I saw myself standing on a cliff looking across a great expanse of nothingness and I wanted to get to the top of the other mountain. I prayed for God to build a bridge. He did not. I asked for the expanse to be removed. It was not. When I asked God how I was supposed to get to the other mountain, He told me “Ekene, I already gave you wings…stop being afraid to fly”.
This was once the story of my life. Before today.
Perhaps you know that song that goes…”Birds in the sky, you know how I feel…It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn and I am feeling good”, well combine that with the Ibo proverb that says, whenever a man wakes up, is his own morning. Well I would like to tell you the story of my own awakening to my new dawn.
I had a relatively good life, on paper, everything was as it should have been. I was working as a pharmacist, I had a husband, a daughter, a home…Life was pretty good. However, the reality was that I was terribly unfulfilled in my work and there were other voids in my life that I filled with stuff. And as I filled myself with stuff, became even more disconnected from myself and my true purpose and true power.
You see, the thing of it is that we don’t plan to become disconnected from ourselves and our true power, but it just happens that as we grow from children into adulthood; Life begins to pull you away. You start to believe that who you are is not who you should be and then you begin to take on a different persona. Sometimes it starts really early, with parents who insist that you must study a course that they prefer and not the one of your choice, or perhaps you succumb to the pressure of consumerism, which is easy because it seems like almost everything around you in today’s society is designed to reinforce the notion that you are not good enough. If you drive a toyota, then you should be driving a benz. If you are not carrying a designer handbag, then please go and sit down, because you have not started. Meanwhile inside, your life is crumbling around you.
Just yesterday, I ran into a woman who recalled my story for me…she remembered everyone of the characters in my book the Mrs club and the story really resonated with her. Even as she found the novel hilarious, she connected with many of the truths there. We are more than what people say and we are even more than what we think we are and through great adversity, we can become refined enough to shine.
If we answer that calling within, we will be called to move towards our greatness. To go to the other mountaintop.
All of us were called for some greatness or another. Called to make a difference, (the term may be cliched, the act is not) Called to be relevant, to some person, some people, some nation, some world.
No of course, fear goes with the territory.
I was afraid. Afraid to rock the boat. Afraid to leave the status quo. Afraid to live a life other than the one I had come to know. “The devil you know….” I decided that I would rather not know any devils, thank you very much.
My life has changed. The change started with great pain. Something happened that knocked me back into myself, though I couldn’t comprehend it till much later. And when I met myself, I finally took ownership for my life and responsibility for the space I took up in the world and I started to climb to the top of the mountain I was on.
I started to reinvent myself into myself and that process is ongoing. I had to recognize that as the wise quote said “I was not serving the world by playing small”! I had to step up and take my place.
Today I want to ask you, “Have you been playing small?” Have you been hiding behind red bottomed shoes and high priced handbags? Have you been stuffing yourself with everything from cakes to Chanel? Have you searched for love and approval from men or women, when what you really need is to love and approve yourself. Are you chasing women and yet with each new conquest you feel more and more like a mess…way down deep that is…the part of us that speaks up when our ego is done roaring. The part of us that is the voice of our spirit…The part of us that tells the truth.
Because the truth is no matter how many Range rovers you own, it won’t make you relevant. No matter what circles you move in, your name won’t matter in the grand scheme of things if you have never impacted anyone’s life.
I am not suggesting you give away your finery. I am saying step into it.
Lagos is filled with talented, amazing people. Talented and amazing women in particular. But so many of us hide. So many of us have been told to shut up and look pretty for so long that we have forgotten how to stand up and take our place.
I recently spoke at a women’s christian conference in Lagos, the theme was “I am not my hair!” and it was filled a lot of young vibrant women. I wanted to take off my wig and show them my cornrows…but that would have been when keeping it real goes wrong. I got on the stage and faced those 150 plus women and every word that came out of my mouth was filled with passion, because in the just 2 days I had been in Lagos, I had already seen enough to feel the need in the society as a burden. I had something I had planned to say, but I found myself sounding a clarion call. “Lagos needs you!” “You don’t need a ring to become relevant” “We can’t keep spending our capital on our heads and shoulders” “We were born to make a difference!”
As I said it to them. I said it to myself. This year I had to make a decision. Fly or die. Simple. I was either going to fade away into a life of certain obscurity and die a little every day, or choose a very uncertain path of purpose and live in the space where faith and audacity coexist with fear. You can have fears but choose not to be afraid.
I know it sounds like a luxury for a chosen few. Step out on faith. Live in purpose. But what if it isn’t a luxury but a necessity for your survival. What if it was what you were born to do?
Everything that happens in your life, is for you. To pull or push you closer to yourself. Sometimes that happens by celebrating, as you walk a path closer to your purpose, sometimes that happens by pain being created in your life, because you need to stop, feel and examine your life again and maybe change direction.
I changed direction. Now I teach courses that help people find their direction, courses like refresh yourself and passion spark – turning your passion (your purpose) into profits. Or like create your own silver lining, which is about recognizing the fact that pain can be a tool of transformation. I hold conferences and retreats and I tell you, I have never felt more fulfilled! Of course it’s scary. I am not going to lie. Stepping into a unchartered territories…well, of course it is…but I know that this is the only path worth taking. A path of authenticity. A path of purpose. A path of passion.
I want to invite you to start down this path yourself and return to yourself. Become who you were created to be. The fabulous, amazing, wonderful person you are inside. To look past all the stuff and all the fluff and move confidently in the direction of your greatness.
You can so do this!
As always. Be well. Be happy. Be love.
Ekene Onu, an author and lifestyle strategist is currently hosting a series of workshops in Lagos, Nigeria. Please visit her at www.ekeneonline.com.