Mystery Musings

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*dusts cobwebs*

The first time I read this so many thoughts ran through my head. I was sad (read, depressed, for my country and the people it produces), overjoyed (for my friend the author) and scared (that it could just as well happen to me).

Please enjoy the story before I type any more spoilers.

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“What is time but a necessary manmade construct, as a measure
that could keep one in a box if he allows it,
to think he runs out of it in hours or months or years.”

I made my first million today.
A little over a million plus or not so little, but a million is a benchmark.
I couldn’t write about my 2013 last year, I was much too dispirited to do so, plus I believe every story should have a happy ending; if it’s not happy then it isn’t over. So for me, today marks my December 2013 end in reality. I’m mostly writing this for my benefit, to express myself. Writing about my 2012 really did something for me; I go back to read it from time to time for comfort, encouragement, reference or to just put situations in context. And after a while (this year to be exact) I could openly share it with my friends just because. I couldn’t at the time. Same will happen for this too in the future but in keeping with my modus operandi, I will write anonymously to begin with. So here goes.

“In the realm of ideas, everything depends on enthusiasm.
In the real world all rests on perseverance.”
~Johann Non Goethe~

2013 was a mentally tough year. I had just started a new company in late 2012 with some two other people. Everything looked promising and of course I knew it was going to be tough, but alas I wasn’t ready at all. The bane of my experience could be rolled up in one word DEBT!!! Debts and more debts, jeez my God! Before 2012, I had lacked nothing and had always been a champion of ‘pay your debts’, ‘don’t borrow if you can’t pay back’, ‘how the hell do you live with yourself owing so much’ etc. Now I’ve lived the experience of being on the receiving side of my ‘expletives’ and I’m much more understanding especially for genuine folks, if you can tell who is one. Running a new company requires funds, more so when you don’t have Angel investors, and sometimes you run out and need to borrow with honest hopes and plans of paying back, but things almost never pan out the way we projected them to.

According to the Omidyar Network stat report benchmark: Only 4% of African entrepreneurs manage to get angel capital for their business. I’m sure it’s even less than that, so often times an entrepreneur is mostly trying to survive the present, while keeping an eye or half an eye on the future.

First we had a ready structure for project financing but needed to stay afloat before the projects, to keep operations running and more importantly, to pay the Due Diligence fees that would land us the said funds. We went in search for equity or debt investors for 10m naira. Money is so difficult to secure, and people promise and fail blatantly. We’d make arrangements and decisions off promises that would lead to further disappointments to others, in a seemingly unending horrific game of dominoes.

The first potential promised us payment in Dec. 2012, but by February he was still toting about with loads of stories. We built hopes upon hopes but eventually he disappeared and couldn’t be reached. The heartbreak was real because we thought we would hit the ground running in 2013; still there was more in store.

We embarked on more vigorous pitching. After a while we found a corporate group who gave us a million but that wouldn’t go far, so we applied that and kept up the hunt pitching up and down. Sadly the finance houses and ‘monied’ folks are not willing to invest in newbie companies that haven’t done much, however promising the venture seems; they’d rather invest in popular folks, brands and establishments who might end up owing and not paying back because they took no collateral from them. The very same investors send you packing for not presenting collateral. I don’t totally blame them, they have some cogent reasons.

We kept on pitching and another seemingly serious potential came up, but he was also a time waster, in fact a farce. This one went as far as creating a nonexistent ‘angel’, (as far as I’m concerned that’s what it was, lol) who would invest and kept us in a never ending circle of fake meetings and lies. This is the only way I can make sense of what happened in retrospect, because even though we did all that was requested and ran around for months, it was all for naught eventually and we ended up with even more debts we couldn’t settle.

It’s pertinent to note that since 2012 when we started, we weren’t earning any stable income. We were putting it back in the business instead. Pay yourself from where? I had family taking care of my basics while I survived on 10 tablets of hope and faith each day, on the really bad days of frustration, 20 tabs for resuscitation and revival lol.

It was on like this and half the year was upon us, nothing had gone as planned, and we had lost money instead in the process. One guy even duped us of 300k in the process and we were already defaulting on our brand new first potential business/client. In all of this a late virtual acquaintance, left words, (not to me personally but it felt so) before he passed that were of consolation to me, and I’m grateful because they really put things in context when I needed it badly.

“No one deserves anything; God is in control of all situations.” “There is a time for everything, every person… Don’t be angry with people who desert you at difficult times, they can’t help” “People who help are people who will, not people who can”. (RIP NAMO)

These words helped me a lot to cope with the disappointments and not stay mad at some of these people.

After these sordid encounters, and all the pitches that didn’t yield fruit we decided to go another route, do some odd jobs (i.e. jobs below what we actually set out to do) to earn some money, then use the earnings to unlock our project funds. It was setback after setback.

