Monday, 2 January 2017

My Kind of Freedom

- By Amanda Obasohan

Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind – Bernard M. Baruch

My thoughts: Why do people think I am strong-minded when I sometimes feel weak? How am I a savage because I tend to express my mind without a filter most of the time? Why do I find it so difficult to stick to rules, principles and the “this is how it’s done”? Why do I remember so much that has happened in my life since I was about 3 years old in startling details? Yet this did not translate to me becoming a first class student…rather, a mere 2:1 graduate. Does everyone think as much as I do? Why do I think it’s okay to start writing these thoughts and sharing them? Why am I so transparent? Why don’t I take things as seriously as others do? Why don’t I care much for people’s approval? And why the heck am I up at almost 3 a.m. writing this, when I could just holler at friends like Lani who would probably be awake too or at least sleeping with one eye open?

I’ve heard that when you truly don’t care what anyone thinks of you, you are dangerously approaching this thing called “freedom”. I have always believed that I don’t care about people’s opinions and thoughts about me but I realized I am not fully “there” yet, as my natural actions sometimes prove otherwise. I am very conscious of this.

I once went out for lunch alone and an ex-colleague walked into the restaurant and asked to sit with me. I always thought she was pretty and well put together so I agreed to eat with her. I had ordered chicken and chips and was ready to get down with it with my fingers as I usually do. Unconsciously I became hesitant because I didn’t want her to think that I was uncouth, like “Oh she doesn’t know how to navigate the use of a cutlery set?” After I was done with the excruciating chore of eating the chips with my fork, there was no way I was going to do that on the chicken. Before I could stop them, my fingers came into play. But I just couldn’t wrap my head around why her opinion of me bothered me so much. Was it because she came from a wealthy background? Was I trying to belong?
To myself: This ex-colleague’s thoughts about me are not going to shift a particle in the air. I know when to be respectful or proper and did not have to worry about her expectations of me. What if she didn’t even care?

I have seen people purchase high-end items not because they really like them nor do they provide superior comfort, but because they are bound by the feeling that these labeled items are associated with prestige and people around them would appreciate them more or show some respect when they see these items. I must admit to having had this feeling a few times, but I don’t think I have actually succumbed to it because I don’t own any designer items yet. I cannot fathom saving up to buy one handbag. I tried it once but after loads of back and forth with my mind, I concluded I really just wanted the brand not the fact that it was cute (even though it was cute), they were loads and loads of other cute quality hand bags that weren’t going to break my bank account, so was the struggle worth it eventually?
To myself: Do I have to wait to buy something which would require shedding such a large amount of money and therefore leave a huge dent in my bank account? No one’s impression of what I can afford would add a dime to me or remove one from them. The kind of people to whom my material possession would attract can only be fake people. The only differences between what they have and what I have are the price tag and label attached. These days, it is even very likely that these items are produced in the same factories by the same people from certain Asian countries. So really, what is the difference?

They have handbags in which they put their personal belongings…I have handbags too.
They have a bed to sleep comfortably in at night…I’ve got that too.
They have a comfortable car to convey them from one point to another…I’ve got that (even one that is more fuel efficient).
Expensive shoes?...Well, I don’t go anywhere on bare feet, so I’m good.

I am very transparent; I share my thoughts and experiences a lot. I talk about people and give my opinions, which might not necessarily be favourable to them. But I don’t understand why having an opinion that may not positive is considered gossiping or hating in our society (even when it is backed by facts or clear observation). I have been told that I talk about some experiences, which I should take to grave instead of sharing. Why?

Because telling people will bring some judgment upon me?
Because they might gossip about it?
Because they might look down on me?
Or, worst of all, they might disassociate from me?

I have penned down a few thoughts and had my friend post them on her blog as an anonymous writer because I did not want anyone to think that my imagination could run so wild or wonder, “Is she a tortured soul?” Interestingly however, I get more response on those kinds of pieces than on the ones I feel comfortable attaching my name to. So that made me wonder if people relate better to raw messages than those which are considered “acceptable”?

I recently wrote a piece on loyalty and my secondary school came in to play at the beginning. I struggled to put it out at first because I didn’t want people to think that I went to a school where flogging was embraced or that I had suffered from it. It would have been easier to have just put up my “ajebutter” front and have everyone think I had it easy.
To myself: When has my gossip or people’s gossip about me changed a thing in my life or their lives? Everyone who wants to laugh or make jest can just go ahead, my air supply is still going to be steady, my food and water are not going to run out, those close to me are going to know the truth, my bank account isn’t going to get debited, no one will catch a disease. Seriously, the gist does not bring about death. 

When it comes to decisions that affect me for a lifetime e.g. marriage, career, personal interests, I take full control, without a question. I do take external advice, but after careful evaluation if I do not find it beneficial, I leave it. Excuse me, I still can’t understand when people say “I can’t marry him, he’s Yoruba. My parents won’t agree.” Or “He has to be a catholic Igbo man from Anambra State”. Please, this is 2017, not 1920…we need to get over the notion of placing cultural norms as a barrier life-changing decisions! When it comes to the smaller issues that don’t have long-term effects, why can’t I do what I want when no one is going to die? People have asked me, what if your parents don’t like it. My questions to them are:

How are my personal choices going to affect their daily lives?
Are they going to be okay physically as a result of my decision? (No broken arm or leg?)
Is a disease or an epidemic going to start?

Personally, I have not seen how my mother’s choice of husband affected her parents’ lives because they did not live with my dad, neither have any of my uncles’ or aunties’ decisions or opinions affected our nuclear family.

