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.
The week before I traveled to Bangkok this October, I took my nephews out on a date. While on the date (which proved to be a not so great idea – hanging with two boys below the age of 10 can be tasking), I broke the news that I was moving and they wouldn’t be seeing me until Christmas… maybe. The older one who is 8 years (and very dramatic) of course broke into tears and said: “December! But that’s so far away!” “Come on, it’s only 3 months away.” I cajoled, but he insisted: “3 months is like forever!”
As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t fault his assumptions, after all, when I was a child, the days always seemed too long and Christmas always seemed eons away as well. I guess when you get older, time speeds up or something. I can swear that since I turned 23 and had my first real job + bills, time has raced faster than Barry Allen… 2018 being no exception.
For me , the year has been a kaleidoscope of some sort… if that makes sense. On the 1st of January 2018 when I was writing a list of goals I would like to achieve in the year for instance, travelling to Bangkok for a protracted period of time was not on the list. Hell! A lot of things that has happened in the last 300 and something days has been nothing I envisaged by a long shot. Sure, I achieved certain goals I set for myself… like earning the desired minimum wage I set for myself, getting a car, going on the number of trips I wanted, becoming more extroverted, getting closer to God, e.t.c…but a lot more I never imagined happened to teach me several invaluable lessons. Of course, if narrate them all, I would probably have to publish my own “We’re going to need more wine”, so maybe I’ll settle for sharing 3 of these things I have learned and the events that lead me to the realization.
DO NOT buy a Nigerian Used car
I’m pretty sure you imagined I’d lead with some flowery inspirational tip… but believe it or not, this is very deep. I have never been one who really liked the idea of driving. I would opt for Uber and Taxify any day, but I think I kind of finally caved into pressure from friends advising every day: Why don’t you get a car? (Don’t judge me, no one is completely immune to peer pressure). Of course I wanted something fancy …at least something from year 2010 and above. Actually, my first choice was a Hyundai Elantra but my bank account said no, and with no Sugar Daddy in sight to challenge the account, I found myself with a 2012 Toyota Corolla, Nigerian used of course. Little did I know that I had spent a huge chunk of my savings buying a liability. In addition to the small fortune I spent setting it up, I found that every day was one problem or the other. In fact, at the end of the day, if I added up the entire money I invested in the car in the long run, maybe I would have been able to buy some version a brand new car.
When I finally decided to sell it on Car45, I sold it for much less than I got it for. Oh! And that not even the worst part. During their analysis, the Car45 officials discovered that the car was originally a 2008 model which was revamped to look like a 2012. Kai! God punish Nigerian mechanics who have made deceit their brand name. The main lesson is this: if you don’t have the money to buy a brand new car, just manage public transport. Do not purchase a Nigerian used car, especially when you do not know the previous owner personally. You would be shooting yourself in the foot.
A toxic work environment is more likely to change you than you can change it
This year I left a job I had since I graduated from university. My very first job. I had worked there for 7 and half years and had never for one day gotten a bad performance review, even though I combined this job with other tasking side jobs. Sure, I did get a promotion at some point, but the major promotion that I wanted…the game changing one that I needed to really validate that endeavour was being eternally delayed for reasons I couldn’t really place my finger on (even though I had been recommended for it by two different HODs ). Actually, I was doing the job already, except that I did not have the title and the money that came with it.
Because I had been there for so long, I felt a measure of loyalty; I felt that if I just stayed and maybe worked even harder, things would change. I guess it eventually dawned on me that I was hitting my hands on a tipper loaded with sand (the adage sounds so much better in igbo). I realize how toxic it was – not just for me professionally, but for my mental health as well. I was losing my passion for that field and I was just unhappy. This job was turning me into a shadow of who I really was; I realized I had to quit.
Of course I didn’t realize at the time that God had something much better in store for me and it was really all orchestrated, but I learned the important lesson that a toxic work environment is more likely to change you than you can change it. It is best to leave. Sometimes life gives us roadblocks for a reason, and we need to recognize when to quit- whether in a relationship that just isn’t working out, or perhaps a change in our career path. I guess it helped that I had enough money saved, so I had the option to walk out without hesitation.
Just because they are family does not mean they cannot be toxic
I am someone who values family above everything else. There is nothing my sisters or nephews would ask that I do that I would not – as long as I have the ability or means to do it. There have been times I had sleepless nights trying to figure out how to meet the requests for them. Don’t get it twisted, I am not the first child at all, I am the last. Actually, I grew up being controlled and policed by my older ones. I remember one time my sister gave out a pair new shoes that my mom sent to me ‘from the abroad’ to a friend she had a girl crush on. She did not ask for my permission, and when I complained she gave me a hard knock on the head.
