BAIDAY TINS – PART 2

I’m not very good at talking about myself, and I almost changed my mind about writing this list.  First, it seemed to me to be very self-centred to spend an entire blogpost talking about oneself. Secondly, I’m not a fan of the spotlight, I’d much rather be in the shadows, oiling machinery and making sure the show runs smoothly. There is a certain vulnerability in coming out of the shadows, and I don’t like to be vulnerable. But life is about stepping out of your comfort zone isn’t it? It’s about opening our self-created safe areas and exposing yourself to the possibility of criticism and mockery but also the possibility that somewhere, there is someone who will listen to you and feel a resonance with you.

Anyway,*deep breath* so here goes. 10 facts about me; in no particular order.

  1. My native name is Obremeno…where I get the Meno in menoword from. The sentence means “People (or the world) would not have given me children”. I’ve always thought it was a rather cynical name until recently when I realised that this is perhaps what it truly means – People do not always wish the best for you – that’s life, however, your final outcomes are not dependent on people but on God
  2. My worst trait perhaps is the fact that I rarely chastise or point out when people wrong me. I believe everyone has a built-in barometer (or would that be thermometer?) that tells them when they are misbehaving and so, when people are cheating or hurting you or generally misbehaving, there should be a little bird that whispers in their ear that perhaps they shouldn’t. I keep quiet and wait for that bird to register its opinion, and I act based on my observations. Many of my friendships have quietly died or been re-appraised because of this. It’s not a perfect system, I have been wrong about people’s motives or actions as often as I have been right…I’m still looking for my balance.
  3. I did my NYSC in Zamfara. After camp, I hemmed and hawed about going back, until my parents called me one day and said “you have 2 choices about going to Zamfara – you can go with luggage or without luggage, but in 2 days, you’re going to Zamfara” So I went to Zamfara – with luggage thankfully, and it was an awesome experience. There is something about going back to a life that exists at its simplest. I pumped water from the well and talked to curious students about summer and winter. I watched traders ride past on their camels every Sunday as Tsafe woke up to market day. I sat outside at midnight and looked at a scene so bright in the cloudless midnight that it seemed like it was midday and the sun had turned to pure silver. I started to realise that God was not locked up in a church.
  4. I’ve had a rather conflicted relationship with God. I grew up in an ultra conservative church where trousers, dancing or hugging were not allowed. I felt like a fish out of water because I did not know why I felt this need to…rebel. I also grew up with a lot of guilt because I felt like I was constantly backsliding – all the things I wanted to do were considered wrong. I wavered between a reluctant, formal yet obligatory interaction with God to periods of desperate crying out because I couldn’t figure myself out. I longed for grace but knew only judgment. Little by little, God has started to show Himself to me. My biggest shock and the hardest to adjust to, is the realization that He not only knows that I am imperfect, but loves me still, has always loved me. The fact that anyone could love me so unconditionally still blows my mind. Oh and I wear trousers these days, I even wear jeans to church, makes it so much easier to dance.
  5. Unless I am in a particularly stubborn mood, I am impossible to argue with. It’s almost impossible to force me into a belief or frame of mind. I’m almost impossible to force – period. If the person speaking to me insists on pushing their point of view, I either make myself scarce or respond with a quiet non-answer impossible to refute or argue with. When I’m feeling particularly evil, I respond with a statement that will interpret along the lines of “I’m quite sure you think you’re right, and I am generous enough to let you continue to think that way, despite the fact that I know for certain that you’re wrong”. I’ve managed to condense this attitude into a particularly smug smile which drives people mad because…well, how do you argue with a smile?
  6. I’m not a fan of shopping. If I don’t see anything I like within the first 10 minutes, I either pick the first thing that fits, or give it up and leave. Shopping tires me out…literally. Being dragged along on a shopping trip will have me gasping for breath and looking for air after about 45 minutes.
  7. I love to sleep. Nothing makes me happier than sleep. I could sleep all day and sleep all night. Sleeping Beauty on Sleeping pills has got nothing on me.
  8. I don’t do social conversations – you know, the ones where you talk about the weather, fashion – all dem polite conversation things. I’m not good on answering questions about myself either. As a matter of fact, the quickest way to shut me up is to ask me too many questions about myself, my actions or my whereabouts; my answers get shorter and shorter and eventually I make like a Ninja and vanish. “Tell me about yourself” is in my opinion, the worst set of words ever cobbled together into a sentence.
  9. I had an experience last year that left me with emotional fallout so bad that one night, I found myself sitting under a street light at Gwarimpa junction at 2am. Although life has “tired” me many times, I have never before and since then been literally and totally tired of life. A car dropped off a young man at the junction and drove off. He started to head his way, noticed me and came to ask me what was wrong. I’m not sure I was very coherent. He answered that although he suspected that I was a spirit, he would rather let me kill him than allow me stay by myself there. I didn’t want company so I started to walk, intending to walk back to town. I missed the turn off and started heading towards Kubwa. The young man walked with me; told me his life story, asked to hear mine. I didn’t say much, just told him I was kinda hoping that the night would end with me in heaven. We walked like that for a long time – I was oblivious to where I was or where I was headed. After musch persuasion on his part, I finally agreed to get into a cab that dropped us off at Wuse market. I told the young man goodnight, gave him all the money I had on me and started walking again. I looked across the road and there he was, walking, keeping me in his sight, I crossed the road and yelled at him to go home, he told me he would go when I finally got into a cab. Fed up, I got into a taxi and zoomed off. I never saw the young man again.