I also have been told that a few people will attend my wedding because I only attend a few. Well, those are the few people I would like to be present at mine but I really only need my groom and the officiating minister. No need to keep up appearances at multiple weddings. It’s so exhausting. Besides, who made that rule that a wedding is “lit” only if attended by the whole of Lagos?
To myself: Do what makes you happy first, anyone who gets hurt from your personal decisions which do not affect their day to day lives or take bread away from their table will get over it. The only being to consider is God.

I turned 29 last year and when men approach me and ask how old I am, once in a blue moon, I find some insecurity kick, which so silly! Is he going to think I am old? Are they going to associate being 29 and single as automatically desperate and looking for a ring? This is huge insecurity for most females within this age group in this toxic environment where marriage is considered a life accomplishment?To myself: Anyone who has the slightest problem with my age is not for me and I have taken a liking to not up to 5 men on this earth. I always have at least 5 problems on anyone who has one problem with me. So bleep out.

Reverencing God has been a part of my life, pretty much since I knew myself, thanks to my parents. I never really talked about God to my friends as much as I talk about myself and other things because I have become conscious of people thinking I’m too religious or a fanatic who would try to impose my views on them. A lot happened last year and I want to talk about God sometimes but I still back down. I want to kneel in church during worship sometimes but I still get shy. Will anyone who has seen me in a club before think I am pretending? Would I seem too holy or like I am pretending? Because I still sin consciously and unconsciously?
To myself: How could I be shy to kneel to the author and finisher of my life and faith? Your battle was designed to be that hard so you never forget who brought you out. So say exactly what you want to, when you want to, and how you want to say it and anyone who doesn’t want to listen or isn’t interested or uncomfortable has an option to walk away. 

I feel like I am growing into someone people can’t handle, some friends have asked me why I just want to be a rebel. Phew, no! I just want to live a life that I am comfortable with. I hope the day my spirit leaves my body, I can look back and say I pleased God first and then myself. It’s exciting and scary at the same time knowing I am getting closer or at least I think I am getting closer for now. I want to be able to go hard for the things I am passionate about and not give room for what’s the popular opinion just because it’s popular opinion.

Am I alone?

Monday, 26 December 2016

The Food Mafia at Nigerian Social Events

Guest: Please can I get some food?
Server: Food has FINISHED!!!

{server walks away very quickly}

Sometimes, this is the response you get at social events in Nigeria, especially those of a certain ethnic group located in the southwest region of the country.

I personally do not like to eat out if it is not at a restaurant or a home. I think that food at such events is mass-produced, diminished in quality and of questionable hygiene. So I have made it a rule to always fortify myself with a nice balanced meal before leaving my house. Unfortunately, it just happens that on two occasions over one weekend during this festive period, I was not able to eat before events and therefore became a victim of the Food Mafia. What made the situations dire was that on both occasions, I had done an intense work out just before heading out. So I’m sure many people in the fitfam clan would be able to relate this.

The first event was a lavish wedding. It was so crowded that the combination of the exhaustion from locating a decent place to seat with the post-workout stress left me parched. One would have thought that even if getting food required some strong ties with the Food Mafia at this wedding, at least, water…. common water would be available to the masses. This was not the case. I asked at least five waiters, with no success. One even gave me the excuse of not being able to serve water because it was not cold. At this point, a migraine was building up and I actually started to feel a little embarrassed for asking. Eventually, one of my male friends came to the rescue and brought two bottles of water. 

On the other side of my table, one of the friends I went with was not having it when it came to food. I think she must have cornered at least 10 waiters. Again, she was not successful until she found one of her aunts who had connections to the Food Mafia and was able to hook us up. It was really interesting that for every waiter she asked, their excuses were largely along the context of “I’m not allowed to serve ordinary guests, this food is for the XXXX family and their guests”. So clearly, we did not get the memo: every man and woman for him or herself…and their guests. The hustle was real! To add to this, the entire situation was so ironic because we were actually seated right in front of the caterers, so you would think that access to food would have been straightforward. Not the case at all!
This is what I should have done when that lady asked about the chicken.

Now, the second event was a little different. This was a small house party for about 30 guests. I had just completed a Body by Ponz bootcamp session. If anyone knows Ponz, they would know that his sessions are no joke. Unfortunately, I did not have time to eat afterwards; otherwise, I would have been late as I am a very slow eater. So I decided to live dangerously once again, hoping that the risk would not be as grave as the situation at the wedding the previous night. Fortunately, it wasn’t because this time, there was a nice table of home cooked food. Although most of the dishes were nearly empty by the time I arrived, I would smell some fresh food cooking in the kitchen. This brought me some level of comfort. Eventually, I had something to eat and was relatively satisfied. Then some people around me were talking about this amazing barbeque chicken. Given that it was my friend’s house, I boldly walked into the kitchen and saw some of this “golden chicken” in a serving dish right in front of me. The chicken was calling my name! So I asked the lady in the kitchen if I could take some and she told me to go ahead. Then I took two out of the three pieces, placed them on my plate, went back to my place at the table, got myself some serviette, got comfortable and was ready to chow them down, primitive style. Right before I touched the chicken, an angry sounding lady came out of the kitchen saying “Excuse me, did you take the chicken from the kitchen?” I was very confused at this point. So I answered, “Yes, I did”. She did not say a word in response, but boy did she look pissed! I immediately knew that I had unknowingly taken her chicken. So I asked her if she wanted it back, saying that I hadn’t touched it yet (but not really expecting her to take it back). She didn’t even respond, but just grabbed my plate. I felt a little embarrassed because this happened in front of the other people at the table. Later that night, I found out that she was the one who cooked the food, so somehow, that gave her authority over who could or could not eat it (Head of the Food Mafia). Then I thought to myself, if I were in the same situation, what would I do? I would like to believe that I was brought up better than to behave the way she did, especially given that that was our first encounter ever. I would have let it go.

