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Jessica Ireju: The Blessing of the Broken Road

I learned that I could create new memories while mourning the old by deciding to live with every painful breath. It doesn’t mean your failures don’t hurt or your heartbreaks are insignificant, but you heal (win, succeed) when you decide to take deliberate breaths, even when it hurts. Just so you can keep on living.

Jessica Ireju

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My favourite thing about road trips is looking out the windows and watching the scenery speed by, most times aided by headphones. I’m not so concerned about the intersections, the traffic stops, the roads the driver takes or the places I’ve passed. My concern is that I arrive at my destination. I wish I could be that way with life – unconcerned about the bends in the road life has me taking and focus on arriving at my destination, even if I have to pass through rough bumpy roads.

You probably can relate to this if you’re a woman. There are bumps on the road that you’ve had to encounter. These bumps do not bring the journey to an end, it only prepares us for what is ahead. Seeing as March is Women’s month (allow me to be partial today) I want to share the experience I had in a particular city and the lessons I learned in honour of all women on their quest to ‘becoming’.

Every time I travel, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a new place or somewhere familiar, I discover another life, I collect memories and it changes me. I took a road trip recently to a city (let’s call the city ‘failure’), it’s my least favourite city in Nigeria and it has many bumps in the road. Every time I arrive in this city, I’m reminded of all the reasons I dislike it. It seems the same to me; the crazy bustle of people and vehicles sandwiched with loud blaring horns. It’s where some of my favourite people live and the backdrop to some of my best memories – from weddings to trying a new roadside snack.

This city is where I’ve forged new connections, made choices that have changed the trajectory of my career, and it’s also where I learned to appreciate home. So I must make this journey, no matter how much I dislike it because, without it, my story would be a novel lacking a key ingredient in the plot. What is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie‘s Americanah without Ifemelu’s culture shock in America? NnuEgo’s metamorphosis, in Buchi Emecheta‘s The joys of motherhood, also took place in Lagos. I’ve visited this particular city four times and each time, I have arrived as one person and left a totally different person.

The first time I visited this city, I was shocked! The craziness, the nonchalance of its inhabitants was nonplussing. The city didn’t care whether I survived or not. It didn’t matter if this was my first time of visiting, traffic didn’t care that I would be late for an interview for what I thought was the job of a lifetime at the time, and the recruiters certainly didn’t care enough that I’d left my home city to offer me the job. But it taught me that I could leave my comfort zone.

If I could show up on a less-than-24-hour notice in a different city from which I lived, for a position I wanted, then I could push myself – I’d just always been complacent. So now, when I’m dipping my toes in the murky waters of entrepreneurship – which is way out of my comfort zone, I remember that experience and I tell myself that if I can function on less than 2 hours sleep for a rigorous screening exercise, I can deal with crazy delivery timelines. Your failures should teach you that you’re capable of leaving your comfort zone. You surviving your first-time visit to failure means that after the shock wears off, you will pick yourself up and try again.

As a second-time visitor, this city taught me to live – even with a wound. You heal when you live. It hurts, but the only way you don’t heal is if you die. I learned that I could create new memories while mourning the old by deciding to live with every painful breath. It doesn’t mean your failures don’t hurt or your heartbreaks are insignificant, but you heal (win, succeed) when you decide to take deliberate breaths, even when it hurts. Just so you can keep on living.

They say the third time’s the charm, but this city has taught me that you create your own luck. So here I was, again, faced with making a career choice, not just for me but for others. What did I do? I created my own story – a deviation from the script by choosing the option most people wouldn’t have gone for. That’s what we all need to do; choose the unpopular choice, create our own lanes and walk roads never traveled. Without it, your story would be lacking the suspense and thrill that makes for a blockbuster movie.

On my most recent visit for a wedding (for someone who dislikes aso-ebi, I seem to find myself buying them often), the city was still as frustrating (even with it now being familiar) as it had always been. But I learned the value of relationships. You know how your life intersects with different people on different journeys? The people you meet don’t just change you, they sometimes come along with you on the ride so you’re never alone. That’s the most valuable thing you get from the places you failed in – relationships. Becoming friends after failing GSP 101 together, business partners with a colleague from a job you got fired from and a client you met, while running a business that failed, becoming a life partner.

I’m a woman for who the question of who I am evolves with every journey I undertake. Life has taken me on different journeys but it has led me to be the best version of me.

Where has your bumpy road led you to? What’s the one lesson you’ve learned from the places life has had you visiting?

Jessica Ireju is a writer weaving words, sharing stories and creating conversations on life, love and faith. She has a degree in Archaeology and Tourism from the university of Nigeria, Nsukka.These days she's telling a different story helping women look their best, save money and funding dreams @therestylebank. She loves Jesus, Journals and Johnny Drille's music. On the days when she's not having conversations with herself, she can be found on instagram @jessicaireju.

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