The first day of January is mother’s birthday. It’s the one time in the year when I’d rather be home most. I buy her a present and hide it in my weekend bag, then I travel home to Obudu or Calabar to surprise her and watch her laugh. I watch her eyes light up, I watch her make a show of unwrapping the gift, and no matter how small or insignificant it may be, she cradles it with both hands, the way one might hold a warm mug of coffee when it’s cold outside, and she prays for me.
This year, I had to work and I couldn’t make it home. The big, empty city felt a little lonely, and the loneliness brought a few melancholy thoughts along. I thought of life, and death, and all of my ambitions and big dreams. I thought of mistakes and lost friendships. I thought of pain. I thought of a lot of things.
In 2014, I thought I knew where I was going, what I was doing with my life. I thought so because I had found a way to snooze the hard questions. The truth is, I was lost.
I went to church on New Year’s Eve; I went to church to pray but ended up sleeping or tweeting through half the service. All my life, I’d been told how much promise I possessed, how great I could become. I’d been told I’d shake hands with kings.
All that promise brings expectations. All that pressure hangs on your neck, and after a while, it leads you to that place where you begin to measure your successes by the successes of others.
So that night, January 1 as I sat there in a church I didn’t want to be in, I realized I was drowning in a sea of expectations that weren’t mine, and decided I wanted to live a little, I wanted to breathe.
I have dwelled so much on January because in some way, it set a tone for most of what happened for the rest of the year. I began to make changes and few were easy.
I moved into a new apartment, a tiny little place which my landlord will paint in a sunny primary school yellow, after I asked him to paint it in cream. He’s a Mountain of Fire pastor so I’m certain my village people are having a hard time stopping by.
I lost a few friendships, became a stranger in a few places that used to feel like home. This was hard for me. It’s hard to live in a city like Lagos and not really have friends. I mean, you have people you’re cool with, but the true test of friendship for me is how I’d react if they came by at 2 am unannounced.
But I gained new friends in Yellow Mitsubishi (hey guys), and they have become like my family since. I met a few great people on Twitter who have become friends, business partners even. You get what you want out of Twitter.
I fell in love. Then I stood up. And fell in love again. And never really told her. She lived in Abuja, and the distance was overwhelming, and eventually I stopped calling. Then I fell in love again. And she lived in Abuja. We drifted apart, as people in love sometimes do when love happened like a whirlwind, but communication breaks down before the friendship has matured enough to bridge the gap. Abuja maybe isn’t my city, and love is a stock market graph.
But, guys, I found this girl…
My relationship with God this year was funny. In a sense, I was completely aware of the fact that I could go to him always, that I had access, but I wasn’t really going to him. My spiritual life was reduced to David Crowder songs and the struggle to read my devotional. There was an open door policy but I was sitting there struggling to send God emails.
I came to realize that I loved God, but I didn’t love his church. Like weddings, I found many of the people in attendance to be painfully ostentatious or possessing ulterior motives. But I am slowly finding my way back to God. Sometimes it feels like an estranged father and son trying for rediscovery.
My finances…hahahaha haha ha…
No matter, it’s been a good year. I have learned to count my blessings, to bask in the small mercies, to live fully and attempt to die empty.
The other day, we lost our CFO on his way back to the office on a short trip to Ibadan. He was the only person who died. I am not ashamed that I cried. Everybody who knew him cried. You should have read the eulogies. I saved a copy of his funeral program to remind myself to be that guy who leaves a jagged, gaping hole in the world when he dies.
I have learned that shit really does happen and one must, as a preemptive move, buy tissue paper. I opened my first investment account at an ARM Investment Center. One day my kids will thank me.
This year, I learned that small beginnings actually count for a lot. This year, a friend and I started Small Big Chops and held our first event: the Twitter Grub Mingle. It’s a grand dream with the smallest of beginnings and it is fun to watch it sprout, to see how far it will go.
I learned to accept that I won’t always win, and that it’s alright. Joshua Radin’s No Envy, No Fear was my unofficial anthem for the year and that is how I have tried to live; without covetousness and without fear.
And as for being lost, and finding direction and myself, that Thursday morning in January, when I called mother to wish her happy birthday, I remembered the Bible verse she made me memorize many years ago, the first time I was leaving home. I remember she read from the book of Jeremiah, chapter three and verse four. She read from her small worn New King James bible with the gilded edges:
Will you not from this time cry unto me, ‘My father, you are the guide of my youth’?
This post touched me to tears. I don’t know whether it’s your mother’s prayers, or this very passage or how it looks like me on so many levels. I really do hope you have booked your flights for the 1st of January. There’s flights to Calabar and Obudu even now. Please. Tell your mother we all love her. Thank you for sharing.