Basically here are some tips I would give, should you ever find yourself in such a situation:

1. Do not do an intense workout before going to a social function

2. If you do an intense workout before going out, ensure that you rehydrate and eat a good meal

3. If you go out with the intention of eating at the event, make sure you get clued in on the code for cracking the Food Mafia

4. If you don’t have time to get in on this code ahead of time, look for an aunty or male friend. They will hook you up

But to avoid all forms of disappointment or embarrassment in such a situation, just eat at home before you go out. It’s tough out there.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Eagle Toastmasters Incoming President's Speech

It is very difficult to forget Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign slogan, “Yes, we can”. As simple as this expression may appear, I did not give much thought to it at the time. I was still at university, and it is possible that I did not have enough experience in life that required the mental resilience that this slogan advocates for. Of course I believed in myself, but it was easy then: I was that stereotypical quiet, straight-A student who won all the private victories, majority of which took the form of written examinations and research projects that did not require much interaction with other human beings.

It might be true that private victory precedes public victory, but no one ever said that public victory cannot amplify the results of private victory. This, however, does not mean that a person whose disposition leans towards a quieter or introverted character will not attain the same level of success as the next person who may appear to be a more confident extrovert.

During my final year Research Project at university, I was required to give a Power Point presentation on my report to an audience of just two people. Prior to that, I had always shied away from any form of public speaking, thinking that I could just continue to hide behind my private victories. Then it dawned on me that life is really not that bed of roses and we all will, at some point or the other, be taken out of our comfort zones. That was the moment that the message in Barack Obama’s slogan came through to me. My interpretation of this statement is that difficult situations may come our way, but it takes a lot of self-assurance, hard work and will-power to overcome them.

A common trend in some of the world’s most successful leaders and business men and women is that they did not stumble upon success by accident; they did not play it safe and wait for things to happen to them. Even those who Malcom Gladwell recognised in his bestselling book as Outliers had to take many risks to arrive at their success. The one thing that these people understood was their purpose, so they directed their efforts to do all it took to achieve their goals, bearing in mind that “the real tragedy is the tragedy of the man who never in his life braces himself for his one supreme effort – he never stretches to his full capacity and never stands up to his full stature.” (Quote by Arnold Bennett – English novelist, playwright and essayist).

While some people, like a few of those Malcom Gladwell wrote about, have strong self-realisation and are able to discover their purpose and potential on their own, some of us need help despite the many resources are available at our disposal through the fragmented and ever-growing media platforms including print, electronic and social media. Back in 1924, these resources were not even available on the same scale. But there was a man named Ralph Smedley, the Educational Director of the YMCA at the time, who realised his purpose was to help young men learn to speak and lead. He identified a gap in these skills he deemed critical for conducting meetings, hosting events, planning programmes and working on committees. Now these skills were relevant for success all the way back in 1924. As an employee or employer, during recruitment sessions I’m sure we all know that, apart from technical skills, employers look for leadership, communication and team working skills in candidates. These are essentially the same skills Ralph Smedley identified. They were relevant in 1924. So I ask you: Are they relevant today? Will they be relevant in the future?

“You’ve got to be able to communicate in life and it is enormously important. Schools, to some extent underemphasise that. If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential” - Warren Buffett

Bearing this in mind again, ten years ago, yet another leader, Ambassador Vincent Okobi identified the need to improve the communication and leadership skills in Nigerians. He established the Eagle Toastmasters Club, the pioneer of the Toastmasters movement in Nigeria, which has since extended to over 25 clubs across the country. From my personal experience, since joining the Eagle Toastmasters Club four years ago, I have watched myself and others, not only enhance our oral communication and leadership skills, but also improve our self-confidence and personal growth.

I am extremely grateful first of all to Mr.Phil Porter one of my teachers at school in Swtizerland who encouraged me to join Toastmasters in the first place; TM Akindele Semowo who saw the leadership potential I did not realise I had and encouraged me to serve in my first position on the Executive Committee of the Club during his tenure as President; TM Remi Abere, my mentor who is always extremely supportive, and actually motivated me to start writing my blog after she read my first Toastmasters speech; TM Oluyemi Adeosun who encouraged me to run for the office of Vice President Education (a prerequisite to being elected Club President); TM Keji Sanni who did not take “no” for an answer when I nearly backed out of running for Vice President Education; all the Past Presidents, Executive Committee and leaders both within and outside the club for the constant support.

I urge every single one of you, members, non-members and prospective members to join the Eagle Toastmasters Club Executive Committee in our campaign this year to let Nigeria know the greatness individuals can achieve through this initiative.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Samantha the Unfriendly Ghost

Confrontation is one of those dreaded interactions that many people avoid. It is just awkward. So when it comes to this relationship/flirtation game, where someone ("the chaser") who is interested in another person ("the chasee") and is persistently on that person's case while that person is not in any way attracted to him or her and simply just avoids the situation or the person and cuts off contact with no explanation, expecting the chaser to get the unspoken message, I have come to realise that avoiding the situation may actually do more harm than good. While rejection might be a painful message to deliver to the chaser, not addressing this proposition at all is just cold and actually a little immature. This practice of avoidance is commonly known as "ghosting".

The truth is that for some people, especially sensitive ones, it is actually difficult for the chasee to let the chaser down. In some cases, the chasee would even like to keep the chaser in the friend zone, but might fear that the chaser would not accept that. So what does the chasee do? The chasee becomes a ghost and performs a disappearing act on the chaser.

