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