I had this sudden urge to write about my year. Wow! I am actually writing a piece of prose, and I use the word prose very sparingly, that I don’t have to hand in to be graded. I hate to write. I find documenting my thoughts a chore. On the flipside, I love to talk and debate issues. I can talk and debate for hours, but I have always lacked the discipline to put down my thoughts, edit and go over my work until my words are as perfect as sweet tasting agbalumo at the end of January. Over the years, I have been propositioned many times to write. I have squandered chances to write for The Guardian Newspaper, twice. So, this compulsion (Side bar: Whenever I see the word compulsion, the yummy vampires in The Originals come to mind) to summarise a whole year has me confused, but here goes.
If my year had a tag line it would be “Everything happens for a reason, so trust the process”.
My year can be split into two exact halves.
January – June:
The girl whose life has always felt like one big grace parade felt like she ran out of grace. Silly, because God is not man that he would put a quota on his love or grace but you can’t argue with feelings now can you.
I finished my masters degree and thought I would go on to rule the world and solve all Nigeria’s problems because “intellectual that knows better than everyone else”. As a grace baby, my first two proper jobs and all my summer jobs have just sort of fallen into place. So here I was trying to change careers with a chip on my shoulder and a “who wouldn’t want me attitude.”
Ho Ho HO. I ended up being unemployed for 5/6months. Rejection after rejection, interview after interview from ‘dream employers’. Disappointment can be a cage and rejection is that white pill from the doctor that you need to swallow but you are dreading to because you know it will get stuck in your throat.
I felt like the child who had fallen out of favour. I was getting offers, but none from where I thought I should be. At a point, I considered going back to practice law, but through it all my prayer was that God should lead me to the path which has been created for me to fulfil purpose.
It is not easy to say no to a job that looks great when you have been unemployed for a long time, but do not settle. Seek God’s face and he will bring you the right job. The right job might not pay you N500,000 but it will give you peace of mind.
Looking back, I realise that there were lessons I had to learn. One of them was empathy. I volunteered to teach literature at a state secondary school near my house. I took about 7/8 classes every week. This experience gave me so much joy but it also made my heart bleed. As I write this, I smile as I remember Godspower, whose brother came storming into my class because Godspower had been leaving home but not coming to school. Joshua and Ezinne, two of my brightest students who had the biggest crush on each other, I wonder how that turned out. The group of boys from my class whom I had to bail out of trouble because they were implicated in a gambling scandal, and Alacto, whom I had to buy exercise books for and whom I gave two weeks to complete all his notes in every subject. Out of all my students Alacto made me the saddest. He repeated SS1 twice, constantly on punishment, worked after school at a Baba Ijebu for between N100-N500 every day because he wanted money to drop out of school to write GCE, convoluted thinking, I know. The teachers all thought he was just a bad child but I spent time with him and he so full of life. I realised that the problem was that none of the teachers cared about their individual students. They saw them as a herd. Teaching taught me the difference between pity and empathy. For that I am grateful. Every morning on my way to work I look out for their faces, like a stalker, and every time I spot a familiar face my heart bubbles with joy but then the bubbling stops. My chest begins to hurt. I know that more than half of my students will not succeed in this concrete jungle called Lagos. Then I start to feel guilt. I left them. I sold out.
“I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
This quote by John Adams has always been one of my favourite quotes but during the months I was unemployed it came alive for me. All the sacrifices my parents made so I could in that moment, be unemployed but unencumbered. I had a roof over my head, I had food to eat and, when I decided to put my pride aside and ask, I had money. I had no responsibility to feed anyone or pay any bills. That is not the reality of a lot of people. For that I am grateful. For a safe place to find myself, to grow, to be me. It wasn’t all chocolates and champagne. However, besides the various side eyes and stern lectures on being focused and starting somewhere, there was never any overt pressure. They listened when I talked about my dreams, plans for the future and why I didn’t want to work there or there. I was left alone to make my own choices.
I learnt something new. I want my kids to have that all the time. That safe haven. That space where they can discover themselves without the pressure of the capitalist machine weighing on their backs. So in that space , unemployment birthed fiery ambition, voracious and alive.
And so the rest of the year went thus:
I started a new job in July which literally fell in my lap. The story of my job is mind-blowing. Earlier on in March I had interviewed with a British firm. I got a “We like you but our interview process is long and we take up to a year to recruit blah blah but keep in touch.” Sigh. Another one. So I kept applying and completely forgot about it. In June, a friend messaged me and said she knew an exhibition firm looking for someone to fill a position temporarily for two weeks. I sent my CV, got accepted, and worked there for 2 weeks and I left. A few weeks later, they emailed and said they would like me to take up the position full-time. At this point, I am thinking, “I need the money let us do this”. I join the company only to find out they are merging with the British company that I interviewed with in March. “What you need might come in the most unattractive package. Don’t walk away. Open the package.”
By September, I was juggling 3 different jobs and both loving and hating it. I leaned in. I restarted my exhibition business with a friend and we relaunched The Lagos Home Show which was a huge success. Thank you to everyone who supported us. 2016 is looking bright. We are expanding and launching more shows.
In November, I went on holiday with a group of people and had an amazing time. As I write this review, I am experiencing post-holiday blues.
My 9-5 is exciting one day and dead boring the next. My part-time job for a start-up is stressing me out but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Looking back on the year I am thankful……
God blocked all the roads that were not mine to tread. My relationship with God was very up and down, but through it all my one prayer was that God should steer me in his direction and that he MUST help me fulfil his purpose for my life. Spiritually 2015 was good and bad. I was getting tired of my church and was considering church shopping. Out of the blue I was asked to move to another expression of the church. It was a completely different experience working and leading students in university but now I see that all my steps are ordered and there is a reason I am there. I listen more. I hear more. I believe more. My faith, expanded.
Christianity is not supposed to be easy, having a relationship with God is a lot of work. Giving up self to be more like Christ is the hardest thing I have had to do. Example, I felt disrespected very recently, I was told to leave it be but I was having none of that! Then I stepped into the christian leaders meeting on Tuesday and the topic of the discussion was “Disrespect”. I was a petulant child. I was like “God whyyyyyyyy don’t you want me to be greeeeeeat and turn up Love and Hip Hop style?? Do I not deserve to feel good and cuss someone out?” By the end of the meeting, letting disrespect go didn’t feel so painful and letting the love of God fill up that place where pride used to be didn’t seem like a bad idea.
Financially, the second half of the year was amazing for me. Here are some of the things that worked for me. I paid tithe on everything. I learnt how to save 1/3 of my salary. I opened a mutual funds account. I joined an ajo savings scheme with some people from work. I made a faith pledge. My usual reaction to faith pledges is “Hmmm this pastor…. Not today abeg.” This year I stepped out and leaned in. Gave a faith pledge. Struggled that month. A few months after I got two bonuses from work. One I was expecting and one that I wasn’t. I hope this encourages someone who is struggling financially. It will be alright. There were times when I had N2,000 in my account but I knew that I would pull through.
My boyfriend was my biggest cheerleader this year. We fought, grew and fought some more, but our friendship grew and for that I am thankful. I pray that Love finds all who are genuinely searching. Not a love that will rage, burn, consume and then destroy but a love that will burn ever steady and ever bright for all time.
I am not the biggest fan of poetry but one of my favourite poems goes
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Although the poem is originally about fighting death, I read it and it speaks to me about not giving up the fight, whatever that is so I know 2016 will be better. It might be harder at first but “Do not go gently into that good night…. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
I really really really enjoyed reading this. Thank you so much for sharing Thalia. God bless you.