I have observed two results of this situation:

  1. The chaser continues to chase persistently. For some people, especially men, the chase is actually a thrill, a game they are willing to risk a lot for until they win their prize. And with the amount of fronting women tend to do, ghosting might actually be perceived as interest. So sure, some of them do eventually win but others simply just waste their time because this chasee will very likely not change his or her mind about the way he or she feels
  2. The chaser begins to resent the chasee, and this turns into a bitter situation, where lust suddenly flips to hate. This presents a lose-lose scenario for both parties because, not only did the relationship so desired by the chaser not actualise, any friendship that could have been recovered may be lost forever

In this matter of ghosting, it is just best to be honest because it is unfair to string people along with multiple pity dates, lead them on, waste the time of both parties and end eventually up in an undesirable and awkward situation. 

Here are some of Sam's tips to avoid ghosting:
  1. Be prompt: Nip it in the bud. As a chasee, do not waste time telling the chaser that you cannot reciprocate the same feelings he or she has towards you.
  2. Be polite: This message must be conveyed very carefully. I would advise doing it in person for the highest level of emotional accuracy.
  3. Be constructive: Let the person down easy. Like I said, rejection is bitter, so it has to be crafted tactfully. 
  4. Be concise: You don't really need to give an elaborate explanation for your decision, especially when you deliver it early enough.
  5. Be truthful: Do not lie about being in another relationship, for instance, just so that you avoid this person (well, that doesn't seem to stop many people these days to be honest, but let's pretend that we live in an ideal world)
  6. Be kind: Show some respect, and try not to tell all your friends about the situation. Remember, no one is immune to rejection. It could happen to you and you do not want people talking about your business.
  7. Be tactical with post-confrontation communication: Sometimes, even after this confrontation, the chaser, in fighter mode, may still have some residual strength. The door might be shut, but if the chasee happens to crack it open just a little bit (maybe via a phone call or a visit), old feelings might spark up, and another emotional rollercoaster will begin.

Monday, 14 November 2016

My Safe Haven

- By an anonymous writer

I’ve been through three heartbreaks, and I still have exes and other interested fellas who are trying to unbreak my heart…

I was recently set up with a guy who seemingly caught feelings from a photo of me on social media. It does feel refreshing to talk to someone new…

Sometimes, I just miss my old self. I’ve been fighting the toughest internal battle to get her back. She was open, loving, trusting, and even though she was oblivious to a lot, the world felt better with her. It was not scary then because she didn’t think much of a lot and did not necessarily believe the stories people had told her about disappointment, hurt, pain, insecurity, bitterness and hate. In fact, to her, these people were merely exaggerating. In her opinion, life was not supposed to be so bitter… But the new me was hit in the face with all these negative emotions, and boy do I hate it with every living fiber in me. Can’t this world just be good and jolly? Can’t we all live happy…and then happily ever after?

One night, I was talking to my new overnight whatsapp buddy and attempted to describe how he managed come through the walls of my guarded Safe Haven: 

After my most recent breakup, I built this gigantic house in my heart that had a large gate and so many rooms, gardens, bathrooms and conservatories, which blocked the path to the core, where I was sleeping without distractions…without intruders. This was my Safe Haven.

A very good friend came to knock on the door, so I took a quick peek and let him into my territory. He went on to tell me about a friend of his whom he would like to introduce me to. Now, this person sounded pretty good on paper, someone I might actually be interested in, but I told my friend that I was not interested. NO VISITORS PLEASE! He was a little disappointed but he understood where I was coming from. Nevertheless, he came back a week later and tried again to convince me to allow this visitor in. He told me that he was a really cool kid and pleaded that I just let him in through front door, not even past the first conservatory. If I did not like him, I could get my guards to get him out. I told him that I needed some time to think about it, knowing at the back of my mind that I had absolutely no intention of getting back to him. But my friend was very persistent; he made yet another attempt to get his friend through the door. This time, I nearly gave in. 

Still suffering from the wounds of my previous relationship, I did not want any intruders or robbers stealing any more parts of me or from my Safe Haven. If this new guy tried any nonsense, I had enough guards to see him out. “Tell him to visit on the weekend,” I said. Indeed, he came to visit but I was not emotionally prepared. So I pretended to have gone out and did not open the door. “Hopefully he gets discouraged”, I thought.... I was wrong. 

My friend eventually found out that I refused to open the door during his friend’s attempted visit, and he was not very happy. He even accused me of being rude. Knowing that that behaviour was not in line with my values and my natural disposition, my guilt did not let me rest. So I made up my mind to open the door the next time he came knocking. So he came again, and when he rang the bell this time, I took a peek and asked for his name. He sounded cool and it appeared as though he had come in peace, so I cracked the door open. After speaking to him at the entrance for a few minutes, he did not seem to pose any initial threat, so I allowed him into the first conservatory. Again, the security alarms did not go off and the metal detector did not pick up any dangerous weapons. So I unconsciously began to give him a cool and happy tour. Believe me, I am not oblivious to people hurting others with bare hands. I’ve seen too many martial arts movies to be naive about this. However, there was something about the situation, which, at this point, gave me peace of mind. We strolled into rooms; he liked the designs and decorations and it felt good to me. In true openness, I also showed him the doors to some “not so good looking” rooms, but I did not open them. I was not very comfortable with those rooms so I was not ready to show them to him. 

What if he did not like them either? 

What if he ran to the nearest exit? 

Well, on the surface, I tried to brush off these insecurities but deep down, I thought to myself “Who will be the one that I will get to show every room and even every bathroom, where I have washed the filth of other visitors? Who will be the one I finally walk hand in hand with to that core and final room I created for just myself…the one I would allow in through the final door after touring every bit and corner, through the beauty and the ugliness. Who will last long enough to call my final room, home?

