Posts tagged Rants by Gbemi

What I Learned From My Big Crop

So I recently cropped my hair, recently being last Saturday. And even though I like to convince myself that it was a spur of the moment decision, it was an idea I had played around with for a while. Maybe since last year. But I usually got swayed and just thought that the same old way was better. Before now, I had mostly had the same hairstyle for the past six years or so – side part (left side please). If I wanted to switch it up, I would braid my hair or wear a short weave. But I got tired. I feel like I went through a lot in the last year and I had earned the right to shed old skin. So at the end of April, I cut my hair shorter. But after about a week of running on auto-pilot I went back to what I knew. I saw my cousin’s hair this year and was inspired to do what I knew I wanted to do in my heart.  I asked a few people for their opinion (again) and everyone said “No” so I shelved my plans again so when I finally summoned the courage this weekend, I kept my decision away from everyone who could dissuade me. And the results were beautiful.

 

But here’s what I learned from cutting my hair:

  1. If you really want to do something, just go ahead and do it: I know this seems pretty obvious but you know how truth is often hiding in plain sight. But what I have learned from all of this is that once you are certain you want to do something, you don’t need any other opinions.
  2. You own your reality: Nobody knows you like you. You alone know what is best for you at every point in time, so just go ahead and do it. When you lay in bed at night, you’re only accountable to your God and to yourself. Be sure that you’re at peace with your decisions.
  3. You never know until you try: I had doubts about changing my looks, seeing as I had worn the same hairstyle for years. Even when I finally decided to chop my hair off, I thought that there was a slight chance that I would hate it the next day, and I had my wig nearby. But the next morning when I looked in the mirror I could barely stop smiling. Turns out I actually love it. Haven’t cut my hair this low since I was in JSS3, about seventeen years ago.
  4. Sometimes you just need a fresh start: When I told my sister I wanted to chop my hair, she said “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But truth is, sometimes, you really need to stop patching things and give yourself a fresh start.
  5. Change is the only constant thing: I always joked that even if I had only one strand of hair left I wouldn’t chop it, seeing as I am, to a large extent, a girly girl. Well, look what we got here. Never say never. Stay open to life’s changes and just breathe.

Everything good will come!

Today will Probably Be the worst day of your life

Or the best.

And this is not a motivational speech, I promise.

I know we’ve all heard lines along “the day is what you make of it” so much that it sounds cliche. Well, it’s the truth. Every day has potential, to be the worst day of your life or the best day of your life. Your day can start off with everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong. While I believe in God, and force majeure, I also know that we often abdicate our duties to fate. And I know this, because I’ve been in the school of thought of waiting for perfect timing or conditions, or just a good vibe. I always imagined I would just sit down with these ideas and knowledge, and one day BOOM out of nowhere, I’m top of the game in my field. And the book I always swore I would write, well one day, I would just see my book on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Well, that didn’t quite work.

No. It didn’t work AT ALL.

Over the last few months, I’ve come to learn that if you want to do something, just do it. As they say, “leap, the net will appear”. If you’ve done your due dilligence about any decision you want to make, then just go ahead and do it. Don’t think yourself out of an innovative idea with impossibilities that only exist in your mind. There are no “perfect conditions”. There will always be bills to pay, and traffic, and everyone gets stressed, especially if you live in Lagos. If you wanted excuses for everything you did not want to do, you could write a whole book. In the words of Bruce Lee “if you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you will never get it done”

With every day that passes, you miss out on a day that could have been the day you started – the day you started writing, the day you started a business, the day you started creating – and you’re running out of time. Except you’re ageing in reverse (a la Benjamin Button), every day is one less day in the grand scheme of things. No one can pick your brains when you die, so if you think of something and you don’t do it, the idea dies with you. Or perhaps someone else will do it. Whatever, you get the idea.

Light a fire where you are.

Have a great week.

Thank You

Hello you,

Yes you.

I just wanted to say “thank you” for coming here and giving me a reason to write what I write. It’s hard to come on here and talk about life, and being single, and being a christian, who is rebellious and feminist. I know that everyone has so much going for them, so the fact that you even relate enough to come by here means an awful lot.

