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Onomarie Uriri: Life Is a Beach… Jump On The Biggest Wave



When I was a child, say about 6 years old, my dad took the whole family to the beach – Bar beach if I remember correctly. Don’t worry; it really was a proper nice looking beach in those days, not the ecological mess that it has become now. But I digress.

We went to the beach; I think to celebrate my uncle’s forthcoming wedding or something like that. Anyway, so we’re in those raffia-built tents, and I’m joyfully chomping away on fried rice and fried meat, sipping on Fanta, and feeling absolutely cool with myself when my uncle goes:
“Onoms, hurry up and finish eating so we can go and swim.”
I stop. Look at my uncle, then look towards the sea, and then I continue eating. Maybe I didn’t hear him well the first time.
“Did you hear me? Eat quickly, so we can go and swim.”
The delicious bits of fried meat turn to rocks in my mouth, so I chase them down with Fanta.
“What is wrong with this man?” I wonder silently to my 6 year-old self. Perhaps no one has told him that even though I love coming to the beach, I HATE getting wet. The farthest I ever go is letting the water touch my feet, before quickly scampering back to the tent to enjoy more food and juicy adult conversation. That has ALWAYS been my modus operandi, why does he want to change it now?

“Uncle I can’t swim” I mumble quietly, hoping to God that my father doesn’t hear. You see, it’s half-way between a truth, and a lie, because I’ve conveniently forgotten the weekend swimming lessons I’m currently having at Ikoyi club. But HE doesn’t need to know that.
“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you” he chimes in happily.

My mum is a few feet away, now listening with rapt concentration, so I can’t sigh. I can’t frown. And being a well-brought up child who is afraid of my mum’s legendary ‘Igbaju” (Yoruba mother anyone?), I definitely CANNOT show any sign of displeasure. So I smile painfully and murmur a meek “Okay.”

An hour later, when my food has digested, my uncle leads me out to the sea. I’m more irritated than afraid that he has disrupted by plan for the perfect beach day, and away from my mother, I now have the confidence to plaster a huge scowl on my face. If my uncle notices, he blissfully ignores it and keeps giving me tips on how to swim at sea. *insert rolling-eye smiley*

Soon, I’m almost stomach-deep in salty water with my uncle who seems to be having a blast. I’m floating and just barely giving the whole process any effort at all, when suddenly, a huge wave comes and I find myself totally submerged. This thing happens in a split second, and the next thing I know, I’m gasping for air, spluttering and trying to keep my head above water.
My uncle. My dear uncle is laughing. Like he’s almost clapping sef.
“That was great, wasn’t it? I like the big waves!”

I’m speechless. Here I am, soaking wet, sand in my hair and all over my body, my nose runny, and my eyes stinging from the abundance of salt water, and this man is here laughing? What is funny?
With all the righteous indignation my 6 year-old voice can muster, I say very calmly:
“Uncle I want to go back, I’m tired.”
And that’s when it gets real.
“We’ll go back soon. Just after we wait for another big wave; I want to show you how to jump into one.”
At this point, I’m wondering why my parents decided to let me go with this lunatic man, because now, I’m convinced, he wants to kill me.
“Jump inside the wave ke?” Can he not see what the last wave did to me?
But it’s hopeless. So teeth chattering, looking like a drowned cat, I wait.
Soon enough, we see the ‘big wave’ approaching.
“Make sure your feet are firm on the ground, and when it’s almost close to you, spread your arms wide, and jump right in.”
All of these instructions come at me rapidly in less than maybe 30 seconds, so I really just have time to obey…or disobey. I do the former.

The wave is huge, massive in fact, and I’m a little scared, but very excited. So I close my eyes, spread my arms and jump/dive right in. When I open my eyes, the wave has passed and I’m still standing; even if a little wobbly, but I’m there. My uncle, he’s laughing at my stunned expression of wonder.

“You liked it ba? I knew you would! The first time is always the best.”
Eyes sparkling, I nod in silence. I’m too awestruck. I feel powerful, wise and confident all at once.
“Can we do it again?”

He laughs loudly again.
“Maybe some other time, we need to go back.”
As we head back to the tent, I feel like I’ve experienced something magical, exhilarating and new.

24 years later, and counting, there have been countless moments in my life where I have referred back to the lessons of that particular experience.

Life will test, stretch and stress you. While we are doing the things we are used to doing normally in life, something, or someone will interrupt us. It may be something we are unused or unwilling to do. It might bring moments of irritation, discomfort, confusion, and even fear, but we should embrace those new experiences anyway. Because when you are brave enough to conquer fear and do something new, the universe opens up and lets you experience what feels like magic.

But best of all, you come away from it feeling wiser, more knowledgeable and with the added benefit of gaining insight.
Life is a beach; take a chance on the biggest wave.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Serge Bertasius

Francesca is the Head of Communications for West Africa at Uber. A Public Relations and Communications expert with 11+ years’ experience spanning corporate relations, corporate reputation management, event architecture, media management and content development, Francesca has worked on a broad range of projects and accounts, providing strategic communication and media engagement strategy for a variety of Fortune 500 companies, social impact organizations, and start-ups. She is also the Founder of Leading Ladies Africa; a women empowerment non-profit that celebrates the lives of African women, and promotes leadership, diversity and gender inclusion. Follow her @zanyfran on Twitter and Instagram Running in Heels is a (safe) place where we can have honest, heartfelt, “no-frills” conversations about being career women (and men) in the workplace.


  1. Derry

    December 11, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Lol @ yoruba mothers., the fear of igbaju, igbarun etc. is the beginning of wisdom.
    I loved this, and yes you’ve got to take chances on the big wave.

    • Jo!

      December 11, 2014 at 10:33 am

      igbaju, igbarun, ifoti, iladi, ifaya,

    • The K

      December 11, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Can you please translate those words to English? I have learnt to speak Nigerian pidgin and I’m now grappling with all these Igbo and Yoruba slangs. I hope to learn as many as possible. I like it when everybody around thinks I’m Nigerian because the moment I switch to French and other languages, they become even more endeared to me :). Thank you 🙂

  2. Flourish

    December 11, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I love this, very encouraging.

  3. Ada Nnewi

    December 11, 2014 at 9:48 am

    BN all these lovely articles…you people are in the spirit today…

  4. Madam Events

    December 11, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Francesca Onomarie Uriri…. I knew you would go places. Nice piece.

  5. Fashionbabe

    December 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Nice piece Sist!

  6. Shadylaj

    December 11, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    Go Girl! Nice write up! Yes, you do love food……lol

  7. Tkum

    December 11, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    loool….i totally enjoyed it…laughed so hard my boss started giving me questioning looks.

  8. omobabola

    December 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    Nyc 1,, very inspiring….tnks my sista

  9. Tee

    December 11, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Nice read!

  10. AD

    December 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    I have very (very) few idols and you’re one of them. I haven’t decided who my biggest idol is but this is one those times it feels like that idol is you!

  11. Theresa Doghor

    December 11, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Absolutely lovely
    Do write your book.
    I will buy it.

  12. Nekwu Ikwuwunna

    December 11, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Nice encouraging and edifying. Looking forward to more from this gifted writer.

  13. bidemi

    December 13, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Very inspiring. Your writing always moves me. Thank you for this.

  14. MOU

    December 18, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Nice to know how you really felt when I took you into the water…..Happy it inspired such a lovely and inspiring article….Keep it up dear

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