“…I got a story to tell…” – I Got a Story to Tell, The Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death, 1997
Chapter One: A Pain in my Arse
I fail, for the third time, to successfully insert the suppository in my rectum. I rest my head on the couch, in a kneeling position, my entire upper body on it, my buttocks in the air, as I grimace in pain.
“What have I done to deserve this agony? What did I do wrong?” I ask myself.
I’ve been suffering from haemorrhoids since December 2017. This isn’t my first experience with it as an adult, but this time, it’s worse. Usually, I just buy ‘jedi-jedi’ and drink it every morning, afternoon, and night, until it gets better; my thinking, erroneously, is that the cause is too much sugar in my system.
One day, the pain becomes unbearable. I decide to seek medical help. I call Ife, whose mum is a doctor, tell her what I’m going through, and ask for her mother’s phone number. So I can speak with her to get instructions on what to do. During the call with Ife’s mum, she shares a list of food to eat and not to eat, and prescribes some medicine, including using the suppository.
Two weeks later, I’m still no better. I’m literally functioning on pain killers daily. And sometimes, taking double the recommended dose.
I only eat fruits and vegetables. I drink a lot of water. Yet I feel no better. Everyday, the pain lingers. Some days, it’s screaming; a scream no one hears or experiences except me. Other days, it’s a consistent throbbing.
“Will you like to have some dates?” my colleague, Oge, asks me. I look at the brown thing I usually see being sold by the road side on wheelbarrows. “Oh, so that’s what it’s called,” I say. Oge then adds, “My mum eats it a lot. It’s very healthy.” I take one, and eat it. It’s very sweet. I eat a few more.
The next morning, while crapping, and afterwards, I realise the pain isn’t as bad as yesterday. “Was it the dates?” I ask myself. And as I’ve done for several fruits since this episode began, I Google, “what are the health benefits of dates?” And there it is. I can’t believe it. I’ve found a cure.
I eat dates everyday after that, along with other fruits rich in fibre, which I’ve been eating since I spoke with Ife’s mum. Jesus used the dates. I no longer feel pain.
Chapter Two: Will You Go Out On a Date with Me?
“Can I buy you a drink sometime?”
“It’s my birthday on Saturday. Will you go out to dinner with me?”
“Will you like to go bowling on Saturday?”
“What are you doing for your birthday? Let me buy you cake and ice cream.”
“Do you still want to see that movie?”
I’m putting myself out there more than I ever have. Dates on dates on dates.
N says she’s talking to someone, after pointing out I’ve been slow to pick up on the ‘green light’ she gave me.
But I continue chatting with her and ask if I can see her. She invites me over to her house and says she will cook. I offer to bring a bottle of wine.
After we eat the lovely meal N made, we’re drinking wine. I select some of my favourite songs by Cigarettes After Sex and we listen to them through her Bose speakers. The conversation flows smoothly.
N gets off her bed and comes to sit beside me on the couch. As “Dreaming of You” plays in the background, she rests her head on my thighs. Our eyes lock while I speak. Then she lifts her head and kisses me. I kiss her back. Slowly at first, then it’s all a rush. I think, “is the wine the reason why she’s acting this way?” I’ve come to her house, expecting nothing to happen, expecting to do nothing, besides talking and spending time with her.
I try to carry her to the bed, stagger, and we both laugh. The awkwardness passes.
After the action ends, with her head resting on my chest, she says, “don’t think the wine is the reason why I’m doing this.” “Okay,” I reply.
N is barely talking to me for 2 weeks now. I wrote her a poem a week after going to her house. I shouldn’t have. Maybe it’s too soon. She says she’s going through some issues that’s why she’s distant. I’ll be patient and understanding.
I try to see her a couple of times, but it never happens. After the last time, I feel irritation. But in my usual reflective manner, I tell myself it’s not her fault.
Then one day, while chatting, she says, “Stan, I said yes to the guy I told you about.”
“You’re not mentoring girls. I hate being jealous,” M responds. This is after I tell her a lady who asked me to be her mentor said, during our first meeting, that I’m way finer in person than all my pictures she has seen. “I think this is something you could discuss with me first,” M adds. “Okay. Moving forward, I’ll discuss stuff like this with you first,” I reply. Then a thought pops into my head; “why is she making such a demand of me when we aren’t even dating?” This prompts me to say, “but wait first. Does this mean we’re officially an ‘item?’ That it’s officially now M and Stanley?” It would appear so,” she replies. “Don’t get carried away.” And after that she adds the ROTFLMAO emoji.
“I’m dating the most beautiful woman in the world. It’s surreal,” I tweet a week later. 2 weeks after that, on a Saturday, I sense there’s something wrong with our relationship. M seems distant. “I shouldn’t have posted that tweet,” I think to myself. I am worried.
On Monday morning, immediately I get to the office and place my stuff on my table, I go out to buy pens. When I get back, I open my laptop and connect it and my phone to the WiFi. M’s WhatsApp messages come in. “Hey, Stan, let’s just be friends.” “Okay,” I reply.
Chapter Three: Notice of Resignation
Voting by the board members is complete. And as anticipated, the decision is against me, 3 – 1.
I recall my conversation with EU a week ago. “You’re at a disadvantage on the board. The way it’s set up, W holds all the cards,” she says. This is my first taste of boardroom politics.