 

I know that I don’t write enough, sometimes my heart has so much to say I can’t find the words. Sometimes there’s too many places I want to split myself into. Sometimes I just want to curl and let whatever I’m feeling wash over me.

 

But I’m here today! And I’m blessed to be doing what I do.

 

There’s so much more I would love you to experience with me.

 

Stay a little longer.

Random Thoughts on Being Other

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” – Frida Kahlo

 

I first heard of the concept of “otherness” in my second year in the University. While studying Literature of the Commonwealth, I’d come to learn terms like the empire, the center, the other, the hegemony and many other terms that would make me try to understand where I fit in in the grand scheme of things. In my third year, I’d go on to major in Literature. I found myself more drawn to Literature of the Other, everything but the West, save for Shakespeare’s plays and Sonnet 116 and Robert Burns’ “A Red Red Rose” (Understandably, I’m a hopeless romantic). I got lost in R.K Narayan, V. S Naipaul and Derek Walcott. I loved some American literature, but only African-American literature. I knew a handful of Negro spirituals and I loved “Sister Becky’s Pickaninny”. Richard Wright’s Black Boy was too sad for me but I loved Maya Angelou’s poems. Of course I loved African Literature. I loved the worlds and the struggles captured. I loved the otherness of New Nigerian writers, especially those who lived in the diaspora. They were “Other” too. 

 

In my own defense, I had never seen snow, so there was no way I could relate to Western Literature, it didn’t matter that I had seen Home Alone a zillion times. But I guess my love for other was really deep-rooted. To start with, I had never been able to fit in. In school I could never quite fit in, even though I had friends. For most part, I was always the youngest or the oldest (yeah, catechism). Even when I had friends I could never keep them. At first I had a mild form of persecution complex and “Everybody Hates Gbemi” days but I soon realized that I would never be mainstream enough to fit into anyone’s ideas of who or what I should be. 

 

And that’s okay.

 

The fear of the freedom of choice to chart our own paths and make our own choices is the reason we all hide under societal norms and religious practices. They take the burden of choice away from us by defining what we should do and who we should be. So in the end, we are all homogeneous – same hair, same choices, same careers, and same partners and so on. It’s easier that way – when we all walk on the same street it’s hard to miss your way. Or that’s what it seems like.

 

But some paths are crooked and beautiful, and that’s how God made them. Not all of us should be mainstream- some of us were made to walk the side lines and maybe even backroads. But as long as we know where we’re headed and why, we can learn to trust our intuition. The beauty and genius of being different is in the fact that there are over 7 billion of us here. If God wanted us all to be the same thing, He wouldn’t even have made Esau and Jacob to be totally different people. Trust your path. Embrace your Otherness.

Letter to My Younger Self: Sierra Tango Oscar Papa

 

“Now before I finish, let me just say

I did not come here to show out

Did not come here to impress you

Because to tell you the truth when I leave here I’m gone

And I don’t care what you think about me, but just remember

When it hits the fan brother, whether it’s next year, ten years

Twenty years from now, you’ll never be able to say

That these brothers lied to you Jack” – Sean ‘Jay-Z’ Carter, PSA

 

 

Dear Gbemisola,

I wish I had written sooner. I hope you get this in good time, it will make things a whole lot easier for you. But then again, maybe the beauty in life is in the stumbling and sauntering. Whatever happens, you are reading this now, and it means you are still alive.

 

If I had to give you one advice to live by, it would be a single word: STOP.

 

Stop obsessing over everything. You’re 15 and ready to take on the world. I know you think you have it all figured out- graduate at 19, serve at 20, get married at 23 and have all your babies by 28. But I need you to let go off everything that you’ve planned. The thing with life is that most times you don’t even know what you want till you see it. I wish I knew a better way to explain this, but I don’t. Don’t be so pre-occupied with what you want that you lose out on all the beauty in life.