We got a 12m naira contract on a site for borehole drilling and water treatment; we were to be paid 70% upfront and 30% upon completion. We went ahead to borrow some more monies to get us what we needed to mobilize for the contract. Our first problem was the Project Manager (PM) cutting down the 70% in half, saying we’d get the other half when we got to a particular level. As desperate people we went ahead without seeing that as a red flag, got the materials needed and began the job. We got to the point where we needed the remaining half and requested for it… GBESE!

Meanwhile, we hadn’t returned any of the monies we borrowed before now, so everything was riding on us cashing out so we could take care of all our obligations, but the PM refused to pay us saying we had to do more, this dragged on for weeks. Eventually, he demanded we get some materials on site for the next stage before he’d release the funds. We went ahead and sourced the materials on credit, gave the supplier a post dated cheque based on the contractual promises with the PM. After doing as requested, more stories ensued and finally he flat out refused to pay, refused us entrance to site (with police threats and all) and got someone else to finish the job from where we stopped. Now the supplier whose cheque had bounced by this time wanted his materials back or the money, and of course we couldn’t immediately provide both, so he took us to the Police and my business partner got locked up.

At this point I was asking God what was left, giving up wasn’t an option because there were real debt obligations in my name screaming to be paid. I dreaded my phone so much as it had become a source of worry; unknown numbers made me skip a heartbeat or have heart palpitations, having to explain the situation over and over again to creditors was emotionally exhausting, because it always seemed like we were lying. I was so pensive at this point, tears weren’t faraway at any point in time.  I cried after almost every call shouting down my neck – oh the embarrassment and fear – but obligations are obligations so I couldn’t give up.

When you pray to God for a job, ask also for reasonable and sane people to work with – Freegoodadvice.

We solved our police issues somehow. The honest truth is that one who can’t HONESTLY pay up, can’t do so. I cried so much from the mental stress, cracked under pressure and suffered a mini depression. Depression and I don’t mix well so I got back up and trudged on. We gathered some monies after another 1m naira was loaned to us by a friend, to meet our financiers to pay the Due Diligence fees at least, so we could have our funds finally but regrettably even Boko Haram affected us lol. Nigeria had become a high risk area for investments and the DD fees shot up by over 50%, so the figures we had in mind in January were no longer applicable by September; we were told this happened after we had applied it, but fortunately for us we would have a spot held for us, instead of losing the connect entirely.

Finally, by the end of October, an earlier not so viable option called us up and was talking business again, ready to invest for equity. They came down for a meet, after some back and forth were ready to sign an agreement with us, some hope and breather after all and I could now answer my creditors in a more confident voice. In December, they wired some funds as agreed and that made the year not to be such a horrible and unbearable one.

HALLELUJAH! Finally we could pay off most of our old debts, but the big ones were still staring me in the face, 3M to be exact. Despite all the hypertension they gave me, I remain grateful to those friends (creditors) for lending to me at the time when I needed it, especially the patient and understanding ones.

In January this year, I got a debt call and for once in my life I answered without trepidation, calmly and without fear. I had to pinch myself after the call to be sure it was I who had just taken that call. After going through all that mental torture class in 2013, I had graduated and could finally control or manage my emotions towards debt. As long as I was really trying my best to pay back and kept acknowledging the debt, I felt less guilt. I couldn’t kill myself about it, it’s not the end of the world to be in debt.

I don’t want to discuss this year, but 2013 ends today because funds are finally here, and those debts are on to being repaid and the company is finally on course to stability. I am thrilled when I look at the big picture that is about to unfold, I’m on my way to building something out of nothing, to create a miracle and greatness.

Finally I’m debt free. OH HAPPY DAY! :-D.

If you had the patience to read all of this, thank you and do say a prayer for me. I pray and hope my 2014 ends both technically and otherwise right. This year alone has shown me again, why God’s timing is perfect! So we are never really running out of time. To anybody else out there having a tough time, especially entrepreneurs, I send heartfelt positive energy your way to weather whatever storms it is you face.
I pray we all have favourable opportunities that will lead us to where we should be according to our abilities. Amen!

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Based on popular demand, this article has been reproduced from its first publishing here.

Any defining moments/lessons/advice from your experience with debt? Do share below in the comments section.

 

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Happy New Year: Efe

*walks into limelight in abandoned theatre*

I’m not really able to identify a theme for my 2013. I can’t even summarize it but I’m very eager to talk about certain aspects of it.

Love life

At the beginning of this year I was four months into my married life. You know how they say plenty things about the first two years. Some people say they don’t count because you’re still too much in love in the honeymoon stage. Others say they don’t count because you both are getting to know each other and resolving differences. Well, mine was a bit of both. I learnt early that the communication between my wife and I was a trophy I had to fight to keep.

