Forever I am that girl.

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit”
― E.E. Cummings

In the midst of all the angst and anguish that plague us as young-ish adults trying to navigate this minefield called life, it is easy to forget to celebrate our wins. I know this first-hand. There are so many uncertainties, so many decisions to be made that I find myself in a state of constant stress and anxiety. By the time I actually achieve something, all I feel is mild relief and I am not able to bask in my accomplishment because I am already worrying about the next thing. I downplay all my achievements, it’s crazy. All the “omg congratulations! so proud of you” just slide off me like water. Nothing is a big deal to me anymore. Only the stress and anxiety exist. I am so hard on myself that I forget that I really am that girl.

A few months back I decided to start looking for a new job. I had been complaining about my current job for almost two years now; I actually came across a chat with my friend in November 2020 when I was complaining about being sick and tired of the work. I finally decided to stop living in a funk and actually send out my CV and respond to a few of the recruiters in my messages. I would always joke that the only reason I stayed at my job for so long was because I could not be bothered to go through the interview process. The thought of prepping for an interview frightened me. Let me just stay in this place please, after-all no one is chasing me. I am lucky to even have a job and a job is a job so might as well stay here.

Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.

As I wrote in my last post, I am very motivated when I am working towards something otherwise I am just dormant and inert. Once I gave myself the all clear I started responding to recruiters and sending my CVs to employers. I chose the wrong time to go through this- I was in the middle of a very busy work season so I was stressed out to the max. I had to schedule interviews around client meetings, team calls, and office visits. There was one time I kept working until about 10 minutes to an interview and then quickly got ready for the interview and immediately went back to work. It was wild. Also made me wonder how people went out for job interviews pre-zoom/teams. How many sick days could you take before it got suspicious? Anyway, I did four interviews and told myself no mas!; I would continue (if needed) after the busy season was done. Long story short, I got two job offers at the places I wanted (the other two were really just for practice). Not only did they give me offers, they were both really impressed by me and really really wanted me. Like all the things that I fear, the interview process turned out not to be that scary. In addition to this, my current company is desperate to keep me and sad to see me go. I had to acknowledge that I really am that girl. Such a good boost to my ego and esteem. But of course rather than bask in this, I spent all the time stressing over what to do and which offer to choose. I was so bloody stressed. Looking back now, I should have just relaxed and enjoyed being wanted. I should have been patting myself on the back for getting myself a new job but no all of that paled in comparison to the unbearable stress of trying to make a decision. My friends were all oh congratulations girl! and I was like “meh. thanks.” Now I’m thinking about how great it is that I wanted better for myself and went out and got it. Thank you God.

The interview process was very much needed because it reminded me of how capable I am. When you are in one place for too long it is easy to forget who you are and even start to think you don’t have anything to offer. You read a job description and shrink in fear because surely you are not up to par. Thankfully I have never let that stop me from sending over my CV- let them filter me out if I don’t have the required skills-but still it is easy to let the fear take over. However after the first couple of interviews I got a hang of the whole thing. By the time I got to the interview for the fourth company, I was so calm and relaxed; I went from trying to impress them to also interviewing them to ensure they would be a good fit. I have options, okay Dah-ling?

Sometimes the fear does not go away so you have to do afraid.

I have achieved so many things in my life but I sometimes don’t give them the respect they deserve. This may also be the problem with being a high achiever; my expectations are so high that everything seems insignificant. I see all these achievements as the norm, nothing out of the blue, nothing that has not been done before and so I do not often celebrate myself as I should. I just never give myself enough props. Even at work I am full of anxiety and when I have to juggle more than one thing I start to panic that I’m not meeting expectations and blah blah; then I see other people’s work and realise I don’t respect myself enough. After bouts of panic and anxiety, things always resolve them and I find out that I have panicked for no reason (yet again). The truth is that I am highly regarded at work and always get performance bonuses. I am literally that girl.

There are so many examples of me downplaying myself and not acknowledging my strengths. I was watching this vlog in which the girl talked about how she moved from the UK to Germany for work, and I started to wish I was more adventurous like that. Why couldn’t I do such things like moving to a different country for work? I need to stop being so boring and dull. Blah blah. It took me a minute to remind myself that I am literally in a different country ALL BY MYSELF WITH NO SINGLE FAMILY MEMBER. I moved to a different country (continent even) at 15 BY MYSELF for university and again (to another continent) at 21 for Masters degree and work. How dare I say I have not done anything adventurous? I need to rate myself more highly. By the Grace of God I have achieved a MSc with distinction, got a distinction in my dissertation (another source of angst), got a good job, a place to live, passed my professional exams, another job, permanent residency etc. I have actually tried for myself. There’s obviously more that I want for myself but the fact that there is still more to do does not mean that a lot has not already been achieved. This reminds me of the time I started a post with the intention of writing about my birthday depression and how I have never had a good birthday only to walk down memory lane and realise I have had nothing but good birthdays. A mess.

Another memorable moment was a few years ago when I booked a trip to Canada to see my sister. I think this was the first trip I booked by myself; and I booked the flight through a third party site. To get a cheaper price I booked a flight with a layover in the USA. No problem, until I got to the airport and was told I could not board as I did not have a USA Visa. M’excuse me? I am not going to the US of A, it’s just a layover and I would not be leaving the airport. It didn’t matter. I could not board that flight. My day was ruined and my disappointment immeasurable. How was this possible? I had paid for accommodation and was looking forward to spending time with my sweet sister. I called my dad, who was in town at the time staying in a hotel and he said well come back you can go another time. Excuse you sir? I am going to Canada one way or the other. I managed to get another flight which was eye-wateringly expensive but listen I was going to Canada. My father always refers to that moment- how proud he was of my tenacity and resolve. Now again I didn’t see it as anything.

