WanaWana: How To Drown Out The Noise

I love living in Lagos but the one thing I miss about England is the silence. England for me was solitary to the point where the most familiar voice was the one in my head. Lagos, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. It is physically noisy and even more mentally so. Everyone in Lagos has an opinion on who you should be, how you should be, what you should be doing and how you should be doing it.

The strangest thing is, it doesn’t take very long before you get sucked in and start embracing other peoples ideas of who you are or what it is you must become. From the way you look, to the people you hang with, to the career you should follow, to the things you must do to make it all happen. Except of course you intend to lock yourself up indoors , turn off your phone, disconnect your cable, turn off the lights, or walk around with ear plugs, it can be very challenging silencing this clatter  that reverberates around you daily.

And yes! I have been there too. ‘You don’t go out enough’, ‘You are too accessible’, ‘You are not capitalising on what you have’ and the list goes on and on and on!

I too am guilty of offering advise on a lot of things but having to consciously remind myself to shut up if I wasn’t asked. Lagos is not only loud; the spirit is contagious as well. It’s taken me some time but I’m learning to reconnect with the voice in my head in the mist of all the cacophony because in the end, it all boils down to you, not them but you.

So here are a few things I have started doing to help me drown the noise;

Think long term
I usually like to think long term, so most of the important decisions or choices I make are geared and aligned towards my long term goals. This always keeps me focused. Not to say that I am such a bore that I don’t do fun stuff, but I make sure I identify what they are and  I don’t spend the bulk of my time sucked into the fun stuff that is turns full time. So when I start receiving the avalanche of advise, I just stay focused on my goals.

Let your filter work on overdrive
Advise is good, and most people mean well when they give it to you but not all of their advise is for you. So my filter works on overdrive; remembering that we have a very trend oriented mentality a lot of the time. As Fela called it, ‘Mr follow follow’. So I always take metal notes of what people say, take what is really important from the diverse opinions and well, not necessarily throw the rest all away but just chuck it to the back burner. Most times though, I try not to encourage certain conversations in the first place. Too many thoughts and ideas can become too distracting.

Set out your own milestones
As much as people can motivate me, it’s also very easy for them to do the opposite; de-motivate me. I say this because in the name of unsolicited advise and consultation, I find that people either create their own milestones and expectations for me that I can very comfortably forget what I wanted in the first place. I’ve stuck to creating my own milestones, and no; not self limiting ones like what some people think but realistic milestones that I can measure, take time out to re-calibrate when it is necessary and add more if the need arises. So still pushing myself but on my own terms.

Spending time with inspiring energy and holding on to positive reminders
At the risk of sounding overly new age, I do find that the energy that people radiate can be infectious. Spending time with people with shared values I have realised has been really precious to me. When it looks like I’m straying or feeling a bit scattered, they often remind me of where it is I’m trying to get to. When I graduated from University, I received an email from my tutor which I printed and has been tucked into my purse ever since. A portion of the email says,
You have a fabulous career ahead of you, you have a genuine, natural gift and you have done and will continue to do the hard work to back that up and make it work. Although all of your jobs may not be the dream one, and we all have to go through development stages, please don’t ever compromise your standards or attention to story telling

The email has always been a good reminder for me whenever I felt distracted, stressed out or just flat out exhausted. I am blessed to still have her as a friend and mentor five years later.

I have also been fortunate to make new friendships based on both shared and an exchange of values. Friendships that keep me grounded, friendships that push me and mostly friendships that remind me of what is important.

Remembering our destinies are different
I am human, as much as I hate comparison, I find myself in that place every now and again sometimes wondering why I am either not earning as much or getting as much attention as somebody else and even why I don’t have certain kinds of relationships. But I have to remind myself that our destinies and paths are different. We are all here to do different jobs, and as frustrating as it might get sometimes, it won’t all work out the same way for each and every one of us. The callous thing about comparison is that even when you don’t do it by yourself, somebody else will do it for you. I have had to recognize that though I might be doing similar things as other people, our progresses will all be paced differently.

