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A female voice with a slight Chinese accent streams through the speakers.

“Zone 1 passengers now boarding for flight 2238 to Seattle”

A (kinda) tall bald black man in a flashy athletic jacket with black and white zig-zag designs and bright green N-A-I-J-A lettering on the arms steps up and presents his boarding pass.

“Thank you Mr. Sawyerr. Please enjoy your trip.”

“Thank you and happy holidays” he replies.

*Tape scratch noise, freeze frame. He turns slowly and looks directly at the camera*

You’re probably wondering how I got here, seeing how a dark shadow seemed to be looming on the horizon at the end of our last journey together on these Stories NG streets. Well, grab a snack or two and a cup of your favorite beverage, you’re in for a LONG ride.

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Act 1: Professional Redemption

In last year’s post I talked about messing up at work and having six months to fix things. So professionally, I started the year on a LOW low. When my “end of year” review happened in February, I was officially put on probation. Basically, if I didn’t get my shit together by August, I would need to look for another job.

Sometimes, you don’t realize what’s at stake till you’re standing at the edge of the precipice, and you see how far you’ve climbed and what you stand to lose if you fall. I had come too far to let myself disappoint myself, my fam, and everyone who had contributed to me getting so far. So I screwed my head on the right way, dug my heels in and started pushing; HARD. I’m grateful for my colleagues (from the partners all the way down to my fellow associates) who put themselves out there to make sure I succeeded. It’s a very wonderful feeling to know that I work for a company that genuinely cares about my progress and growth not just professionally, but as a person.

The decision for my promotion was made on my birthday, but I didn’t find out till like a month later because my “mid-year review” was pushed back. What I did find out on my birthday was the fact that I was no longer on probation. I wouldn’t be lying if I said I sighed like I had just dropped the weight of a thousand burdens when I got that news. Hard work does pay off.

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A male voice with a distinct French accent flows through the speakers.

“Zone 1 passengers now boarding. Please remember this is an international flight, so have your passport ready”

Act 2: The Performer Grows

In January, I was offered the opportunity to become a co-director in my dance company. My partner and I wouldn’t be creating the choreography, but we would be in charge of training one of the junior teams and teaching the choreo. AND the cherry on top, it was a paid gig. And so began my official stint as a semi-pro dancer, co-directing the New Projects team of the InEssence Dance Company. It’s a weird feeling to have other dancers looking up to you; to be grooming and training dancers; to walk into the backstage room on performance day, and be there to do nothing but offer encouragement and tips. It’s been an awesome ride so far, and I look forward to continuing this particular journey in 2019, doing two of the things I love most together: teaching and dancing. I’m hella grateful to our directors Bryon Stroud and Sammantha Arias, and my wonderful co-director Lisa Wheeler.

Still on the Latin dancing bit, I didn’t do many performances or go to many congresses and festivals this year, but I at least achieved a performing milestone. My team performed on the Aventura Dance Cruise – LA. It’s essentially a cruiseliner with over two thousand dancers on a three days (and nights) cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada (Mexico). Let me tell you something, performing on a stage that’s pitching because of the waves under the boat is a TRIP!!!!

For my performance highlight of the year though, we return to my ethnic roots. In August, a friend sent me an audition call for an Afro-Urban musical. They were looking for dancers and actors of African descent for a two-hour musical production that would tell a story of Africans in the motherland and the diaspora through thirteen decades (1910 through 2030) using dance, singing, drumming, and story-telling. I was initially going to audition for just the dancing, but decided it was time to see if I still had my theater acting chops. Needless to say, I passed the audition and got added to the cast. What followed was two and a half months of INTENSE training: fourteen hours of rehearsals over four days weekly; the physical, emotional, and mental stress; the drop outs; the frustration; the arguments; the bonding; but most importantly, the growth, oh boy the GROWTH! At the end, with three sold-out shows in Oakland and San Francisco, and standing ovations at the end of every show, I was super proud to have been a part of the Afro Urban Society’s “What Had Happened Was” production. It has further opened my eyes to the fact that I probably do have more talent than I give myself credit for.

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Snow capped mountain peaks jutting out of clouds speed past the window. A hostess walks down the aisle collecting cups and other bits of trash from passengers. The loudspeakers come alive and a female voice filters through

“The captain informs us there will be some turbulence. All passengers should please remain in their seats and fasten their seatbelts. Thank you.”

