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How did I not die in 2016?

Pretty sure that some smart-ass somewhere will say, “it’s not too late to die in 2016”. You are mad, and I’m here to tell you.

Now that we know I’m not alright, let’s do this.

***

Have you ever met someone who made you want to be better? You suddenly feel like your life is shit, and you have to fix up. You want to upgrade yourself just so you can be good enough to love this person and hope the person loves you back. Have you ever been so sprung that after a (very casual) date with the person, you go home, wash all the dishes that had been piled up in your sink for a long time, clean up your room, and fold all the clothes in your closet…just because you feel you need to keep your figurative house in order, literally? Have you ever wanted to start going to church again (after a 3-year hiatus) so you can be close to God, because for some reason, you feel the way to this person’s heart is through Jesus? That maybe you could possibly convince the most high you are worthy of this woman, and ask him to epp?

No, this is not why we are here, but I felt this way very recently, and now I must share. This is an unusual feeling; I have been spoilt with never having to conventionally woo a woman, so this is uncharted territory for me. Because, it doesn’t even seem like she is remotely interested in anything more than a friendship, I do not know how to begin to make her look at me like a possible suitor. If I shoot my shot fast, I might lose a valuable friendship. If I shoot slow, I might end up in the friend-zone.

What is this pot of beans life?

Nice one Cupid. Nice shot this December. Little bastard.

***

I rarely talk about my family; there’s simply not a lot of happy memories there. I can’t help but be envious when I see people with close-knit or even normal families. The abnormalities in mine are just too much, I have a headache thinking about it. I can even feel the pain coming as I write this. Naa. Let me move on. But before I do, can I ask you to say a prayer for my younger brother? I always thought he was super smart, and the most likely to be rich and famous in our home. In November, we put him in a rehab, and we are hopeful he will recover from years of substance abuse.

***

A lot of people (many on Twitter) do not like me because of my strong and rather different opinion on a lot of things. Truth is; I do not make a conscious effort to stand out. I just see things from multiple perspectives and I stand by the most reasonable and progressive one. A lot also do not like me because I am very pro-women – feminist if you want. My brand of gender equality advocacy has a bias for women. I mean, they have been subjugated for centuries, so some partiality from people like me would be fair till equality finally happens. This has of course earned me a comfortable seat in ‘pick me Twitter’ (people that use that line are mad by the way). Whenever the very sensitive rape issue is being discussed for example, I’m almost always in the thick of things; outrightly condemning the act (when it’s a woman or minor), and sometimes wanting to understand the whole story (when it’s a man). Judge me if you want, but women are more often the victims in these things, hence my bias.

Then I got sexually assaulted.

She was coming to Lagos from the South and wanted to stay in my house. I didn’t want her to, so she stayed in a hotel, not far from my area. I had gone there to say hi, and after all the catching-up, when I decided to leave she wouldn’t let me. She locked the door, pocketed the key, grabbed my …

She was surprised I said I wasn’t interested. She thought it was a joke and continued groping, while I kept telling her to stop and let me leave. She said she had come all the way to Lagos because of me, and I couldn’t say no to her. Man, I was flummoxed. I couldn’t push her away, or try to drag the key from her and unlock the door because I was afraid she’d scream. I knew there was no way I could have convinced people that I wasn’t the one trying to rape her.

I was angry, afraid, powerless, and stunned at the same time.

This went on for a while till I asked her to chill a bit, let’s talk, before we have the sex. She agreed, stood by the door, and listened as I told her the implications of her actions. When I noticed the words were getting to her, I started berating her heavily. I ignored her tears and went on and on till she eventually gave up the key, and I left.

It was a bizarre experience, the most unexpected thing that (has) happened to me this year. Thank you, October. I won’t miss you.

***

I’ve always wanted to have a platform where I’ll generally just talk about all the relevant things that trended the previous week. Tried writing, but I wasn’t disciplined enough to sustain a weekly column. My options were TV or Radio – easier to just talk. But, one doesn’t just get TV or Radio gigs like that. So when Wande asked me to come co-host JustAPOVCast, a new Podcast series where trending stories, pop-culture and socio-political events are freely analyzed, I said yes. The first episode aired on the first of September, and together with Isioma, we have now recorded 15 episodes of madness. Check it out – Here

***

Who remembers a certain distasteful tweet about someone throwing a pot of soup away because a Benin lady prepared it?

Worst thing I ever tweeted. After deleting and apologizing, I refused to answer all the ‘why’ questions, because I didn’t want to escalate the matter. If you’re one of the curious ones, this is my attempt to explain what happened.

Remember this tweet?