There are several reasons not to talk to each other. The other person may not be listening. The other person may not care. The other person may use it against you. The other person may joke about it behind your back. The other person may take it personally or the wrong way. These were the enemies I had to fight all this year. I didn’t want to fall into the husband zone. Yes, my brothers, there is such a thing as the husband zone. You could get into this routine of just existing to watch shows, eat meals, say good morning and good night, and do the occasional copulation without any intimacy between you and your wife. And this is the advanced form of the friend zone we all struggled to escape when we were still single, that zone where you can’t see past the curtain in the eyes of your crush because she’s reserved her affections for someone else presumably better than you. So, fight for intimacy we both did this year and I can say we succeeded tremendously. Phew!

Work

Last year I spoke about how I planned to step up and be more assertive at the office. Well, it turns out I wasn’t assertive enough until my boss pointed it out again. I was a silent rebel against the competitive atmosphere I found at work, thinking myself different from everyone and that I needed to maintain that core of difference to be a catalyst of positive change. This needs balance. Because you can’t really change an organization unless they accept and respect you. And they won’t accept and respect you unless you speak their core language to some extent. If you aren’t ready to speak the core language, Efe, then you’re in the wrong place.

When this dawned on me I took coaching from my supervisor and my younger brother and stepped up my game in the last two months of the year. My supervisor was pleased and said if I continued like that the sky would be the limit. Sadly this year, he won’t be my supervisor anymore as he’s been transferred. Just when I learn the ropes they change the rules. Sighs.

Volleyball

I think I became a mini star in my volleyball team at the sports club. Mind you these are some of the best players in Nigeria (I always laugh when a newcomer joins claiming to be very good and they can’t even return a service properly). We went for like five competitions this year and we won some and lost some. I think I’m stronger in the attack (7.5), and medium in defence and service game (6.5 each). I’m aiming to build my muscles for an 8.5 in attack, a 7.5 in defensive play and a 9.5 in power serves. This means more practice but I think this is fine. I don’t know why I want to be a volleyball star. Not like I’m going to go to the Olympics or anything. Or wait, what’s the age limit for volleyball in the Olympics?! Beach volleyball perhaps? 😀

Gadgets

The Samsung S4 strolled into my life this year. I bought the international version (heard the octo-core one was buggy and rubbish with battery life. Plus, the international one has LTE). I found the apps on the phone not satisfactory for performance. I wonder sometimes, do Samsung people use their devices and compare them with the opposition for performance? The functionality and potential of the Samsung flagship is great (stream wirelessly to your smart tv, take impossible photos, upgrade your battery to three times installed capacity, and control all Samsung devices worldwide at will). But, can these apps and things work smoothly without interrupting the daydream by forced closures and thinking episodes?! Please!

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 came into my life in the latter part of the year. I found the expandable memory useful for mindless copying and downloading (had to get a 64 gig memory card) and the battery life was fair (charge everyday). The swag was the main factor as all my notes and meeting minutes were bleeding fast without any need for point repetition or delays to transfer from handwritten notes to electronic text. I swype faster than I write and even if I wanted to write, the handwriting to text feature is beyond belief. If you can read your writing, it is accurately transcribed to text. It’s amazing.

I’m moving towards Nexus devices though. I want to see what they have to offer. I handled the new iPhone and iPod iterations. Not ready to be locked in Apple’s jail so I put them down. I won’t even bother upgrading my 4th gen iPod.

Faith

I put this last because though it was the most important of all things this year, most times I relegated it to last position. The Lord is my shepherd and because of this He interrupted my life many times to correct me or teach me how to go about stuff to glorify Him and to ease my life and bless others around me. (I’ve begged Him to do this whenever it’s necessary). But what would happen if instead of waiting to be pulled back to the fold from the jaws of the wolf every time, I simply kept step with Him every day? In August I tried reading a chapter of the biblical book of Proverbs for every day of the month. I missed three days and I was hard pressed every day to do this simple task. I started and ended the year without finishing the book of Exodus in my general reading. Prayer was a random thing done unconsciously whenever I needed help or wisdom. I did virtually no formal personal devotions this year. This I sincerely hope to change in 2014.

So there you have it, my 2013 review and my hopes for 2014. Pray for me guys. Also, please read every single review my friends wrote in the series HERE. You’ll be blessed.

Much love everybody. Here’s to an amazing and fruitful 2014 🙂

P.S.: My Doctor friend said to give her a birthday shoutout today. Happy birthday Amanda!

Finale Part 3: Tokunbo

Dear Suliat,
Thank you. Thank you for letting go. I told you how I didn’t believe in the idea of holding on to someone who doesn’t also want to hold you, no matter how good holding that person feels. So I’m grateful you shared that vision with me. It was hard not to be bitter at first. But I see what to be grateful for now. So thank you. I’m glad we can still be friends… but not right now though. Hope you understand. Surely you must.
I wish you much, much happiness :*

Dear Pops,
I love you. Despite that day in February. I’ve always wished we could have a better relationship, always hoped something could be savaged there. That day nearly left me hopeless though. Nearly left me with a validation and justification for the actions I was being (unjustly) crucified for. Nearly. But no, regardless of how much time has passed and how much water has flowed under the bridge, I choose to believe it can be better. It will be. I love you 🙂