Becoming an adult and gaining my independence of course gave me a measure of control; I could make my decisions for myself without necessarily being “called to order” or judged unnecessarily. Even then, there was still a shortage of autonomy and this persistent self-betrayal where I find myself constantly changing my opinion to please my siblings or not being able to say ‘No’ when I really should. These are, on a normal day, what I would classify as signs of a damaging relationship… but because it was family, I did not want to look at it that way.
A few month ago, however, I overheard a conversation between two of my sisters and they were talking about me. They don’t know that I know about that conversation as I did not confront them over it (I also know they won’t read this article), but it kind of yanked my eyes open and made me realize that what we had was an unhealthy relationship. Any relationship in which you experience withdrawals of energy without deposits will definitely leave you in negative. It is toxic and you have to cut it off or manage it accordingly. Being family does not make it any different, especially when it starts to affect your mental health and general state of being.
It’s okay to manage anxiety with a pill
I really do not want to talk about this, but what is the point in writing this article if I’m not going to be completely honest. A major part of my 2018 was me handling anxiety. Very few of my friends know this, and my family do not know the extent to which it may have gone. Most times I just said to them: “Oh, I went to the hospital today, it’s nothing, I’m okay”. Actually, I remember the first time I went to the hospital (late 2016) and they diagnosed stress. It was funny to me because the doctor asked me : did you lose someone special? Did your heart get broken? Did you lose your job? e.t.c… I said ‘no’ to all these questions
It was unreal how stress could come with physical symptoms. At the time, I had about 3 tasking jobs, other freelance writing gigs and zero social life, so I decided to cut them down and socialize more. I even invited a friend to come live with me. I did not take the pills they gave me to “relax” at the time, because it was just ridiculous.
Then in 2018, it become worse. This time in addition to chest pain, rashes, even worse pain from the shoulder and arm, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea, I started having panic attacks. If you have ever had a full-blown panic attack, you would know that it is not a joke. I would not even wish it on my enemy.
This time the doctor did several tests and said it was stress-induced anxiety. At this time I just had two jobs and a few freelance writing gigs. They weren’t really physically or mentally exerting, why would I take pills, biko? I refused to take the pills. But then, it started to affect the quality of my life: I wasn’t giving my best at my different jobs, I was disappointing everyone, being unnecessarily difficult in my relationships… and basically becoming someone else actually.
I remember that a client I respected a lot called because I had missed a lot of deadlines. I had actually planned these articles, but had spent most of my valuable time zoning out, as I was consistently losing motivation and focus for everything. I remember that when I considered telling her what was really happening, it just seemed silly. Actually I think I did tell her, but in a half- baked way that probably made me look like a phoney. I don’t know. To cut long story short, after the last panic attack, I decided to actually accept this diagnosis and take the pills, and also adjust my lifestyle. And it worked!
I guess my point is, 2018 taught me that it is okay to accept stress as a diagnosis; it doesn’t make you weird or inadequate or a psycho who can no longer be loved. And even more, there is nothing wrong with taking medication for it. Just don’t get to the point of addiction though
Believe bigger. We have access to anything that we can believe God for…anything
Those who know me will tell you that I have come through life and conquered a lot by my faith in God, through Jesus Christ. I am not the most righteous or the best christian; heck, I even almost dated an atheist at some point this year (God forgive your daughter). In the last years, I had backslid a lot and my relationship with God had really watered down, until an incident this year got me realizing that even when I was closer to God back then, I was not believing big enough. The truth is, if you have faith enough, you can access anything and within the time frame you want it. No joke. And it’s not magic. It is simply by hard core un-staggering faith.
I remember I got a job to move to Israel by September, but thanks to our green passport, the work visa process became a drag and I had to quit the process entirely. It was certainly something would have tipped me into a state of depression, but here’s the thing: in the space of five days from the day I realized I wasn’t going to move to Rawabi anymore, I did a series of interviews got another job and moved to Bangkok… in the blink of an eye.
If you have been to Bangkok or South East Asia, you will know how difficult the process with NDLEA and processing the work visa can be.
Of course, I am omitting certain juicy details but the essential thing I picked was this: there is nothing too big to imagine or have faith for.
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.”