I’ll be the first to admit that I fell in love with words sometime during my childhood. I really do not know when or how it happened. I loved to read. It was fun to immerse myself in other worlds, using my imagination, and allowing my emotions be stirred by ink on paper.
Those were awesome times by the way.
I remember my first poem. I made it rhyme too. Haha. The first two lines ended with ‘sad’ and ‘bad’. Genius! I must have hoarded that poem for weeks, like it was something precious. And that’s how this journey began, this romance between words and I. Over the years, I have watched our relationship blossom. I have witnessed the power of well crafted words and how they can build up the most beautiful edifices or empires and bring them crashing into rubble, at will.
Words are truly beautiful.
They can create the most intense longing, awake the deepest hunger, still the fiercest rage, and evoke the most peaceful calm. They can take you on the most amazing journeys and transport you into a whole new world. Without the magic carpet ride. Ok? Words in themselves are magic. We create our experiences with them, build our legacies by them and predict the future with them.
How could I not fall in love?
So, here I am… servant to this master who plays muse to my creativity. We have a thing here, you see. And it works. So, we’re a team, words and I. Lured and trapped, I have no complaints, only a desire to shape them into any desired form, creating the most wonderful experiences for those who are humble enough to seek this gift.
While the rest of the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child, Nigeria fumbles about like the unsteady gait of a drunk. Oh we love our daughters. We say we are protecting them while stifling them. We tell them to be strong but we silence them when they try to speak up. The very ones in our society who are sworn to protect them abuse them.
Our policemen only see them as prostitutes and potential rape victims. Young women have been arrested because they stood, waiting at a bus stop, or walked down the road, or because they were pretty. They are beaten, shot at and killed. It does not stop there. These officers of the law have stood over them with their guns and demanded sexual favours or forcefully raped them.
It’s not only the men in black who carry out this evil. Sometimes, it is their fathers, uncles, brothers, friends, teachers, neighbours, pastors and imams who cannot but see them as living, breathing, and walking vaginas. “They asked for it”. “They deserved it”. Pathetic excuses for rapists, paedophiles, and abusers.
Every one of us is responsible for the young in our communities. I would ask that we give them a voice, but that would be wrong. You see, they already have their voices. They just need to learn how to use it, how to be heard and how to make sounds that will reverberate and impact their worlds.
We should encourage them, permit them to not allow themselves to be silenced in the face of all opposition.
If you’re able to go back in time and question your ancestors, or even simpler, have a look through history, you will find common attributes among influential figures that the world agrees were great in their time.
Some of these figures have contributed remarkably to humanity. They created things that had never before existed. They brought about changes that determined new cycles in world history. They established institutions and ideals that form the foundation for civilisation as we know it. They achieved the impossible.
“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare
I agree with the old bard, especially with that first statement. Greatness is not for some select, high-up on-their-ivory-tower few. Anyone can be great. It does not matter what gender, race, social status, quality of education, financial strength, network/connections, good looks or oratory skills they have. The men and women who trail this hall of greatness did not end up there based on these factors. So, how did they do it?
First, they were totally convinced about whatever it is they accomplished. They didn’t drop their ideas because it wasn’t popular on social media or making tons of money. Second, they were consumed by that idea. They lived, ate, and dreamt it. They didn’t drop it off and come back for it when they were bored. This absolute commitment helps inspiration come through. Third, they were unrepentantly driven. They did not back down when they world called them insane or said what they set out to do was impossible or told them they were not good enough or tried to silence them and in some cases threatened their lives. It did not matter what the noise was. They were not distracted. They stayed on course because they believed in their dream.
You want to be great? Find a dream so big, it’s bigger than you and everything you know and own. Let it so consume you that you don’t mind being labelled crazy. Don’t listen when they say, somebody is already doing something like that; why don’t you find something else? Silence the voices when they tell you to abandon ship for an idea that can make you quick-rich.
If you can begin from here and hold the dream until you see it through, history might find you in the annals, on the wall of greatness.
If I had N1000 for every “Miji, quickly help me write (or edit) this thing”, I’d be balling right now. Putting thoughts and feelings to words in an elegant, lush, and impressive manner has always been my forte. I wrote a few love poems and letters back in my school days. No, it’s not what you think. My friends made me.
I recall a particularly interesting episode. Three of us co-wrote an anonymous love letter to this fella. It was my handwriting which I disguised. While the others suggested ideas, I composed and edited. It was fun. We signed a name that we made up using syllables from our names. He never found her. She didn’t exist. She was a hologram with 3 deceptive identities. Oh by the way, we also pretended to help figure out this puzzle.
It’s a different kettle of fish these days. I help brand and business owners better connect with their customers. Based on their services and products, I create relevant content for blogs, websites, landing pages and social media platforms. As a digital marketer, I create compelling stories, articles, blog entries, newsletters, adverts/campaigns for social media marketing and content marketing.
