I feel like Rip Van Winkle

One of the most memorable works of fiction I read as a pre-teen is a children’s

Rip Van Winkle

Illustration : Rip Van Winkle

story by Washington Irving titled Rip Van Winkle. I still remember my excitement watching the cartoon version of the story on Lagos Weekend Television (LTV) in the 80’s. Seeing one of my favorite tales come to life before my eyes was a joy unparalleled! For those of you who’ve never heard of this classic fiction, I’ll do you the honour of summarizing the tale:

The story is set in the pre- American Revolution War. Its central character is a man, Rip Van Winkle, who lives in a village at the foot of the Kaatskill Mountains along with his kids and nagging wife (Dame Van Winkle). He is well loved by the kids in the village because he often gives toys and entertains them with stories. He enjoys solitude and has a penchant for idleness which often incurs the wrath of his nagging wife. She complains incessantly about his lack of industry and neglect for his farm land which is constantly in disarray.

On one fateful autumn day, Rip escapes into the mountains with his dog, Wolf, to escape a barrage of nagging from his wife. As he wanders along he hears someone calling his name. On proceeding towards the direction of the voice, he comes in contact with a man dressed in old fashioned Dutch clothing. The man asks Rip for help and without hesitation, he assists the stranger in carrying a keg of rum all the way into a hollow-like Amphitheatre in the mountain. There he meets other men similarly dressed like the stranger, playing ninepins and drinking rum boisterously. He soon joins them in their drinking and revelry and before long, falls into a deep sleep.

He awakens and it is morning. He skin is wrinkled, his beard is long, his gun is old and rusted and Wolf is nowhere to be found. He returns to the village to find out that he has been asleep for 20 long years; his wife is now late, the American Revolution has taken place and his close friends have all died in the war. Someone calls out to a man called Rip Van Winkle who turns out to be his son, now a grown man. He is eventually taken in by his daughter who’s also now a full grown adult.

Such was Rip Van Winkle’s fate; missed out on every detail of life for 2 decades. The last he remembered, he was a young man wandering into the mountains. And now he awakens an old man unable to account for the past 20 years of his life.

I can relate to Rip Van Winkles experience because I too feel like I have been in a coma for that long; I can’t really account for the past 20 years of my life. The last I remembered I was an enthusiastic youth looking forward to an exciting future, but I am now in a future far different from what I had anticipated. There are lot of things I ought to have accomplished by now which just didn’t matter to me. Why didn’t they matter until now? Why has my mind been oblivious to the opportunities of the day? What did I do with all that time? How did the grey hairs sneak up on me undetected? Why did I never have a strong desire to get married until now? Why am I living far less than my potential while others who had far less potential at the beginning have gone far ahead? Why was I so comfortable with my self-imposed limitations? What was it that put me to sleep? Why am I suddenly waking up to the harsh reality that the time is short? Why now and not earlier? Just wondering if I am the reincarnated Rip Van Winkle.

This reminds me of Sharru Nada’s account in the all-time classic, The Richest man in Babylon. 40 years ago he arrived at Babylon a slave, and saw some labourers toiling by the gateway leading into the city. 40 years later he returns to Babylon a wealthy free man and notices the same men still toiling by the same spot; they’d had made no progress for 40 years.  God forbid that should be my testimony!

I talked this over with a friend and told him of my painful awakening and he said to me, “anytime a man wakes up, that is morning for him. No need to wallow in regrets. Forge ahead! I have decided from this point on not to allow the latter part of my life become a reflection of my past.

I am going to redeem the time!



12 thoughts on “I feel like Rip Van Winkle

  1. MFON ABIA says:

    Nice story. It’s time to act. It’s good that you have come to the realization of lost time. Do all you can to get ahead.

  2. Timiebix says:

    “anytime a man wakes up, that is morning for him. No need to wallow in regrets. Forge ahead! I have decided from this point on not to allow the latter part of my life become a reflection of my past.
    I love this…..

  3. Sharon Salu says:

    Dan: Your friend sounds like a pastor o! Lol! But what he said is truly insightful. Dwelling on the past will not help unless you choose to learn from your mistakes and move on with your life. I particularly appreciate the honesty with which you wrote this especially the part where you asked yourself hard, honest questions. It pays t be true to yourself.

    On another note, you brought back old memories o. I also remember watching LTV Ikeja and LWT on the weekends. I didn’t even remember the Rip Van Winkle story, but you just gave a good ‘refresher course.’ Nice to read updates here again 🙂

    • upwardliving says:

      Thanks for your comment Sharon. Yes my friend is kind of a pastor.:-) 😉
      You’re right. No need crying over spilled milk. Always best to move on. I tend to be brutally honest with myself eventually after burning my fingers.lol!
      You gave me a refresher course too. I actually meant LWT. Haha!

  4. igula richmond says:

    I feel the same too, by now I ought to have graduated from school, but i left the the school for refusal to bride commonly known as ”sorting” and now getting back to school has been a problem and i’m looked like a stupid man by my people especially my mum. Well I’m not dead so is not the end. As for the story it is a good one.

    • upwardliving says:

      Thanks for stopping by Richmond. I think I know how you feel. The past is history. Its what you do with your life from this point that will make all the difference. Please keep hope alive!

  5. Mamugha says:

    Bros! andthere you were speaking of fear. Your article is so sincerely transparent: it takes a person of great courage to put it all out there. So we may fear but courage is not the absence of fear, it is the determination to advance nothingless. i salute you sir.

  6. upwardliving says:

    Mamuski, thanks for stopping. I’ll do my best to take thr necessary steps towards the obstacles.

  7. Ify says:

    I don’t know what made me stop by here. Perhaps because i tried googling ‘after majoring in philosophy, what next?’
    I’m supposed to be sleeping but I’m dead scared. Scared for the future. I had an argument with my roommates today about what would happen after school.
    Girls here believe in early marriage.
    I’m in my 300 level and it scares me. I don’t know what will happen after school. The thought of marriage scares me because i don’t want it for me NOW! I want a career. I want to be successful and independent. I don’t want to depend on any body and i don’t want to be Rip Van Winkle.
    I don’t know how, when it will happen but i know it will happen. I want what every normal person wants. Fall in love with the right guy over and over again, get married and have kids but not now. Over here, people get married for selfish reasons. Girls get married because they feel they’re old enough and younger beauties would laugh at them.
    But the thing is i have a lot of people who are looking up to me and i don’t want to disappoint any of them but what to do is the problem…
    I’m feeling sleepy now but i have to say this, I’ll work extra hard to make my dreams come true. It will not remain dreams or something we only watch in movies. It must come true!
    Hmm… Feeling good now. Whew!

    • upwardliving says:

      Hello Ify. I think I can relate to your confusion and pressure at the moment. We are often sure of the path we want to travel until people remind us that the path we intend to travel is unpopular. Then we are tempted to give in to the common way of doing things because we are not sure if we are being realistic or not. I’ve been at this crossroad in recent times.
      Pursuing a career is not a bad thing if that’s what will give you fulfillment. Besides it helps you appreciate the world around you and how hard it is to make money. Getting married is not a bad thing either. But I would seriously recommend marriage after graduation and youth service because we rarely fully evolve until we have been through these phases of life. Even as you are pursing career,you must plan for marriage and set a reasonable deadline otherwise you can get so carried away by career only to become desperate for marriage at an older age. Everything must have a balance.

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