I normally wait till the end before commenting but do not let anything stop you from getting to a quiet place and reading this entry all the way to the end. Enjoy
December 31, 2012/ 1st of January, 2013
In the moments of silence before the impending countdown, the boy in my coat shivered, looking for warmth more substantial than my hands and threadbare jean jacket could provide. So I pulled him closer, trying not to wince as his head rested heavily on my chest. I zoned out. Next thing I knew- … .2… 1… Happy New Year! I couldn’t stand as the boy, now sleeping, was sitting on my thighs, his heavy body making standing seem just a little too hard.
But I could scream. I could shout. And that is what I did. I said a short prayer amid the screams and screeches and jumping. 2013 was off to a great start.
Within minutes, church dispersed and I handed the somnolent boy to his grandmother. My then closest friend, R called almost immediately, screeching loud enough to drown out my own screams. The boyfriend sent me a Whatsapp message.
I was so happy! We all were, so happy.
Soon, the family came out and we went home. When we got there, I insisted we have a family prayer meeting. Till today, I don’t know what precipitated my insistence. But insist I did. Very forcefully, very loudly, so vociferously. And this year, those prayers saved my life.
Warning – This is not a breezy post. You will be required to reflect.
And if you are driving, I beg you now; DO NOT READ THIS POST WHILE DOING THAT! Wait until you get home. Yes?
JANUARY, FEBRUARY AND MARCH
January went off without much of a hitch. I entered for the TNC Writer’s competition. After a couple of hilarious and terrible tries, I finally got the story right and sent it off.
I knew even before I sent it that I’d be picked (and no, I’m not priding myself). Before I sent the mail, I felt an absolute certainty that my name would be on the final list. What I could not see was how it would end, or play out. I almost didn’t send the final entry in. Almost. Because right before I was to, I heard that still small voice ask me whether I wanted to take the risk of losing, of failing, in public. And in that one moment, I actually considered not sending it in. But I hadn’t learnt. So I didn’t listen. I sent it.
The boyfriend and I broke up in February. I converted a hobby- running, into a regular exercise routine. The week I looked through the TNC website, and saw my name there (correctly spelled, praise be), I was over the moon. Time went by and I was no longer as giddy. Life had intervened and exams were impending. The results are public knowledge. I lost, and do not get me wrong, I am actually happy about it. This analogy would have confused even me in April, the worst month of my life so far, when it seemed like I was being simultaneously pulled and dragged down. But with the perfect vision of hindsight, I realize that there are always consequences for not listening to God. He’d asked me to wait and I didn’t.
The migraines started in March. Having had multiple experiences with pneumonia – my nemesis – and fearing how my parents would (over)react about a new ailment, or symptom of one, I kept it a secret. I bought Extra Strength Panadol and shut my mouth tight.
If I could change one thing about the whole “the Writer” experience, just one thing – I’d have used my actual nickname- OBJ instead of the stylized version Obi J. And I’d have written a better bio. The one I did write made me sound like an eejit, like I had the writing equivalent of a severe stutter. I learned my lesson(s); never undertake any project if you can’t finish it, if you can’t finish it well. Or if Hohfield’s theory means that you write a bio that would doom you to sure failure. In happier and unprecedented news, I was dashed/ blessed with the naira equivalent of the $1000 cash prize in this year. By various, different people. All of whom weren’t even aware of the competition.
When I realized that, I just had to go on my knees and praise God. Because some things, even the ones that make you cry, that bring back your allergies, that cause you, who once before had about 70 ideas running through your head at all times; to look at a new Microsoft Word Document and have not the faintest idea of what to write; they will all even out in the end.
I just wish I could change that bio.
APRIL, MAY AND JUNE
April began on a sour note. A girl I’d attended secondary school and kept in touch with (one of the dwindling few), that I’d looked up to for most of my life, accused me, Me! Of stalking her. She said it somewhat jokingly but for some reason, seven and a half months later, a vein pops out in my forehead when I think about it. When I saw it, my hands began to shake uncontrollably and I had a panic attack. All that because I’d forgotten to refresh my Twitter feed and had asked a question about a tweet she’d posted a couple of weeks earlier. The month went downhill from there. I used 6 toilet paper rolls blowing my nose or wiping my eyes. Between the use of those 6 rolls, R didn’t call (even though she’d been following the competition more avidly than even I had). I got hit by a truck (yes that actually happened); I got so dizzy I thought I was going blind and so much more. For a while, the migraines and the dizziness made me think I had cancer. It wasn’t cancer. I will go into no more details.