My first term in boarding school was unpleasant. I did not like the seniority system and the way the seniors had power over us; the bullying and nastiness was unacceptable. I missed my family terribly and just did not want to be there anymore. So I decided I would not. At the end of the first term, I packed everything I owned, including those things that had been purloined by seniors (I literally went through their lockers for my stuff) and said goodbye to that place. Looking back, I am amazed at my resolve. I was not going back. That was it. I did not even discuss it with my parents beforehand. Just got home and told them I am not going back. My dad was perplexed and tried to push back but listen, I am indecisive and fearful but once my mind is made up it is made up. At the time I did not think much of it, but I occasionally look back at this moment as a testament to my resolve. So many times I wish I was more this and less that; it turns out I am already all of that, if the situation calls for it. Everything I need is already in me. I just need to put myself in situations that stimulate me more and use my talents.

I am that girl. The one and only. Powerful beyond my presumed limitations and capable of actualising my wildest dreams. I just need to stop worrying so much and doubting myself. Sweet girl you have achieved so much and you are capable of even more. Nothing is out of your reach, nothing is impossible for you. You are that girl.

Why are you running?

When I watched the Nollywood film titled Pretty Liars (no relation to Pretty Little Liars), I had no way of knowing that that one scene (you know the one I’m talking about) would go on to become an iconic meme. Today when I sat to write this post, that is the first thing that came to my mind. Why are you running?

See I have been running for a long time now. Running even though no one was chasing. I have always been in a hurry to get through the stages of life. It may have started when I skipped grade 6 and went straight to secondary school at nine years old. I turned 16 in my first term at University, completed all my credits at 19, and by 22 I had my Master’s degree and was starting my career. At university I took summer classes every year to speed things up so I could graduate in three years instead of four. When it was all over, I sat with myself and asked the question “Now what? What’s next? Why were you in a hurry?

The sad truth is that I should have enjoyed the journey more, rather than rushing to the destination. It would have been nice to have taken the time to smell the petunias. At the end of it all I am grateful for everything, and I’m not going to dwell mindlessly on the past; still it is good (important even!) to reflect. Did it matter if I graduated at 19 instead of 21? By the grace of God, we all reached the destination, and it did not matter how long it took. I was so engrossed in just getting it all over with, that I never even stopped to consider what the point was, and what the plan was after everything was ticked off.

For so long it was just “on to the next”. I was ticking things off robotically like I was collecting infinity stones (I only know this reference thanks to social media. I have not watched the film), and when it was done I felt so terribly lost and confused. What now? I had not thought beyond the destination, forgetting that life is not one destination but one long never ending journey with some pitstops. After my final summer semester in which I got the final credits for my bachelor’s degree in summer school, I remember sitting in my room in University, completely overwhelmed by the rest of my life staring down at me. I had reached the end of the race in record time and there was still the rest of my life to deal with. For years I had known what the next step was-midterms, exams, summer school etc. That was the first time that all certainty was gone- there was nothing set for me to do next, the decision was all mine and I was petrified. I was technically an adult now and had to decide what to do next, yet I still felt like a child. After graduation I just laid around and waited for someone to tell me what to do next. That was one of the more depressing periods of my life. I remember one day my mother scolded me for loafing around saying “do you know you are a graduate now?But I’m still a child, I thought. How am I supposed to make all these decisions? In a way I am still that child, and I struggle sometimes with making serious life decisions because I’m just a baby haha.

For a long time now I have been in a rut. Well actually maybe for the past 2.5 years because before then I had professional exams that I was working towards (again rush rush get it all done in one go no resits hello anxiety). These exams were not fun by any means but the stress, anxiety, adrenaline provided something other than inertia. After those were done and dusted, life returned to this long monotonous bore as there was nothing I was working towards or looking forward to. It’s weird that in writing this, I have managed to partially diagnose myself; I need something to work towards and for the past couple of years I have not had that, hence the funk.

I have started implementing changes in my life, and the main one is that I have found a new job. For some people this is not a big deal, but for me it is the biggest of deals. I just could not deal with the monotony anymore and I wanted something fresh. Now I realise that even the new job by itself may not provide me with a completely new fresh lease on life. There are two reasons for this; the first is the feeling that while this is a change, it is still not my purpose. I may never truly feel light and happy with work until I am doing something that feeds my spirit. The second, which I literally just realised while writing this post, is that unless I am working towards something, life is dull and monotonous. So this new job is not going to automatically lift my spirits, because if care is not taken I risk falling into the same rut. Still it is a much needed change. I just have to be intentional about this.

Taking this leap feels scary, but also empowering and liberating. If this job does not work out, I will get another one. Now that I know better, I will try to be more mindful of my life. There is a thin line between doing too much and not doing enough. I want to get a promotion within a year of my new job, but I also want to chill and take everything in stride. The next big girl decision is to get a new place to stay, but with rising costs of everything the situation is dire, and it may be better to just stay put. Still I feel better than I have felt in a while, and for now that is enough.

Why are you running? Take the time to enjoy the journey, admire the scenery, smell the roses. You will get there in the end, there’s no need to rush.