Amanda is genuinely one of the nicest people I know. She has great taste and you can tell that she thinks deeply about things before she gives her opinion on them. Read this and then follow her on Twitter. She’s great. Grab a pad, you’ll want to take notes.
(Quotes from me are in italics.)
1. What does your name mean to you?
Among my siblings, I’m the only one who has always been called by their Christian name. I used to resent that, because my name –Amanda- never really seemed musical enough for me, to me. But boy, have I grown to love it. It’s Latin and it means “worthy of love” or “loveable one”. To be honest, I don’t think about the meaning much, but when I do, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy and, I don’t know, special.
Wow, I never realised this was the meaning of Amanda. What a meaningful name.
2. What’s your favorite childhood memory(ies)?
Gosh. Where does one begin? I had a pretty good childhood on the average – many siblings and cousins and friends to play with round the clock, parents who paid us attention and made us laugh and always played music at home and took us to the beach and amusement parks often. I really loved going to school- I remember the many mornings I would climb into the driver’s seat of my father’s car and honk repeatedly to hurry him along- and I have great memories of learning.
But I think my books were the most important thing to me. I have various, sepia-tinted memories of savoring books in different nooks that I claimed like a pirate: I read Around The World In 80 Days on a little step behind the sofa in the living room; I read Treasure Island in the bedroom I shared with my sisters, lolling about on our bed; I read stacks of Enid Blyton books in our nursery (or ‘small parlor’), curled under the table which creaked under the weight of our countless books- probably my favorite nook ever; I read The Concubine shrouded in the darkness of the V made by the doors of my mother’s wardrobe, the thrill of the fear of discovery coursing through me (she had banned me from reading it because I was only six or seven then). Good times.
3. What is the unique thing about growing up female and Nigerian?
There’s an interesting dichotomy when you grow up female in Nigeria – power and suppression together in varying degrees depending on your environment. Women are stronger than men here – egos far less fragile, a can-do attitude, determination and grit where men would generally fall into despair. It is not uncommon to find husbands who have given up hope propped up by wives who set aside all sentimental twaddle to GET THINGS DONE.
Yet, women are still marginalized, and men are still- consciously or subconsciously- thought of as the more important sex. Perhaps this is why the equality campaign is a bit more tortuous when applied to the Nigerian situation.
In my particular experience, my parents let me do whatever I wanted when it came to my education and my career, but were still determined to make me and my ideas domestically acceptable. Yes, be successful all you like, but your husband’s house is the final and only valid destination. It is a terribly conflicting thing, this, and it was – is- difficult to live with, that taste of freedom and autonomy peppered with dictatorship and the diminishing of who you are, by yourself.
I think you’ve identified the problem here. Women are actually quite powerful in Nigeria, but that power is continually undermined.
4. How have you tackled any of these unique challenges?
Basically, with an “everyone will be very alright” attitude (this is sort of the point of feminism). I try to find paths of least conflict (I’m not fond of confrontation) to do what I want to do. I’ve been largely successful- I pick my battles. I can’t fight with my parents over flimsy things like the ideas I KNOW that won’t change on either end. But I dig my heels in when it’s important, and I win.
Outside my family, I often find that knowledge will never let you down. Pointless anger towards the treatment of women will never work, we should all know this by now. I try to show, not tell. Show that I have just as much – if not more – value, importance and usefulness. Women have to work twice as hard to gain respect, unfortunately, and I hope that our generation will raise sons free of that sense of entitlement and superiority. (Definitely hope so!)
5. What do you do professionally at the moment and why do you do it?
I like to say that I’m a professional bleeding-heart; if it’s a cause for vulnerable people, you’ve got me. I currently work with an organization which empowers youths by providing factual, critical information on topical issues and providing opportunities for sponsorship and learning. I do it because it’s necessary. We have to be the ones to raise the standard of discourse in Nigeria, to take charge, to be idealistic, optimistic and BELIEVE. It’s our only route for survival. (WOW!)
6. What was your trajectory? How did you get to this point?
So, my particular bent is healthcare, and I always wanted to be a cog in the wheel of some humanitarian mega-organization. But, man proposes, etc. I’ve always been interested in civic engagement, so when this opportunity came along when I was doing nothing, I thought, why not?
7. What are you passionate about? (cringe)
Fairness. Equity. Ethics. Education. Everything and every cause I identify with is rooted in one of these four.
Fairness because if all men are created equal, then each man deserves the same amount of dignity, irrespective of socioeconomic status.
Equity because the way the world is set up, there will always be a gradient of social classes. I believe that the greatest need, and not the deepest pockets, should be put first.
Ethics I’m particularly passionate about because I think a lack of it is ingrained into the Nigerian DNA. We should do what’s right because it’s right, and God knows we need no other reason.
Education I believe is my life’s calling because (asides from the need to always tell people what to do) I believe that it is the most important of all bedrocks. The sheer quality of life it affords you is breathtaking, when you stop to consider it. Knowledge is one of God’s greatest gifts to us, and the beauty is, it never ends. To quote the magnificent William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” (Saving this one.)
8. What are three lessons you’ve learned in the past year?
That decisions are made by those who show up.
That cynicism is the easy way out of taking responsibility.
That kindness is hard and takes strength of character to learn.
(See how you just put a shot to my heart with your second sentence.)
9. Are you happy at the moment? What can you do to be happier?
No. I feel a little bit stalled at the moment and I can’t see the end of it. I don’t remember what happiness feels like; I’m a victim of chronic self-sabotage. There’s always one fresh hell or the other. But I’m dealing.
Can you talk a little more about this self-sabotage you speak of?
Ah. My self-sabotage has one root – laziness. Too lazy to write that proposal. Too lazy to apply for that job. Too lazy to put any effort into that friendship. Pray for me, all. Pray.
10. Who inspires you? Why?
I’m always devoid of inspiration by people. It’s a problem. But maybe Aaron Sorkin. I don’t know to what extent he believes in the lines he writes, but I’m buying what he’s selling.
11. What are you reading at the moment?
Currently reading the complete works of Dorothy Parker whom I adore- she’s the 1900s answer to Oscar Wilde and her irreverence is utterly delightful.
12. What would you say to the teenage you?
Show up. Don’t skulk in corners trying to be the cool kid. Join the band like you know you want to. Join the choir. Learn to play the violin. Don’t cut Physics class. Don’t quit badminton. Read the news. Debate, don’t just hand people points. Stop coasting just because you can; put your back into it and beat Mobola Thomas for once. (Oh my life, if this isn’t me- coasting my way through everything) Don’t burst your zits. Be kinder; don’t sacrifice people’s feelings for a laugh. Think kindly of your mother, she means well. Don’t be terrified of boys and them not liking you- you’re wonderful and they’d be lucky to know you.
13. What would you like your future self to remember/ keep about this season of your life?
This was it, Amanda. This was when you finally started living.