The whole basis of this company is my idea. But failing to get the type of people I need to drive the vision and failing to retain control of my idea (something I learnt after reading “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike), I’m losing it. I own only 18% of the business, instead of a controlling stake of 51%, at least.
What’s the point of having a team of directors when I’m still doing 70% of the work and I’m the only one who has brought in revenue for the company in almost a year of operations? Money that would ideally have come into my pocket instead of the company’s coffers.
It hurts letting go of something I created, but I see this as the only way. It’s still early days, so it’s better to do it now than in 2 – 3 years. A voice in my head says, “but you’re the company. It might crash after this.” “I know,” I reply. But it might not. And I want to move on. I’ll start a new company. Build a new team.
I start typing the email. The subject says, “Notice of Resignation as Director and Sale of Shares.”
This is to inform you that I will be resigning from my position as a director, effective June 30, 2018.”
Chapter Four: Do Better
As he looks through the sheets of paper which make up my integrated communications assessment, Anthony says, “the pages are not enough. It should be 15 pages.” I reply, saying, “I know. But today is the deadline for submission, so here I am.” Once again, I’m messing up with my CIM assessment; I’ve not spent enough time working on it.
Anthony pauses, deep in thought, then says, “you know what? Take it back, so you can work on it again, and submit on Monday.” Today is Saturday. That gives me 2 days. I feel gratitude in my heart. 2 days to do better. “Thank you, Anthony,” I say. “Thank you.”
I improve my assessment and review all through the weekend, including Monday morning, before I submit. Yet, I still feel like I didn’t do enough.
I’m on my phone, tweeting, when I refresh my emails. And there it is: “Private and Confidential – CIM Results for July 2018,” reads the subject. I’ve been waiting for this email for almost 3 months.
My heart is pounding as I open it and quickly scroll down to the grade. “Pass.” With a deep sigh of relief, I rush into my living room where my brother is watching TV. “I passed. I passed!” I scream, then unconsciously, bow down in a Muslim praying pose, my knees and head on the floor, and begin thanking my God.
About 3 months later, It’s 11:59pm, as I click submit on the CIM portal for yet another assessment. This time, it’s for digital marketing. 11:59pm on submission deadline day. As with integrated communications, this is rushed.
The digital marketing assessment brief is on multichannel marketing campaigns. This is something I practice and execute for clients regularly. But I let complacency set in, after telling myself I wouldn’t. “You should be getting a distinction in this,” the voice in my head says. I’m my worst enemy and I need to do better with how I manage my time.
Chapter Five: Am I a Fraud?
“Do you think if you hit your sales KPIs every month, you will feel this way??” my CEO asks, after I tell him I’m beginning to feel bored with sales and itching to practice marketing daily, and ask to be moved to marketing.
“If you move to marketing now, it will be running from one challenge to another, and that won’t help you,” he adds.
Is that what I’m trying to do? Am I running from this challenge? When did I become a quitter? Am I a fraud? Will I be fired for nonperformance? What’s the plan if that happens? So many questions swirling in my head. So many doubts.
“But aren’t you the same guy who was one of the top performing salesmen at Standard Chartered Bank for 4 consecutive months? The one who got to lead his own sales team, 3 months after joining another company?” I ask myself.
I just need to look for a solution to this challenge. This is the best opportunity and job I’ve ever had, to earn more than I’ve ever earned. “Holy Spirit, please, I need your help. I want to succeed in this role.” This is my prayer.
Chapter Six: Pack Your Bags! It’s Almost Time for Your Trip to Cairo!
That’s what the subject of the email from Airbnb says. I stare at it, and the pain I’ve been feeling for the last one week heightens. “But I’m not going to Cairo,” I murmur to my laptop screen.
It’s Monday, the day before my scheduled flight to Egypt. I still haven’t gotten my visa and passport back. I call the Egyptian embassy in Abuja. At the second ring, someone picks up (this is surprising because the last time I called, 20 times, no one answered). “Hello. Please, I applied for a visa 3 weeks ago and my flight is tomorrow. I already paid for the ticket.” The lady on the other side says, “we never asked you to buy your ticket. And we do not have any control over when visas come out. It’s done from Egypt. Maybe you can send someone to check at the embassy if it’s ready.”
Yes, they never asked me to. I was naive to think, “it’s just Egypt. I won’t be denied a visa.” And I never thought it will take this long. Publicised processing time by the embassy for visa applications is 3 weeks. I started the process at the right time. Yet, here I am.
The airline says it will cost me almost the same amount to reschedule the flight as I paid for it. I’m not even sure when the visa will be out or whether I’ll get it, so it’s not worth spending money again. I lose ₦184,043.95 – the amount I paid for my ticket.
As I walk past the security gate, I stare at the largest pyramid in Giza. I finally made it here, 10 weeks after I was supposed to.
Having not stepped out of Nigeria for the first 36 years of my life, I’ve started ticking off names of countries from my list of “50 Countries to Visit Before I’m 50.” It feels good.
Epilogue: Brother Solo
Solomon Okelezo, I’m so sorry I didn’t visit you before you passed away. You’re the closest person I lost this year, and it hurts because I had not seen you for a long time and I never really thanked you for all you did for my parents, siblings, and myself.
I hope to do for your kids what you did for us. Thank you for everything. Rest in Peace.