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28, Her Version of Events,

One Year Later: Thoughts on Life and The Pandemic

Living currently feels like a dream; the kind where when you wake, you realise you are waking from a dream within a dream with endless opportunities of landing back in reality. 

Back in March of 2020, when countries in the world began shutting down, from retail stores to restaurants to all modes of transportation, we believed it would be a quick fix, a month at best, and life was going to return to normal.  One month has turned quickly into 12 and as we approach the first ‘lockdown’ anniversary, a word that has found a home in our vocabulary, we are burdened with the question of whether we will ever return to ‘normal’, whether we will ever have the freedom of living as we once did. 

Before we address the possibilities of returning to normal, I learned a number of things in the past year that I will like to share. 

On People and Relationships

For starters, a wedding ceremony requires only the presence of the bride and groom. All other parties are important but mostly sentimental and don’t have the power to hinder the ceremony. I feel very much in love with the intimacy of ’quarantine weddings’, another staple in our vocabulary. The joy that you can see on the couples’ faces, they just seem happy to be together in the moment and celebrate their love. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have minded a ‘quarantine wedding’.  

I learnt that everyone gets lonely. We all require a degree of human interaction to keep our wheels turning. Without experiencing a complete lack of human contact, I don’t think I would have realised its importance and it has made me value the people I have in my life. 

I don’t think I would have survived the past year without friendship; from long video calls to online surprise parties, and the comfort I found in having different ‘virtual’ homes to land, places where I could truthfully answer the question, “are you fine?” I learnt the importance of coming open into my friendships, of allowing myself to let loose, allowing myself be loved and loving in return. I’ll summarise my lesson on friendships with this statement, “You owe the gift of vulnerability in friendship. It is important you come open with your scars, your joys, your wins and failures. Only in vulnerability are you truly seen, heard and loved.”

I learnt to say “I love you” and “I miss you.” I’ve always believed these are doing words; you show a person you love them, you show up when they need you, when you miss a person you visit them or give them a call. But in a world where seeing wasn’t possible and without ‘seeing’, ‘showing’ is almost impossible, I was left with nothing else but to resort to using my words; to typing, “Hey. You know I love you, right?” Or closing out a call with, “I miss you.” These are things I will be keeping in my vocabulary because it is important you let people know how much you value them. 

On Rest and Honouring my body 

The world going on a pause didn’t mean I learnt how to rest. In fact, I did the opposite. I pushed myself and explored the limits of body by taking on more projects because there was the illusion of ‘more time.’ Going remote meant I could easily work across time zones and roll out of bed for that 8 a.m call. In return my body revolted and it has ordered me to rest. 

This is hard for me because all my life I have kept going. There is always the next thing; the next exam to write, the next person that needs help making sense of a financial spreadsheet. By pushing the limits of myself and grappling with the consequences, I learnt to say “No” and live at a pace that my body will be grateful for, to evaluate all opportunities carefully before saying “Yes”. 

In learning to rest, I remembered things that I love, things that bring my heart joy. It became necessary to do an audit of my life and say goodbye to things that no longer served me. This wasn’t an easy process but as I laid in bed for the second night in a row in mid-December with my legs shaking and head pounding, I knew something had to change. It has been a learning curve, but it is important I am gentle with myself and conscious of how I choose to spend my time. 

On Death 

I re-learnt about death from losing my grandma and one a close friend. My lesson is summed up in this statement; “Death scars us; it drags us through the mud. To come out on the other side of death standing, we need all the people we have left. In its own twisted way, it binds us together.”

On taking a stand 

In life, it is important to take a stand, to state your beliefs, so people know who you are. In the spirit of this, I went to my first protest. If someone had told me that I would be chanting in front of the Nigerian embassy on a cold Sunday morning, I wouldn’t have believed them but it is one of the things I am very proud I did. It is an experience I will always carry with me. 

