle right on you, when you least expect it. Maybe happiness is like that too. Maybe it’s not something to be achieved but something that happens when the time is right when the mind is right.

Amid all the contemplating, I decided to start taking people as they are too. I force things, a lot. People will show me who they are but in my head, I will create another persona of them that suits my needs. Along with the aforementioned, I told myself to learn to clean up spilled milk instead of trying to salvage it.

They are not reasons to not hope for gleams of happiness though. Even if we are covered from head to toe in filth, we still deserve to be happy. We still deserve to be loved intentionally. We are still human beings with dignity. I yearn for ìrókò moments. I want to experience joy like that again and I have been close to it a few times.

When I customized the theme for this blog all by myself after many failed attempts. When I…okay, I think it’s just once. Oh, when I was made a group leader in NYSC camp and when an international magazine accepted my pitch. The difference between the ìrókò moment and the others is that ìrókò is rooted in nothing. It happened by itself. I didn’t have to be any way for me to see the ìrókò tree. I gave nothing to see ìrókò. This blog has to work or else the fact that I single-handedly worked on it won’t matter. I had to constantly prove myself to be made group leader and to remain so. The magazine can decide not to publish my essay anymore and I still have to meet up with pitching again and get accepted.

Sometimes, I wish to go back to the little girl who was ecstatic at the sight of a tree. I want to pack part of the excitement and genuine happiness for my current self.

But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, right?