Chioma inspires me. To live my best life and just chase all of my dreams. I’ll let the interview speak for itself. As usual, quotes from me are in italics.
1. What does your name mean to you?
I laughed when I saw this question. It called to mind the Eragon books where it was thought that if a person knew your true name, they could control you and your destiny.
What is in a name? I’ve always been called by my middle name “at home”. I remember being ridiculously curious about the meaning of it as a child and I asked everybody what it meant.
On the one hand, Ugoeze is the title given to the wife of an Eze (king). I had that one uncle that only called me Queen Queen. I remember when he got married and his wife took up calling me Queen. She got the side eye but I got over it. I don’t like it when people who aren’t family call me Ugoeze. I think it is the height of familiarity.
Ugo can also be given to mean a crown or eagle.
Just the other day, I was musing on how I embodied this meaning more as a child than I do now. The how and why is a story for another day. Adulting seems to have knocked me down a peg or two. I miss that fearless, well-mannered, curious, intelligent, precocious child sometimes.
A few weeks ago, someone posted an article on twitter on the evolution of naming conventions among the Igbo which I found utterly fascinating (sorry, I can’t find the link right now). The gist of it was that in the wake of Christianity, a lot of people chose to incorporate the Chi/Chukwu/Nna pre-/suffix in reference to the Christian God. For this reason, where names had traditionally been linked to events surrounding the birth of the child, they became epithets to the Christian God.
Prior to this, and based on the new naming conventions as explored in that article, if you had asked me the meaning of my names, my rote answer would have been the literal translations – Good God and God’s crown/eagle.
Where I thought my middle name was more interesting and the one I most identified with because it is what I am called at home, the name Chioma has taken on a different dimension after reading it. Chi traditionally is translated as god, guardian angel, personal spirit, soul, spirit-double etc. it has a second meaning which is day or daylight but it is most commonly used for those transitional periods between day and night or night and day. Oma on the other hand translates directly as good.
What is in a name? The article I mentioned earlier set me on a path of reconsidering my names like I said before. Where I had previously only acknowledged in passing the meaning and power behind names, they have come to life after a fashion by embodying the person I want to be. At present, I’m in a transitional phase of my life and it is comforting to me to think of my names as – Chioma Ugoeze, one who has good fortune and is prized.
Wow, thanks for this. It’s got me thinking about my name and the possible history behind it.
2. What’s your favourite childhood memory(ies)?
My mother always took her annual leave to coincide with the long summer holidays. I remember having to drink a glass of milk every day and hating it. There were much despised naps and fun days out.
We spent a considerable part of the holidays in the village. A few days to the day of departure, there would be a marathon cooking session. An excess of chin chin, meatpies, fish rolls – whatever took her fancy – would be made for the long road trip from Lagos to Abia. There had to be room for the coolers of rice and chicken too because the thought of eating food she hasn’t cooked gives her the heebie jeebies.
Listening to her pointing out when we crossed state borders and major landmarks was always a treat. As we grew older, she would ask first if we knew where we were or what a certain landmark was. There were sing-songs and stories to pass the time. Crossing the Niger bridge was magic because, even though we had a fair few hours to go, it felt like the interminable hours of sitting were almost over. There was also the mandatory stop (more like enforced stop due to traffic) to buy bread and Cabin biscuits in Onitsha to share when we got home. We would cross the Imo river and in less than two hours’, we would drive into the family compound to welcoming faces and exclamations of how big we had grown since they last set eyes on us.
Our days were spent running all over our village and the ones surrounding to it. When the palm nuts were harvested and made into palm oil, my uncle would give all the children in the compound a kid which the boys killed and roasted before it got divvied among the 20-something odd grandchildren. We also got new yams that weren’t fit to be stored in the oba. A lot of roasted yam and fresh palm oil was had.
On afternoons when it was too hot or wet to play outside, we would assemble on the verandah of my grandfather’s house to play Whot or Ludo.
There were the endless experiments: playing kitchen with open fires, empty provision tins and real foodstuff; making “akara” (fried in palm oil) with sifted cassava waiting to be fried and turned into garri… Every year, it grew even more competitive until we outgrew it. All of it.
