CROSSROADS 2

iyosayi14 Reflections

When I said I wanted to tear it all down, burn it to the ground and restart my life, I didn’t mean I wanted chaos in my life. I meant I wanted a well-calculated transition into new routines and a different life path, threading new grounds, getting in touch with aspects of myself I’m yet to explore, all with ease and clarity.

Maybe I should have been more explicit so the universe will lead me accordingly because where I have found myself is far from what I had hoped for. My desire to change routines and add spark to the current year, in contrast to the seemingly slow-paced 2020 has turned into way much more than I wanted. Life for me since the year began has been a struggle to catch my breath.

I have had several who sent me moments, questioning if indeed it’s all worth it. I miss the freedom that came with idle weekends. Right now my life feels restricted and I feel out of touch with my surroundings. The plan was to enjoy my new routine, be present for the new experience and savor it all. Sadly, what I have been navigating all year is a variant of the very rat-race/hustle culture I loathe and have been working to break free from.

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My first response to stress/inconvenience is flight. That need to escape to find ease. My colleague, Eme has said severally that I give up quickly (as per, once I see can foresee a dead end I tend to abort quickly). I have always said I’m a realist, and added to that is my gift of perception and to a large extent, a fair analytical mind.

Before embarking on anything, I take my time running scenarios and planning around possible setbacks. I do this all the time such that, it can take a lot of time for me to decide (because I’ll hate to start stressing or struggling down the road). I want that once I hit the start button, it’s going to be a smooth ride till the end without any form of inconvenience. Yes, I make provision for plans going off course, but I want this within a certain comfortable anticipated threshold.

Well, I think this forte for planning has failed me. I’ve had to consider a U-turn on my decision to go back to school. I thought ten years was enough time to rest and miss school. But I guess I missed the truth about what I learned about myself all these years; I’m the guy who doesn’t like stress or chaos. Some people thrive this way and are at their best, but for someone like me who easily gets overwhelmed, it’s best I take life in phases.

I love doing things when I’m truly ready for them. True, I missed preparing for exams and I also craved classroom experience and a new adventure, but mixing school with work has turned out to be quite a lot for me. I hate that I’m behind my lecturers in two courses. I’m used to either reading ahead or being at par with where the lecturer stopped.

I wish it was just these I was grappling with – tight schedules and not being able to balance work, school, and personal life. It’s worse than this.

I have always loved Economics but I got a rude shock a month after classes resumed. Apparently, Economics goes way beyond the basic Micro/Macroeconomics and simple Arithmetic mixed with Statistics I was taught in secondary school. It is heavy on Calculus (Differentiation, Partial derivatives, and the likes). I had spent years after secondary school avoiding Mathematics as much as I can (Mathematics was the only course I failed in Secondary School – J.S.S 2 and S.S. 2 Second terms respectively).

But here I am now faced with the demons I have been running from. The worst part is, I don’t have the luxury of excess time (thanks to work) to put in the extra effort as I did for WAEC exams, such that everyone was shocked I had a B3 in Mathematics.

I’m not one of those who preaches push yourself out of your comfort zone. I can only support this when things are not working well and one needs to try something new to get a better result.
I strongly believe in don’t do more than you can handle. Know your strengths and weaknesses and focus more on areas where your strength lies. You have nothing to prove to anyone. Life is hard enough, why make it any more difficult for yourself? Yes, challenge yourself, but choose your battles wisely.

Like I told the Quantitative Methods lecturer last week, if I had known Economics was indeed filled with mathematics, I wouldn’t have applied.

Mid-April (the third month after resumption), I was in a bad place. I felt suffocated by life. My anxiety was at high levels and it felt like I was using up so much air trying to catch up with time, which seemed to be moving with the speed of light. I kept asking myself who sent me, that because I wanted a new adventure, I have ended up turning my life upside down.

I have tried so hard to balance my schedule to no avail. This isn’t how I planned it. I guess I was naïve thinking because it was Part-time, it would be less stressful mixing school with work. The plan wasn’t to struggle and cram my way through school to get a second degree. I truly want to be present for the experience.

I went into flight mode. I hadn’t paid fees, though I had paid the acceptance fee and done clearance. I was like; fuck it, I’m done. I made up my mind to drop out. This was supposed to be an easy decision based on what everyone is preaching these days; it’s your life, your happiness/mental health comes first. But oh well…

I agree that life is to be enjoyed and not endured. The Millennial idea of freedom says being 30+ should come with being intentional about one’s life. That it’s okay to abandon a book because it’s not interesting, it’s okay to leave a cinema hall because the movie doesn’t appeal to you. That it’s okay to stop and not be obligated to finish if one is no more getting satisfaction from whatever activity they had started.

I know there is a thin line between giving up and letting go. I’m not going to let the hustle culture rule my life. But still, I know we can’t be as free-spirited as the movies have romanticized it.

I legit had a conversation with my brother and also Musa about wanting to drop out. I ranted that it should be okay to do stuff without needing to explain myself to anyone or get them to understand me. I stated that I believe this is what adulthood is about; living my life according to my terms. While I still strongly believe this, I have come to realize, in life, there is nothing like absolute freedom. Truth is, we are bound by duty and obligation; to ourselves, our families, friends, and colleagues, as well as society.