 

Stop obsessing over love. I know you don’t like to hear this, but you’re only just fifteen. You may think that you know what love is, but what you feel has not even scratched the surface. Love will kill you. Love will raise you up. Love is your mother working seven days a week for you. Love is your father buying drug after drug so that strange illness doesn’t snuff life out of you. The things you’ll do for love, the things you’ll do in the name of love, some of it will make you wonder if it was ever worth it. Love is amazing, but it’s never enough. You’ll find out though. And oh that boy you think about every night before you sleep, ten years from now you may hear he died and not feel any emotion.

 

Stop being so easily swayed. There’s so much that you’ve been taught already. You’ll find some of it to be utterly useless. You will learn that it pays to be your own woman. You’ll find the things that you think you should stand for in life. When you do, hold on to them. Never let anyone’s opinion shape your perception of someone or something. There’s over 6 billion people on earth, and we all have opinions. Not everyone will agree with you, and you shouldn’t agree with everyone either. Just don’t go on the offensive.

 

Stop being so damned soft. You’re still a good person, emotional, romantic, and godly. But good don’t always win. You’ll learn though. You see you may have been taught that if you give good out you’ll get good part. The earlier you stop expecting everyone to be nice to you, the better. People will hurt you, sometimes intentionally, other times unknowingly. Grow a backbone. We’re all living breathing people sauntering through life and trying to get home. Don’t expect too much from other people. Don’t take everything so personally, otherwise you’ll grow into a bitter lonely woman.

 

Stop putting other people before yourself. Stop putting yourself before God. You’ll find that you’re clueless about this thing called life. Put your hands in the hands of the One who designed the journey. Stop worrying too much and trust Him. I know that this is hard for you, but just wait and see what He does with you.

 

And Oh, no matter how much you cry, find the things that bring you joy. Regardless of how many times life knocks you down, there’ll be so much to laugh about if you only took the time to look. Enjoy every moment as much as you can. Love yourself. Life is hard enough, you need to be on your own side, just in case no one is rooting for you. But there are people rooting for you. When you think everyone else has left your side, a stranger will offer you a handshake. That’s the beauty of life.

 

Love yourself Kiddo. Love.

You are Worth Dying For – Letter from a Single Man

“Just because no one  has shown up to love you on your level doesn’t mean you have to sink to theirs. ”  – T. D Jakes

 

First of all, I would like you to know that I feel a certain kinship with you, and not in an Alcoholics Anonymous kind of way. I celebrate you because right here and now you are an independent young woman who is entirely in charge of her life and time. You will not understand the value of owning your time and space until you are married, so in the meantime, embrace it. Every day, i hear my married friends complain about how difficult it is to hang out with the boys. My female colleagues who are married also go on about how they never get alone time. And so while marriage is a beautiful thing, being single is just as appealing.

I don’t know why you are single and who did what to you. But if they didn’t put a ring on it then they don’t matter. You will learn in life that people aren’t always what they say they are, and that may be very heart breaking, but LIFE will go on. Sometimes, you meet pretenders, sometimes you meet people who do not know what they want and other times, well, maybe it was just time you outgrew certain friendships. Whatever happened or will happen, DO NOT TAKE PRISONERS. It’s just Life.

 

I know what the pressure is like for you. I know how every time you say you are Single, there’s an unspoken pity-party and endless match-make attempts for you. There’s also the “she must have done something wrong” or “i need to hide my man” attitude from your sisters. Some days i wonder why you ladies are so mean to each other. But i feel no pity for you. I understand how men can be such babies or even outright monsters and I am proud that you are holding out for the best. Please DO NOT FEEL Pressured TO SETTLE for a BTA Relationship.

 

You are probably asking what a BTA Relationship is – Well, it means “Better than Alone”, in other words, an “at all at all, na him bad pass” relationship. Too many women are in loveless relationships, so many others are in abusive marriages and many others are dead and gone. Wouldn’t you rather hold on a little longer than be a statistic?

 

I know that it may be hard sometimes. You come home to your empty house, a phone that barely rings and a life that may seem to suck. I know that some nights you just want to be held, literally; that some mornings you want to share the crazy dream you just had, and on some days you want to talk about your future and the beautiful children in it. I know that every time you return home from a wedding you are filled with longing and questions about when it will be your turn. I am single, so i know what the wait feels like too. Don’t you worry Child, God is sorting you out.

