My mother says I was the sort of child who knew what she wanted. When it came time for school, I enrolled in the nursery and primary school a stone’s throw from where we lived. The story of how I began is a little comical. My father and I had gone to the school at the close of day to retrieve my brother. Somehow, I wandered into the closest classroom and sat at a desk, agreeing to leave only when promised that I would return to resume the following day.
There was this red journal my father got from one of the banks he worked with, probably in New Year. That was where I wrote down my plan for my life. I have not set eyes on that journal in over five years, but I remember I planned a wedding on its yellow, lined pages and plastered its thick, leather cover with hearts and stars. For the wedding, I designed the invitation card using those my parents received and I had collected as a template. Not leaving any item to chance, I picked out the location and colours. It did not help that my mother and I had a tradition of watching reruns of weddings on tv on Friday evenings. At this point, I did not have a boyfriend. All I had was a crush on some boy who did not know my name. I was convinced that this future husband, whoever he was, would marry me in the church where my parents wed.
In that red journal, I wrote down my plan to be a doctor who lived in a six-bedroom mansion and owned seven cars; one for each day of the week. That red journal was my vault. It understood my tears and held my pain. It was where I documented the vivid night dreams I did not understand. I daydreamed a lot. Most of the dreams of a big, rich, fabulous life were inspired by the artists my father’s taste in music introduced me to. Luther Vandross, Handel, Celine Dion, Westlife. Also Oliver de Coque, Sunny Bobo. With my father’s radio, I discovered Anita Baker, Sade, India Arie, Jill Scott.
My parents had this unshakeable belief that excellence was our only option. They did not make too much noise about it but simply carried on as if we were all in agreement. I would come to find out how little of this belief etched into my consciousness others had. I would come to find out how necessary it all was.
I am a year older today and in many ways, I am still that child. I chuckle at how juvenile some of those dreams were, but I am glad I had them. Childish as they were, they taught me how to hope for more and insist that my life was in my hands. I know the kind of life I want to have, even though the particulars are hazy. I know the kind of person I want to be. I feel trapped sometimes because I am uncertain as to what specific steps I need to get there. And then, somehow, I remember that I am loved by a God who knows the way and leads me by the hand. That has been the story of my life; that I have stumbled into things and realized His hand was in it only in hindsight. It is this dance between me and God, between stumbling and strategy.
This new year will be a year of boldness, not for the sake of intimidation but for the sake of all I have to offer so many. This will be a year of quiet strength. Of poise with a bit of sass. This will be a year of living fully, of enjoying the things that seem like they will always be. This will be a year of giving myself the same measure of grace I give others. This will be a year of both adventure and reflection; of making space for the things that truly matter.
Ka ubochi ncheta omumu m buru ihe anuli mgbe niile. May the remembrance of my birth always be a thing of joy.