JANUARY 1: AMANDA

In a land not so far away, there lived a woman, sturdy of form and lively of countenance. She lived in a rut, and she was always restless, anxious to see what lay ahead. After years of scraping and saving the meagre fruits of her labour, she finally acquired enough funds to barter for a road map and a hammock which doubled as a wrap for her thimble and five magic beans.

And so, our heroine ventured into the land of the Masters. In this foreign land where custard creams grew like mushrooms by the roadside, our heroine was set various increasingly difficult tasks by the Meisters at the training grounds of Masterdom. Renowned equally for her resilience and laziness, she managed to slide just under the set deadlines and somehow completed her extensive training with a First. The Meisters murmured in shocked tones among themselves that, though our heroine demonstrated remarkable sloth-like characteristics, her performance was nothing short of distinct. Our heroine, in equally shocked tones, cried out thanks to her Maker while lying prostrate in her little shoebox. She became jaunty of step and buoyant of heart, blissfully unaware of the wicked stepmother lurking in the shadows.

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I started the year, as one is wont to do, with many expectations. You’d think I’d be familiar with disappointment by now and thus learn to firmly sit on my expectations whenever they threaten to rise, but I’m Nigerian and therefore prone to intense amnesia and unfounded optimism. Also, expectations are very slippery, helium-filled things. They tend to rise despite one’s best efforts.

Late in 2014, I started my journey on the path of academia. I mean, it’s only right. I’m bespectacled, full of random, useless facts and I have many gathered skirts. Of course I’m meant to be a teacher. (Sorry. My inner narcissist frolics more often than not these days.)

2015 was the year my life was finally supposed to begin. I had taken the necessary steps. The formula seemed to be working; the first half of my year was so charmed and full of purpose and promise. I had a plan. I knew where I was, where I was headed. And let me tell you, that felt so good. I was finding an avenue to channel all the bleeding-heart, idealistic feelings that have plagued me since young adulthood. I had my family, I had my friends (the resilient few who stuck with me through thin and thin – let’s face it, I had little or no ‘thick’ for anyone this year), and I had my health. I was making exponential leaps in the snakes-and-ladders game that is self-actualization.

And then, with the same dizzying force as all the excitement, everything stopped. Engine turned off. Driver got out and wandered into the bush. Bird-chirping by day, crickets by night. Radio silence stretched into chronic muteness. Life as I knew it just seemed to grind to a stubborn halt. The second half of the year was as anticlimactic as tasting Panadol at the end of a promising milkshake. Here I was, with all this drive, all these tools, and nowhere to go.

Failure to launch.

I’d never been unemployed in my life. Things like “I’ve been looking for a job for four years” happened to other people, not me. So when I found myself at these loose ends, end so loose that they’re basically fringe, I’m ashamed to say that I fell apart. Nothing seemed to be coming together. Not my job-hunt, not my plans to continue with school. I couldn’t even get an unpaid internship. I wrote enough cover letters to atone for sins in Purgatory. I sat up all night, working through lists of relevant organizations and positions. Each rejection was like another strip torn off the skin of my confidence.

You see, this is the one area in life where I’ve always had absolute faith in myself. I’ve never held much stock by my looks, I’m generally not the most likeable of people, and I don’t have any special innate talents. The only thing about myself I’ve ever been confident about is the belief that my professional life was always well within my grip, mine to steer and manage.

I can’t even say when the depression set in. Maybe it was at the 25th “We regret to inform you” email, but I couldn’t tell you. I suppose I only had myself to blame; I may have dreamed too big, expected too much. I may have forgotten for a minute that incredible things always seem to belong in other people’s testimonies. I may have forgotten that I am quite ordinary, that I am the rule, never the exception. I may have forgotten that I’m an ‘almost’, always so close, close enough to press my nose against the window. Always on the outside, looking in.

Living life gets hard to do.

I papered over the cracks with laughter, because, at the end of the day, it IS me. There will always be laughter. I loved my family, laughed with them. I laughed with friends. I watched so much internet telly, I became just like Abed in Community. I shopped like a madwoman, and read romance novels round the clock. I wrote essays and got excited reading the dullest research papers. I learned about myself, who I am, and came to terms with the parts of me that I dislike. I had many normal days, but I had many lonely, sleepless nights. I gained so much weight because, any excuse to eat recklessly. I tried to count my blessings but the fog of depression and the sense of failure numbed my fingers. Plus, Maths has never been my strong point, anyway.

I realized that there’s no big finish this year. No culmination. There’s no amazingness, just ordinariness. I have no prospects- I’ve spent all my money getting this education, I’ve no job to replenish my pockets, no career leads of note, nothing. Plus, I’ve run out of cheeky answers to “So, what are your plans?” from people who ask that wrenching question with so much obvious glee, oblivious to the stabbing panic in my chest and my wild eyes searching for the nearest escape route. I DON’T KNOW WHAT MY PLANS ARE. LEAVE ME ALONE.

By the end of the year, I felt clubbed by life.

What kind of a day has it been?

It’s my birthday today. How can I be 26 when I still feel like a child, when I still don’t know how much chocolate is “bad for you”, when I still gravitate towards pinafore dresses, when I’m still unable to get my ear pierced again because needles are sharp, dangerous objects which can HURT you?