I got to go to Calabar in May. I love Tax Club! Never have I been so enthralled with a place. Never have I met so many unassuming people. I went on my first ever boat trip and allowed a running 4 year acquaintance blossom into a very close friendship. Oh, I was also hit by a bus. No biggie. Still alive and all…
In the last week of May, the migraines revealed themselves to be something far more dangerous than mere headaches, but a lot more benign than cancer. I had to go to various hospitals and laboratories for tests. I missed so much school, I had to fast and pray, hope and believe that my final exams would turn out right. That I wouldn’t get an extra year. I also read, in case you were wondering. And THANK GOD, I’m in Law school today. Praise the name of JESUS!
DO. NOT. LAUGH.
It was June, R still hadn’t called and in my thoughts, she’d been dethroned, deposed and forgotten. I developed a rule a while ago, a benchmark, a hoop that I train all my friends to jump through. It is this: If you and I are close, and I have to, for a very good reason, go to a hospital on admission, and you do not come, or call, you are in effect, dead to me. However, till date I have not once gone through with this rule. R, for instance, who should be dead to me, is still my friend. I just do not attach the greatest importance to what she says anymore. And sometimes that breaks my heart. We used to be as close as sisters. Irony formed us. Books, sarcasm and quick wit bonded us.
Till today, I cannot say for a fact what started the silent treatment war. But I struggled with accepting the new hierarchy and I spent time with her on the anniversary of her birth. I wouldn’t ask more from an acquaintance, so I feel not the slightest bit guilty about it.
In June, I made a most stunning discovery. Some background: I have a baby brother. He was born quite a while after I was. My parents made me take care of him regularly, especially as they both have jobs. So I filled in the gaps. Very adequately too, I always thought. Even in the University, I usually went home on the weekends to spend time with him. I read parenting articles because of him. So when in June, exams impending, brain blank, arm in a sling, my baby brother retorted, to my refusal to warm up his food, that HE’D allowed to get cold, that was MY JOB, it dawned on me that I had helped and continued helping, to swell the ranks of douche bags in the world, and I decided that I would no longer stand for it. So now, where before my brother would return late from school, throw his clothes and shoes on the floor, his bag on the table, eat his food and not clean the table afterward, leave me or someone else to wash his clothes etc, I make him sweep the house, put his shoes in a place where I cannot trip over them, pull all his chairs back under the table, wash all the plates and pots in the kitchen, mine included. He is under strict instructions to shut the hell up when I or someone older is talking, to wipe up the table after any spills and periodically as I see fit. And if I merely feel like tormenting him, I make him wash his clothes and iron them. Any default of my rules is met with even stricter rules and a punishment created/ designed specifically for him. I felt like a bitch making those rules, but even scarier than my fear of becoming the stereotypical Nigerian mother, what with the caning and all, is my fear of my brother living alone, unable to cook for himself, wash or iron and calling me for help at all times. Between the two, embracing my inner bitch was the safer option and coming back home from school has gotten much easier now that I know I won’t have to pick up after him.
JULY, AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER
I wrote my final exams in July. With all the medicine I’d been taking, I couldn’t take a chance fasting. But the fear that my repeated absences from school would affect my grades or cause me to stay behind for a year, something that 2 of my lecturers actually advised, prompted me to study very hard and pray and pray and pray. When the results came out and I saw that I’d passed, I did a little jig. I got an A on my project, from one of the hardest supervisors too.
The rest of the period, ASUU enforced a compulsory holiday, I slept a lot, worked a bit, and shortlisted some more recipes.
