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#BN2019Epilogues: With 2019, Jessica Welcomed the Second Half of Her Twenties

As I write this, I haven’t been actively posting on my social media accounts this year even after taking  60 days off. I put my phone on airplane mode and slept. The words I couldn’t express in conversations with others began to pour from my pen onto pages of my journal.

BellaNaija.com

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For many, 2019 has been a year of ups, downs and many stories. We know you have a lot to tell us and we have asked that, as one big family, we all share our stories, joy, pain, wins, losses and successes through the year. 

Jessica did not have an amazing 2019 but she believes 2020 will be awesome.

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How do you condense 365 days into paragraphs? I will attempt to distill complex emotions in black and white, but that’s the beauty of words. Words articulate our thoughts, paint pictures on the canvas of life and give breath to our experiences. All these I learned from sharing my #BN2018Epilogue. In the last couple of years, I have experienced a lot of shake-ups in my plans, so I entered the new year with blank pages in my goal setting guide. I just wanted to be still but when has a new year ever done exactly as I said?
I remember posting on my WhatsApp status some days into the new year that I needed a vacation, not just from work, but life generally. Long work hours ending in me sitting in whatever taxi I boarded home and scrambling to reply unanswered messages and phone calls I had missed during the day was eating me up. Trying to keep some semblance of a relationship with others and failing miserably, coming home to dinner with no appetite and hearing my brother repeat that I was losing weight, crashing into bed with my body tired but my mind fully awake – all these were getting to me.
I learned about a different kind of heartbreak in February, I was losing friendships. I think it’s best at this point to confess I was not the best person to have as a friend this year. You can become so self-absorbed with your issues that you forget to be there for others, not returning missed phone calls or replying messages because you don’t feel like talking  – that is how friends become strangers. The hardest test of my faith this year was struggling to forgive friends and family members who hurt me, not strangers. I always thought it would be easy to forgive those you love but I was sadly mistaken. As for my relationship with the man upstairs, lots of my prayers weren’t words but tears, barely above a whisper.
I voted for the first time in my life in February. Doing the right thing doesn’t always feel good, a lesson I would learn in multiple ways this year. From being shoved in a crowd trying to get my PVC, walking a distance to my polling unit to vote, standing on a long queue under the scorching sun with people jumping the queue while complaining about a corrupt Nigeria and the disappointing reports of widespread election violence. Phew, I had such an experience. But doing the right thing is always needed as I got to learn from the people who volunteered to coordinate the queues and stopping fights that almost broke out, and the guys who made us laugh by telling jokes and turning the polling unit into a comedy center.
When I couldn’t deal with the “how are you?” questions in my DMs without bursting into tears and typing ‘fine’ with a shaky hand because I honestly didn’t know the answer to that question. When I began to have panic attacks, I quietly took a break from social media in March. As I write this, I haven’t been actively posting on my social media accounts this year even after taking  60 days off. I put my phone on airplane mode and slept. The words I couldn’t express in conversations with others began to pour from my pen onto pages of my journal.
Taking a break from social media was a boost to my mental health. It allowed me to build in silence with the pages of my journal entries for those months, this formed the bulk of my published essays as a BN contributor which was a highlight of my year. Conquering my fear of sharing my writing with an audience was life-changing for me. My best piece of writing in 2019 did not happen in my published feature articles but in private work emails I sent. From writing features and emails, I learned that feeling unqualified about doing something is never enough reason to not do it. Always remember it is not about you, but others.
May had me sitting in a cab with sweaty palms, rehearsing my words as I nervously headed to a meeting to discuss my career prospects. As I sat in traffic between Lekki and Ajah, I kept thanking God I didn’t live in Lagos. That meeting taught me that integrity happens behind closed doors. No standing ovation – just you in your red slingback, your conscience and the will-power to say no. Turning down the job offer taught me that purpose is more important than a pay cheque.
In June, I kissed my early twenties goodbye. Celebrating my birthday with pancakes, writing features for various online spaces, exploring new opportunities in content creation, submitting job applications with no callbacks, I was beginning to think the memo I received on your 20s being some of your best years was wrong.
July and August were some of my dreariest days, blended into weeks – I constantly second-guessed myself. Having an idea is great but there are things they don’t tell you about bringing a vision to life. Things like dreaming in words, people looking at you like you’re crazy when you tell them your dream and learning the most polite way to tell someone to shut up when they say that you will fail at it. I was about to learn that talent is not enough. Everything was happening so fast; the whole world wasn’t slowing for a second, I was the one stuck in routines and depression. It was raining weddings all around me and even I, the one person who avoided bridesmaid duties, was asked to be a maid of honour.
September was a month of faith in God and in friendships. From my beautiful view in Nanka, I could see God in the trees, in the love between my friend and her husband. Watching her get married was beautiful and the reunion with my other friends, after four years, renewed my faith in God and friendships.
You shouldn’t hide your little gifts, if you don’t share it with others, then it’s not a gift. With this in mind, I volunteered for an NGO in October and it was one of the most fulfilling days of my 2019. November was a month for experiencing new things. My first train ride experience to Aba was awful – getting drenched in rain and getting to watch the sun rise in the dark areas of my life. I cringed when I finally chopped my hair off after wrestling with letting go of my unhealthy hair for years. As a certified member of the forehead gang, I had dreaded the hair cut but when my hair fell to the ground, I felt like I was leaving losses, mistakes, and heartbreaks of the past year on the floor, – it was the most liberating feeling in the world.
As 2019 draws to an end, old insecurities have been peeking out and mental strongholds resurfacing. I’ve had to repeat my confessions daily, writing them on sticky notes on my mirror over and over again, I guess it’s the apprehension of a new year. December is a stark reminder of everything that 2019 is and all that it isn’t. William Shakespeare once said, “what’s past is a prologue”. The end is the beginning of something new and like all new beginnings, I am excited about what 2020 will bring.
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Have a story to share? We’ll love to hear it. Send in your essay to submissions(at)bellanaija(dot)com with the subject: 2019 Epilogues. Let us know all the twists and turns and successes 2019 came with.

2 Comments

  1. Finding Purpose

    December 25, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    I was thoroughly gratified reading this article. Thank you for sharing Jessica. I trust that 2020 will usher you in great joy.

    2
    • Jessica Ireju

      December 27, 2019 at 12:33 am

      Thank you for leaving a comment, here’s wishing you a fantastic 2020 !

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