In December 2017, I had joined a few friends for dinner to talk about what they had defined as a creative alliance. A friend had set up the meeting so we — about 7 of us — could discuss how we could create a movement hinged on using our individual sphere of influence to influence younger Nigerians positively.
Midway into the dinner, one of us had started up a conversation on our goals for the next year; 2018. I was the fifth to talk — I think — right after Joy. And I know I sounded foolish when I said my goal was “to cut down intensely on all the things I hold on to”.
That sounded weird. Weirder than I thought it would. But, I was only being honest.
The summary of that statement, however, was that unlike my friends who made already had plans to release singles, create video documentaries, write books, start businesses, work on their personal brands, I did not know what to expect in the year. I had to make space. But it wasn’t as much about making space than it was about the fact life has become exhausting.
Although, as the year went on, that statement that came out of a no-will-to-live and nonchalance towards my life grew into a mission that redefined the year for me and as an extension, my life and I’ll explain how.
The year started slowly and with no hope at all.
In January, laden with all the baggage and exhaustion from December, my sadness — or for lack of a better word, hopelessness — had evolved into suicidal thoughts. My life was now hanging on a thread and I was contemplating cutting off that thread. I spent many days in bed, in tears, in the dark, worrying about my hopelessness and helplessness.
I’m writing this now because I didn’t take my life. Again, I found the will to live or better put, the will to live reminded me she’s always been there.
The walk into hope was gradual. One that involved being part of a new faith community and reading the stories of several people worldwide who had similar stories with mine and through their stories could touch a part of my humanity. I reconnected with YouTube and curated a category based playlist. Songs were my biggest help during that period.
By mid-February, I got a new job. Alongside my job as a reporter and staff writer at YNaija, I got an offer to work at Joy, Inc.; a storytelling company focused on building a new generation of resilient and joyful Africans. It was the most tasking assignment I’d ever embarked upon till then but it was thoroughly rewarding.
A few weeks after I got the job, the CEO appointed me as the team leader. The CEO had assigned me, the youngest member of the team the responsibility of managing the team, the processes, communication, projects, events, and ensure the seamless running of the company. That was huge, but, I did the best I could, which based on our company monthly assessment was more than enough. (When do I begin to write blog posts on tips for the new millennial manager)
Just before I penned this 2018 review, I went through our staff monthly assessments and I stumbled on one I loved so much.
It reads; “Bolu Akindele is very efficient, very resourceful, very creative and has been a blessing with his talents, but major problems with (XXXXX), managing pressure, and maintaining calm (which is the ability to keep going and provide answers whatever happens) is a major issue.”
And just so you know, month after month, I constantly led the assessment scoreboard. I know my colleagues will grin when they read this but, duuurrrhh! My whole life was having rhythm, a sense of calm. I was delighted.
I had made a few personal changes to optimize my life. I uninstalled all my social media apps from my phone which helped curtail my addiction to social media, helped me spend more time reading and thinking. Removed most activities I engaged in that were of low output and put in all of my energy into the ones with high returns. Unsubscribed from many of the email listings that were only clogging my email as opposed to actually changing my life. I left a few groups and communities, sadly.
Everything appeared to be fine. Until June. I logged out from everything, mentally. I had gotten terribly confused about everything.
My faith, my life, my writing, my mind. I had become a mess again. I had some amount of money already saved up so I did the only thing that made sense to me.
I resigned from all forms of work.
The amount I had left, I believed, could last me a couple of months without me having to start a GoFundMe page. I needed to figure out a few things. And I needed no one around.
2018 was an exercise in understanding why.
It was in that period I built conviction, built faith in the things I believed in, found answers and questions and some more answers.
I am thankful for spending the first few months in active paid employment but I’m also happy for the months I spent out of work. In that period, I sought out answers like not finding them was going to kill me. I didn’t know what I was going through as clearly as I do now so if you’d met me then, explaining this would have looked foolish.
I was lonely mostly because I had spent most of my time not letting people into my well-guarded life. It sounds foolish but it was to their advantage. Or how do you explain having a friend who makes a decision like resigning from well-paying jobs on an impulse? Something as fickle as “I need to figure my life out”.
You see, I inhabit the world in a way that is rather unusual. I have always known this. First I am introverted, then I don’t like the things that most people do and most importantly, I am left with very little emotional and physical energy. And my path to success has always been hinged on being fully me. It’s how I have built my connection of friends, gotten all the job opportunities and in essence, flourished in this world of people who love to think and live the same.
My secret to flourishing life is my authenticity. It’s the thing that makes me tick. It’s the energy that has attracted everyone I know to me and adversity has helped me refine this. In a world where we‘d rather put everyone in the same box, I have to constantly remind myself of the way I interact with the world. This is how I am optimized for peace.
Coming to the full understanding of this during that period was pure bliss. The highlight of my whole year. Now, I interact with the world, with my faith, with people from that standpoint and with peace that I am doing nothing wrong.
By August, I had started pitching media organizations for my stories and got a commission. I’m almost done with the story and it should be published in January.
As December approached, it scared me. I have a history of depressive, sad and lonely episodes that come up in December and the thought that “my time of the year” was approaching got me fidgeting. How was I going to face yet another episode?
To avoid a repeat of previous Decembers, I reached out to a few friends who had graciously asked, “How can I help?”. My response was simple. I just needed to be constantly reminded that I wasn‘t alone.
It’s 25th December and so far, December has been awesome.
I am excited about 2019. I’ll keep focusing on the thing that makes me tick. In Shonda Rhimes language, my hum.
Now, if you ask me what my plan for 2019, I’d say;
– To live a life of less. Constantly eliminating the needless, the excess.
– To continually find answers by constantly asking why.
– To learn more about myself, lean into my advantage
– To build a solid foundation for many of the things I will do
– To focus intensely on the few things I’d set my heart on for the year and make space for my journey to evolve.
– To tell all the stories I’m deeply passionate about.
I might start therapy next year too.
Did you notice that I didn’t talk about my romantic life in 2018? Well, let’s thank God for life 🙂
About Bolu: Bolu Akindele is a writer and freelance journalist from Nigeria. His work covers religion, human interest stories, health and development across Nigeria and increasingly, West Africa. You can follow him on twitter @boluakindele