In the spirit of celebrating Nigeria’s Independence, I believe it is a good time to share my move back to Nigeria story. It is a good time to take stock and reflect on some of the outcomes of my decision. I decided to share this story because there is a profound lesson I have learnt, which I hope will also benefit you.
It’s not the typical story of “I had a job waiting for me, that was highly paid and I lived and mingled with the high brows of society.” It is also not the story of “I moved back and in just one year I met the man of my dreams and had a fairy tale wedding.”
My story is quite the contrary. Born and raised in the UK, I decided over 5 years ago that I wanted to move to Nigeria. I needed an escape from London which had become filled with traumatic memories that was significantly impairing my wellbeing. In making this decision I had numerous people tell me “’oh don’t worry, you’ll get a great job so easily with all your education and by the time you start ‘blowing’ that your Queen’s English you’ll be just fine”. I had friends move back and do so well, and it all looked like a breeze. So, 3 years later I finally took the step.
I was filled with such a certainty that my story would be no different. I bounced off the plane with fresh skin, crisp English and wide eyes for all the massive opportunities waiting for me, simply because I was from the diaspora. I was ready to leave my life of isolation, stress and depression in London, to face the glowing warmth of Lagos’ vibrant rhythms and beats. Yes, Lagos was my homecoming, my escape and my chance to live in the land of opportunities. Oh how lovely and melodious all this sounds right? Well, the CD scratched, and the record became inaudible. My Lagos landing was definitely not the easy landing I had expected.
Firstly, I was stunned by the fact that, for the first time in my whole working history, I got zero responses to the many job applications I made. I realized that having connections was one thing, but getting those connections to help out, was an entirely different dialogue and one that was often conditionally based on what would be given in exchange. This shell shock experience caused me to concede that I would have no choice but to get qualified in Nigeria as I had practiced in the UK as a lawyer. To say the least, law school proved to be my most harrowing educational experience ever, and I was singled out and referred to as ‘English Speaking’. That had been my name for the whole 15 months of my ordeal at law school. Needless to say, the second lesson I swiftly learnt, was that Nigeria was a leveler. In my case, my Queen’s English did not pave the way o! Rather it made people want to use it to prove the point that I can’t just land and expect gold at me feet.
Now let’s not talk about the men! In fact, actually let’s talk about it. Stick with me here, because the outcome of my story is warming. And no, it’s not the predictable ending of “oh I got a great job in the end and found true love”. I’m still working on that part! But definitely there is an upside to the end of my moving back story, which I will unveil in the next few lines.
So, the men. Well, I had been warned that Lagos is a jungle of testosterone and a complex maze of ‘Lagos girls’ where there are no rules and where truly the hustle is real. Oh I met guys alright… many, in fact. I attracted a whole range; but the constant flow of men I attracted were married men. As a woman in her mid-30s already with children, clearly I was seeking to attract a mature and well exposed man, who understood the importance of parenthood, financial stability and was ready to give relationships another try. Sadly most of the ‘suitable’ candidates, all came with a ring on their finger. This would be my greatest test and one I had to pass with flying colours.
I faced temptations I never thought I would ever come across and though I fought against them and triumphed in the end. It left me drained and in despair. I questioned everything about myself: my decision making abilities and my future.
Can I say there were not times I cried at my decision to move to Lagos? Certainly not. I cried many times. More so out of feeling foolish that I thought my relocating would be so smooth sailing. Feelings of regret held me by the throat as I could not voice out, that indeed this decision may have been a bad idea for me after all. I contemplated leaving Nigeria many times.
But guess what? 3 years on, and I am still very much rooted in Nigeria. Why? The answer is this. Yes, there are times when you make a decision in life with a strong conviction, but that conviction never comes with the warning of ‘beware hard times to follow’.
Whilst my post has been laden with woes and gloom, the truth is, in the midst of all of that, I have had some of the best experiences in my life so far by living in Nigeria. My moving to Lagos, helped me to discover my purpose which I could not have found anywhere else. The peculiarity of the hurdles I faced in Nigeria, navigated me to where I would find myself. It taught me that, happiness is not tied to a location, a person or finances. I realized that what I had been running away from in London- my unhappiness, still met with me in Lagos, because I had not learnt, that my happiness, was really from within. I had to learn to make myself happy. I know this is a cliché, but how true it is! Today life is still not a bed of roses and frustrations and overwhelm sometimes still pop up. Will I live in Nigeria for the rest of my life? I don’t know; but what I do know is that I chose to stick with my decisions despite how hard it was, because I had conviction. That tenacity has now opened doors on an unimaginable scale.
Have you made a decision you thought was a great one to make but now it seems to be a bad idea? Well let me say this, there’s no time for regret! Stop and look at the lesson you are being taught with this experience. If you do, it will certainly change your life in an upward direction. Sometimes a good idea can seem bad but your attitude will always determine how you can still come out on top notwithstanding.
Comment below on what life lessons you have learnt from your decision making.
Happy Independence to all my fellow Nigerians!
Photo Credit: Stephanie Zieber | Dreamstime.com