State of deployment: Lagos.
It was 4AM and everyone was up waiting for posting. I should have been grateful, but a certain type of loneliness came over me. It was November 2016 and I was still recovering from the abuse my body had had to endure. The theme that year had been brave, yet for all I knew I was a coward who had let someone violate her. The morning after I got to Lagos, I was on the phone with a friend who had overdosed on sadness and aspirin. He was going to die. I concluded that my loneliness would be the thing that killed me. But see, he didn’t die. Instead we ended up travelling to Northern Nigeria together with some of our friends.
Camp sped by in a blur, all I wanted to do was get through the 3 weeks without getting into trouble. Until a soldier felt I was too timid and slapped me into the limelight. It was the kind of slap that makes you question your existence. Everyone kept looking at me in camp as the girl that soldier slapped. It ended nonetheless with very few pictures of me as a testimonial.
2017, and I know what it is like to be an adult. Bills, bills and more bills. I had to learn how to navigate a city built on a boom box filled with angry people, and it is safe to say that the average Lagosian spends half his life in traffic; I certainly did. I found really nice places in Lagos nonetheless to de-stress. One of those places was Tarkwa Bay and it has become a sort of haven for me.
This year came at me with hands that tried to choke me. A lover left me, then another and another. A loss I still haven’t quite learnt how to grieve properly. It was in March that I first tried to drown myself in a canal. It was the eve of my birthday and I had just experienced every photographer’s nightmare: picture loss. I certainly am grateful someone found me before shit got nasty. My friends cooked me a birthday dinner, we drank Nutri C in small plastic cups, danced our sugar rush away, stole hugs and pronounced life over ourselves. I am grateful for redemption in form of friends who fight with you for your life because the year gave me a gift eventually, several gifts.
I traveled with my best girls to places I had always wanted to go, I ate cotton candy for the first time in my life, I self-published my poetry chapbook which turned out to be a door leading to several invitations to speak and perform in places I didn’t think was possible, I got selected to attend a storytelling masterclass with Canon which ultimately gave me the push I needed and they ended up paying for a conference worth almost half a million (I am still dazed over it), I made some friends that ended up becoming family. But 2017 also gave me certain life lessons that will stay with me for years to come. For one, I learned that adulthood and freedom comes with accountability. My dad was the one who told me that if you wanted to be treated as an adult, you had to behave like one. This year brought me a certain understanding of parenting, when I intentionally sought out my mother, in an attempt to repair my relationship with her. I finally learned to speak up for myself without feeling insecure.
Being broke is never fun, and for the most part of this year I was living from hand to mouth. I have never been one to save, didn’t know how, but towards the end of the year I had to learn to get it together, to understand that learning how to save and cultivating whatever you earn is as important as you knowing you deserve nice things. I finally tried freelancing online and it has been such a learning curve, learning to meet deadlines while producing quality work. In as much as I really want some sort of structure in my life in the form of a regular source of income, I really appreciate the work ethic freelancing has taught me.
I tried Tinder and was pleasantly rewarded with friends who would later become business partners. This year I kissed a lot of strangers again with no expectations and it reduced my disappointment rate by 100% .
I am trying to stay soft despite all the pain people have caused me this year, and I’ve realized that no matter how lonely you get, it is not enough reason to let people treat you badly. Knowing that loving myself is not a thing to be negotiated with. Having to listen to a man I love tell me, “I don’t think this love thing is for me” is something that broke me into several tiny pieces, it made me realize that sometimes our love is interpreted as a desire to own people and that no matter what we do, human beings don’t own each other. If we say we love people, we should be content in realizing that sometimes people won’t always love us back the way we want or deserve and that is okay.
Redemption came in form of me realizing that some people’s idea of loving actively involves leaving and that we shouldn’t shame other people about their decisions.
I had a faith crisis this year, one I am still trying to come to terms with. I stopped praying, going to church and being religious. I think that this came out of a desire to not pretend everything I was doing was a ticket to a better life. I still believe in God and I hope 2018 brings me to my knees in absolute surrender.
It has been a wild ride, a blessing and a half. 2017 brought me an understanding of love, a distinct understanding of myself and a desire to abandon self-hate and all the pity parties. I have never wanted to become a flower but I bloomed this year with a fragrance that could only have come from understanding that maybe just maybe, I am worth saving after all.