It is my 4th Sunday away from church and I’m doing well. I am finally living the dream. This is not the dream, but this is how I feel. I am tired of organized religion, tired of church services, tired of the frequent smiling faces and tired of smiling back. This is why I have been away from church for so long. This is why I am deciding to stop.
The time is about 7 AM. I go through my list of to-dos. I smile. I smile because I am finally a productive ninja and James Clear (and others who consistently send me mails about productivity) will be proud of me.
“But hey, it won’t hurt to go to church, right?” I tell myself. “At least to remind yourself that you don’t belong there”
I agree and prepare to leave the house. I remain resolved to abandon this whole idea of religion.
I walk into the church, still stubborn. They are all excited and I roll my eyes. It’s the same way I roll my eyes when someone says one of these cliché statements or when these misogynistic netizens tweet something I don’t agree with.
It’s about 15 minutes into the service and I am jumping and shouting and trying to hide the tears from my eyes. The choir is singing one of my favourite songs from Hillsong and I can’t hold back what I feel. I can’t remember the particular song, but it is a reminder and I love reminders. My hands are in the air as I jump all over like those church fanatics you don’t like.
“This is you, Bolu,” I think to myself.
I laugh out loud because I can’t imagine that I thought I could let go of this. I can’t imagine that I thought God would let go of me. I continue to dance and sing and shout. As soon as service ends, I walk out as fast as I can, head bowed and gaze fixed on the phone in my hand. I’ll be damned if I have to wait to hang around after service or not be the first person to walk out of the doors. I convince myself that it’s because I’m an introvert.
We had just finished a 2-hour plus service at my home church in Lagos. I like to leave the church immediately service ends, sometimes before. One perk of being me is taking a 2-day break after a 5-hour intensive interaction with people.
But, today, like last week, I can’t leave.
I have sighted Charles and Ore during the service. I love them, and besides, it would be rude to disappear into thin air after service.
“Where can we get ice cream for this young man?” Charles motions toward Ore midway into our conversation. I suggest Mr. Biggs. It’s only a few meters from the church. We agree. Ore is the active type. He wants to greet everybody and introduce us (Charles and me) to everybody. It’s Ore, he can do what he wants with me.
We make our way out of the church to Mr. Biggs. But, as soon as we leave, we meet David and his friend on their way to Shoprite. We don’t think twice. Who goes to Mr. Biggs when Shoprite is an option, anyway?
As soon as we get to our destination, we dive right into it. While we take bites of our Cold Stone ice cream, we share our thoughts on feminism, inequality, life, relationships, social media, misogyny, activism. We talk about it all. In between conversations, I scream “I get it,” or “Oh my gosh, yes!” when someone says something I agree with or I realize a truth. Ore says something deep and Charles leaps from his seat – dramatic like me – and screams “I caught that one!”
I am the last to finish my ice cream. I think it is because I am an ajebota, or maybe I’m just dramatic.
This is my tribe. They get it. I doze off intermittently in the bus. I can’t wait to get home. As soon as I do, I crash on my bed, tired but fulfilled. I had a great outing. I am exhausted and I’ve not had enough sleep but I am fulfilled.
29 July 2018
It’s my last day at Joy, Inc. I joined the team in February and rose to team leader, email composer, administrator, tech guy, gist partner, innovator, all-round problem solver and the boss’s favourite. I do a lot of things so it’s hard to share my responsibilities among the guys who make up the core team. I have a few things to finish up. I promise I will do them in the next few days.
Then it’s time for us to pray.
As CJ, my boss, offers kind words about me to God, the tears trickle down my cheeks. “Bolu has been such a blessing to me, the team and the company in these few months. I pray that…”
I try to hold it back. “I am battling toxic masculinity but I should just be crying everywhere,” I think to myself.
As we end the prayer, the team notices I am holding back tears. Everyone is unsure of what to do. We teach joy and we teach people it’s okay to feel things even deeply. “Crying is such a holy thing,” CJ says.
As if affirming that it is okay to cry and removing the barrier in my tear glands, I burst into another round of tears. I am now crying loudly. Damola removes my glasses and goes to get me tissue paper to wipe my mess. It lasts for about 30 minutes amidst hugs from everyone.
The stories are there in my heart. They are the moments I constantly live for. They are the moments I think of now and ask myself why I, in 2016, was looking for the easiest (and least painful) way of taking my life.
Now, when I think about what home means, the answer is not too far-fetched. Sometimes, home is in the grand gestures. The birthday surprises, neatly wrapped gifts, credit alerts, boxes of pizza, books, drinks and tight hugs.
Other times, it’s in little gestures: the closely knit community of friends, after church rides, the strong scent of communal gatherings, hands in worship, and constant gist about this journo life.
Loud laughter, shared stories, and lots of lessons – that is home.
Sometimes too, home is in the inconsequential things. It’s in WhatsApp voicenotes, the unsaid words, favorite TV series, movies, in constant replays of all my cherished songs. I am home when I am on my pocket app, reading with my full range of emotions – crying when I need to, screaming when I need to, sighing just when I need to.
It is also a pack of Happy Hour and chocolates on my work desk.
I have come to learn that home is not always a place, a person or a situation, and that many times, I can be oblivious to home because it comes in seemingly insignificant packages and I am constantly on the look out for a grand gesture.
I am reminded that home is me. I do not have to be needy for love and acceptance. Home is what I carry and I am able to reproduce home when I want, where I want, and how I want. I can be on my bed, reading through the series of rejection mails, hungry and not knowing where the next source of income will come from, but still be at home. Hopeful. They say, “Home is where the heart is.” I understand. I agree.
Home is peace. Home is love. Home is fellowship. Home is connection. Home is me. I now know home. I wish I could say that I hold tightly to home, not wanting to lose it, but home clings to me. It’s not letting go anymore. There is no home without me. What does home mean to you?
Photo Credit: Dreamstime