In peaceful protest I learnt to be proud of Nigeria, not in her leaders but in the people; in our capacity to band together and fight a self-serving government, to stand for our right to live our right to a better life. More importantly, I was proud to be a woman, proud of the Feminist Coalition and the work they did in organising and supporting the EndSars peaceful protests. In those few days, I saw a vision of what Nigeria could become and it restored my hope in the country. 

In the same capacity, I was broken by the Lekki Massacre on the 20th of October 2020. It still feels like a dream that a country would turn on its own citizens and kill them without repercussion. Nigeria is led by obsessive people; leaders that pass policies and regulations that ensure their pockets are lined and as a result, have created a country where dreams are stifled and whose people only have the capacity to focus on the next meal/paycheque because to protest against police brutality is to be met with a gun. 

I am keeping with me the hope that swelled in my heart and the pain of those that lost their lives, and I’m letting these drive me to keep fighting for a better Nigeria. 

___________

The year felt long and short at the same time; long in the amount of time I spent by myself, navigating my emotions, alone with my thoughts, and short in the amount of living that seems to have happened, all these experiences crammed into one year, so ‘short and long.’

I don’t think we are going back to ‘normal’. For starters, we are different people and the world we live in is different. I believe we should look forward to what comes after, challenge ourselves to rebuild, to do away with things that no longer serve us, to do away with things that harm us, and build a path to better. 

I would be naive to think this will happen, but a girl is allowed to dream. 

P.S. 

I am over the pandemic at this point, and it hard to see a silver lining on many days; I just want to visit my family, have brunch plans and maybe plan a dinner party.

28, Her Version of Events, Reflections,

on Unloving

I keep thinking about unloving. I know it isn’t a real word but I believe it should be. In the spirit of that, I will be giving it a definition

Unloving (verb): the process of becoming whole within your self after sharing it with another.
Alternate definition: the process of embracing a different path.

I am thinking about ‘unloving’ because I recently told myself the truth that I am in love and I don’t want to be.

I am embarking on a journey to who I was before this warmth filled my heart, back to a time when ‘’I’’ and not ‘’we’’ was the centre of my vocabulary.

Lessons

1. There is no going back to before love because the memories haunt you, they plague your daily activities. The only place you can go is ‘after loving’; a place where you bask in the memories, accept them for what they were and look ahead to what will be. 

2. The future; this is hard because when your heart goes warm, you want it to remain warm forever. All your imagined tomorrows include this feeling, include this person, and it is hard letting go of all the tomorrows you would not be getting. In the moment it is the hardest thing, but you will be fine as you choose a different path and start envisioning new tomorrows

I am not fine today, tomorrow I may okay. Who knows what the day after will bring on this journey of unloving. Choosing patience is the only way to the other side.

28, Her Version of Events,

In Loving Memory

I think about things beyond my control, things that I may never have answers to but can’t help questioning. 

Today I said out loud that my Grandma was a complicated woman. She was hard to love because she had one too many mean spirited comments and actions that made every person around her hold on tighter to every act of kindness in an attempt to remind ourselves that she was also a kind person.

But I have all these questions I will love to ask her, questions about her words, actions and the walking contraction she was, blowing hot and cold in the same minute. 

I think what I wonder about the most is who ‘’Oreoluwa’’ is, where she comes from, and the women woven together to make her who she is, becoming and will become. 

I hold my grandma in high esteem; I am proud of her accomplishments. She went into the world and took hold of anything she wanted from asking her husband to marry her, to building successful businesses and running a household of 5 children. I find myself wishing I am as audacious as she was demanding more from life and going in pursuit of all my dreams. I find myself thinking of how she had a whole room enamoured in her presence, everyone hanging on to her every word and looking to her for guidance. 

She was who she was a composition of all her choices, but in the end, she is loved, she is missed in the sea of brokenness she is left her lineage to work through, a brokenness I can only hope we can work through. 

