The moment has been stuck in my head ever since.
It was 17 years ago. I had just won my first prize outside of high school – the British Council Telling Stories competition. The reward was two weeks at one of Nigeria’s choice beachfront under the tutelage of Nigeria’s first female writer, Mabel Segun and literature professor, Karen King-Aribisala.
It was one of the defining moments of my life – coming as it did with a bucket of validation.
But that’s not what stands out from it when I remember. What I remember most is flouting a clear instruction from the unflappable Dr. King-Aribisala. She had asked me not to do something. But I was 17, and so of course, I did it.
She looked at me when I walked up to her. She didn’t raise her voice, she didn’t lower her eyebrow. She didn’t make any dramatic moves. She was completely in control of her space and her body.
But her words were clear and firm.
“Chude, I am very annoyed.”
I could never forget that moment. She was annoyed. She made it clear that this was unacceptable. But she gave that anger no control over her body, over her space, or over her mind. It was as if the anger was external to her. Because, of course, it was.
That command of self and space continues to be a beacon for me, these many years after.
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