How do I go about this? Because I am a communications expert, I understand that many people struggle to say what they really mean and pass their intended messages across. I can help you convey your offerings to your audiences in a way that gets you seen and heard.
I happen to be great at this. So, let’s talk about taking your business to the next level.
It’s ok to have not a single clue what you want to be doing with the rest of your life.
Those who have come and gone before you did not have their lives all planned out to the finest detail. They started with a conviction. They began by first defining who they were. This is the foundation upon which everything else is built.
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t know that he would become a social networking billionaire and business mogul. He started off knowing he wanted to code and perhaps solve problems using that particular skill. Steve Jobs was very clear on his aspirations. He wanted to make the computer a personal and portable item that everyone would have access to. This was a time when telephones were connected by wire and computers were too big to fit on a table.
It’s never really about what job or business you do. It’s more about who you really are. If you try your hand at different business endeavours or change careers 3 or 4 times, who you are becomes the constant element. It is the part that makes what you do special.
I had a terrific opportunity to work with teenagers (secondary school students) on developing personal effectiveness. It was always a conversation. That way we all learned from one another. We talked about self-awareness, leadership, personal growth, career choices, life opportunities and planning. Also, they got to ask any questions no matter how silly. If anyone walked by, it might seem as though we were just hanging out. However, those pockets of time were impactful, for them and for me as well. It was great fun.
It was during this time that I entertained this rather brilliant train of thoughts. I’m aware that most parents insist that their children go through the complete education route – from primary to tertiary levels. If you ask, the reason is that they want their kids ‘educated’. The emphasis makes you wonder how it is that we have all somehow agreed that there is only one way to be educated – sitting behind a desk for 6-3-3-4 years, writing tests and exams and collecting a certificate at the end of it all.
I was impressed by many of my students. I recall a young girl of 17 who had developed a business plan. You could tell she had given it much thought. She said she was going through the whole WAEC and university degree motion to please her mom. She wanted to start a catering business. She knew who her target market was. She had come up with innovative ways to produce, distribute and market her imagined products. Unfortunately, she would have to wait until after her degree before she could touch that plan.
What a waste of time. What if she spent a focused time of those 3 years of senior secondary school and 4 years of university learning, training, preparing for success in this business? She could combine formal learning with her interests in varying degrees. The point is her education would be effective. At the end of all that time, she will be equipped with the relevant and necessary skills for a successful future.
If you bother to ask young adults today, if they are being honest, they don’t feel very educated after spending all that time. Apprenticeship is some form of education. So is any type of focused training. At the end of it, you have proof of education which is the skill you have acquired and can demonstrate. I’d wager that those types of graduates are more educated than our certificate carrying ones.
So I have a suggestion that will solve this problem once and for all. Since parents are more interested in the certificates than in the actual learning experienced by their wards, with which they are rightly equipped to immediately solve problems in their communities and social groups, I say let’s give them certificates.
Let entrepreneurship, art, technical, vocational, tech trainings be all certified from the secondary education level to the tertiary level. So let’s grade them based on the number of years they put in: certificate, diploma, degree. This way, everyone is happy. Parents have certificates to show for the school fees they pay and the time their children spend in school and the students have the opportunity to learn and acquire skills they consider necessary for their personal development.
A few years ago, I travelled through time to visit my 16-year-old self. It remains one of my most exciting adult experiences. I have shared this story with very few people since the event. Today, I get to share it with you too.
I didn’t fly in a time travel machine like you see in the movies. It was a bus ride. The instructions were clear as they were strict: Show up. Get on the bus. When you arrive at the destination, you have ONLY one hour to find your past self and to spend with them. Meet back at the bus in an hour. If you miss the bus, you get stuck in the past forever. That’s it.
Oh boy! I hurried to find her in a sea of faces. I found myself in a huge building with wide hallways, flooding with students in so many different uniform colours. Of course, I was in secondary school in my 6th year at 16. Duh. So I started searching for my school’s colours, all the while looking around, turning this way and that, resisting the urge to scream out my name.
There are so many kids, I was thinking. I’m running out of time. I have to be out of here in an hour. I can’t miss the bus. How do I find her? Do I ask someone? These were the thoughts swirling in my head. Then I stopped for a second and asked myself, where would I hang out? If I wasn’t in class, I was usually in the library, press club room, sickbay if one of the squad was ill or sneaking into the hostel for a meal. Just as I was fixing to ask one of the kids where the library was, it happened.
