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Vanessa Onyema: Down the Monstrous Rabbit Hole

Vanessa Onyema



I’ve never been so sure of a year like I was of 2016. I was highly optimistic; my joy knew no bounds as I jumped and danced in church during crossover night so eager to embrace the year, the year where everything falls into place.

Like an Alice in my Wonder year I believed as many as six impossible things – before the year was over. I believed I would start my side hustle and it was really going to blow me. I believed in a lot of things; my faith was so strong and I worked hard towards all I had planned.

The year started well, lots of love, lots of laughter in a way I knew it would all come to fruition so I lived every day of it in optimism.

But then it all started.

The blow came when I lost everything. My phone got stolen, with all my backed up files that I could have used to take my work to a whole new level. In all my hurry for my big break, I never thought of DropBox, or even backing it up elsewhere in case of the inevitable. So, I lost a whole work and I was toppled back to scratch.

I didn’t have a laptop, so I worked with my phone. My work comprises mostly of digital painting, so it was more flexible using my phone. Now, imagine after a whole series of painting, your fingers going numb, you lose it all and you are just left staring at all the A4 papers of your rough sketch.

Life had given me a Jabberwocky to slay.

I found myself sinking fast and deep into depression. This was my dream I thought this year was when I get to have my ultimate breakthrough, I thought everything was thrown at me, I thought that if this was really my dream then that phone shouldn’t have been stolen.
But I was wrong.

Before you take up an important task, or before you move steps further in your career, you must first take care of yourself.

I was doing everything because I wanted people to see what I could do, I wasn’t even doing it for me, I was going about it the wrong way. The jabberwocky I needed to slay was in me.

The Impatient Jabberwocky
I wanted my breakthrough so much that I forgot that these things take time. Remember the infamous saying about whatever is worth doing is worth doing well.

The Compliant Jabberwocky
I always thought that if I seek the approval of people I will feel much better about myself, and what I do. But the more I sought for it, the less it came. No one cared because they were faced with what was intriguing at the moment so I had to learn that true validation comes from within.

The No Strategy Jabberwocky
To me I was gathering content for my work, I didn’t even have a plan or I thought I did. I researched less and I was more focused on doing it first. I was thinking about the rest, without actually thinking of what I would have done if it all goes wrong.

The Inexperienced Jabberwocky
I had little or no experience in what I did because I was self taught; so instead of training myself more and mastering the art more, I was more focused on the harvest  –  even though I was farming with blunt tools.

For what it is worth, I am glad that phone was stolen.

It helped me understand my work better and actually value it. It made me understand the importance of content building, research and reading. Like I was always advised by my dear friend, build your content so you won’t be confused and overwhelmed when it is time for you to take the next step.

This also goes out to everyone who wishes to be self employed, who prays that the side hustle pays, never rush it. Take care of it like your baby. Remember, everything needs time to grow so don’t be blindsided by other people who are reaping their harvest bountifully. They might have been in the game longer than you are, and when it is your time, everything must fall into place.

Am I also confident about 2017? Of course, but the year will take absolute care of itself.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime


  1. anonymous

    December 18, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Adventurous and thoughts racking writing.
    Really loved the last paragraph plus the golden advise ” They might have been in the game longer than you are, and when it is your time, everything must fall into place.”

  2. My 2016 Story

    December 18, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    My 2016 story is one of great lows, confusion and great highs.

    Started the year optimistic, full of energy and all. Being in the abroad, life was good. Fast forward to the end of April, I didn’t get paid for the month, like this was a company in the UK. Later found out that the company I work with was having issues with cash flow and struggling to stay in business. Early May I and sixty other staffs were made redundant as the company went into administration.

    I still remember that day, I was shocked and confused at the same time. While other bristish nationals were mourning the loss of their jobs, I was mourning the loss of my job and my tier 2 sponsorship visa.

    Although I always wanted to come back to Nigeria, I just went with the flow of my job and visa because I basically was in the UK mainly because of work. So now I had a dilemma to either get a new job/sponsor or to come back to Nigeria. I love Nigeria but to be honest I didn’t want to come back immediately as I had been out for over 5 year and was scared.

    Well I made the decision to come back in June just when things were getting tough in Naija, good thing is I had the support of family however change is never easy and having to depend on family after being independent is tough.

    Got into naija and was basically hiding most of the time, I put a lot of pressure on my self, I didn’t find it hard to adjust into naija as I kept in touch with friends and contact while I was away, however the changes were difficult to deal with eg. Lots of unanswered job applications, no feedback or acknowledgment of my applications, not even an “unfortunately” email telling me I had not been shortlisted. Overtime I started doubting myself, my skills and experience. Still had faith in God.

    Fast forward to September, I got a good paying job in my area of specialization, without any connections, I am grateful to God for taking me through the difficult 5 months of this year and turning my story around for good. I am more than happy for where I am currently and even more positive for the year 2017.

    • Sylvee

      December 19, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      The story of my life except in my case I’m still yet to get a good paying job or anything at all but I’m hopeful.

  3. Marlvina

    December 18, 2016 at 6:08 pm

    Good read. And that’s the spirit. Everything would fall into place at the right time.

  4. ali_vinsane

    December 18, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Another important lesson would be to make periodic backups

  5. Nneoma Onyema

    December 19, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    It’s all about being patient don’t look at what is going on in other people’s life. All this social media life styles are all fake. Just believe in God & yourself.

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