How are you all doing? It has been about eleven months since I last blogged, and I just spent the last hour removing the dense cobwebs that had formed on the blog lol. It has been an overwhelming eleven months though. So much can change in a year. My whole life changed. Let me break down the events.
Sept 2014 – June 2015
I stopped blogging in September when I entered my final year in university because I felt like I had to drop a lot of things (like writing) to concentrate on my studies, and it paid off. Back in high school, I was one of the brightest students in the Arts class, I was never average, and I always passed in flying colours. But then I got into university and started packing Bs and Cs, getting very few As. I assumed university courses were way harder than secondary school subjects and that was why my results weren’t as good anymore. I stopped putting in maximum effort and just remained comfortable with my average result. I didn’t have one of the best results in class and I guess I was okay with that.
But at the beginning of my final year, at about the time I stopped blogging and writing regularly, I had a talk with a lecturer who made me realise that I was my own undoing. He encouraged me to put in more work and shared some strategies with me. I became very determined and started studying harder than ever before. With a lot of studying and praying, I had excellent results in both semesters of my final year. The turnaround was so massive that even my course mates and a few lecturers noticed and congratulated me. I regained my confidence and made my parents proud at the same time. What I thought I had lost was right inside me, it just needed the right amount of work and dedication from me for it to resurface. It was an excellent school year, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
This was the happiest month of the year. (Well, so far. Better days ahead.) Before I go into details, I’d just like to inform the people who don’t know me well and remind the people who do, of my love for Ms Chimamanda Adichie. From the moment I read Purple Hibiscus back in 2008, I fell in love with her. Her words give me life. I’m constantly looking for her latest interviews, short stories and talks to read/watch, I have read all her books, I’ve even read a couple of them more than twice. I watched her TED Talk – We Should All Be Feminists (way before Beyoncé sampled it) and for the first time, I understood what feminism really was. That talk was what inspired me to start identifying as a feminist.
Sometime in March/April, I applied for Ms Adichie’s annual writing workshop, the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop. I wrote my piece and applied on the day before the deadline, because, fear. I was afraid that I wasn’t a good enough writer, and I wouldn’t be picked. I mean, some of the writers I love to read and stalk religiously for their stories and poems (Keside Anosike, Bassey Ikpi, Elnathan John) have participated in the workshop in previous years, so I just felt that if they could be picked, then my writing did not stand a chance. Boy, was I wrong. After much persuasion from my sisters and friends, I reluctantly applied, and completely forgot about it.
On June 3rd, at exactly 1:23 a.m., I received a mail from none other than Ms Chimamanda Adichie telling me that I was one of the twenty-five applicants selected out of over a thousand to participate in her workshop. Ha!!! I screamed, read the email about six times and woke my roommates up. I was so excited.
The workshop held from 16th June to 26th June in Lagos and it was honestly the best experience of my life. I went there excited that I would meet one awesome person, Ms Adichie, but I met and fell in love with about thirty people during those ten days. I don’t even know where to begin talking about this workshop from. Ah, yes, I will begin with Ms Adichie. She is all I imagined and more. She is stunning, intelligent, funny, honest, warm and friendly. Her presence literally lights up any room she walks into. I fell in love with her over again honestly. The other participants and “lecturers”, a cocktail of personalities.
I found a home with these people. I’ve never had a group of friends I could discuss almost anything with, share food and laughter and stories, and share my writing with, knowing that I would receive honest criticism from a place of love. They are all so intelligent, funny and incredibly talented. At first, ten days seemed very long and I felt like I had enough time with these people, but halfway in, I realized that ten days was really not that long, and started to wish the workshop would last longer. The workshop was taught by Ms Adichie, Binyavanga Wainana the awesome Kenyan Author, and Aslak Sira Myhre, the National Librarian of Norway. I cannot begin to write down all the valuable writing tips and life lessons I learned from these three. I learned that normal is good enough and that I don’t have to write above my level to be considered a good writer, I learned that it’s normal to be uncertain about my writing, as Ms Adichie said, “Uncertainty is what creates art.”
