2016: A Roller Coaster

Let me start off by apologising for my long hiatus. A lot has been happening that I couldn’t get myself to reflect and collate my thoughts together.

This year started off nicely; things weren’t rosy but I was supposedly on course towards reaching the dreams I envisioned for myself. Suddenly, just like Game of Thrones, there was a plot twist and 2016 ended up being a tough gloomy one and a real downer for me physically, mentally, financially, emotionally and otherwise. This made me question my capabilities and skills.

My itinerary this year also meant that I had to take a lot of trips round the country hence I was stressed out most of the time. I choked in desolation and succumbed to depression as a result, stoppped writing and eventually lost resigned from my job. I sought solace in solitude but this excerbated the situation. I knew I needed help but couldn’t talk about it because it took time for me to really accept that I was depressed. I am usually the strong one; the one people run to for help but here I was, wallowing in misery. 

Humans have different defense mechanisms against all the negatives life throws at us, however, once in a while these negatives infiltrate our system, engulf our thoughts and cause a huge shift in our emotions. According to psychologists, one in every four people will experience depression or anxiety sometime in their life. So I guess mine came pretty early.

Depression creeps into every aspect of your life.It affects how you feel, think and handle daily activities. I lost people who genuinely cared about me; appearing needy and pathetic to the opposite sex. I was constantly looking for a gateaway drug or someone to lean on to take my mind off the numerous problems I had. Depression makes you turn to self-medication via sleep, sad songs, sex, drugs, alcohol etc to try and numb the pain of depression. As a friend aptly said one time, “the price of beer is cheaper than the price of drugs for hypertension.” 

However, as I found out, these can only have a brief positive impact on your mood but compound the problem in the long term. My brother always says that every problem has an expiry date. Alcohol etc only end up prolonging the expiry dates of your problems. Eventually, I realised that the only way to bring this date closer was to face my fears and tackle my problems head on. 

Talking to a loved one or professional also helps. Owning up to your shit says a lot about your self-confidence so be bold enough to confide in someone you trust. Family and friends are always willing to offer support and love if/when you do. Opening up led me to a book that had the greatest effect on me – The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal With Negativity by Jon Gordon.

It is hard to implement this rule but experience has shown me time after time that great things such as wisdom, opportunities and most importantly lessons about oneself are hidden in challenges. These lessons may end up being a springboard to something far greater than we ever imagined. Oscar Wilde once said, “behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic”  And he was right, my year is ending is on a very good note so I am excitedly looking forward to 2017 and what the future holds.

How did your year go? Did you experience tough moments? If yes, what lessons did you learn about yourself?

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Blame It On Me

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I just saw the recent disheartening video footage of Matthew Ajibade, the Nigerian student who died mysteriously in police custody in the United States earlier in the year, being shocked by police officers while handcuffed to a restraining chair and writhing in pain.

Ajibade, who was only 21 years old at the time of his death, was found dead in jail in the US on New Year’s day. He had been arrested the previous day after his girlfriend put a distress call to 911 for an ambulance following an episode of his bipolar disorder which made him strike her. The police showed up instead and arrested Ajibade despite the girlfriend making it clear he needed medical attention.

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This has become a norm in the United States where young innocent harmless black men are more likely to be gunned down by the police than they would a white. Their only crime is being black. Black people are generally presumed to be dangerous, a threat and always guilty until proven innocent. According to promoters of the Black Lives Matter movement, a black man, woman, or child is murdered by police or vigilante law enforcement every twenty-eight hours.

In light of the recent extrajudicial killings of black people, I reaffirm my stance as an unapologetic Black man and throw my weight behind the Black Lives Matter movement. However, I hate the fact that black people blame everything wrong in their lives on racism.

Black music artistes are often quick to cite/blame racism for their failure to get nominations or win music awards. If American actor Leonardo DiCaprio was black, maybe he’d have taken the same route and blamed his failure to win an Oscar, despite mesmeric performances in a number of movies, on his race. Or the likes of Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Steven Nash and Dirk Nowitski would have pinned Michael Jordan’s recognition as the greatest basketballer of all time on race.

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I do not know if blaming everything on racism makes some of my black brothers and sisters feel better about themselves but it is about time we took some of the blame for some of the things happening to us. There’s a saying that “no one can make you inferior without your consent.” Magnifying our self-esteem issues by seeking sympathy from the world for being black will give others the power to use us as pawns.

I do not seek sympathy from anyone for being black. Being black is not a plague/curse. Back in Nigeria, being black is becoming a bad thing too. It requires painstaking effort to discern a Nigerian from the crowd these days. We have adopted foreign accents and sound more American and British than the Americans and British people themselves.

You are automatically proclaimed intelligent once you speak well with a foreign accent. Perhaps that’s why it has become a “taboo” for anyone, especially those going into media or entertainment industry, to have a Nigerian accent. Listen to the radio and TV stations now, and you ask yourself “why the struggle to sound white?”

The same Nigerian accent we deride was recently ranked 6th sexiest accent by CNN, higher than the the American accent and a spot below the Queens English accent. However, have you ever seen whites  “killing” themselves to have a Nigerian accent? The essence of language is to communicate but it is also an integral part of a people’s culture. It is one of the things that sets one apart.

Accents define us and grant others information about our lives – where we are from, our history and identity as a people/ race. Our accents depict the richness of our cultural heritage and diversity. You don’t need need a foreign accent to have a high self-esteem rather forcing a foreign accent enhances your inferiority complex.

You are a representative of the Black Community; stop making our kids feel being Black and having a Nigerian accent is a bad thing. So instead of blurting out “Don’t Blame it on me” like John Newman, take the blame today like George Ezra and be proud of who you are. Be made of black!