*nodding vigorously* ‘all of it’. How many things from childhood have we meaninglessly outgrown?
3. What is the unique thing about growing up female and Nigerian?
I’m not one to generalise but the premise of the question is a generalisation. I think that the average Nigerian woman has no agency over her person and sexuality. She is seen first as her father’s daughter and then as her husband’s wife. There is nothing inbetween. No matter how hard she has worked to build the life she wants, her achievements will always be reduced in light of whoever holds the position of authority over her as stipulated by society. It takes an incredibly strong woman to fly in the face of this.
“De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.”
The Nigerian woman is expected to uphold the moral fabric of society and have her shit together spiritually because somebody needs to keep her husband covered in prayer so that he doesn’t fall prey to Jezebels. In addition to this, the contemporary Nigerian woman is supposed to run a household immaculately, have a popping career, be “reasonably” social, raise model children and have all the time in the world for her husband. Some might frown at the thought of her having help in the house. Even if she does, they mustn’t cook for her husband because he is chattel to be snatched up by a marauder.
De Nigerian woman is de mule uh de society so fur as Ah can see.
4. How have you tackled any of these unique challenges
I’m a work in progress.
5. What do you do professionally at the moment and why do you do it?
I currently work in Corporate Finance and Advisory. I needed a change from my previous role in Structured and Trade Finance but it’s quite what I expected.
6. What was your trajectory? How did you get to this point?
I studied Accounting and Finance at University and started out in an Accounting role. I served at an Investment Bank where I was retained. It was fun to start with because I was on the hospitality desk which I loved. Hotels are magic to me. Four years later, I decided I needed a change but I wasn’t sure if it was a change of company or career. It’s been almost 18 months and I’m almost certain it was a change of career that was needed. The uncertainty of not knowing what comes next is the reason I’m still here. I’ve only ever known that I wanted to be in a Finance role but I think that the traditional path is not for me. I’m still figuring it out.
7. What are you passionate about? (cringe)
Teaching people. I’m the worst person to ask about anything because you will get a 50 slide PowerPoint presentation on all the different aspects of it, advantages, disadvantages, alternatives…joke. Or not.
LOL, I have experienced this first hand.
Like I said in answer to the previous question, I’m trying to figure out how to forge a new career path and I’m leaning towards teaching people about finance related issues. I’m just trying to figure out what form that’s going to take.
8. What are three lessons you’ve learned in the past year?
In the words of Robert Frost “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” It’s hard to remember this when you are in the middle of a seemingly endless drought. I’ve learnt that I’m resilient. I’ve always known it but I’ve not always been tried to the magnitude I have been in the last year or so. I will be alright. I’ve learnt to relish the little pockets of enjoyment life throws my way every now and again.
I cannot come and go and kill myself!
9. Are you happy at the moment? What can you do to be happier?
Yes and no. I’m generally happy in the way that one is when one is content. I would be happier if things were a bit more settled but life says no. Uncertainties abound and I’m learning to breathe. Literally.
10. Who inspires you? Why?
The (extra)ordinary women in my life trying to live their best life in the face of challenges. It’s beautiful to see people, who aren’t afraid to own up to faults, be vulnerable and yet do well in their personal and professional lives.
I hope to be that one day.
You are one!
11. What are you reading at the moment?
A few things –
- Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr
- If you have to cry, go outside
- The Mystery of Capital
It’s curious that there’s no fiction on the go at the moment because I’ve not always been a fan of non-fiction.
Hashtag power moves.
12. What would you say to the teenage you?
Live a little.
Learn to be vulnerable, it won’t kill you. You will be better for the relationships you forge at this point in your life. They will help you deal with the mind-fuck that is growing up. Nothing is ever that bleak. Nothing will kill you or destroy you. As long as you have breath in your body, be fearless. Go after the things you want and the life you want to lead single-mindedly. There is no honour in half-arsing things so as not to upset the apple cart.
13. What would you like your future self to remember/ keep about this season of your life?
My relationship with God. The thrill of creating value for people.
I feel like adding a Selah after this one.