But, there are perks to being childlike. Perks like resilience, optimism, buoyancy. I don’t know how I’ll feel on 31/12/16, but today, I’ve forgotten that incredible things always elude me. I’ve forgotten that I’m the rule, that I’m an ‘almost’. I’m dreaming big, I’m expecting everything. The dream life, the dream love, the dream library. No matter what, I’m never done. I know that everything becomes beautiful whenever God ‘ruins’ my life. I know that He steers me, even when I’m kicking and screaming to go another way. So, today, I’m getting with His program. Send me, etc. I’ll be back next year with the best catch-up story of all time- God willing, because, Man proposes, etc. (Ooh, potential pun. Don’t go there.)

Dood, Lum, Ada, Chisom, Lala, Okaima and Nene. Thank you guys for holding my hand.

Here’s to the greatest year- to making a difference, to being a kinder person, to loving with reckless abandon. Happy New Year, kids.

And, oh, hi Mom.

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Happy New year and happy birthday Queen Amanda from all of us at Stories!

Amanda

Bluestocking. Dilettante. Pluviophile.

35 Comments

  • Afoma says:

    Sigh. Keep holding on to hope. Just a little while now. Sending you all the best wishes, Amanda!
    Your writing is a joy ?

  • Etana says:

    Amanda..
    I’m waiting for the 2016 write up. You know you’ll be fine, right? Right?

  • Nikky says:

    Happy new year. Happy birthday too. I know that feeling right? You feel very young even when days pass you by.

    You’re gon’ be alright. Here’s to a great 2016

  • Genny says:

    Beautifully written. God will do exceeding abundantly all that you can even imagine this 2016.

  • butter says:

    Oh darling. You’ll be fine. All would turn out well you’ll see. Can’t wait to read your 2016 follow up story.

  • Ima says:

    Amanda ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Abiola says:

    This gave me mixed feelings….. “but no matter what, we are never done ” have a great new year ??

  • Grey says:

    (aside to audience) You see, it’s the way she does the stringing the words together thing. It’s so beautiful the way she thinks, and her expressions are simply so delightful.

    YOU’RE simply so delightful. Always such a great read. I feel like you’re on the cusp of becoming/creating absolute awesomeness? And this is the little worryingly quiet period before everything falls into place and you do the tuck-dive-roll out into our unprepared world, with all guns blazing and looking so friggin’ cool, the world is going to need sunglasses to look at how amazing you’ve become?

    I wish you a great year, this year. Whatever you’ve been doing all along, you seem to have been doing it right. In spite of your personal game of tug with your Universe. Be great. Be okay.

    I’m a huge fan (of yours/of reading you?) and wish I knew you. ?

    • Amanda says:

      Thank you so very much for these words. I’m just here dabbing at my eyes. 😀
      I wish you have a great year as well. Blessings upon blessings. Amen.
      And, I’m a fan of yours as well (I know, we have so much in common).

  • Tobi says:

    Hey Amanda… you are stronger than you think and will get through it all..
    Happy new year!

  • Segun says:

    It’s ok to not have it all put together. Already, you seem to have a great attitude towards the fact.

    You are equipped with all the tools needed to be all you desire and perhaps more. Just have a little faith that it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

    Enjoy the chocolates while and be free in the gathered skirts while you still can.

  • Clarion says:

    Happy Birthday and happy new year. I love the way you write!

  • Semsky says:

    Hey, Amanda!

    See, I even put the annoying nickname you gave me. I know exactly how this feels; when you think you have everything under control but then the carpet gets yanked out from under your feet. Nothing works like it should.
    Just breathe. It’ll be fine. Tell God, “I won’t wrestle with you.” I learnt in university that anything I had to fight for, to struggle for, wasn’t meant for me. Grades, friends, relationships. I figure it’s the same for you. Let Go. Let God.
    Much love from this end. Happy birthday again.

  • Oluwatosin Adeshokan says:

    Hi Amanda
    This was beautiful.
    It might not look that way, but it will be beautiful and you will be glad.

  • Nenz says:

    This is a beautiful piece. You are a beautiful writer.

    I do think that you are on the cusp of greatness too and that the world is your oyster.

    You are incredible and wonderful and amazeballs.

  • olatoxic says:

    Oh wow. The way you weave words is… breath-taking..I don’t understand how I’ve not come across this marvel till now.

    Everything good will come for you. You’ll come back to read this at the end of 2016 and wonder what had you fretting so.

    I’d like to challenge you to lay out the things you hope for from 2016. #30DaysOfHope?

  • Temitoria says:

    Couldn’t stop reading! Well, that was a serious turbulence but you sailed alive. Cheering to a great 2016 for you?

  • Hold on to your hope dear, the world is your oyster, you’ll soon have that big, bountiful rain and these memories would be the good old memories of that cold winter.

    thederangedmosquito.wordpress.com

  • Thalia says:

    I know I am late to the party but Happy Birthday. This year will be awesome and you will look back and smile at the lessons you have learnt. I know I have.

  • Tunmise says:

    Hi Amanda, you literally narrated my life. The only thing I’m sure about is my professional life. With so many regret and we are sorry to inform you mails, its hard to hold up. Not to talk of the silly questions of what are your plans or what are you doing now.
    I remind myself that it’s just a phase and very soon I would actually laugh and not pretend to be fine.

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