Welcome to the 2016 Stories Guest Review. It is time again for us to gather around the fire of time and tell our battle stories. I cannot promise you’ll find reason, answers or even comfort here, but I can assure you that you will will find kin. Stay with us on this journey. Wishing you all the love, hope and warmth your heart can carry, and then some.

Love,
The story tellers.

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What a time to be alive! I doubt any other year can boast of having so many big changes. So many history-altering, arguably catastrophic, events have happened in one year. And if you have the good fortune of being Nigerian, everything is extra bleak. Things are bleak and no one knows where to go from here.

I couldn’t write about my year without writing this.

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The problem with healing is that it hurts. The first step, as they say, is identifying the problem. The next step is charting a path to recovery/healing. This is the easiest bit because who doesn’t dream of a world in which their problems don’t exist? So you pick all your dreams together and start to chart them. You make a plan for all the things you’ll do, all the fun you’ll have. You draw a picture of the kind of person you’ll be when the problem fades away.

The hardest part of the process is doing the work. Look, no matter who you are or how great you think you are, there are some things you need to work out. You need to question some things. We don’t just do things, we do them because we’ve been conditioned. It’s worth analysing some of them.

If you’re like me – full of layers – it will take a while. You will pull and scratch and beg yourself to stop. You will dig around, you will open up those well-hidden wounds and examine your scars. You will do the work. And you will start to see little spots of healing. Your heart will start to feel lighter, you will smile a little. You will see the light in the middle of what might be a dark situation. Your sense of hope will increase. Your heart will breathe.

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Hope is a strange thing. It is both a motivator and deterrent. But it is the one thing that makes life worth living. Because if there’s no hope that things will get better, why are we still here? What exactly is the point? The great thing is you can find hope in the tiniest places. A baby’s smile, Arsenal, making plans. A promotion at work, getting engaged, meeting someone, going on holiday, PHCN restoring power. Something. There’ll be something that will make you look forward to the future, even if it’s just tomorrow. And you will wait and something else will appear on the horizon.

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I have grown this year. I have become more confident in the person I am, the person I’ve always wanted to be. I narrowed down what I want to do with my life, finally. I’ve become more confident in my choices. 5 year-old me would be both horrified by and impressed with the person I have become. I’m not the animal doctor I thought I’d be, but I’m going to be a book doctor. I am proud of the person I am and the one I’m becoming.

I have never worked so hard at anything as I have at my PhD this year (just because I just want to get it done). Academia is harder than I thought. Every day is a battle to silence imposter syndrome and extreme perfectionism. The amount of work I’ve done this year is what people do in their 4-year PhDs. I am not complaining though.
I have never been surer of my friends. There are a few things that I will not do for my friends. It’s taken me a while to get here, but I am here and I love these people. I owe my life to my friends. The lowest point of this year was the night I dunked my hand in ice, trying to avoid cutting. One of them noticed and came round to mine. All he did was give me a hug and drive me around London at 1am on a Monday morning till I felt better. My friends show up. They motivate me. They cheer me on. They call me out when I’m being pig-headed. They kick my butt. They inspire me. These people love the shit out of me. And I love them with everything too.
I tried to be more thankful. I started contributing to a project called thank you notes run by my internet friend Justin. It’s simple in its premise, every sentence starts with: ‘I’m thankful for’. You can be thankful for negative or positive things but you have to be thankful through it. It’s helped. Frequently, something at the back of my head says I’m thankful for this situation. Being thankful fills me with hope. There are good things in my life. I’m thankful.

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A few excerpts:
I’m thankful for my medication which seems to be working even if I hate taking it.
I’m thankful for my mum. I’m thankful for how she sends DVDs of praise and worship sessions to me. I’m thankful she keeps sending them even though she knows I can watch them on YouTube.

I’m thankful for how the presence of little humans on the tube makes everyone happy. I’m thankful for toddlers and how much energy they have. I’m thankful for how they’ve not grasped the idea of personal space and stranger-danger.
I’m thankful for safe spaces.
I’m thankful to feel helpless a lot of times and not know what to do.

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I am healing. It is a great feeling. I’ve got to the end of this year and I can look back and see the healing. And I am hopeful. It gives me hope. It helps me know that I can get through the rough times. I will find something in me that will help me get through whatever tough times might lay ahead. And it gives me hope for the future of the world and Nigeria. The future will be hard but it’ll be good. We will do the work and we will come out better on the other side. We have to do the work. We just can’t sit back and accept that bad things have become the norm. We will do the work and we will be okay. We have to be.

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You know, I’m not quite sure what 2017 will bring, I’m not even sure what resolutions I’ll make.  But I love the promise of a new year, a new beginning. The promise of fixing the broken things in our lives. The promise of moving on from whatever the past year(s) have brought. The promise of healing. The promise of change.