A wordsmith with a vivid imagination, an eager mind and a burning desire to carve out tales. As I journey with my muse to that land of all possibilities and self discovery, I hope my personal evolution will serve as a beacon of inspiration for anyone who chooses to stop by.
In all sincerity, I can’t recollect any specific day so far that I can count on as the happiest day of my life. On my wedding day, I think I was a bit anxious about my guests having a good time and hoping that the wedding ceremony goes as well as planned to classify it as my happiest day. In retrospect, if I had to redo my wedding, I would do things a whole differently and have less crowd.
I have come to see happiness as a state of mind that persists in one’s life based on several factors such as being present and finding peace and joy in the moments that we have and not a temporary product of a specific event. As such, I work consistently to maintain as much level of contentment, fulfilment, joy and satisfaction as I possibly can by eliminating negativity and negative energy, by staying positive and doing those things that bring me that sense of happiness.
I have experienced great moments of joy when I gave birth to my babies, a sense of fulfillment when I published my books and beautiful memories of sublime moments with family and friends but there’s no singular day in life that I can pinpoint as the happiest day in my life. It is still non-existent, but who knows, maybe sometime soon in the near future such a day will come.
Although I have realized that I am not really a foodie, I do enjoy cooking for my family and my satisfaction comes mainly from the delight that they express when they eat my meals. I practically make homemade meals every day as they are not only healthier but also more cost effective when you are catering to the needs of a family.
I have an eclectic taste bud and I guess this stems from having living in various parts of the world at different points in time and also being adventurous when it comes to trying foods from other places. Nevertheless, after all tasted and tried, I still gain satisfaction from cooking and eating ‘ukwa’ or ‘okpa’. These are traditional meals which are literally considered as delicacies as the condiments/ingredients required to make them are not easily available abroad and quite costly.
Ukwa (Igbo name) is an edible traditional fruit. Its English name is African breadfruit and scientific name is Treculia africana. It belongs to the Moraceae family and it is related to other exotic fruits like breadnut, jackfruit, figs and mulberries. The fruits are hard and fibrous, full of nutritional values and exotic taste. It is not a meal that you prepare in a rush. It takes long prepping and cooking hours to get the right soft consistency that I love, but the result at the end of the day is well worth the effort and time spent.
Okpa (pronounced Ọkpa) is a delicacy prepared by the Igbo people with a special type of beans known as Bambara nuts. It is common in Enugu state (my home state) and is known as a traditional Nigerian delicacy due to its uniqueness. Its main ingredients are the Bambara nut flour, palm oil, pepper, salt and seasoning, though recipes may vary and can be eaten alone or paired with hot pap.
Normally, back home I would prepare okpa wrapped in banana/plantain leaves, but given the fact that finding such leaves is literally impossible to get the leaves here, when I am able to lay my hands on the bambara flour, I make do with foil wrapping.
Several of my traditional home food evokes a whole lot of memories especially as I have been living outside my home county for decades now and unfortunately, our condiments are quite exorbitant here, thus, I don’t get to eat them as much as I would love to and sometimes the smell of anything similar to a traditional dish makes me feel nostalgic.
When I catch the whiff of fried plantain which we call ‘dodo’ I am reminded of my mothers warm kitchen, of nicking a slice or two of sweet plantain, of laughter and my mom’s reminders not to let the plantain burn and not to finish eating them whilst cooking.
The smell of party jollof rice simply brings joy. It is a staple in every Nigerian home and is synonymous with our celebrations both back home and in the diaspora. Wedding ceremonies, birthdays, child dedication, Sunday lunch, graduation even funerals et al.
A lot of quality family time means food shared, bonding, good music, camaraderie and love shared. I believe that I have somehow managed to transfer the love for jollof to my children especially my boys. They love eating spicy, delicious servings of Naija jollof and believe me, a good plate of flavourful jollof rice accompanied with essential condiments can make you hum with joy. It gives me a sense of home, warmth, culture and heritage that can’t be quantified.
One fear that I battled with for a long time and can finally look back and say, I came, I saw and I conquered’ was the fear of being my true, authentic self. As a young black African woman, I was raised in a predominantly patriarchal society and have had to fight hard to get where I am today and still fighting. Sadly, experience and living in other parts of the world has shown me that this situation persists from place to place albeit in different forms. These situations used to bother me a lot.
As a young black girl, I was so concerned with not creating any ripples, making waves and rocking any boat, that I waited far too long to start speaking up for myself. I endured bullying and physical assault, that I thought that if I suffered in silence that it would stop and if I worked twice as hard to succeed in all that I do, that one day all of my hard work would magically pay off and my success would announce itself. I found out soon enough that I couldn’t suffer through such situations and had to learn to fight back any way I could.