Yo, Nigerian borders,
I conquered you. Finally. Twice! Haha. You thought you could keep me entrapped, abi? Una no reach! God pass y una! Many might not see how much of a deal this is, but you and I know, don’t we? You know wassup. *wink* Those trips were eye opening and educative in ways that watching DSTV and reading international magazines were insufficient for. And that was just the beginning, more victories coming soon… Buahahaha! 😀

Dear Career,
This was a good year, wasn’t it? A year of plenty slack finally being cut for us. Several highs, several lows. Never mind that that slack has at the moment been gathered back so rapidly, that all there is is a very tight noose threatening to cut off the oxygen. Never mind that at all. We’ll sail through these travails, surf these rapids like we in the little children’s rubber pool in the backyard. God’s got us.

My homie MrBigTyme,
(I never did get what it was about the moniker you liked, but issolrai, so long as you like it, issokay) You the best, my nigga. Thank you for picking me from and dropping me from the airport and for being such a great host. Thank you for your patience where I was (and still have been) so utterly unreliable. Thank you for staying reliable and understanding. Thank you for staying my friend. I owe you Big Tyme. (See what I did there? Hehe)

Hey RavA,
My darling wifey. (I need to rename you though. Or do I? *shrug*) We’ve been through too many bumps for the rather short length of our marriage. You’ve spent too much time away from my arms and I accept the responsibility I bear in this. Don’t worry, I promise to be a better lover going forward. No more inflicting scratches and scrapes. No more leaving you in the arms of another man. No more oversights.

My Nostalgians,
Sorry for not paying as much attention to you as I did to Art Stories, but you sha know where priorities lie. Don’t worry, you guys will binge this January and then… Hehe. You guys will be fine jor.

Hallo Olo,
You’re a sprig of solace in spring. Thank you, for waltzing into my life when you did. I recognize the rarity and high value of the kind of friendship we have and I promise to never devalue it. But this friend zone you threw me into is so sticky and hot, I’m not complaining sha. Issolgud. You are loved. *hugs*

Dear Tools and Wol-E,
Thank you for the platform. Even now, a year after, I marvel at how consistent and on-point you both always are. I said I’d write and I wrote, I just wasn’t nearly as reliable as I could have been. Despite all the challenges, I will be though. Thank you so much for understanding. We’re doing a powerful thing here and I’m just glad to be a part of it.

Dear Wallet,
*breaks down in tears* This was not the plan o. You know, abi? *sniff* I know we had hopes and dreams but this was not the plan. you were supposed to be much fatter than this *sigh* Oh well. E go beta. E musto beta.

Dear Good friends,
If I start mentioning names now, I won’t stop. But I’ll start. Nah, I wont. Ok, small. Kelv, Vick, Tomi, Ibukun, Bukky, Tosin, Rah, Moyin, Bule, Qama, Kola, Ore, Jegzy, Kunle, Lolia. Thank you for being there this year. I love y’all.

Dear Toxic,
You’re amazing and I know you know. But try harder. You know you can do more, better. Folk keep telling you, stop disappointing them. Show them the son of whom you are.

Baba God,
I love you so much. I know say I nor try this year. I nor try at all. I know say nor be to dey do new year resolution, but even doe me and you take as we take understand awasef, I dey talk am now say I go try better from now forward. Thunder faya my yansh if I misbehave (I dey play o! But I dey serious too sha…) X_x

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And there you have it from Tokunbo, a farewell letter to the citizens of 2013. Looking forward to meeting the new actors in the 2014 life drama.

Thank you all for coming along with us on this journey. It’s been painful, refreshing, bittersweet, encouraging, honest and downright uplifting as a whole. I’m honoured to have been your messenger and editor through it all this month. I hope, if you haven’t already done so, that you get the chance to sit down and review what you did in 2013, what happened to you and how you reacted and changed and grew as a result.

God bless you all. Happy New Year 2014. Much love

*bows awkwardly, walks stiffly off the stage*

Finale Part 2: Adeyemi (Panda)

“CapoeiraPanda: Dear Lord, don’t let my ashiri tu in 2013.”

That was my first, actual prayer this year, tweeted on January 1st.

Of course, as you know – if you follow me on Twitter, or were anywhere near the internet a few hours after that tweet – things didn’t actually pan out that way; my year started out with a lot of ridicule and embarrassment, thanks to a particular (kissing) picture which I can’t seem to find a copy of (Efe if you find that picture and add it to this post, I’ll have you assassinated).

So, following that trend, nothing in 2013 went like I’d planned, honestly. I’ve read a couple of people’s posts in this series, and I really wish I could do a month by month knockdown of how the year went. However, my memory has decided that I’m not worthy enough to organize itself chronologically, so I’ll just try the “anywhere belle face” approach, and tell you how things went based on the lessons I learned.