But most importantly, I learned to write with honesty, I learned to write my truths without fear of judgement. There are many more lessons I learned from the awesome “lecturers” and my fellow participants at the workshop, and I am certain that from here on, my writing can only get better. Also, I got my books signed by Chimamanda Adichie, Eghosa Imasuen and Binyavanga Wainana!
Did I mention the numerous pictures I took with her? Couldn’t get enough!
This was supposed to be a memorable month for me. My graduation was set for the 18th of July and I was making grand preparations. I was a little sad that my parents wouldn’t be around for it; they had already made plans for a vacation before my graduation day was set, and were to leave a day before my grad. My mum wasn’t happy about this. She kept saying she was sorry she wouldn’t be there, but she would make sure I got everything I wanted. We made plans to buy a cake, and pay for snacks and food to be served on that day. Even though she wouldn’t be there, she wanted everything to be perfect.
One afternoon in the first week of that month, I was having a conversation with my mum and my cousin when she (my mum) suddenly remembered a classmate I had lost when I was in SS1. My late classmate, Vivian, had been a ‘perfect kid’. From being the best student academically in our set to being a member of the Press Club and Theatre Arts Club. She was class captain every year since JS1, she usually preached during school fellowships, she was a teacher’s pet, and she was loved by everyone both in school and in her church, where she taught Sunday school to little girls. At the age of fourteen, Vivian was shot dead by armed robbers for resisting rape. As my mother recounted the story to my cousin, she had tears in her eyes. Then she made a statement, “When things are going too smoothly for you, a problem will arise so you can remember to pray.” I remember saying ‘God forbid’ in my mind because, at the time, life was so smooth for me, I couldn’t imagine a problem arising.
On the 9th of July, a few days after this conversation, about nine days to my graduation, my mother passed away. Forget what they say about five stages of grief, I have probably gone through a hundred stages, and I am not done yet.
My mother was young, vibrant, and very much alive. She wasn’t sick before she passed on, so nobody was prepared for her death. It was a rude shock. I felt as if I was dreaming. I had never expected something that terrible to happen to my family, never even imagined it. It felt so unreal. Every hour or so, I would have moments when reality hit me, and then the denial would take over again. People kept telling me to be strong for my dad and younger sister. Honestly, that day felt so long. I vaguely remember going into my room about three times, away from the eyes of aunties, uncles and sympathizers, curling up on my bed and crying my heart out. I did this a lot in the next week or so, I’d go somewhere to be alone and just cry. How could my mother, the person most proud of my graduation, not be around to see me graduate? It was cruel, it was unfair, and it still is. I’ve not quite gotten to the place where I can comfortably write about all the feelings I’ve been dealing with since that day. The wound is still very fresh, and I can only pray that time makes it better.
I’ve been staying in bed all day for the past few days, ignoring calls and texts, and not returning them. I’m not interested in conversations, or movies or books or food. I’ve lost weight and I look smaller. But it will only get worse if I don’t do anything about it.
I’ve decided to revive my blog, starting with this post. I’ve decided to put effort into doing all the things I love doing, and try not to become overcome by grief and self-pity. The only thing I can do for my mum now is to make her and my dad proud. I’m going to get back on my feet and do something that matters. I will write about my feelings instead of bottling them in, and I will fully acknowledge the fact that it’s okay to not be okay. I plan to take driving lessons later this month. I’ll try to keep busy until I get the call to serve my nation.
This is my first non-fiction post ever, anywhere. Before attending the writing workshop, I hated sharing my non-fiction because I felt it left me exposed and vulnerable. But I am embracing my truths, step by step.
Here’s to hoping that August 2015, and the rest of my years will be better than July 2015. Have a great month…xx
P.S: Challenging myself to make one blog post a week. Let’s see how that goes. Cheers!