It was re-shared on other platforms outside Twitter. This lady sees it, adds me on Facebook and sends messages, saying she thought I was funny and all. We got talking and after a while she says she’ll be coming to Lagos (she lives in Benin) for an embassy interview. She wanted to stay at my place, but I said no. (It’s fine when people are in town and want to stay in my house, but something just didn’t seem right). She said she’d stay with her friend on the Island but we would still see. She came into Lagos on a Thursday, and we agreed we would hangout on the Island after work the next day. 3pm on Friday, I ask her what’s up and she says she’s at Berger (the entrance to Lagos for those who do not know) and would be leaving in an hour. Now I knew there was no way she’d get to the Island before 6, and I couldn’t wait that long. So I asked her to go to the house. (When I think about it, I wonder why I didn’t ask her to go to Ozone or Surulere Mall. Sigh). My key was with the security man, so when she got home before me, I asked him to let her in. Ladies and gentlemen, I entered the house and she was in the kitchen, cooking. We never had any prior conversation about her cooking; we hadn’t even talked to a point where I thought she would feel comfortable enough to go into my kitchen to cook. I was stunned. I asked her why, and she said she just felt like cooking for me, so I won’t be hungry when I got home. I thanked her, but told her it wasn’t necessary and all. After she left, I couldn’t eat the soup. I couldn’t give it to anyone either, because, if I was skeptical about eating it, why should I want someone else to eat it? Anyways, I shouldn’t have tweeted it sha, but like they say, the rest is history.

***

Have you ever been betrayed by someone you love(d)? Like, have you ever had two people you let into your very very tiny circle come together and ridicule you? That shit hurts. Hurts real bad. August was the month I realized there was a lot I had to know about human behavior. It was the month I learnt that the only person you should absolutely trust is yourself. (Well, unless you have friends like Sominabo Horsfall and Chimezie Ozuzu, then trust them). No matter how selfless you are, hold some back, because in the end, you’re all you have.

***

I turned 28 in July. I was in a good place too: better-paying job, less work pressure, falling in love (with someone I thought was awesome, but didn’t want to rush things with), planning to start writing again, and so on. I got 3 cakes on my birthday, the most I’ve ever had. As a matter of fact, I have only had cakes on two birthdays in my life. First cake I ever had was my 26th, courtesy Ugochi. Don’t ask me how I didn’t have a cake on my first birthday. I told you my family is different. *rolls eye*

***

I started a new job in June. It was a very big move for me. I had left an enviable management position in the most creative Digital Agency in Nigeria to join a technology firm with a barely recognizable name. But I was happy and that is all that mattered at that point. I was exhausted from my old job, but the thoughts of growing the digital endeavors of the current job motivated and excited me.

***

I don’t know the exact moment I stopped being happy. But it happened. I felt like I was under a lot of pressure, and it was exhausting. I wanted to breathe. I wanted to go away for a long time. I wanted to take a long break. But there was always a very exciting project that I had to be a part of. Whenever I felt the pressure, I looked at my CEO and Head of Operations – tireless men who worked round the clock and I asked myself if they had two heads. I should have understood that what works for A might not work for B, but I continued killing myself.

I had just returned from a trip to Bauchi and I was supposed to write about the experience. I opened ‘MS word’, and … I COULDN’T WRITE ANYTHING. I was a content machine prior to that, but I could not narrate events that happened in the space of three days. It was over for me. I was burnt out. I tried typing my resignation letter, but I couldn’t even do that. I went to my boss and told him I had to leave.

May was the month I left a place that had become home. But home never really leaves us; it’s always in our hearts.

***

I always look back at April with nostalgia. That was the month I spent a weekend in Bauchi with VJ Adams, Chiamaka the Social Prefect, Osi Suave, Tobi Ayeni, Atinuke SteadyLady, Mohammed Arewa Planet, Farida Othman, Udim, Fabian, Olumide and Olaitan. Our hosts – Shamsuddeen, Chadi, and the guys at the Bauchi State Ministry of Tourism made our stay in that state unforgettable.

PS: One day I will start a Jackpot club in Lagos. Those wey know, know.

***

I did a lot of traveling in March. Then I discovered something that changed my life. Here –

***

Every Valentine’s day, I promise myself I would not be single on the next Valentine’s day. Read the last sentence again. And again. And … oya stop. This time, I mean it. I will not be single on the 14th of February, 2017. (If you know you have a crush on me, now might be the time to shoot your shot – c@chydee.com)

And oh, I taught a Masterclass at the 2016 Social Media Week. If you’re interested – Understanding Analytics with Twitter

***

I was supposed to celebrate the New Year in Ohafia, with my family. But you see, like I have said a couple times, my family is different, so on the 31st of December 2015, I left them and returned to Port Harcourt.

I was awake, alone, numb, as the clock chimed 12:00am, and the Happy New Year text messages started pouring in.

“This 2016; order my steps oh Lord”, I muttered, before I fell into the arms of the darkness we call sleep.

***

I did not die in 2016. 2017 will not kill me. Amen.

Chidi “Chydee” Okereke

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