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#BN2018Epilogues: Ireju Has Learned to Throw Out All Her Plans

BellaNaija.com

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Remember when we asked you to send in essays discussing how 2018 was for you? Because, you know, writing can be the best therapy. And sharing your joy and pain and all the emotions you’ve felt through the year can only be a good thing.

For Ireju, 2018 was a trying year. She’d be arduously adhering to schedules she made ahead of the year, but a great loss arrived and her plans and goals were thrown out the window. She’s only taken out learning points from it all, remaining thankful.

***

2018. I like to think of it as the year God overestimated me. A year of death, stretching, and falling in love with Johnny Drille.

2017 was a hard year, or so I thought, and, surely, this was my year. And it started out so. I wrote down my goals for all areas of my life and proceeded to crush them. I thought the problem with 2017 was I was unprepared. 2018 wouldn’t catch me unaware.

In January, I commenced my one-year Bible reading plan and brushed my teeth twice daily. I was determined 2018 would be the year I finished reading my bible for the umpteenth time, my year of adulting. I was finally repairing my relationship with God.

February, Valentine’s Day came and passed with me still single. Johnny’s music kept me company. I even wrote a post to my future husband on a friend’s blog. The year was still young.

In March, I finally got a copy of Arese Ugwu‘s Smart Money Woman in expectation of my new job in faith. I needed to get a hold of my finances. In April, I revamped my CV and attended back-to-back job interviews.

May 13th, I got a life-changing call. ”Your dad is dead.”

I remember saying to the caller, “My dad is dead? Thank you for calling,” and hanging up, right there and then the world stopped and my carefully orchestrated plans flew out of the window.

Now that I look back I realise that I was numb the entire time. I didn’t cry. To everyone else, I was strong. But I was on autopilot. My dad, like every human being, was deeply flawed. But being a father was the one thing he got right in life. The hardest part was dealing with the never-ending stream of calls, visitors and the funeral rites, when all you want to be is alone.

My life began to seem like a poorly produced Nollywood film with the wailing mourners and kinsmen you’d never seen before showing up, all of them with unreasonable demands, insisting on tradition, and the intricacies of inter-tribal marriage beginning to unravel.

In July, we laid my dad to rest and that was when I truly began to grieve. Death is an education that life cannot give. It changes how you view life. When death arrives, grief is the present that it leaves you with, long after the mourners, the funeral, and the condolences are said. Learning to live again means learning to live with grief as a constant companion. Nobody tells you that long after the condolences have been paid, when you hear the Stevie Wonder song play randomly, when the dashboard reads 16/11/17 at work, you remember someone missed his birthday. Nobody listens to the early morning news on the radio; you used to find it annoying, now it just spells loneliness. When you’re shopping in the supermarket and you see the Tia Maria drink on the stand, you stop and realize no one will ever bring that drink home to ask for your hand in marriage; that was his favourite drink.

Three days after my dad’s death, I got a job offer. I swiftly declined the offer as it required me travelling to a different city for a two-week training. Even the HR person could hear the lack of enthusiasm in my voice. For someone who had been unemployed for a year, it didn’t seem so important anymore. But my friends and family thought I needed a distraction. I acquiesced when my mum reminded me it would have made my dad happy. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I realized that there are no days off in life. God will walk with you through the valley of shadows but you actually have to take the first step.

In all of this, my faith was deeply battered and the Christian lingo of God knows best didn’t make sense to me. Oh, I went through the motions of church. I was angry. None of it made sense to me. Nobody seemed to get it. I shut my bible and my heart. Until my friend Dee who lost her mum in February told me that I was allowed to be angry at God. That my prayer time shouldn’t be a religious exercise. That if I needed to vent, cry and tell him he failed me, that did not invalidate my faith. That was when I truly began to heal and I felt like I could forgive God.

I began my faith walk again and discovered the sweet comfort of the Holy Spirit.

In July, I discovered Sarah Jakes Roberts. I binge-watched all her YouTube sermons and it felt like every message was for me. I finally opened my bible again in September.

Adulthood has a chapter called confusion. When it comes to choosing a career, especially when you haven’t found your passion or you aren’t entrepreneurial in nature, you can begin to feel like a failure. But it’s okay if you haven’t figured it out.

In 2018, I learned that my purpose is not in my career. Whether I’m at my 9-5 job resolving an issue with a client whose wedding dress is yet to arrive, writing a blog post that makes someone smile, or listening to a complete stranger who has a terrible day on my way home from work, I’m fulfilling purpose as long as I keep Jesus at the center.