10. God has major plans for my life. I don’t know what exactly, but I know that His hand covers me. That night, I could’ve been raped, kidnapped or murdered. That night I could have died…I didn’t. That night, I finally got it into my head that there was more going on in my life than me and my issues. I hit my rock bottom that night. I got to the end of myself. I literally had nowhere else to go – spiritually and emotionally. The funny thing is, in getting to the end of myself, I encountered the limitless reserve that is God Himself. I’m not the best Christian in the world, I don’t even think I’m a particularly good Christian, but surely I owe it to God to make the best of this life that He has given me and I intend to do my best – by His grace.

This has been hard for me to write. I don’t like to share so much of myself, but lately, I’ve found myself getting tired of so much of the plastic that seems to characterise our lives, this myth we perpetuate that we have no struggles. It seems to me that so many of us spend so much time looking right, we forget to check whether we are alright. I do a mean impression of perfect, I’ve lived that life – great on the outside but falling apart inside, empty, miserable. I’d much rather be real, show you the cracks and how they reveal the greatness of the Glue that holds me together.

So here’s to stepping into the spotlight, here’s to leaving the shadows, here’s to being vulnerable.

God bless you guys.

BAIDAY TINS – PART 1

 

I turned 30 on Monday. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve been looking forward to this birthday for a while; I even stopped telling people I was 29, I would just say, “I’m almost 30” Na so e been dey do me.

Anyway, so I turned 30, and you know all those lists people write to their younger selves “Letter to the 15 year old me”, “10 things I wish I’d known at 18” and so on? I used to think they were pointless, until I found myself reflecting over the last few years and thinking of all the changes that have happened in my life. I’ve realized that there’s a point to alladem lists, they give you perspective.

So I decided to write my own list to the 18-year-old me. I wanted to do a “30 things…” list (you can kinda tell I like lists can’t you?) but it seemed like too much work, so I’m splitting it. I’ll do 10 things to my younger self, do 10 things about me, and do the 10 most important lessons I have learned in my short 30 year life.

So, without further ado, here is Part 1 – a message to my 18-year-old self – 10 things you’d (or should that be she?) be glad to know

Dear Arit, I’m not exactly sure how these letters are supposed to go, so excuse any weirdness. You’ve just turned 18, and I’ve just turned 30 and this is not the Naija version of “The Time Traveller’s Wife”. Looking at you, so young, so worried about the future, I wish I could hug you. You turn out ok hon. I’m going to tell you 10 things that have happened:

  1. You’re beautiful. Yes I know, you’re skinny, short and have too many teeth. But Agbani has made lepas fashionable, petite works for you, and everyone says you’ve got a beautiful smile. You’ve grown into your face, and it is a beautiful one.
  2. You’re not going to marry the fiancé. You guys were so totally wrong for each other. Luckily, you split up before there was a wedding. You’ll think about it some days and thank God for not letting you both make a mistake.
  3. You’re not going to become more…ahem…”endowed”. However, in the last few months, you’ve suddenly started developing curves…everyone says they look good on you. Maybe it’s middle age spread (snicker) but I like to think that you’re finally settling into your own skin.
  4. You and God will have some bumpy times. He had a lot of work to do on you. A lot of unconditioning, a lot of polishing. There were so many ideas about who He was that had nothing to do with Him and everything to do with the mindsets of the people who told you bout Him. You’re a bit more jaded now, and He’s still got a lot of work to do on you, but at least you no longer feel like a failure every time you make a mistake.
  5. Speaking of mistakes, brace up hon, you’ll make a lot of them; some of them worse than others. Some of them will lead to the most interesting experiences of your life. For some of the others, let’s just say God has been extremely merciful to you.
  6. You didn’t get your PhD as 26 like you promised Papa, but you’ve finally figured out what you like to do. You like to write, you like to talk, and you like to organize stuff. We’re still working out how to get PhDs from those, and I know Papa won’t mind that you took a little time to be sure of your path, we’re trying to see if you can get him 2, just to make up. Love you always Grandpa.
  7. You and your mum are best friends! Yup! I know! After all the fights, screaming and tears, turns out she’s pretty cool after all. Infact, she’s the coolest Mother alive. You guys talk about everything, she listens and when she talks, she totally makes sense. It seems like when no one was watching, she morphed from Dragon Lady to Really Cool Mama.
  8. You and little Sis aren’t doing too badly either. Somewhere along the line, she stopped being a pest (Little Sis, you must admit, you were a pest)and became this awesome, fabulous person. You guys talk about everything and you look at her sometimes and just get overwhelmed with how beautiful a person she is. It’s good. As a matter of fact, you and the Siblings are closer than you guys have ever been. You guys talk, laugh and enjoy hanging out with each other.
  9. You stopped being afraid. Little by little, you’ve lost all the fears that stopped you from taking chances. The fear of being wrong, being rejected, being hurt, making a mistake…you’ve been wrong, rejected, hurt and made 5 million mistakes. You’ve actually stopped being scared of living and you are finally taking chances, with more wisdom and lots of clarity…which is cool.
  10. You’re going to be fine. You spend so many nights worrying about what the future has in store for you. From this vantage point though, looking back over the last 12 years, it’s so easy to see God’s awesome grace and presence as it has been available to you. You’ve done well honey, you’ve done better than you thought you would, and guess what, the journey’s just beginning.

Relax and enjoy yourself hon, everything will be just fine.