Now living and working in the UAE, I have fought hard with prejudice, fought with not making myself small to make others feel comfortable and unthreatened by my presence as a vocal, audacious, confident and proud black woman. I have had to deal with various ranges of microaggressions and a lot of times pulled far more than my weight in order to prove my value. It hasn’t been a smooth journey learning never to think less of myself because of my skin colour and how others may perceive me and to stand tall in the face of such adversities – especially when everyday reality tries to assert the opposite.
I have learnt how to overcome these obstacles, how not to lower my standards and pride myself on how my experiences have helped me to become a connector of people, places, positivity and possibilities.
These days, I prioritize myself outside of work and above most things. Over the years, I’ve learned that at the end of the day, places might change, teams will change, projects and jobs will end but my mind and my body are the only constants that I have and that taking care of every part of all that concerns me is critical to getting through the storms of life. I had to learn to reset my relationship with self-care and wellbeing and I no longer allow work, or anyone dictate my mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. This shift in paradigm has given me the energy to take control of my situation where and when I can and not to be fixated with how others see me. I no longer look for permission to be me nor do I seek other people’s validation to be authentically true to myself.
I love traveling. It is one of my hearts desire to visit to as many places as possible at leisure and enjoy the splendour that our dear planet has to offer before one gets too old to do so. I have been opportune to travel to many countries and for sure the experience has taught me a lot about people, culture and diversity that I may otherwise never have had the opportunity to learn if I hadn’t been to and stayed in these places.
Having had to travel by different means, air, road, train, I love road trips because I feel in control of the pace, stopping where and when we want to grab a bite, take a photo and take in the scenery. I love going by train as well as this also gives me some sense of satisfaction especially a long distance journey where I get to people watch and observe a microcosm of humans traveling together. Lest, I forget, there’s this romantic flavour and feeling of relaxation about train travel. One of such train journey’s that’s etched in my memory is my trip from London to Paris, Geneva, Luxembourg and Amsterdam. It was a trip of a lifetime and one that I would love to do once again but probably add other routes this time around.
For me, traveling by air is for expediency sake and is only taken as an option when the other options won’t work. The hassles at the airport, sitting in a flying object for hours on end and looking at nothing but clouds and inhaling other people’s fart is not so much fun. You are literally squashed into a germ-ridden cylinder for hours on end, in an uncomfortable seat with hardly any legroom or the possibility of reclining to create more comfort. If you are lucky, you end up saddled with a bunch of grumpy, smelly strangers, whiny kids and all sorts of humans who are enduring the same hardships as you are. The food is basically nonexistent the entertainment options are limited. You have no choice but to put up with all manner of inconveniences, discomforts, and indignities to say the least.
The peak moments for me are the take off and landing when I get to have a bird’s eye view of the landscape and city that I am going to.
My prayer is that in the nearest future, I will have positioned myself in a vantage point where I will get to go to the places that are on my bucket list without worrying about funding, work et al. Something to look forward to…
Money, money money…I ain’t gonna lie, if per chance I find myself blessed with a billion dollars, I would hibernate for a little while to take it all in, to pray for direction and wisdom on how best to utilize the money. There won’t be any rushed spending.
My first step would be to engage experienced financial advisers and create channels for multiple streams of income such as investing in real estate, diversified portfolios (stocks and bonds) and trading investment streams. I would buy into a renowned food franchise (because people will always eat) and any other worthwhile franchise that will employ people while generating a steady flow of income. I would love to set up an institute where people can acquire skills that are not only transferable but would help to give them a good start in life. Money can gain wings and fly away, so I will try my very best not to go overboard and splurge on foolish things that have no return value. I don’t want to wake up suddenly and find myself down and out of funds.
Other key interests would be to sort out those essential needs like shelter. Paying off my home will be a priority on my needs list, so that I no longer need to fret about mortgage and the likes. For sure, knowing what putting children through school means, I will set up a trust fund for my children’s education to whatever level they choose to aim for, set up a better life insurance than the one I have at present, set up an endowment fund which will be primarily to support vulnerable folks and those in need and to empower women in the rural areas.
Most certainly, I will have a thanksgiving and sow seeds into worthy charity organizations. I will bless family members with some funds to help them take care of necessary exigencies. After taking care of all these aspects, then I will sit back and exhale a bit.
Without thinking twice, doing the laundry is not a chore that I am fond of. Thankfully, washing machines are in existence and we can cut ourselves some slack.
I remember my growing up years back home, we washed tons of clothes by hand and it was not a task to sneeze at. Every Saturday morning, would find me seated on a stool in the backyard of my parents big compound, with a big basin filled with soapy water and bales of clothing in the cloth basket waiting for my fond attention. As I didn’t know better then, it was absolutely fine and helped in domesticating me and my siblings – except my brothers who always tried to escape washing their clothes and would rather go through their entire wardrobe till there’s no clean stitch left to wear.