“Be ready to learn”

In January 2013, I was new to life. My little girl was two months old, and I was realizing just how… “not easy” it was to have a baby. Not exactly for me, seeing as I didn’t live with her and my basic duties when I went over to see her every other day involved changing her diapers (which she managed to soil like a champion), and singing John Legend’s “High” till she fell asleep, but for her mother, and those who did live with her and were charged with being her primary caregivers. On my  end, I realized that even the little things like Huggies Diapers for Newborns and Aloe Scented Wipes could leave an interesting dent in a grown man’s pocket and well, I had to figure something out.

“Be ready to change”

I saw one of my best friends carrying his dad to the hospital, and decided I wasn’t going to be that kind of person who threw away good health just to chase money, leaving his children to deal with the consequences later in life, so I hooked up with a personal trainer, and began a journey into improved health; for myself, for my daughter, and for her younger ones who may show up sometime in the future.

“Battles will come”

In January, my woman and I went through a battle that melded us together. It was tough, and it would have been easy for any man to run and leave her to fight it herself, but I grit my teeth and stayed with her, and going through that fight helped us become stronger as a team.

I learned, that fear was pointless. That when faced with a challenge, the best thing to do is to simply face it head on, pray, and break through it.

In February, my lady started having health issues. Hospital to hospital, doctor to doctor, nobody could tell us what exactly was going on with her. But then, some doctor told us a few things;she was hypotensive. She’d gone her whole life, not eating properly, and doing a lot of things wrong, and it was starting to kill her. I remember the day she told me; I looked at her and thought, “this thing didn’t kill you last year, when I had no idea who you are. It’s now that you’ve come into my life that it wants to take you away? So funny.”

In May, I reached what had to be my lowest point at my job. I was going to work tired, working through the day and coming home exhausted. I loved what I did, but hated where I was doing it. I was overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated. Worst of all, I knew I deserved better. I tried to get better. I applied to different places, for different positions. I took tests, and for the first time in nine years, after working hard for excellence and “First Class Status”, I was failing and getting rejected.

Then in June, I found out Blossom had been diagnosed with “Anal Cancer”. A rather rare form of cancer, they told me. So why the hell did my mother have it, if it was so damn rare? Again, I said hello to Fear. I wept at the thought that she could be taken away from me by something so horrible. That the last time I’d have seen her was when she waved as she went off to get on a plane. That she wouldn’t get to hear her granddaughter call her “Nan”, and complain that the kid was too fast for her when she ran all over the place.

And then October came, and a doctor told us a bone in my daughter’s foot wasn’t growing properly, and she’d have to get surgery. He said that was probably why she hadn’t started walking, even though she was almost a year old. My first thought was “What in the actual f**k is going on? All three of my women, in one year?”

“Leaning is not a sign of weakness”

I taught this to Kiitan mi, and then started to learn it myself. I found myself having to lean on Victor Kalu, Justice Ojiaka, Kiitan mi, Remi Olutimayin, and I realized that they would never judge me for it. That the fact that I recognized my weaknesses and came to them for help was a sign that I was strong, and that they would be strong for me.

“Death respects nobody”

In the month of June, a star fell from my sky. She may not have been the brightest in my life, but her light shone on me in ways that nobody could ever replicate, and she was gone. She would never get to see Nadine wear the dress she’d gotten her. I’d never get to dance with her again after plying her with alcohol, regardless of her protests. I’d never hear her encourage me to be all I could be and draw strength from her the never ending well in her soul.

“Fear will eventually become hatred. Do not use it as a tool for respect”

Things between my old man and I finally reached a peak where I would not be afraid anymore. I spoke my mind to him, and let him know exactly where things stood between us.

“Humility is key”

A friend once said to me, “There comes a time in every man’s life, where he will be humbled beyond his wildest imagination.”

In 2013,I learned humility; that my pride was nothing when there were responsibilities I had to fulfil and deal with. I heard words spoken to me by people that hurt and broke me in ways that I’d never have believe possible, but I had to swallow those words and force myself to change, because that was all I could do. I found myself going to meet people for help, that I would have never have given a second thought to in ordinary times.

“Certainty without flaw is often delusion, and no certainty at all”

At some point, I had no idea what was going to happen. I lived with the simple belief that even though they never went as I planned, things would get better some way or the other.

“Love is never a smooth road”

I’ve always known the truth behind the statement, “Love is never enough”, but I learned how much work it truly is. Behind the picture of roses and butterflies, the tale of our love holds tears, bloody knuckles, broken doors and shattered bottles.

But… things didn’t turn out so bad.

My woman and I? We started working at it. Step by step, changing what she ate, researching about how to deal with hypotension, exercise, inch by inch, with God helping us, we brought her out of it. And you should see my woman now; she couldn’t walk down the street without passing out, once upon a time, but now she works out with me every other day and is stronger than she’s ever been in her life. Our battles have made us stronger. We’ve become a team, and we’re working on becoming a power couple to be reckoned with. Start saving your ticket money; Turks & Caicos may be sooner than y’all think. 🙂

Blossom? She went through her treatments like a warrior. She’s back home now, moving a little slower than she used to, but with that same awesome sense of humor, and that big old heart brimming with love and kindness. I love her more than I ever have, and I’m going to do my best to make sure she reaps the benefit of being a great mother, raising a good man.