I have had to walk every visitor out the exit door. I have not had anyone leave voluntarily yet. I am not sure how it would feel if I had someone exit voluntarily, as ejecting visitors I trusted was already brutal enough to my emotions…done with tears and sweat. The most recent was done with sweat, tears and even blood. 

Some are still knocking. I have talked to them at the entrance but I cannot bring myself to allowing them in. 

The new me is scary sometimes. What if she thinks she hears an alarm and it is false? 

The old me was oblivious to the world, and that was okay! Somebody, bring her back! 

Sadly I think she is gone forever….

Saturday, 12 November 2016

The Stigma of being Single in Lagos

Since I moved back to Lagos a few years ago, there seems to have been some sort of pressure to be in a relationship, or somewhere along the journey towards marriage. It seems to me, however, that some people are in it for the excitement of a splashy wedding and do not give much thought the life-long commitment of marriage. I have been to and heard of some weddings, which have ended in divorce within a few short months or maybe one or two years. Why get married, or be in a relationship if it’s only going to end up in a shambles? I refuse to believe that people do not see the signs of a disaster in the making…maybe that’s because I have not found myself in such a situation, or maybe it’s because I do not view marriage as a do or die affair.

Don’t get me wrong; I have had the privilege of witnessing some of the most beautiful and intimate weddings, where I have confidence in the genuine love and friendship that the couples share, which would blossom into a life of passion and companionship. While some may have it on their life’s path to have found their soul mate a young age, it seems to me that other young Nigerians begin to panic; ladies when they begin to approach their late 20s and men from their mid-30s.

Why are people afraid of being alone? The fact that a person is alone does not mean that he or she is lonely, or sad, or an ice-queen. It just means that the timing is not right; or really, that marriage is not for that person…and believe me, there are many other great accomplishments life has to offer. We would only see them if we were not so fixated on the expectations of our society. Has anyone in Nigeria ever given that some thought? Why does society stigmatise those who have made a choice to remain single? It’s like a pity-fest when people ask about your relationship status, you tell them you are single, they give you that pitiful look whilst you are thinking “But I really love my life the way it is. There is absolutely no need to feel sorry for me.” Or what about that common scenario at the workplace where the temperamental female in a senior position is labelled a bitch and people blame her behaviour on the fact that she is single. What if she is simply just a sociopath? Does marriage have to be considered one of the main factors that correlates to a person’s happiness?

I think people need to get over this pity party and learn to be okay with being single. Here are a few reasons why:

1. You are in better control of your time, and do not have to share it with anyone
2. You can be proud of taking care of yourself without relying on someone to do so
3. You can be proud of refusing to settle for someone who does not measure up to your standards
4. You can focus on all the things you are actually passionate about
5. You can have fun the way you choose to
6. You can discover more about yourself in solitude and learn how to improve to become the best version of you

There is waaaaayyyyy more to life than being in a relationship.

Gosh, I love this!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The True Condition for Love

- By Amanda Obasohan


That was the word used to describe me and fellow rebels in Year 12 (SS3) whenever I chose not to attend a boring motivational seminar. When I did go for these sessions, my mind was always flooded with thoughts of how my bed was 10 times a better place to be. Yes, back in Secondary School, I was notorious for being a "strong head" and very talkative; so talkative that it was never a surprise to find my name at the top of the list of noise makers in class. In fact, my name might as well have been the letterhead of the paper used to write that list. The only way I could escape from the wrath of the punishment that came with it was if I was friends with the writer. 

I woke up on one of these seminar mornings to shouting from one of the Reverend Sisters who was in charge of the school. The Principal (another Reverend Sister) was not around that day. Of course, she came in with an army of teachers who followed behind to demonstrate their loyalty and support for this treason my colleagues and I had committed. Before I knew it, we were rounded up like armed robbers and the flogging began! It felt like the strokes were never going to stop. As I watched my friends undergo this flogging ritual and waited in line for my turn, I decided that I was not going to show emotion or dare to cry. That way, I would take away some of the power they derived from inflicting pain on me. So I literarily zoned out and the lashes kept coming. Oh boy, did I feel like such a bad ass: I expressed no emotion on my face, in fact, my body did not move an inch. But at the back of my mind, I knew that the effects on my skin and body would be horrific as I am very light skinned and weighed about 42kg at the time. When they were done, I returned to my friends and they could not believe the look of my skin. When I felt the emotions from their pity for me, I couldn't help the waterworks....I broke down into a flood of tears.

Either later that evening or on the next day during our evening prep study sessions, while I was still suffering from the swelling and pain, some manly looking female teacher who sought favour in the sight of the army of reverend sisters appeared in my classroom and asked for those who did not attend the seminar. I thought "Is this punishment ever going to end?" She then gave a quick speech, which I cannot recall because its memory was erased by the sight of her her big fat cane. She too wanted in on flogging us because we had committed the greatest sin mankind had ever seen and we deserved hell! The sudden silence of the entire class spoke mighty volumes of the pity our classmates felt for us “rebels” and their inability to do anything about it. At this point, I knew my skin was literally going to peel from any more flogging and I was frightened. BUT I had a friend – Onnaedo Okafor. She looked at me and stood up. She told this manly looking teacher that she could not flog us any more than we had already endured. She did this in a remorseful manner but it could have landed her a similar fate to what we had endured. But because of her courage, some others joined her when she did not back down. Now this was my own real life experience of a Civil Rights movement.

In Game of Thrones, Eddard Stark told Jon Snow that we only know our true friends on the battlefield. Those who would rather speak up for you or fight for you and risk it all than sit silent. I would never have blamed my dear friend if she had sat down silently on that day. I mean, who wants to get flogged. Flogging was all she could gain from this. Miraculously, the ugly teacher backed down. This march against her flogging intent was one she had never witnessed before. Martin Luther King Jr. said “In the end, we remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends”. However, in this case I will never forget the words of my friend!