Epic fails for me this year were: not reaching my financial goals; being an absent friend because I was so consumed with my life; not learning how to sew; and letting fear talk me out of opportunities like applying to be a contributor to one of my favorite lifestyle blogs late. Even though I missed the deadline, I got a positive feedback and an offer to submit articles if I had any of interest. But then the voices in my head told me I wasn’t Atoke. Nobody needed to read anything I wrote. I agreed with procrastination and shut the laptop and all the content ideas I had went out the window.

If I submit this entry, this will be the first full length post I finish writing since the 13th of May.

In all the craziness of 2018, I  have to say it strengthened the bond I share with my siblings. It was truly us against the world. Also, I have been incredibly blessed with friendships. I have had to redefine family as something not necessarily along bloodlines to include my diverse circle of friends who supported me on this journey. My best friends who sat with me on the ride to the hospital when I got that life changing call, who told me when I got a job offer to take it, and who took turns to visit and prepare meals for my family when I had to leave for two weeks. B who brought me celeb gossip on WhatsApp to take my mind of all the suicidal thoughts. My friends like sisters who were hundreds of miles away and praying for me, setting up a schedule even when I wouldn’t take calls. Pee who left her exams and traveled from a different state to come support me on the burial day. G who with all my ex-schoolmates brought a lot of jokes. M and A, my new friends who gave me the beautiful gift of their friendship. If I missed mentioning any friend, forgive me, my hands are tired.

I have been to more funerals and hospitals than I can count this year and I have had to support friends and family who have lost loved ones or are in critical heath conditions. I understand better and let them cry and try not to say, God knows best. They will arrive at that conclusion by themselves. All I do is hold their hand and listen, that’s what my loss thought me. So on the days my challenges threaten to overwhelm me, I wake up, show up with a smile, and live not because I want to but because I am reminded that someone somewhere needs me to make it so that they can believe in a God they do not see.

You may not see it, the same way you don’t see the seed growing. You don’t feel the ground moving until the seed sprouts up.

2019, I have thrown out all my plans. With my life, I feel like I have had to perform with an audience watching, with God flipping the script on me, me having to learn new lines on stage. I’m not scared anymore. He always gives me the right words to say.

***

You can read up on previous editions of BN 2018 Epilogues here and send in your essays to features(at)bellanaija(dot)com. Let us know all the twists and turns and successes 2018 came with. Send your mail with the title “2018 Epilogues.”

18 Comments

  1. Teekay

    December 4, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    I can relate to this.

    I wouldnt say this is my worst year but i struggled through out this year.

    Moving back to nigeria was the worse decision i have made.

    I cant even pick one goal i have achieverd this year.Struggling to get a job and meeting dissappintment could be the headline of this year.

    I have lost my faith in God and i have cried so much i feel like i am a failure.

    Sokeone told me about been grateful this year and it was difficult for me to be grateful.

    I have been so consumed with life that i just try to keep away with friends and love.

    I am thankful for my bestfriend And few friends that understand me in my silence.

    One thing i know is 2018 tested me in every areas of my life , i look back and i cant believe i survived this year..

    It was hard but i am grateful that i have another opportunity to try again and hope to have a better years ahead.

    • Fifi

      December 4, 2018 at 11:18 pm

      My faith was tested this year also.

      I would scroll through Facebook and Twitter and see people listing their achievements and feel I have failed at all levels.
      My business has been stagnant since last year, no client. I’ve reduced and reduced and reduced the price for my services but no.

      My depression worsened that I can’t count the number of times I’ve contemplated suicide.

      Each time I want to pray, words refuse to come that I just result into crying. Sometimes I just say to myself maybe God doesn’t even like me.
      It’s tiring. Everything is tiring but I will keep trying and living. It’s just tiring.

    • didi

      December 5, 2018 at 7:39 am

      @ FIFI Hmmm, alot of people will highly estimate you because it takes a lot of courage to own a business, my dear you are a phenomenal woman. Trust me these hard times for your business is intentional to enlarge your capacity,it will eventualy turn out for your good.

    • didi

      December 5, 2018 at 7:43 am

      @ ireju you are soo inspiring and for all your pain you wil get double joy and laughter come 2019 you are in my prayers.

    • Mz Socially Awkward....