 

In the meantime, GET A LIFE. I know that’s a shocking (almost rude) thing to say, bearing in mind that you probably pay your bills, but there’s so much more to do than earn a living. Have fun, read books, shriek, dance in the rain, travel the world (or just your country) now that there is nothing stopping you. Build a career you can be proud of, get a new hobby, read books, make new friends (the good kind) and basically just live. In the end, nobody wants a douche-bag. We want successful women who will inspire our children, and who know when and how to let their hair down.

 

Above all, you have value. You are the daughter of a King, and He is enthralled with your beauty. He loves you so much and He judged you worthy of the life of His only Son. There is no greater love. You are worth dying for. Everything good will come.

They Lied. You are Enough

“Should we pass judgement on a painting while the artist still holds the brush? Don’t judge us yet; God’s not finished. Go” – Kirk Franklin

 

Growing up, I was constantly taunted for being thin. I was called “tiringbeku” and “ego” and every name you could think off. I also remember being called an “ugly bag of bones” once. My mum also didn’t help matters- We were forced to sleep for a certain number of hours every day so we could gain some weight and look healthy. Later on, by some stroke of misfortune, my mum watched TV and learned that severely malnourished children could be nursed to a healthy weight with a soya beans diet. That marked the beginning of the darkest years of my childhood.

My mum would put soya bean powder in Stew. When there was no visible improvement in our weight, she extended soya beans into every dish- Eba, Egusi soup, Ewedu, and even Beans. After a while, my elder sister and I devised a means to save ourselves from the misery of mealtimes. We would stick morsels of Eba on the walls and ceilings and flush the soup in the toilet. For Beans and stew though, we always had to swallow the whole meal like we were taking pills. After a while, my mum gave up because she saw there was no improvement. Ironically, my mum was just as skinny as a child.

 

As a teen, I grew a thicker skin. If anyone said anything about my weight, I would retort that people paid to lose weight and rarely to gain it. In any case, there was strangely no full mirror in our house at the time, so I only saw a full view of myself in car glasses, which gave me just the view I wanted. Even when I passed by sliding doors, I chose to believe my car glass image. Heck, I had gotten what I wanted and no one was going to take it from me.

 

A few years ago, my mum’s dreams would come true. After years of trying (with B.co, Super Apet and Complan Milk), I gained 12kg within one year without consciously trying. Then the comments started pouring in. “You are too hip-py”, “You look fat”, “I know a good gym, you should start exercising”, “Your cheeks are too big” and so on. I was in shock! The same people who were praying I would gain weight suddenly didn’t like that I had gained weight. But it didn’t matter. I loved my body. I knew how to calculate my BMI, I found clothes that would fit my frame. Life was Beautiful. I was enough.


As humans, we are constantly under pressure for acceptance, sometimes unconsciously. We feel the need to fit into people’s expectations of how to live- the things we should wear, how to behave in public, what to say in Public and even how to worship. At the end of the day, we realize that no matter how hard we try to conform to other people’s expectations, we are never good enough. You cannot succeed at being anyone else.

 

I remember in the not too distant past eagerly trying to fit certain expectations and stereotypes – “don’t speak too much Yoruba”, “why are you always smiling”, “that Church isn’t quite the Church” and so on. At the end of the day, nothing I did was good enough. Eventually, the same person would turn around and complain that I was attending the church she recommended and that I always wore a long face. While I did realize that it was human nature to suddenly not want something again, I was disappointed in myself for trying too hard to fit their perception.

We are all flawed, but we often forget that our imperfections make us who we are. Each of us is different, struggling to be judged acceptable in the court of public opinion. I have come to realize that I have no power over people’s perception of me, and so however you judge me now is your business. I know who I am and so I have cut myself some slack.

I am still a work in progress.