For my last question to her, I imagine asking her this question in her pickup truck while driving home. ‘’Grandma?’’ I am sure she will answer ‘’ Derin Kekere Kin o fe ?’’ with a smile on her as she looks at the road ahead, concentrating on driving and waiting for me to ask my question, I ask. ‘’Grandma, are you proud of your legacy?’’. 

28, Beauty, Her Version of Events,

shades of blue

In September of 2020, I went to a paint and sip party to celebrate one of my best friends’ birthday, and this was the only reason to voluntarily go to a place where they were many new people and attempt to socialise, yes there is the occasional wedding here and there, I usually attend those with a fascinating novel that I disappear into. My strength usually is staying in bed and coming up with reasons to get out of existing commitments to go out or small gatherings with my favourite people. 

I hadn’t painted since the days when we were forced to take Fine Arts in secondary school, but here I was replaying all advice I read online to make small talk and meet new people. 

The way the event ran, there was loud music, art supplies at the centre of the room and I will christen the presenter ‘’Paint Maters’’ gave us the theme of our painting for that evening it was going to be ‘’New Beginnings.’’

When I heard ‘’New Beginnings’’ I knew what I needed to paint my name ‘’Ore’’ in the brightest colours.  I always imagine that if my existence will be presented in colour, it will be various blue shades, I am always cold never heating up enough to be red but just enough to be electric blue. 

But at that moment I wanted to be different, I wanted to experience living through different lenses to have the powers to talk freely on the first day of meeting someone and not overthink to just be present. 

In the spirit of New Beginnings, if I wasn’t going to have this different experience, I could live vicariously through the words on the canvas. 

Once my painting was done, I promptly found a place to curly up and continue existing in the comfort of the words the book I was reading provided because blue in its varying shades is also perfect. 

2020, 28, Her Version of Events,

Ageing

I have arrived at my late late 20s, my next milestone age is 30 and I find myself terrified of turning the big 30.

Here is why:

I have this mental list of things I want to achieve by 30, and many of the things on my list feel out of reach and this has left me disappointed in myself. Maybe I didn’t put ‘my goals’ first or put in the required work towards achieving them but, I am left with a sense of disappointment and the intense feeling that I have run out of time to do anything truly meaningful.

I went into this deep state of reflection, reliving my actions, beating myself up for not making better decisions and not walking away sooner from certain relationships. Shout out to self-isolation which provided me with so much alone time with my thoughts. Here’s the thing, I know it is a lie and there is still a lot of life that is ahead of me, a lot of time to achieve and do so much but, I need to get my brain to believe that it isn’t all over because I will soon be 30.

In the past month, after spending so much of this year feeling doomed, I decided to try a different approach and make a list of the things I achieved in my 20s, to remind myself of my happiest moments, all the beautiful places I got to see and people I got to share it with and focus on answering the question on why I feel doomed in the first place and get to the root of why I feel like I’ve run out of time. 

I don’t have perfect answers but I kind of worked out a few things: there are things that are expected of me by my parents and society; things that have ingrained themselves so much into my subconscious, things that I am finding hard to unlearn and have gained control on my perception of time. I realise that what I should be focused on is gaining control over my life by letting God have control, allowing my story to play out how God planned it and I should quit focusing on ticking items off an imaginary list. 

I can’t say I have fully let go and embraced where I am today because it is a journey, a gradual one at that, but I don’t feel the sense of defeat anymore. I am having more happy days, I am getting out of bed and just living, which is something I forgot how to do. 

My hope for the future is for a society that constructs better, one that will not mount pressure on how I need to be, who I should be and what I should have achieved by a certain age. I want to celebrate simple things like waking up in the morning and having a cup of mango juice while watching the sunrise through my window because those simple things matter.

I am not sure that there are profound lessons to learn here but if you made it this far, thank you for reading my rant and really listening to the playlist (Never Alone) below, they are songs that give my heart hope and steer my heart toward joy. I hope they do the same for you

Never Alone

Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/playlist/637sHdgsiaysiDHCsJWSRQ?si=ZhYKpYtAS6moBV8AV1AC_A