Staying focused can sound so easy but I find it is one of the most difficult things to do to the point that you might even need a thinking overhaul, and I tell you, with every Lagosian as an expert in relationships, careers, childcare, nutrition and everything under the sun, keeping your eye on a rolling ball can feel like a herculean task you didn’t plan for. You just have to figure out a way to drown out the noise and guard your solitude.

Wana Udobang is a broadcaster and writer. You can check out her other work on www.wanawana.net or follow her on twitter @MissWanaWana

20 Comments on WanaWana: How To Drown Out The Noise
  • Nelo November 21, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Thanks wana…i particularly appreciate the idea that our destinies are different. sometimes the bile from some people who think its a competition: whether its work, relationship, etc. Life is here to be lived…lets do it 🙂

  • Idak November 21, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Wana my girl!!!
    Another beautiful piece from you.
    I respect your talent.
    I still pop in every now and then to see what’s cooking at your Guerilla site.

  • Idak November 21, 2012 at 11:01 am

    On two points made in this piece; Remembering our destinies are different AND Set out your own milestones. I find the scripture that says “and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” very illuminating. I have come to the realisation that no use running a race that ain’t marked out for you and no two individuals have the same race marked out for them. Benchmarking might make sense in business strategy sessions but you need to know where to draw the line when it comes to the race called life.

  • PLUSH & LUSH November 21, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Yes, this culture of sameness is killing and diverting our individual uniqueness. We must all wear the same kind of clothes and hairstyles to fit in. Being different and staying true to yourself has become stressful. It is not peculiar to Lagos alone. It is the new norm in our society. People think you owe them an explanation for daring to be different, and these are not even people related to you in any way. Most people we readily call snobish, unfriendly,stuck-up…even anti-socialare usually people who are just trying to drown out the noise and not lose focus.

  • lilly November 21, 2012 at 11:40 am

    This piece is so true……..

  • Southernbelle November 21, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Wanadem nice one!!!!

  • Tincan November 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I agree. Great article…

  • dezzy November 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I feel the same exactly the same way….. “the one thing I miss about England is the silence. England for me was solitary to the point where the most familiar voice was the one in my head. Lagos, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. It is physically noisy and even more mentally so. “.. Although i live in Abuja but what you’ve been dealing with is no different from Lagos..

  • tomeloma November 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Lovely write-up Wana…the intro got me laughing, so on point too especially about the noise and the danger of losing yourself in other people’s opinion

  • klodyn November 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    So so inspiring.Keep them coming girl.

  • iamfascinating November 21, 2012 at 10:01 pm

    so so true. never ever lose yourself.

  • R November 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Well said

  • Tosin November 22, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Not to be all weird, but this was beautiful. My neighbour’s gen is in my head, but I’m trying to do my goals. I actually will need to get out of here or there may be no more poetry (because poetry sort of requires silence, real extreme silence.)
    On the different paths idea, it’s hard to remember that, but it’s so true. We like difft things, have different strengths, and if you left us in a room to create a masterpiece or project, we would come up with difft things: one would invent a fab hairstyle, one would doodle conceptual art, one would snore like…, another would make up a song, one would beat down the door, … In Naija tho’, we try to tell everybody to aim for the same thing – no to art, no protest, no “useless” pursuits – and that way we sometimes silence the inner genius.

  • Adeori Omoba November 22, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Well Spoken
    But I believe it doesnt matter how well you hold your ground and know who you are,its only a matter of time before you start bulging…Stauts Is Everything In That Country..It Is Ridiculous

  • ofilispeaks November 22, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    awesome piece Wana wana. I do agree that Lagos get loud a lot…in fact Nigeria in general get loud. Everybody wants to tell you how and what to do with your life and after sometime it drives one C##$#!

  • justice November 22, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Refreshing, i like particularly the portion about how people always want to decide how you should be and what you should do. Its like its a sin to be independent in this town.

  • Sephora November 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    GBAM!!! You’re too on point with this article! Thanks for sharing!

  • Temitope Adewoye November 23, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Thanks wana thanks for the part that has to do with setting personal milestones and not being a *follow follow*

  • Myne Whitman (@Myne_Whitman) November 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Great article, but it seems a lot of us allow the noise to drown us.

  • Yemmy December 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Is she the same wana on Inspirational FM

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