Baby Bear? Well, a different doctor looked at the foot and showed us how to simply massage it back into place. She was walking about by her first birthday, and is kinda impossible to catch these days. Things still aren’t as easy as I’d like them to be, and the challenges are still there. But I’m doing my best every day. Trying to make the right decisions so I can be the right person for her. Provider, protector, teacher, and most importantly, Father.

I lost 25 kg in less than seven months. The discipline and hard work involved was immense, but I did it. I have a lot of people to thank for supporting me, but I have to thank Olumide Alabi and FireBox Fitness for being my main motivators.

In the last quarter of the year, when I thought there was nothing good that could come, and I’d lost hope, I applied for a job and started the interview process. It was crazy, difficult, exhilarating and frustrating at the same time. And in November, God made it happen. I got that email congratulating me, and knew that indeed, God always has a plan, and sometimes, he loves us enough to be late.

Now, we’re at the end of the year. The end, which was a beginning. We decided to make it official; loving, learning, growing with each other. She’s the helpmate that I never thought I’d have, and after spending the last 525,949 minutes with her, learning her (eg. fellas, if your woman says “no, I’m not hungry” the smart thing is to still get food for the both of you. Else, you may die hungry), and letting her love me despite my stubborn nature and penchant to fart when I’m lying next to her, I’m grateful to God for bringing her my way, and hope that this new year of our life and relationship is even better than the last year.

Thank you, 2013.

You weren’t what I thought I wanted, but you gave me everything I didn’t know I needed.

Alhamdulillahi, Hallelujah

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Hallehamdulillahi. All I could think of while reading this was, here’s a true Fatona. No idea what that means. All the best to you Panda, and the women in your life. Thank you for sharing.

Finale Part 1: Victor

Lessons

It’s 10am on New Year’s Eve and I still don’t know where to begin. I started this year on a high; healthy, money in the bank, a wonderful support system of optimistic friends and family and a faith that could not be shaken. I was untouchable. I am not anymore.

I had an arrogance that stemmed from always getting what I wanted. My philosophy has always been simple; anything is attainable if you work hard at it. I applied that in work, my relationships with other people and so far it had worked for me. That philosophy hasn’t changed but I learnt some other lessons this year that I am most grateful for.

One. I am not the master.

“Jesus, the Master of my fate;
That lies in wiser, abler hands;
And I am captain of my soul
Only if He besides me stands.”

I forgot to look to the source as regards a lot of things. I made mistakes with work, believed too much in my abilities, made rash decisions and fell flat on my face. I made mistakes in my relationship; I forgot to put God first and lost a treasure. I learnt. I am grateful.

Two. I will not always understand God’s will, but He always has a plan.

“Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them” (Ps. 139:16)

I’m not a stranger to death but this year it hit me hard. The death of a friend so full of life, so full of promise, an amazing friend, left me shaken. I didn’t accept it as God’s will. I couldn’t understand why. I still don’t, but I am grateful that I knew her. I am grateful that in her short life she touched so many of us and even in her death she inspires us to be better people.

When my friend’s mum died a few months later I almost cursed God. Such a wonderful person, breadwinner of her family (their father had passed on a few years ago) and a woman whose faith in God I always admired. I couldn’t bring myself to go to the funeral. I couldn’t bring myself to grieve. Funny how her son was the one comforting me months later and helping me accept God’s will. I am grateful for you Ifeanyi. Thank you.

Three. Forgiveness takes time.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV)”

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest…”

My best friend and I fell apart this year. Sucks because I saw it happening yet I could do nothing about it. I fought, I begged, I got mad. Went back and forth for a few months till I couldn’t take it anymore and got off the emotional roller-coaster. I judged her. Even when she apologized and tried to make amends, I judged her. I hurt her with my unforgiveness. I hurt myself. I was so filled with self-righteous anger that I didn’t allow myself heal. I am sorry. I forgive you. Everyday. Please forgive me.

Four. I am human. I am flawed.

“There’s a thin line between a saint and a sinner. A thin line between looking out for yourself and being a selfish asshole…” (Daywalker)

All of the mistakes I made this year humbled me; knocked me right of my flawless white high horse. I did a lot of things I swore I’d never do. I became selfish and put my own selfish desires above others so many times and embraced the asshole in me. I thought I was being ‘smart’ but I wasn’t. I was only becoming unbecoming. It’s easier to play victim than to rise above bullshit and become a better person or at least try to be.

Lastly. Don’t ever quit.