Loyalty is an ongoing battle we all face. Sometime ago, I was listening to the radio and the topic was on the things that brought out the worst reactions from people in relationships. For men, a poor financial position and infidelity seemed to take the cake in, bringing out the worst reactions from their girlfriends. For the ladies a revelation of pregnancy and also infidelity seemed to rock the men's boats the most. A male caller on the conference said he was doing financially well and spent a lot of money on his girlfriend. So in a bid to test her loyalty he told her that his cash flow was dried up and although he still had his house, cars and other assets, he could no longer afford their luxuries; in fact everything not deemed as a necessity would have to go. He managed to keep up with this lie for about 2 months. After the first month, he noticed she began to change: he was not getting as much attention anymore and she seemed to get irritated at slightest things. This reverse reaction to her behaviour when he was spending lavishly was like a film trick, so on that basis he ended the relationship. A female caller said that she had lied about being pregnant to her boyfriend and he became angry, tried to pressure her into getting an abortion and even questioned the paternity of the unborn child. On that basis, she too packed her bags and immediately left the relationship. 

We often never know anyone’s true intentions until they are tested, and the same concept goes even for material things. We never know how good and durable they are till they have been used or tested. I am also now aware that many times, we cannot even vouch for our own true character till we have been put to the test. I have not been true to myself a few times. For instance, I once went for a job interview where I was asked if I loved research work and I said “Yes, I just love to discover new things”. Whereas, I knew that it was not one of my favourite things to do, but I was desperate for a steady income and ready to go as far as lying to get it. Then I remembered that even God puts us to the test sometimes, especially those who call on him and declare him Lord of their lives. A classic example was Job in the Bible. You cannot be sure you are not a thief until you are hungry and someone else’s food is in front of you. You might think you are humble until you are given money or power and you start oppressing others unconsciously. The lady who maybe unconsciously changed her attitude in response to the no money situation might possibly have thought differently of herself being a loyal chick through thick and thin till she was put to the test. What the heck! Even Peter in the Bible was so sure he would never deny Jesus but when put to the test, he failed. 
Life has a funny way of showing you who is loyal and who is not. What hurts are the “ones” we thought were loyal. These “ones” usually include family, friends and a significant other. You cannot seek loyalty amongst enemies and the ones you don’t care for. Unfortunately this is usually determined when we face trials.

The disloyal ones can repent though, e.g. Peter from the Bible. Lord Manderly and Lord Glover from humble houses of the North (Game of Thrones) repented and swore allegiance to Jon Snow after they refused the call to join in battle against the dreaded Bolton bastard (Ramsey) but who can forget the loyalty and voice of the 10 year old Lady Mormont of Bear Island who chose to stand with House Stark in victory and defeat. Her loyalty was unshaken! I smile thinking of her.

We thrive in the sunshine and anyone can love us then. Loyalty is all about our character in the dark days and the ones that stick with us in our darkest hours!

Love is not unconditional. It has one condition - LOYALTY!

The Accidental Side Chick (Reloaded)

Pretty much anyone who has made it to the 21st century is familiar with the term, side-chick. For those who are not, a side-chick is essentially the third party to a romantic relationship between TWO people. Well, this relationship between these two is supposed to be exclusive. However, since exclusivity is gradually becoming a loose concept these days, I would just say that this relationship is simply between two people who are physically and/or emotionally involved with each other. So this third party is physically and/or emotionally involved with one member of that “exclusive relationship”.

For those of you who are indeed aware of the concept of the side chick, might I ask why it is beginning to gain social acceptance? Apparently, these days, being a side chick has grown to be an ambition parallel to that of becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or making Partner at a prestigious law firm. The hustle is really real! So yes, I guess we all have different ambitions, but when people start to make false assumptions about your life goals, there comes a problem…..which brings me to the subject of the “Accidental Side Chick”.

I will depict this scenario in the form of a short story. The name of the main character in this story is Mary Jane:

Mary-Jane grew up in what some people may view as a conservative middle class family. She was the eldest of three and the only girl…the perfect child, who got good grades and engaged in all the right extra curricular activities. To say that she was the apple of every teacher’s eye would be an understatement, in fact, more like an insult.

Fast-forward to her 20s, nothing much had changed in Mary-Jane’s life except that by this time, she had a successful career, not as a side chick, but as a journalist and television presenter. She had equally successful friends in high places, a beautiful luxury apartment off Bourdillon Road, which had a fantastic view of the Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge. Many people were a little envious of Mary-Jane because it appeared as though she had the perfect life, and to some egotistical extent, her subconscious also believed that she did. Fortunately, her humble side brought her down to earth and reminded her to be grateful for her blessings, so she made a point to be of service to the society by volunteering in a few charities and even helping her family establish one.

With her life so active, Mary-Jane didn’t have much time for relationships. Sure, she had a number of close friends, some of whom were male (a few she found attractive and vice versa), but she didn’t make so much of an effort to date or get involved romantically if she did not envision them in her life in the long term. After all, relationships could be as demanding as a full time job. Why invest time, physical, mental and emotional energy in something that has a low rate of return or wouldn’t lead to some sort of a “promotion”? So when uncles, aunties, and friends of parents who never had much business in her personal life asked if there was a significant other; or when her grandparents demanded the next generation of their lineage, Mary-Jane never felt under so much pressure because she knew in her heart that the right one would come soon.

They say that good things come to those who wait, right?

So whilst Mary-Jane was busy waiting, she kept busy with her career, family, service and social life.