Today I am off my knees. I have stopped praying to be flawless. I realize that to NOT love myself is disrespectful to a Creator who made me in His image. And He’s still painting, He hasn’t finished.  So when you say my face is too round, I will tell You that God only draws perfect circles. I will watch my weight, when I feel the need to.  I will break into a dance suddenly; it’s okay if you cannot hear the music. I will have conversations with myself every night. Tomorrow at work, Marilyn will ask me a question and I will reply in Yoruba, and then translate into English. She will laugh, she loves learning. I will throw my head back and laugh out loud; I love the sound of my own laughter. You will love me as I am, or you will go.

 

I am ME. I am happy. I am ENOUGH.

Now You Can Lose Your Map

Originally posted in April 2013

I remember breaking down in tears when I saw my NYSC call-up letter in March 2009. In that moment, I felt condemned to a slow painful death, or who sends a young girl all the way to Yobe when she’s been dreaming of life in Lagos Camp? Like everyone else who shared the same fate, I licked my wounds and prepared myself for a gruelling three weeks in Fika, and mapped out a redeployment strategy. A road trip seemed the most practical option, and I chose it.


You know how everyone seems to have a survival manual for you when they think they have been in your shoes, well I got many of those – the bus to travel with, what to take with me, how to dress outside camp and how to live in general. The good student in me absorbed everything and set out on what has been the longest road trip of my life’s till date. The journey lasted all of twenty two hours, and an unplanned night in Jos because of a curfew.

I always think of myself as a tough cookie who is prepared for the worst, but nothing prepared me for Yobe. The wind that hit me as I alighted from the bus was hot and dry. The flies were massive and I don’t remember feeling more helpless. My first thought was to ask God why He was punishing me. After spending the next few hours trying to settle in, I was shocked to see my bucket of water had been emptied. Ideally, that’s not a big deal if you are in Lagos where you have a borehole and probably running water. But in a desert place like Yobe where the only water available is from a 33,000 liter capacity tank supplied twice daily, then it’s a big deal. I spent the better part of the evening trying to get the Culprit to replace the water, the last bath I took was in Lagos. After what seemed like an eternity, I got water and had a bath.

The rest of my days in camp were just as challenging. From the fake fire drills, to roommates from hell, punishments in the midnight and bathing in the open, camp was anything but fun. I remember brushing my teeth one morning and the wind blew the spittle towards the person on my right. When she complained, I unapologetically told her to channel her grievance to God because He sent the wind. I slept through all the lectures and didn’t join any groups. I was too fixated on returning home to Lagos that I decided to be numb. I found a routine that worked just fine. So I went through the days and nights without emotion. I think the only time I showed any emotions was when the redeployment list was released and my name was not on it.

Long story short, I survived my three weeks in camp, made a few friends and a lot of enemies, but I survived anyways. And so while for some, the three weeks in camp was the best of their lives, it was the worst for me. I lived in my own space and time. I lived by my own rules and routine, when I could have been absorbed in the space and time I was in.


In life, most of us spend our days trying to reach the end in one piece. We always seem to have it all planned even before we start – when we will leave school and start work, where we will live, when we will start our families and all the tiny details of our lives – forgetting that it each person’s journey has been mapped out by the same Hand that made everything. So when things don’t quite follow our agenda, we feel sad, betrayed, hopeless and lost. The beauty of life isn’t quite getting to the destination, it’s the ride that counts. The unexpected stops, the people who get off so the rest of us can continue on our paths, the ones who join us on our way,  the detours, the speed bumps –  these are the things that make life what it is.

There’s no question that life throws us curve balls, some of them hitting us square in the face and knocking us off our feet so bad that we want to stay down and say ‘woe is me’, but life is too short to stay down for too long.  And except you are Solomon in the Bible whose battles had been fought for him,  we all have our struggles.  Only when we learn to embrace the curves and detours and lose our own maps will we be able to fully absorb the beauty of life. Life itself is not the station, it’s the train ride.

Some days I think that my own life has had too many stops and detours.  But then I know that God is writing a masterpiece, and He only let’s me see one chapter at a time. So the suspense, and the twists and turns are all in the plan, and I’ll enjoy each chapter in the meantime. He doesn’t write boring stories.

I still believe in Happy Endings. Do you?

xoxo