For the umpteenth time this year, I woke up on a Sunday morning and it didn’t occur to me that it was a Sunday and Sundays should be the day for church.
I opened my phone browser, checked livescore.com for the European soccer leagues matches of the day and grabbed the remote to watch one of the several soccer matches being aired. Normal Sunday routine resumed. It’s been that way for several months, the only break in transmission was when my parents came visiting.
Even my parents have stopped asking me if I went to church. I’m sure they attribute it to “abroadization”. Yup, I just invented the word. Maybe they are right. However, one of my goals at the beginning of the year was getting closer to God so they can’t be entirely correct. These days, I can’t even bring myself to say a word of prayer except once in a blue moon. If I told you I expected a good and smooth year, I’d be telling a lie. I expected it to be a rough and bumpy ride, hence my goal of getting closer to God.
My Bible app tells me I’ve been perfect for 315 days and 44 perfect weeks. That is obviously not true. I don’t know where those numbers came from. Before this submission, I had not opened the app for at least 3 months. At the beginning of the year, I saved several Bible reading plans with the aim of reading as the year went on. The titles? “Stop it! No More Worry”, “Overcoming Worry”, “What Hinders Answers to Your Prayers”, “Hope When It Hurts” etc. I’m sure you get the idea. You can see the common theme — worry. I sought succor in what (and who) I believe(d?) in but I didn’t get any respite.
Do I resent God that my year turned out a broken year? No. But did it affect my relationship with Him and my thought process? Definitely.
I tell anybody who cares to listen that individuals mostly require just one acceptance email or that positive phone call to feel like the prior rejections were worth it. It was something I strongly believed in, I was almost always proud to say it but I’m not even sure I believe this anymore. To be sincere, I’m tired of all that inspirational crap. I’m tired of “aspire to inspire” motivational talks. Even the strongest mind has a limit to the disappointments it can handle and these days, I feel like I’m on the edge of a cliff.
I finished a master’s degree and took the decision that I wasn’t going to enroll in a doctorate program, at least not immediately. Partly because I got tired of school and wasn’t interested anymore and partly because I felt I was equipped to survive the strains of job search. I thought I was ready. I wasn’t, as I would find out later.
The rejections piled up. Each rejection chipping away at my confidence. Of course, it didn’t help that I was (and still am) a foreign national — courtesy another (stupid?) decision I took not to marry for the sole purpose of becoming a citizen of the abroad. But how could it be that nobody wanted to take a gamble on this smart kid?
What was I doing wrong? Nothing made sense to me. I had given myself to helping everyone around me and the universe still conspired against me? How wicked could the universe be? Eventually, I gave up. I stopped applying altogether. My confidence drained, my belief shattered. I tried to pick myself up, even made a phone case for myself.
“Rise above mediocrity, live your dreams” it said, in the hope that I’d see it every day and remember why I do anything and everything I do but it didn’t work. Nothing seemed to be working.
So, I did what I thought any “sensible” human should do, I reached out to people. I should have known better. Most of the people I reached out to uttered sentences along the lines “at least you’re in the abroad” or “you have it better than others”; almost as if that is enough to invalidate what I felt at the time. Whatever I felt didn’t matter because I supposedly had a better life. So, I sank further into the abyss. I didn’t submit any applications for about six (6) weeks or more — which is incredible for someone with strict immigration rules and timeline to abide by.
People asked how my application process was going and I told them the same lie “going well”. Someone even told me I was purposely trying to ruin my life. A friend from my undergraduate days recently told me he misses my ginger to get things done and all I could do was laugh. I, Lanre Adebola, miss my ginger as well. Even the academics I thought I was good at, brought heartache in the form of two (2) rejected technical abstracts for conference presentation and publication.
I’ve had to prove myself every step of the way throughout my life and I’m tired of doing it. I’m currently doing it again because I have no choice. At different times, I have regretted my choice of profession, my choice of school for my master’s degree and at the extreme, my choice to leave Nigeria. “Lanre, why didn’t you just stay back in Nigeria and live a normal life? Get a bank job and just let this abroad dream go.” However, the stories from home are not entirely pleasing (sorry guys) and I guess I wouldn’t be happy for too long doing what I don’t like. Essentially, it feels like a catch 22 situation; whichever way, I lose.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, could have prepared me for the year I had. I’ve been broken more times than I’d like to admit. I have fought my way through a difficult year and I am slowly rebuilding my confidence, but I can’t deny that it was a broken year, even though I came out of it better than I got in.
When I started writing this, I felt compelled to tell a good story or at least a story with a good ending mostly because I chose to write this non-anonymously. I felt forced to tell the story of being a conqueror and all the usual tripe, but I refused the urge because a good end to the year doesn’t erase the memories of the preceding months. How could I tell the story of my 2018 without those tough months? It wasn’t a “victory-at-last” tale and shouldn’t be narrated as such.
So where do broken years go?
Short answer: Nowhere.
Long answer: They stay with you and break you down into a million pieces.
2018 wasn’t the year I wanted but cheers to 2019 and hoping to tell a better story.