Now that I recall, I think my mother wasn’t fond of washing either and as soon as she could lay her hands on a top-loading washing machine that had been imported by a friend of the family, she quickly committed her finances into acquiring one. We were elated! We felt like the bourgeoisie and that we had climbed a rung on the social ladder. Not only did we have a landline telephone, we now had a washing machine to boot! I was the envy of my friends for a long time to come.
Fast-forward to my adult years, one of the household gadgets that I promised to buy myself was a washer-dryer as I didn’t want to spend valuable time washing tons of clothing items. My husband is still has an old-fashioned approach towards washing especially his inner whites as he believes that the machine does not do justice to the job. I made it understood that from the get-go when we got hitched 23 years ago, that ‘moi’ cannot be doing that handwashing.
He wasn’t particularly enthused at my obstinacy, but I stuck to my guns, fed him good meals, kept him happy in bed, gave him beautiful children, supported him in many other ways, kept our home warm and welcoming. I wasn’t about to start something that I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain doing and I refuse to do things that I will only do reluctantly and grumble about. We came to an understanding pretty quickly and living happily ever after, thanks to the laundry machine.
I am aware that most would define success based on the amount of material wealth someone has and will consider those who are struggling with poverty as unsuccessful especially in today’s society, but I dare to disagree with this one-dimensional point of view.
Success is quite subjective depending on who is defining it or experiencing it and my thoughts about success might differ a bit from what others and society may consider as success. Success for me is checking off my to-do list at the end of the day and realizing that I accomplished all my outlined tasks. It gives me a great sense of pleasure and morale boost when I stay consistent in working towards achieving my goals and those daily tasks eventually culminate to achieving my bigger goals.
Success comes in many shapes and sizes, small or large. For instance, I deem it success when parents raise children who become responsible, empathetic and productive members of the larger society. Encouraging someone who is probably struggling to get through a rough day, getting out of bed and getting things done when my state of mind is only asking me to stay under the duvet and do nothing, a toddler taking those first steps without falling down at every attempt, getting a promotion at work, reaching your set financial goal for the month, a middle school kid being able to finally understand a mathematical concept, a homeless person finally being able to have a place to call their own, and so forth.
People are living their success each day in their own way and it is truly important that at each point in time, we set parameters of success that agrees with us and our circumstances. To each his own. May you find your success small and large.
At various stages in my life, books that I have read and some that I recently discovered have impacted and shaped my life; including my own poetry books, and I know for sure that there are many fabulous treasures and invaluable words tucked away in many pages of books waiting to the discovered.
My childhood days were shaped by fairy tales and Enid Blyton books. My teenage years was a time of voracious and eclectic reading, from Harlequin Romance, Mills & Boon, James Hadley Chase, John Grisham and to anything legible and so forth. I soaked up many fictional literature like they were going out of fashion and spent a better portion of my pocket money on books.
It is said that knowledge is power, and the more we know, the more we can better ourselves. Now that I am well into my adulthood, many books have impacted my life and are still doing so. I find myself reaching out these days for books that don’t only help me to introspect, but serve as catalyst for change and growth in my life. Books that promote self-awareness and development, spiritual awakening, living purposefully, mindset, health, wealth and harnessing my potentials have become my staple although certain novels have tugged at my heart strings of late such as ‘And the mountains echoed by Khaled Hosseini.’
In recent times, it is no longer strange for me to be reading multiple books within the same frame of time and in the past few weeks, I revisited The Alchemist by Paul Coelho (previously read it because it was a rave at that time and now, reading it once again and discovering all the hidden gems/omens), No more Excuses by Brian Tracy, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, The power of positive thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. I can credit the Bible and these books for the positive changes and growth that I experience each day
Writing and publishing two poetry books have played a major role in helping me heal from past traumas and given me an invaluable sense of self that was gained during the process. Right now, I am caught in the middle of authoring two books (well overdue) and what I have discovered so far in this writing journey is that words are living and breathing. They become you. They shape you.
Can one’s children be considered as memorable gifts from God as I always feel so delighted to have mine in my life – except when they are driving me up the wall 😉 I recall the birth of each one with clarity and I also remember the fullness of heart each time I received each bundle of joy.
As most parents, I cherish my kiddos to bits and as I watch them grow and mature into independent young adults, I feel an enormous sense of pride and gratitude. They are my world and my life will not be the same without them. I can’t even begin to picture life without them.
Now in reflection, I realize how we tend to take the beautiful gifts that we have received for granted most especially when they have become part and parcel of our lives. How much we value them often gets lost in the doldrums of running after the daily needs of life. This serves as a reminder to ALWAYS stay grateful and mindful.
Another gift that comes so readily to mind is my engagement ring and the spectacular way that it was presented to me by my husband in front of family and friends. I knew that he wanted to propose based on all the indications from him and thought he would do so privately as my husband is reserved by nature and not as gregarious as I. It was quite a surprise when he proposed in front of a gathering of family and friends and their words of prayers, approval and encouragement made it all the more momentous.