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” (Nelson Mandela)

I have found God’s strength in my own weakness. I refuse to be defined my experiences, to play it safe, to take the easy road. I’ve tried coasting, burying my head in the sand and it sucks in all honesty. So I’m done with that. I’ll never stop trying; to be a better person, a better son, a better friend, a better lover.

I’m grateful for the people in my life that allow me be all these things and push me to be more. For my family, for the friends that have become family, Kelvin Steve, Adeyemi Fatona, Vivian Aigbe, Christopher Ogbuehi, Dania Idam, Toluwaleke Odunuga, Olisaeloka Obi. I love you guys.

To my lover, my friend, Adumaadan, thank you. We’re just getting started. I love you.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
(Invictus- William Ernest Henly)

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Here’s to many more fruitful years Victor. With these lessons learned so far, they can’t be anything but. Thank you for sharing bro.

Break of Dawn: Talabi

I’m here again who would have thunk it?… 2013 started pretty much the same way 2012 started; sitting alone in my living room watching TV.  It was not a very festive period, I wanted to be in Lagos, but I had work that had to be done. Anyways, it gave me time to reflect and this time I had a new prayer on my lips and fewer complaints.

My first full year or so in engineering in a manufacturing environment brought a lot of things to light. It showed me a lot of things I did not want to be. 90% routine and the odd moment of genius didn’t cut it for me and this prompted me to test some of my other skills.  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t given up on my roots, but I’d much rather look back at myself and laugh at an error I made than to regret that I never tried.

Opportunities came and went, they still are. Doubt was always present, it still is. I’ve only learned how to accommodate it without affecting my decisions too much. I can’t bore you with the details but in summary I’ve been the guidance counsellor I never had to help me shape my career path. Although some things have not worked out (some catastrophic failures included), it has been a fun experience and the steepest learning curve I’ve had to endure in my short life. Anyone who knows me personally knows how hard it is for me to admit failure, that’s one thing this ‘discovery’ process has helped me with.

At work, my career progressed quite well. I was part of two major successful projects and one of them even got my face on the internal newspaper (along with the team of course). Another project I designed and specified is up and running and it was perfect to hear about that project over a random discussion where I was having dinner with mates. I spent time later in the year working as an analyst scrutinizing potential capital projects because of the harsh financial climate at work.  While it was fun, let’s just say I didn’t make many new friends telling people their projects were not up to scratch.

Speaking of harsh financial climates, it was never hidden that the steel industry was hard hit by the recession. We all knew at some point tough decisions would be taken, different rumours and conspiracy theories from closing down the plant to replacing the entire management team. On the 29th of October at 10:51 am we received that dreaded email that over 10% of all the jobs would have to be cut to make ends meet, I’ve never seen faster deflation. The overall mood went from ‘bubbly’ to ‘whatever’ in the days and weeks to follow.

The new employees (that I am part of) were told our jobs were safe, but the mood was still like trying to inflate a pricked balloon. If I was unhappy before, now I was losing it entirely. My motivation was at an all time low and I was very uncomfortable knowing almost everyone around me could lose their jobs in one fell swoop. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to contend with this year. Speaking to people across your desk and listening to them talk about how uncertain the future looked for them. A lot of these people know nothing outside this job they do and this town they’ve lived in for decades. I wish them well.

Personally, it’s been a tough year. Apart from the great task of trying to shape my career, living in this town is tough. It’s the loneliest place I’ve ever been in. There are very few people I can have a proper discussion with. Its a backward place in many respects. My social life was limited to watching football, our weekly 5 a side league, TV game shows, series and the odd movie. I have some wonderful colleagues but after some time you get tired of hanging out with the same few people every single time. I think I can safely say I did not make any new friends this year; I just got closer to some people and drifted apart from some others. At the weekends I would watch football and pretend to be in Lagos on social media. Ah yes, spending my birthday alone every year is becoming a thing. On the bright side, the church I attend here is really nice with genuinely nice people; in my short time there, I’ve seen how genuine love and care can change people’s lives.

However, it was not all gloom and doom. My ever-present friends always kept me company with their bare jokes every time we talked. Those calls from family left a smile long after pressing the end button. Elle est fantastique! All through the year, she was awesome. She kept me going, even on days when I just want to stop and give up. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that a big chunk of what makes you happy is hinged on another person’s happiness. It’s an even better feeling knowing that the feeling is mutual. I sometimes find myself doing things because I know it would give me another chance to see that beaming smile (sadly on FaceTime or Skype most times). My trips to Nigeria were the high points of my year. As you read this, I’ll be in Lagos for the third time; that’s where I’m truly happy and very soon, it would be permanent.

My MSc. graduation was another high point this year. It felt weird going back 9 months later to do it, but it made it more fun seeing everyone again after such a long time. Family members came from far and wide and trust them to throw a ‘small’ party when they can get enough of the gang together (I couldn’t count the number of people there and knew like 15% only). My brother left my graduation to propose in Paris the day after, nice eh! He taught me everything I know and is still teaching me. My darling sister had her third child and my parents have never been happier since I’ve known them, retirement is a wonderful thing. The first one of my wolf pack is married and it’s still weird to me more than 6 months after. My friends are doing great, switching to wonderful jobs and doing what they really want to do. It has been a very good year for my people.

