Why is it that many of us find ourselves struck by thunder at twenty something? It’s a crisis of life and purpose. The prospect of a life ahead finally understood. A fear of the future settles in. It’s the quarter life crisis. You know what you want. It’s a career, a feeling, a thing, but getting it seems impossible. This was me a year ago. I had big seemingly un-executable dreams. Any idea that wasn’t mine was rejected because I didn’t know if it was a solution or the beginning of a new problem.
I went away for a Masters in International Journalism at City University London. On my first day, I did the most excessively indulgent thing you could imagine. I threw myself a pity party of spectacular proportions. I called one of my friends and described how terrified I was of chucking another degree to life experience. It’s when you fail like a failure and the people who love you console you with words that say, “Well, every moment is something to be appreciated because it’s a lesson learned.”
What dirty lesson? A lesson in becoming poor and unaccomplished?
Bottle of wine drunk and a kilogram of egg fried rice consumed, I dragged my ass to class the next morning. I was late but I was there and I didn’t hate it. In fact, I quite liked it. I was good at it. Sometimes, I was good without trying too hard. It was then I knew I was doing the right thing. I smiled because I knew that on this degree, there’d be no 18 hour sessions in the library trying to understand the tiny bit of econometrics I was supposed to be cramming. It was a glorious feeling.
I won't lie and say it was all rosy. No. A degree cannot fix the problems you carry to it. There was one time my dad said, “You’re like a car. You know? You’ve got a spectacular engine, but you don’t have tyres for shit.” He paced around a little bit before he said, “You think you can kill me but I’ll kill you first. You don’t have tyres ba? Don’t worry I’ll be your tyres.” You’d have to be Nigerian to understand the gravity of that conversation. Our parents are almost uniformly crazy. They love you most when they insult you, and the harsher the diss, the sweeter the love. They’re the masters of the carrot and stick. But as determined as he was to see me on the civil path, he wouldn’t be there to be my wheels.
At first, it was tricky. I was late to everything but my work was good. It infuriated my lecturers to no end. At least four of them sat me down for a come to Jesus. By the fourth one, I was tired. Their stress was too much, so I stepped up. If time was tight, I’d sprint down that long Angel road. It was better to get to class sweaty than late. If my morning was a disaster, then showers were optional. On days when things looked particularly dodgy, I’d go to uni with my toothbrush in my bag. With those villains and hawks, it was far better to be filthy and homeless-like than tardy.
Before I knew it, the end was nigh and it was time to do my Final Project. At first I wanted to do something on Mental Health. It’s something I care a lot about. Depression or anything like it shouldn’t be a death sentence, or an explanation for a life half lived. My plan for that got shut down by my project supervisor and she was right to shoot it down because what I had in mind could not have done the issue justice. I would have come up with some half baked thing that was only worthy of a passing grade. I reached into my head full of dreams and came up with another, drunk driving in Lagos. At that point all I wanted to do was go back home, to a life I love, surrounded by people that love me to distraction. But that story got shut down too. There were no strong facts to prove that it existed. Finally, I opted for something safer; the rise of the fitness culture in Lagos. That one worked out.
While I was home getting my ducks in a row, it occurred to me that I could do more with my time than book interviews and chill so I interned at Channels and CNBC Africa, where I currently work. The pieces of the project came together brilliantly. Filming it felt like I was finally coming into my own; like destiny. Editing it was not the same. The opening sequence, which only lasts 7 seconds, took a day to get right and it’s still not as right as it could be. I voiced the script no fewer than 10 times. It was too fast then it was too slow. My voice was too deep then too high; too slow then too quick. Filming it took two weeks, but editing it took four.
In the end, the work I put into it paid off. The project got a 77, a distinction. My highest grade of the year and I get to graduate with a merit. If I said I was happy I’d be lying. Happiness is too trivial a word to describe the feeling. I am accomplished, I am Blessed, and above all I am content.
So I’m pleased to share this tiny mini-documentary with the lot of you.You were where the dream started but you are not where it ends.