One of my favourite movie directors is Quentin Tarrantino. His raw, rich and pulpy imagination never ceases to impress me. Last night, I was watching Kill Bill Vol. 2 for about the 20th time, and, as always, when I got to the scene where The Bride is buried alive, I felt the same cold chill wrap around my spine, like the serpent around the tree of life.

Being buried alive used to be one of my biggest fears. I’ve had horrifying nightmares in which dirt has been poured over me by a grader while I’m tied up lying in a freshly dug grave. I wake up and I can sometimes still taste dirt in my mouth… My friend Andy thinks he’s some sort of Amateur therapist, and he suggests that these dreams mean that I’m afraid of dying before my time. I think he’s full of crap, but I’ll never forget the story he told me that miraculously cured me of that fear.

One day, an old donkey accidentally fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer came upon the scene and evaluated the situation. The mule was old, and was due to be replaced. The well had not struck water, and probably never would. He decided that neither the well nor the old mule was worth the efforts to save them, so he decided to bury the donkey in the well.

So the farmer called his neighbours and together they started shovelling dirt into the well. The old mule was terrified and hysterical in the beginning. He really didn’t like the feel of the dirt on him, so every time a shovelful landed on his back, he would shake it off. Soon, there was a large pile of dirt at his feet, and suddenly, the mule knew exactly how he was going to get out of the well.

Each time dirt was shovelled onto his back, he would shake it off and step up. He repeated these words to himself again and again: “Shake it off and step up”. The people above kept shovelling in more and more dirt. He just shook it off and stepped up. Calmly and patiently. He actually started to look forward to each shovelful of dirt, because he recognised their true value as stepping stones to freedom.

Before long, the old mule stepped over the well‘s wall and strolled away to freedom as the people looked on, dumbfounded.  Although terribly tired, he was the winner. They had decided he was worthless, and had sought to bury him alive, but their dirt had become his victory.

My friends, to paraphrase the Good Book, ‘for all have sinned and fallen into a well of some description’. There are many of us who have been written off. Perhaps your family thinks you will always be a failure. Perhaps your efforts at work have been overlooked. Perhaps your friends don’t think you’ll amount to much in life. Perhaps there’s little hope that you’ll ever be healthy again. Perhaps the one you love is replacing you with a newer, richer, prettier model. Perhaps for you, being at the bottom of a well means you’re at the bottom of your class.

Whatever your situation, it must not surprise you that many will consider it a hopeless one. Let it not shock you when they give up on you and start shovelling the dirt to cover you up. Just remain calm, shake it off and step up.

Winston Churchill once said, “I’m not very tall. The only reason why I’m visible to the world is because I rise above insults. The bigger the insult, the higher I rise”.

They say it’s all over and there’s no hope for you. Shake it off and step up. They say it’s your fault you’re in this predicament, and you brought it upon yourself. Shake it off and step up. They say better people with bigger brains than you have failed at what you’re trying to do. Shake it off and step up. I promise it won’t be long before you step over the edge and walk away to freedom.

My name is Kojo Yankson, and as long as I’m alive, I cannot be buried.


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