It was as though the air paused for a second. It felt like I was magnetized to her. There she was, so beautiful, so perfect. Something must have happened to my heart because I fell in love with myself all over again that day. I was content to stare at her for another moment but tiiiiiiiime… So I walked over. As I approached, she looked up and watched me walk towards her. All of this definitely happened in slow motion, I tell you. I tried to read her face. Was she shocked to see me? Excited? What I saw blew me over even further. There was this openness and trust. Then, she smiled at me. My heart by now was dripping water I was sure.
As I reached her, I took her hands in mine and said, “You are the most beautiful thing I ever saw”. And then I said, “Listen, we don’t have much time”. We moved over to a private space where I tried to download everything I could think of to make this amazing girl’s journey a little bit easier. I started with some petty nonsense like, “So and so are not your friends. Don’t listen to them. After imparting some grown up advice, I said to her, “Write. Write every day. We’ll need it cos we’re going to be a writer in the future.” How do you use your nouns when you’re speaking to yourself? Mm.
I was so proud of her. I was later going to discover that she carried out my instructions and advice to the letter. My visit didn’t change much through time, from the past. Although we started writing more seriously, secondary school still sucked. Did I really change anything? I doubt it. Arguably, this already happened. However, that trip was worth every second. I’d visit again if I could. Not to try to influence the future or anything. I’d cheer us on instead. I’d tell her she was and would always be amazing. I’d tell her to stay beautiful and unfazed because none of the disappointments or hurts we experienced could ever diminish that.
If you’re going to ask me how you can visit your 16-year-old self, don’t bother. Of course, it was a dream, although a lovely one at that. What did you think? If time travel machines exist anywhere in our world presently, they must be a well-kept secret. Otherwise, someone would have probably gone to Wuhan or something.
I enjoyed watching the newly released Mulan movie. I will admit I enjoyed it better than the first animation (I don’t know why there was a lot of negative feedback about it but there you go… a major life lesson – you can’t please everyone no matter how hard you try).
Unlike the animation, this new movie doesn’t have the red dragon, in the form of Eddie Murphy, entertaining us with his comical comments and silliness. Instead it has the phoenix. The metaphor of the phoenix is always a powerful one. But that isn’t what makes this movie special for me.
It’s the realness to watching a young woman take great risk against everything she has been taught, and all she ever believed in and experienced to forge a new path for herself when none existed and create a spot within a space where she would never belong. The story is set against a time when she and her entire family would have been disgraced and treated worse than lepers if her fraud/identity theft was discovered.
Somehow, that possibility was not enough to kill her personal convictions. The courage that Mulan demonstrates is commendable. The warrior within her needed to be freed. Her father would later say that it was always there and he didn’t see it. The emperor would later invite her to take her place among honoured warriors – a position that would never be hers.
The lesson in this charming story, for me, is clear. What is within you that you are suppressing because it does not fit in with the rest of the world? What convictions do you carry that you have silenced because they said ‘No’ or ‘it won’t work’? Like Mulan, it’s time for you to rise up, fight against every noise and injustice for what you believe in, and take your place.
Do you not know that no one else can be you?
Do not be afraid to challenge the status quo. Be loyal to the ideals that form your truth. Be brave in the face of naysayers. Be true to whom you were made to become. It is time.
In the journey of life, you will share many experiences with many people. They will come into your life and space, playing different roles. In this letter, I will share ten of such roles.
Their role is to shine more light on you and your thoughts, ideas, innovations, projects, dreams and future. They bring more understanding, more depth, more definition to your life’s purpose. When things are hazy and you need clarity, your illuminators become the answer to prayers. Because they are not mind-reading magicians, it will take some trust on your part to open yourself up to them. This may mean sharing your vulnerabilities. It will require baring yourself to another. The trick is to recognise these light bearers for what they are. It is not necessarily difficult. They are like fireflies. Just follow the light.
They come solely to veer your attention off your dreams, plans and purpose. The aim is to get you to lose your focus. Every time you define your goals, they bring some flippant idea that seems better or surer than yours. And every time you abandon your gold to pursue their brass. It does not matter how fantastic your vision or how amazingly and specially gifted you are. As long as you entertain these people, you will never achieve those goals or fulfil those dreams. You will never reach the skies or touch the moon. You will keep walking in circles. You will lose potential opportunities and waste considerable time until you eventually recognise them for what they are.
They are equipped and positioned to find their way through your carefully built defences and steal your hidden treasures. They pretend to be the real deal. They camouflage as familiars. They disguise as friendlies. These are Trojan horses. When your defence is down, they strike. If they succeed, they will make off with your prized possessions. Watch your six. Those defences are not to hide you inside tall walls and high towers. They are to keep the bad out.
They are skilled, enlightened and focused builders. To them, you’re a project. They swoop in to beautify you, make you more functional, more effective or more visible. When they’re done, they move on to the next one. They don’t sit around holding hands to sing ‘kumbaya’. Once the project is completed, there is no longer a reason to stick around. Sure, you benefit from their engagement and you’ll be sorry to see them go but they are of no use to you after the work is done.