…Alas that day came! It was a beautiful evening in November at one of those fabulous open-mic events in Lagos. Mary-Jane went out with a group of friends to mark one of their birthdays. It was deemed to be an awesome evening…and indeed it was (of course because the celebrant had a great time) but even more so because right about the time Mary-Jane was about to leave, this tall-dark-handsome-greek-god-like-looking-man approached her and they started to talk. They hit it off immediately as though they had known each other for many years. Well, they might as well have, because they had so many common interests such as running, travelling, work, family….hmmm, or maybe it would seem so because he literally echoed everything she said, but found the right synonyms to use such that it sounded like he was bringing up the same conversation subjects in a different context.

Mary-Jane was in over her head, but she tried to play it cool. She wasn’t as forward as some of her peers of this day. She believed in the traditional way of approaching relationships; basically giving the man room to make the first move to initiate the "chase". And this guy (let’s call him Toby) was making the right moves. He called frequently, but not every minute of everyday, so he did not come across as too aggressive, which she liked. Even when he had to travel over the holiday, he was polite enough to initiate conversations over Skype every now and then to check in, rather than some people who disappear from the face of the earth (as if the world has not reached the digital age where I’m sure research on human holograms who can transport in a matter of seconds is being concluded at an underground laboratory somewhere on this very planet).

What a perfect guy right? However, at the back of her mind, Mary-Jane was a little sceptical. Was Toby simply just being nice? Or was he actually interested in being more than friends? As any confused lady would typically do, Mary Jane decided to consult her friends. As it was rare for her to be emotionally involved with anyone, they were convinced that Toby was “THE ONE”. In fact, one of her cousins had already started planning the wedding. So in the midst of all this excitement, Mary-Jane gradually became convinced that she had found herself the perfect husband material. She thought “What else could a man in his early 30s possibly be looking for in her, if not a relationship with the prospect of marriage?” Besides, she thought “Who needs new friends anyway?” They both had many friends as it was.

Mary-Jane let her guard down and allowed Toby into her life. They didn’t go on many dates, but they were constantly in contact and enjoyed each other’s company. Toby was definitely a good friend, but Mary-Jane wondered if and when he would initiate that leap from friendship to the next level. It seemed uncertain, but being her naïve self she was hopeful that he would come around at some point….while she closed herself off to all other potential suitors.

Oh, Mary-Jane kept holding on to that hope until one day Toby sent her a message saying “So, I’m getting married”. She was filled with confusion; if what she thought was a friendship really was, then it would follow that at some point in a conversation, the subject of a girlfriend, fiancée, engagement, marriage to another person would have come up. So what exactly did Toby want from her? Friendship? Who has such time or mental capacity to accommodate the thought of someone when you are involved with someone else or planning a wedding without looking to get something at all? Did Toby think Mary-Jane was potential side-chick material he could string along? Or REALLY…did Mary-Jane completely misread the entire situation? Was she or was she not the almost accidental side-chick?

Monday, 7 November 2016

Eagle Toastmasters Outgoing President's Speech

Some words are said so often; they may seem to lose their meaning over time. Sometimes, it is difficult to convey the weight of the emotions behind these words because these emotions are so strong that such common words normally attached to them might not do them much justice. For this reason, I find it extremely difficult to express my gratitude for the privilege to have served on the Executive Committee of the Eagle Toastmasters Club for four years (and counting).

It has been an absolute honour.

Throughout my time as a leader of the Eagle Toastmasters Club, I have learnt a thing or two about leadership and teamwork, which have propelled me into various beneficial experiences within and outside Toastmasters; personally and professionally. Five years ago, I would never have imagined myself before you all today as a leader of an organisation, let alone the Immediate Past President of the prestigious Eagle Toastmasters Club. For those who may not know, I am your Type-A introvert who is excruciatingly overwhelmed by adversity, risk adverse and apologetic for being shy. But the difference between myself then and myself now can be summed up in one simple term, “Self-Awareness”.

In a world where extroverts seem to prevail, I wondered if I had what it took to serve in any leadership capacity at all. At the time, it seemed to me that introverts were powerless in a world that could not seem to stop talking, where it appeared as though only the voice of the loudest was heard. Some examples of extroverts who have blown the world away include Martin Luther King Jr. (the activist and leader in the African American Civil Rights Movement), John F. Kennedy (whose appeal and charisma famously gave him a clear advantage over his opponent, Richard Nixon, during the first televised Presidential debate in the United States – despite Nixon’s content-richer arguments) and of course, Oprah Winfrey (the media mogul who has influenced many around the world with her vibrant personality).

Fortunately, as I ventured into this journey of self-awareness, I realised through literature that another type of leadership existed, as demonstrated by the likes of Rosa Parks (the African American Civil Rights Activist, who took the power of saying “No” to a whole new dimension), Eleanor Roosevelt (the American Politician, activist and longest serving First lady of the United States who initially felt inadequate next to her confident and outspoken husband) and Al Gore (the 45th Vice President of the United States and Nobel Prize winner for his subtle but effective activism in climate change). What these people had in common was their amiability, sensitivity and quietness. But they were exposed to enabling conditions, which allowed them to lead in the most effective way that came naturally to them, be it through a shared interest, a supportive spouse or the expression of a concern to a large audience through a captivating movie.

I have also come to realise through my experience at Toastmasters, working on committees with three Past Presidents and interacting with other Toastmasters leaders, that everyone has their own uniqueness but by acting on self awareness, you become the first rate version of yourself in your leadership abilities, rather than a second rate version of someone else who is different from you and may be effective with their own style of leadership.

If there is anyone in this hall who has any doubt about their leadership abilities, I can assure you that Toastmasters will provide an enabling environment and some navigation through your journey of self-awareness and in so doing, will enhance your leadership potential such that you too can become as effective as all these leaders I have mentioned, both the extroverts and the introverts.