Some other high points this year… Ozil became a gunner and I sat with Yaya Toure on an hour long flight… YES these things are that important to me, maybe more than you can possibly imagine.

Throughout the year, God has been faithful in my unfaithfulness. This year has shown me I have tough skin when it comes to disappointment. I changed my perspective on giving and I pray I always have enough to improve it and make it last. I’ve had to make some really big decisions. I’ve seen that I don’t have the answers. I can control only very little. I have to trust God and make sure the most important people and things are catered for in these plans to the best of my ability. Uncertainty kills me but we live in an uncertain world, so I’ve finally agreed to go with the flow and run my own race.

Sometimes you’re ahead,

      Sometimes you’re behind.

      The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

    Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much

      or berate yourself either.

      Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. – Baz Luhrmann

Before I go, the prayer on my lips on 01/01/2013 at 00:00:01 concerned me, a job and moving back to Nigeria. Thank God that though it tarried, I waited only 353 days…

I’ll be starting a new job in 2014, with new employers and the exciting prospect of travelling to a few countries before settling down in Nigeria pioneering a project. It was really emotional handing in my quit notice at my current office but it’s one of those things that comes with this scam of growing up and moving on.

Thanks for reading (this long post) up to this point. I don’t want to limit God so here’s to an even better 2014.

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You thank us when we should be THANKING you for raising our faith and spirits. Your account reads like the victory lap of a gladiator in a chariot and all I can say is, God give you the grace to keep your head and trust in him. Thank you for sharing Muyiwa 🙂

Midnight Surprise: Jason

2013

There’s a Stephen King story, about a man who finds a finger crawling out of his sink. At the end, having looked in the face of horror and driven to the verge of insanity, the man asks a question and receives the answer.
“Why,” he asks, “Do bad things happen to good people?”

2013 had a lot of pain inside it.

At the start of the year, some impish devil curled up behind my right ear and whispered: this will be the year that breaks itself across your back.
I found that very poetic. And also distressing.
So I shrugged it off, and braced myself. 

Time and again this year, I could feel the great weight bearing down on me. The great tide flinging itself again and again against me, the eternal wheel rolling to crush me in its spokes.
And me, one single solitary human being bearing up under the weight. Adrift in the middle of chaos. Treading water, straddling air. 

But all that activity turned out to be hardly as important as it sounds.

The most important part of this year, if I am to be honest, is that I loved a girl.
Some people are lucky and meet someone they can love for the rest of their lives. A standard by whom all other loves will stand or fall. The one great true love of their lives.
She is mine.

And though the year was full of pain, there she was in the middle: the recurring theme, the plot holding the madness together, the thread woven through the patchwork of the ragged quilt.

And when I look back at 2013, it is her face I see. Painted over the angry swirls and whorls.
And for this, I am truly grateful.

Books I enjoyed: 
Terry Pratchett’s DiscWorld Series, Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, Robin Hobb’s Farseer Trilogy, Isaac Asimov’s End of Eternity and Foundation Series, Max Broooks’ Zombie Survival Guide.

Movies I enjoyed: 
Man of Steel, Olympus has Fallen.

TV Shows I got into:
Dexter, Walking Dead, Arrested Development

Unutterable feats of awesomeness performed
Many. All unutterable

Things I lost: 
My way, on a visit to my brother’s.
1 blackberry phone charger
1 blackberry phone (found later found at my brother’s)
1 pair of slippers (they were a gift. If you took them, know I will find you and exact my revenge)

Lessons learned:
Not to fall asleep during a serious conversation with a lady. It does not become the amusing anecdote you hope it will.

Not to go for premier of ANY Nigerian movie, especially one your friend invites you to. Not only will you have a miserable time, you will be unable to complain about it.

To fight for what I want.

Number of new friends I made:
3

Number of New Friends made I am currently Avoiding:
3

Number of times I said sorry:
> 800 and counting

Number of hours spent wondering if a zombie apocalypse could really happen and planning what to do in the event thereof
13

Most Apt Quote of 2013
“This life…is just a pot of beans.”

Saddest thing about 2013
I felt the pain of losing life. 3 times.

Worst Song I Listened To
WTF – Etcetera
Truly a horrible song. I encourage everyone to listen to it.

…………………….

Oh yes. About that man and his question.
“Why”, he asked, “Do bad things happen to good people.”

And the answer he came up with -which is the best answer on this issue I have found- is this: Because they can.
Quite simple really, when you think on it.

The imp was right.
This was the year that broke itself across my back.
The year that broke. 
Not me.

And looking back I can see: the important thing is to love. and Live. And not lose faith.
Even when this life is nothing but a pot of beans.

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This life is a pot of beans, but some beans are on top in the pot.