How one solitary follicle of grey hair changed my life

My name is Alma Ohene-Opare. On Saturday, February 16, I will turn 35. So, technically, I am a millennial, albeit on the fringes of that classification. In a world where 26-year olds expect to remain on their parent’s insurance, 35 is still quite young, with the whole world still ahead of me, apparently. So, it is not surprising to me that millennials have earned, in many cases deservedly, the derision of society, and appear to have either embraced or succumbed to the increasingly popular pejorative, “snowflakes”. But for starters, I am not a snowflake. I went to boarding school at 13, graduated high school at 16 and have worked my butt off ever since. At 35, I have been married for 13 years and currently in the process of raising 4 beautiful kids. I have a loving wife, a great job, a beautiful home, wonderful career prospects and all the necessities of life. In fact, you could say, I am living the American dream. As an immigrant who came here in 2003 with barely anything, that nomenclature has a wonderful ring to it.

So why, at 35, do I feel so old? Why do I feel like I have lost so much time? Why do I feel like my best days may be behind me? In effect, why do I feel like I have failed? Is this my mid-life crisis? Should I be talking to a professional about it?

Well, it all started when I noticed something shiny in the mirror as I prepared one morning for work. At first, I thought a loose strand of thread transferred from my towel to the top of my head. I brushed it with a hairbrush. Nothing happened. I picked at it, still nothing. I panicked.

What is going on, I thought loudly. I ran to my wife and asked the fateful question. Sunshine, do you see anything on my head? She scoured carefully, giggled and said, you have grey hair. I certainly don’t, I responded defiantly. Old people have grey hair. I am definitely NOT old, emphasis intended.

Believe me, I am smart enough to understand the science behind grey hair. However, the reality of actually having one was more emotional than scientific. What is happening to me, I frequently lamented. Why so soon? What have I done with my life? Is what I am doing right now my swan song? Do I even have time to do something else?

What that solitary follicle of grey hair represented to my psyche was a life speedily trending toward an inevitable end. I started to think and believe that I had not achieved all I had hoped to. In reality, I hadn’t. I started to feel like my clock was running out. I started to feel burdened by my unrealized dreams. Despair soon followed. Despite being reminded constantly of my many blessings and privileges, I felt, for lack of a better term, like a failure.

So what now? Could I justify remaining in despair? Could I pretend that all was lost? I certainly could not without feeling like a fraud. I knew I still had something to offer the world and a strand of hair could not be allowed to stand in my way. So I got to work evaluating my life, my dreams and what I hoped would be my destiny.

I came to America at 19, filled to the brim with unbridled optimism. All my life until that point, I had dreamed of making a difference. I had dreamed of sharing my talents with the world. I had dreamed of changing lives by solving big problems. For some reason, I believed America was the only place I could make those dreams a reality. I believed if I could succeed in America, I could one day be in the position to help thousands succeed in Africa.

More than ever, I realize my beliefs about America were and are unequivocally true. Despite its challenges, America to me is still the shining city on the hill. It is the bastion of freedom and the will to succeed. It exemplifies the immutable truths of life and is once and for all the place I have chosen to play my swan song and I invite you all to hear it.

Today I am taking my first step to realizing my dream. It starts with removing the mental shackles that have tied me down in mediocrity. Part of my effort will be to drown out the voices of those who seek to have me wallow in the mire of victimhood. I don’t consider myself a victim of anyone or anything. I have been given the privilege and capacity to be whomever I choose to be and America is where I will make my dreams come true.

As an immigrant, I cannot vote or effect political change, but I will be silent no more. I want to share my story, my passion and my convictions with you in the hopes of inspiring, edifying and uplifting you. In all, I want to help you achieve your dreams, even as I try to achieve mine. I have been blessed with a gift of communication and I intend to use that gift to help you realize your infinite worth and your potential for good.

Join me today as I begin my journey to change the world. The theme of my quest is a word I coined a few years ago to describe my journey. The word is:

Actionalyze — The Art of Turning Dreams into Reality

You can find me on my website and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

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