Act 3: A Green Immigration Document Enters the Fray

My trip to Lagos last December was only supposed to last ten days. I was simply going to transfer my status from F-1 to an H-1B, give a solid showing for Detty December – Las Gidi, then head to London on Boxing Day for a few days of Detty December – Innit Edition, and be back in SF on January 1st. L.O.L. I got hit with “Administrative Processing” and my ten day stay became a month long stay. If not for the succinct but clear letter my office’s immigration lawyers wrote the consulate, I don’t know when I would have gotten my passport back. I finally got back to SF on January 20th. I had missed my team’s performance at the Reno Latin Dance Festival, and I had used up two-thirds of my paid vacation for the year. But at least The Orange Error and Goons, couldn’t hold me down.

In July, I applied for a visitor visa to Canada because mans wanted to go to Caribana as a birthday ting and collect a few big batty winds and just enjoy the carnival life. Two weeks after Caribana was over, I got the response. My visa was denied because the mandem at immigration said they weren’t sure I was going to come back to the US. LAWL. Of course I was pissed and said some things about Canadian visas on Twitter. Now, these weren’t empty words based solely on emotion, you see, a week before the rejection email arrived, mans had done a very important interview. And pending any unforeseen calamities, it was going to have a positive result. Fast forward to November, after several weeks of refreshing the status page of the USCIS website, mans finally got the long awaited news “Your Case Was Approved”. And when ten days later, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, the physical document eventually arrived it became official. The green passport now had a green card to accompany it. Permanent resident status had been acquired. Thus fulfilling the prophecy I had spoken in August “I will NEVER apply for a visa to Canada again. Word to God.” All I can say is, I love the smell of victory.

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The bald black man steps up to the glass partition and hands the male officer his passport and green card.

“Good day Mr. Sawyerr. Welcome to Canada. Why are you here in Edmonton?” the officer asks. The man smiles and replies “I’m here to see my girlfriend.”

Act 4: Cupid! You &%$#+*@ Bastard!

Between December 2017 and January 2018, with all the other stuff that happened, being rejected by two different women set me up for a 2018 that was pretty much me saying “Hey Cupid, if you come near me again I’ma &%$# you up” I mean, to be fair, the reasons both of them gave for not wanting a relationship with me made sense. Didn’t stop the rejections from stinging. But yeah, I was done with seeking romantic relationships for the foreseeable future.

And then in July, as is my way on Twitter, I stumble upon this tweet with two pictures of a woman with a BEAUTIFUL smile. I complimented her and kept it moving. A few days later, I see the handle on my TL again, with full body photos, and this time mans decided to take a dive into the Media section. After a fairly long swim, I found my way back up to the surface and hit the “Follow” button. She followed back. TL banter and interaction ensued.

The full story of how the TL banter became DM banter became DM constant conversation and then was taken off Twitter will be told elsewhere. But the TL:DR mans fell, and mans fell HARD! That bastard Cupid had shot me! Intentions were communicated. Friendship was built. Friendship deepened. Romance blossomed. After HOURS of daily conversations over a few months – arguments, tears, laughter, happiness, companionship and all the other things that come with building a romantic relationship out of a friendship – we find ourselves here. I’m seated in bed typing this blog post in an Airbnb in Edmonton in freezing weather, and the answer to a prayer – “I will find the kind of reciprocated romantic love I seek this year. Speaking it into existence.” – I tweeted on a whim on the 2nd of July 2018 at 16:38 PST, is seated right next to me watching a drama series on her laptop.

So, to my Nnewi princess, thank you for showing me what it feels like to love and be loved again. A hurum gi n’anya!

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Curtain Call

2018 has been the best year of my life in recent times. God answered 4 principal prayers in AMAZING ways. I got to see Ramin Djawadi at the Game of Thrones live in concert experience. I was showed a glimpse of what my best life can be. I made mistakes, and learnt from my mistakes. I made new friends. I built new professional relationships. I grew, a LOT, in multiple areas of my life.

2018 has been a spectacular year, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. So here’s to 2019 and all the things it has in store for me!

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The Anambra net caught you huh? Hehe. Would everyone pray for a year like yours? No. You went to the depths and learnt humility. I wish these lessons could be taught otherwise but I can say with all confidence I wish I had the lessons you have with you now. Thank you for encouraging all of us again.

Your 23rd December 2019 review date is booked for 6 pm West African Time. Signed, management.

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