Within 3 years of joining the Sankofa Hotel as it’s manager, Mansa had literally changed the face and reputation of the company. Her friendly demeanor, attention to detail, intelligence, and compassion had helped boost the morale of the staff. Under her influence, the company offered benefits and training opportunities. This initiative ultimately resulted in a high staff retention, improved customer service experience and an ever-broadening clientele base. Mansa had managed to salvage the dire financial situation she inherited and transformed it into a profitable business. She was showered with countless accolades and won many awards, yet remained humble and content.
Her job was not always rosy, but she kept her calm in spite of any negative encounters. Many of the staff saw her as a mentor and mother figure from whom they could seek her counsel. She always made the time to lend a listening ear and treated everyone with respect regardless of their rank in the company. She exuded grace, peace, assurance and calmness wherever she went; everyone wanted to be Mansa. In her mid-40’s, Mansa had a set of twin children (Grace and John Jnr.) whom she adored and remained committed to despite her busy work schedule.
One day, she invited the staff over to her house for an appreciation party. Upon arrival, they were overwhelmed with the depth of preparation and the many surprises she had in store for them. Prior to this day, the staff did not know much about Mansa’s personal life except for the fact that she had 2 children. As the party ensued and the staff felt more relaxed, they begun to explore and move freely around the house. They noticed several pictures of Mansa with her children and a handsome looking guy. This guy was in almost every picture on display at the house and it was almost impossible to ignore his infectious smile. Gathering a bit of courage, the staff asked Mansa who he was.
Well, his name is John. We met about 6 years ago at my previous place of employment. We fell in love quickly and got married within a year. About 1.5 years into our marriage, he started getting ill frequently. Initially, we thought it was just a regular headache, so we did not pay much attention to it until his symptoms worsened. After further check up at the hospital, we were hit with the unexpected news that would forever alter our lives. John had brain cancer and he was given only 6 months to live. We began aggressive treatments, diet modification, exercise and everything possible to help him heal, but nothing worked. In exactly 6 months as predicted by the doctor, John passed away.
Two years after being married at an age most would consider “old” or “late” I became a widow with 2 young children. John was my best friend, so his passing almost resulted in me ending my life as well. I struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts and I had to seek therapy. They say when life hands you lemons you make lemonade out of it, but in my situation, I simply could not accept the lemons I was being handed. Why me, why now? My life was a real mess at the time but after a year of grieving and seeking professional help, I made the choice to live. I knew I had to relocate to help me start life afresh and that’s how I moved from Shoji to Kanda 3 years ago. Shortly upon my arrival, I landed this job opportunity.
I wasn’t sure I was mentally prepared for the role, but I soon found out that I derived satisfaction from helping others become their best selves. My role as a manager is a platform to make life better for others. There are days I cry when no one is watching because I miss John so much and I know there is nothing I can do to bring him back. I have to constantly remind myself that I have lots to live for, so I try to push past my pain and to focus on what lies ahead. I guess I’m making lemonade now. Just then, one of the staff members interrupted:
“But Mansa, you don’t look sad, you are always cheerful, focused, hardworking and selfless; we had no idea you had any problems, everyone at work wants to be you”.
“So now that you know the other side of my life, do you still want to be me”?
Morale of the story
As the popular Ghanaian adage says, “it’s a curse to wish to be like someone or to have someone’s life”. This is because, like Mansa, you don’t know definitively what the person is dealing with or continues to endure. There is always a story behind all the seeming glory. While it’s great to admire qualities in others, or to be inspired and mentored by someone, it’s never wise to covet someone’s life or to become someone else. With this life we’ve been given, you can only aspire to be the “best you” because even if you try hard to become someone else or covet another person’s life, you will never become them and you will miss out on the opportunity to become the best version of yourself. Can you imagine the shock and disappointment when the person whose life you are coveting is also aspiring to become someone else?