They are mimics. They are mirrors. They reflect back to you exactly what you are. No more, no less. They give back the same exact energy, the exact same amount of good or bad that you give to them. They do not come to add to you or take away from you. They are echoes of yourself. They look like whatever you look like at the time. They sound like whatever you say at the time. They smell like whatever you give off at the time. You get exactly what you give. Take care to give your best so you can get your best in return.
They come to drown your voice. Their goal is to diminish your shine. They accomplish this by raising their voice louder than yours and hitting you with so much negativity that you can hardly hear yourself. It does not matter how brilliant you are. It also does not matter how much what you are bringing will save or help them. They will never listen because they cannot hear your voice over their jeers. Don’t bother explaining yourself to this lot. It’s a waste of time and energy. Deafen yourself to their noise and go about doing your business. That’s what Noah did and look how that ended. You know what you’re about? Focus on that because the rains are coming and you’ve got yourself an ark to build.
Everything they touch goes to ash. They can’t help it. It’s the poison in their touch. If you experience this, the first thing is to stop feeding them with more opportunities to kill your dreams, ruin your beneficial relationships, and shut down your your resources. Like locusts, they leave devastation behind. Do not let them in. What might appear at first as you doing a favour will turn out to be a sorry decision.
These are masters at their game. Their weapons are tricks, mind games, and subtle suggestions. They set up inconsequential diversions and create pretty convincing lies. They are smooth, persuasive and can fool the smartest, strongest and the best at their own games. To beat them, you must recognise them for what they are – liars and thieves who are out to trick and confuse you by presenting a false reality to deceive you, to eventually steal from you. It’s not just a game. You lose something to them.
They buzz like bees and flutter like birds, spreading doubt, sowing confusion, nurturing hate to anyone who would listen, wherever they are entertained. Against these, you need to build a steel protector for your mind and sanity as well as a fortification for your heart. These whispers quickly take root, grow and begin to bear fruit in no time. Before you know it, there is a forest of vines so thick, no machete can cut through. They start so small but cause so much harm to the careless.
THE LIGHT SOURCE
Everyone needs light to navigate their path in this world. When we stumble in the dark, we cannot recognise the thieves and tricksters who seek to waylay us. Without the light, we will continually be victims to those who live and thrive in darkness. Light brings awareness, self-recognition, truth, knowledge and understanding: all of which are necessary tools and strengths for becoming and self-fulfillment. How would you find your way otherwise? There is one source of all light – the Creator of all life and existence. You can become a light-bearer, sharing your light with others, and showing them how to be light-bearers for others, spreading light, pushing back the darkness.
If you find yourself enduring any sort of toxic relationship in your adult life, try looking inwards for the answers. If most of your adult life is spent at work, how do you survive toxicity at work and come out top of your game?
For many millennials, toxic whirlpools were first formed at home and evolved from that point on. The faces and names changed but not the game. You may have heard the stories. Some people are quite familiar with being ‘respectfully’ silent in the presence of a parent, or ‘disappearing’ from the parlour when daddy came back from home, not having an identity, much less a voice at the place you called home, because it was the respectful thing to do. We would later find that this same ‘respect’ culture transcended to relationships with teachers, care givers at school, and eventually every symbol of authority. Somehow, the tradition cascaded beyond generation X. Y and Z have also inherited this norm.
It is safe to assume that this passive relationship with verbal, emotional and psychological abuse transcended to relationships with ‘bosses’ at work. More recently, you may have heard the ugly stories from your friends, family and peers. Bosses daily raining curses and/or insults on employees, regularly threatening to fire employees for no proven cause, delaying salaries while taking out money from the business to fund luxury trips and treats.
It is deplorable, no question about it. After all of our exposure and modernization, are there no fair methods that can be adopted or borrowed to allow some sanity into the mix? Our society is so conditioned that abusive and toxic workplaces and bosses are as normal as Lagos traffic.
Is this toxicity a contributory factor to prevalent health issues of many young people? What does coping with abuse for the most part of your life do for your physical and mental health? How about your self-esteem? And if you happen to be the one to speak up against what is apparently misguided and certainly unlawful, you become a leper. Suddenly, something must be wrong with you.
Well, if we do not begin to demand fair treatment at work, just like good governance, it will continue to be elusive, a mirage. Arguably, every worker has the personal responsibility to speak up for themselves in pursuing their rights to be treated fairly. At the same time, there exists a system to protect all rights and maintain a balance. This particular scale is unbalanced, however.
In our maintaining the culture of subservience, have we unknowingly allowed toxic parenting pave the way for workplace/boss bullying?