      December 5, 2018 at 1:59 pm

      I moved back as well, you’re in good company. 🙂

      Let me know if you ever want to talk.

      @Ireju, you wrote from the heart and proved that there’s space for you on any writing platform, right beside anyone else. Praying for all the best that you could have imagined, in 2019.

  2. Bijoux

    December 4, 2018 at 3:08 pm

    This is beautiful!

  3. Jay

    December 4, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    This is a well written piece @Ireju. Your year was truly eventful. I thank God for your friends who stood by you and the Holyspirit for bringing comfort. You will flourish in 2019 God willing

  4. Berry Dakara

    December 4, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing your year so eloquently. My heart goes out to yours on your devastating loss. I am thankful for your friend Dee, who told you that it’s fine to be angry at God and ask why. God understands all your feelings, even if you try to hide them because society says you should. And He’s perfectly fine (and would rather) your honesty – remember He already knows how you feel!

    Sending hugs to you now and in the coming year. God bless.

  5. Ajala & Foodie

    December 4, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    “God Knows Best”, “It is well” insensitive, religious speaks that Nigerians use instead of just keeping quiet or simply saying a prayer. I want to say, if it is well, why is this person dead? In my angry state sometimes I think, you loose a loved one and then tell me “how well it is”. That God knows best or not is not the issue. I honestly did not use to say anything when someone lost a loved one. I will be the one buying groceries and bringing them/ organzing outings and events. Now, all I say is I am so sorry, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Preferably with catered food/cash ( people don’t realize how expensive funeral arrangements cost, even a small no party funeral)/ gift basket or a combination of these things.
    Dear author, I pray strength for you and your entire family. We have all experienced letting go of all our “plans”. One thing I have learned in the recent years is that control is an illusion.

    • molarah

      December 8, 2018 at 3:09 am

      We are somewhat deviating by focusing on a minor section of this post, but I have to say this. It is too easy to term others as insensitive when you don’t understand that everyone is processing your loss in their own way. People are at a loss and default to phrases that try to bring a sense of normalcy back: judging them for this seems unreasonable. Let’s think about this PC-policing world we are creating where 80% of things people say are “insensitive”, because people will clam up out of fear rather than express their sympathy. And poorly-expressed sympathy is better than no expressed sympathy at all, because there’s no need to add loneliness to the pain already associated with loss. No need to expect perfectly constructed condolences: accept the flaws of those that love you and want to be there for you.

    • Elle

      December 9, 2018 at 2:21 pm

      Thanks molarah, I totally agree with your views. People show sympathy in different ways, and what doesn’t help one person e.g. “it is well” could bring succour to another.

  6. Adeola

    December 4, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    Authentic writing. May God continue to give you and us all the strength to forge on……

  7. Manny

    December 4, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    You write well. The voices saying you’re not Atoke…….you don’t have to be Atoke. You are a good writer in your own right.

  8. Ephi

    December 4, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    Your story is so touching, but you know what? In the midst of it all you’ve got many blessings to be thankful for, one of which is the AMAZING friends you have and the people you are surrounded with. Godspeed in 2019!

  9. Nkay

    December 5, 2018 at 2:32 am

    Wow,this is so nice. Indeed 2018 is a trial year but in all things we give thanks to the lord. I love you Ireju,more grace

  10. Mee

    December 5, 2018 at 3:25 am

    Awwwwwwwwn, Jureju..

    I followed the link from your WhatsApp status and here I am having my most interesting and heart warming read of the year.
    All I can and have been able to do after reading this is just the ‘Awwwwwwwwn’s and plenty tears in my eyes. I haven’t been able to find words.
    Sending plenty hugs and kisses dear Jessy.
    This is beautiful!

  11. Steph

    December 5, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    Ireju, i am so sorry for your loss and i know that the comforter would never depart from you and your family. I was in the exact situation in 2017. I lost my dad in February and even got a job offer in June, My life has definitely not been the same since that incident but God is a faithful God.

    I pray you find peace and excel in 2019. P.S You write very beautifully, please dont stop writing

  12. Rikitava

    December 11, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    You know I was thinking about it, like this year has been all shades of curves.

    But through it all, the most important things still remain. I started this year on a very bleak note and here I am full of hopes and bursting with so much excitement for what 2019 holds
    God has been faithful and I am grateful for his grace and strength.
    May 2019 be the year of God perfects all that he was started in our lives.

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