OCTOBER and NOVEMBER
My birthday came in October. I got older. At some point, I decided that the thing with R had gone on long enough, so I extended an olive branch. And I stood there, arm outstretched, holding said olive branch extended until my hand and arm went numb. It became immediately clear that we would not run in slow motion into each other’s arms and all that was done wrong, on my side and hers would be forgiven.
For most of the year, I’d felt like an outsider looking in on my own life. I began to feel a little more myself in this month. I can’t even say when it happened, but this year, I finally grew up. I had prayed for just such a thing. I just didn’t expect it to happen the way it did.
Law school registration began in October. 3 days of stress and tension and I was finally enrolled. Meeting my roommates was interesting. So many divergent personalities make for a very funny room. Within exactly 3 weeks of our acquaintance, a night came in November when none of us could sleep. So we began to talk. We assessed each other’s personalities and defended ourselves in turn. In that one night, my ears practically bled. I heard stories that scare me to this day. Please, WHO THROWS A CHILD OFF A BALCONY?
I was accused of expecting too much from people. If someone else had said it, or had it been said at a different time, I might not have pondered on it. In a blinding moment of clarity, I realized how true the statement was. I have always been an ardent believer in the Golden Rule – Do unto others as you want them to do unto you. So, I try to live my life accordingly. What I realized that night was that I had expected that if I helped people, smiled a lot, was a really good friend that I’d have the same things be done for/to me. The question of the two possibly being mutually exclusive did not cross my mind. It should have. I don’t know where it happened but where last year, my article for the end of the year was primarily about other people, this year, this present article, I have written the letter “I” more times than I wrote about others. Sure, the story is about MY year. But while I was mourning R, the ex, and all the numerous friends and family members whose love did not extend to calling while I was sick and scared, whose devotion lasted only as long as I was doing things for them; about a hundred other people were proving themselves, and the veracity of this rule to me. I just wasn’t noticing them. I eventually noticed. And I decided that an acknowledgement was necessary. On my Facebook page, site of most of my whining and whingeing, I wrote a thank you post and tagged about seventy-five people who had made my year as awesome as it surprisingly turned out to be.
I also decided another overhaul of my personality was in order. So just like last year, when I switched the last 3 letters of my given name for the first 3, stopped relaxing my hair and decided to open myself up to all the “glorious opportunities” the world had to offer, this year I’m switching off, working at a much slower pace, eyes on the prize: My Call to Bar Certificate, my continued good health, my relationship with God, living in such a way that no one would find (too much) fault with, while enjoying being in my family and with all my friends.
The absolute top on the list of my priorities though, is being happy. Most people think that happiness is something that happens when someone makes time for you. I don’t. God makes me happy. I’m not ashamed to say it. Being a God chick, a Wannabe pastor on Facebook and Twitter; makes me happy. Forgiving people but keeping them at a distance, giving hard-to-discredit advice makes me very happy. Sticking to my budget, increasing my running distance a little bit every time, spending time with my family and whipping my baby bro into shape, pestering my big brother – all those things make me dizzy with an everyday kind of happy. Helping others who are down, in pain or who don’t even know what I’m doing makes me unbelievably happy.
So I will do all the above, again and again, this time not hoping that someone will notice my efforts. Instead, I will do them with a loving heart. Eyes on my blessings, not the sacrifice. Eyes on my good friends, not on the bad ones. Eyes to God, not the circumstances.
All you really need to know about this year, about my thoughts on this year is this: that I’ve been blessed. I am alive. I wrote anonymously for a couple of people, saw the feedback and my confidence is back. My writing is better than ever.
I have suffered, I have been depressed, but I am still here. Still standing. Still blessed beyond measure.
And I thank God and the item, pictured below, for it.
Yes, I read it every day. Missed about 4 days, but I made them up. *puts on halo*
This year, by the grace of GOD, before the clock strikes midnight at the church’s crossover service, I will komole, I will baraje, I will gangnam. I will thank God for being happy, for being healthy. And I’ll wear a much warmer jacket just in case any other little boys, or girls, want to snuggle inside.
Happy New Year in advance
You seemed to ramble at the beginning but it all came together at the end. Funny enough this is how my year felt to me too, a ramble at the beginning and a strong conclusion at the end. Much love OBJ 🙂