I have spoken about leadership, but may I ask, “How effective can leadership be without team work?”.

To give some insight, I will tell you a short story about four colleagues of mine who were put together in a team. Their names are Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was a very important task to be done, and Everybody was asked to do it. However, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody became upset about that, because really, it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

On the Executive Committee of the Eagle Toastmasters club, we strive to ensure that Everybody is carried along when getting tasks done. Therefore, I can confidently say that without effective leadership and teamwork, we would not have achieved the success that we did over the past Toastmasters year, some of which earned the club recognition from Toastmasters International:

· The first was the Smedley Award, which was obtained in September 2015 for meeting administration requirements for the renewal of club dues.

· The second was the President’s Distinguished Award, which was obtained in January 2016. This marked the first time the Eagle Toastmasters club completed 10 out of 10 Distinguished Club Programme Goals in one Toastmasters year. Additionally, we became the first club in Nigeria and District 94 (West Africa) to achieve this during the 2015 - 2016 Toastmasters year.

As you would expect, it was not an easy journey, particularly given the dire state of the economy, devaluation of the currency and Foreign Exchange challenges which all presented potential obstacles to members, as well as the executive committee as far as administrative tasks and the general morale of the club were concerned. Despite these challenges, our membership strength grew by about 50% and meeting attendance improved significantly, giving an indication of the innovation and resilience of the members of the executive committee as well as the commitment of the club’s members and guests.

I would like to give special recognition to the members of the team and congratulate them for a successful year:

TM Oluyemi Adeosun, ACS, ALB Immediate Past President
TM Oladele Olunike, ACS, ALB Vice President Education
TM Babatunde Adegbindin, CC Vice President Membership
TM Chibuzor Nwaezeapu, CC 2nd Vice President Membership
TM Florence Olumodimu, CC Vice President Public Relations
TM Unekwu Nwaezeapu, CL 2nd Vice President Public Relations
TM Godwin Agunwoke Secretary
TM Aishah Saba Treasurer
TM Yussuf Apena, CC Sergeant-At-Arms

Now, I would like so share a popular analogy:

Migratory birds such as geese and ducks fly in a symmetric V-shaped flight formation, with the leader of the flock at the tip of the V. The birds leverage synergy to improve energy efficiency and reduce fatigue, as each bird is uplifted by the upwash from the wings of the bird ahead of it. The birds continue in this formation until they reach their destination. This sounds like quite the effective team right?

The story usually ends there when people use this analogy. But did you know that the birds closer to the front exert more energy than those behind? This is why the bird at the tip is assumed the leader. Also, did you know that this position of leadership is rotated in a timely but cyclical fashion to spread the fatigue across the flock? The Toastmasters slogan reads, “Where leaders are made”. To me, this is a destination for all members of Toastmasters, which has no bounds. So it is imperative the position of leadership is rotated such that fresh energy and ideas are permeated to keep the flock moving.

As you are aware, my rotation as the leader of the Eagle Toastmasters flock came to an end on June 30th 2016. And in compliance with the Toastmasters International bylaws, I have handed over to another person who will occupy my former position. Following the outcome of the June 11th 2016 Annual General Meeting and Club Elections, Toastmaster Oladele Olunike was declared President and resumed this position officially on July 1st 2016.

Given the club’s achievements over the year, the bar has certainly been raised, but I have no doubt that this team is fully capable of meeting, and even exceeding all expectations as we move into this new rotation. In fact, they are already well on their way towards achieving this. I strongly urge the team to learn from last year’s lessons and endeavour to work in seamless collaboration in order to reach their goals.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Have a Nice Day!

It has been quite an interesting year yet again.
A few challenges have been thrown in my face, even up until yesterday where I found myself in a situation which caused me to seriously doubt myself. It was not a very good feeling at that moment. But luckily I have the most awesome family, friends and mentors who are always there to remind me to keep my chin up. Sometimes, it seems like they believe in me a little more than I believe in myself.
Then, while running this morning, the song, "Have a Nice Day" by Bon Jovi came up. I never really listened to the lyrics, but boy, did they resonate with me!
So if you ever find yourself feeling the way I felt yesterday. I would recommend a prayer first, then speak to those who love and care for you...then go for a run with this song on full blast and repeat:
Have a Nice Day - Bon Jovi
Why, you want to tell me how to live my life?
Who, are you to tell me if it's black or white?
Mama, can you hear me? Try to understand.
Is innocence the difference between a boy and a man.
My daddy lived the lie, it's just the price that he paid.
Sacrificed his life, just slavin' away.
Oh, if there's one thing I hang onto,
It gets me through the night.
I ain't gonna do what I don't want to,
I'm gonna live my life.
Shining like a diamond, rolling with the dice,
Standing on the ledge, show the wind how to fly.
When the world gets in my face,
I say, have a nice day.
Have a nice day
Have a nice day
Take a look around you, look nothing's what it seems.
We're living in a broken home of hopes and dreams,
Let me be the first to shake a helping hand.
Everybody, pray enough to take a stand,
I knocked on every door, on every dead end street,
Looking for forgiveness,
What's left to believe?
Oh, if there's one thing I hang onto,
It gets me through the night.
I ain't gonna do what I don't want to,
I'm gonna live my life.
Shining like a diamond, rolling with the dice,
Standing on the ledge, show the wind how to fly.
When the world gets in my face,
I say, have a nice day.
Have a nice day
Have a nice day
When the world keeps trying, to drag me down,
I've gotta raise my hands, gonna stand my ground.
Well I say, have a nice day.
Have a nice day
Have a nice day