I spoke to my folks and it felt like I was letting them down (even though they had no idea when I applied for Post Graduate school, it was after I got the admission and about resuming I told them.) My mum was more understanding and said my health first, that if school was taking a toll on me, it was fine to let it go. Though her countenance was more of disappointment. My dad was not hearing any of it, his words were – is there anything good that has ever come easy?

I don’t like letting my parents down except for issues, which I find personal (like still wearing ripped jeans or the time I traveled for an Inter-State excursion without their permission in Secondary school or when I drove my dad’s car without his consent to the outskirts of town to prove that I can drive alone). I can be stubborn and choose to stand my ground, but when it comes to other life issues, which I know directly affects their happiness, I can’t seem to break their hearts. 

– Jamie Varon

I also spoke to other friends and got divided opinions. Those I know are progressing towards freeing themselves from societal expectations were all down for dropping out. The consensus was, it was my life and my happiness came first. The others, well, let me just say the Nigerian in their blood is very strong. Why is it that when the average Nigerian hears stuff like drop out or resignation, they act like it’s the end of the world or a taboo? 

We are so consumed by the hustle culture, we don’t mind slaving ourselves to death. We seem to love living life the hard way, struggling when letting go would do us better. Well, that’s not how I have chosen to live my life. 

Like I have stated for the umpteenth time on this blog, I am all for a life of ease. I’m not also ashamed to say I’m not ambitious, neither do I wish to have all the degrees and certifications or climb to the peak of the corporate ladder. Over the years I have taught myself contentment, to prioritize my mental space and happiness (we all know how ambition can ruin those).

I desire a better quality of life. This for me means ease, being able to thrive by doing what I want to do when I want to do it, and not feel like I’m racing against time. I want to be able to enjoy every moment and not have to rush myself because of time constraints or deadlines. This is the ultimate goal I have for myself. I’m taking the long years of schooling and working in the corporate world as the sacrificial years to enable me to live this minimalist life I dream about. The simple life, that’s what I crave and desire. This is success to me. 

We are all different and so are our hopes and dreams. For others, a well-balanced quality life could mean achieving the highest academic degree or being the C.E.O of a fortune 500 company or for others, it just might be being a stay home parent or a creative or musician or footballer. All these are fine, as far as it’s what you truly desire and it’s what you want for yourself. Life is not one way, neither is it black and white.

I was leaning towards dropping out just before my Easter trip to Benin Republic. I didn’t see myself going back to class. However, upon my return to Nigeria, I felt fresh and alive. It hit me that I was burnt out from struggling with school, the PTSD from the accident in January, and other crap I dealt with the first quarter of the year. I decided to go to class one more time and make a final decision – drop out or not. Ringing in my head was my Dad’s words – is there anything good that has ever come easy?

The class that day went well. I realized I had found my rhythm once more and was excited about school. The burnout contributed largely to my frustration but one fact remained, mathematics is still not my friend.

I have decided to not drop out. Two reasons – what my father said and I remembered there is a Professional course I had started in 2019 that has been abandoned (I got inducted but I still need to sit for an examination to get a particular certification), though mostly because I had a change in mind about switching department. While I’m all for choosing ease and doing stuff that gives me joy, I do not want to build myself up to become a quitter. It’s a very thin line between chasing after ghosts and knowing when to stop.

I am here already, while this is not a challenge I would have gladly taken up, it’s here and I have to at least put in the effort and see how it goes. I don’t want to create room for what-ifs. Like Odainume said in the closing of his medium article

“I implore you to re-evaluate aspects of yourself you have given up on because you felt you couldn’t get good at them.
You just might be wrong, and even if you do try and you find you don’t have the aptitude for that thing, you can cross it off the list and never have to wonder what could have been.

I’ll do my best even though this is not the ideal experience I hoped for. I’m going to try and take it in small doses, probably miss class once in a while when I felt overwhelmed. I’ll also try to not beat myself up that I’m not reading as voraciously as I did during my undergraduate days. 

The program is supposed to take about a year and few months, which I think I can sacrifice. Who knows if the certificate will come in handy later. I did think of changing course but the term was already far gone to start afresh in a new course. I also contemplated dropping out and then applying next year for a course that has little or no mathematics but then, that’s just extending the torture because even without the mathematics, the stress of juggling school with work is real.

I’m going to take it in small doses and let myself breathe. This is not a do-or-die affair but I know I need to put in more effort. One thing is for sure though, I don’t see myself going to school while working ever again, except it’s a very short course or professional examination or out of necessity. 

Like I told my classmate if I fail the first term I won’t be coming back. At this stage in life, I don’t need anything questioning my intelligence or capabilities or stressing me unduly. I applied for the course because I needed an adventure and to make the year different from 2020. If it’s going to make me miserable, I’ll dump it. And truth is, then I will be proud of myself for dropping out. I will feel justified that I let go of what wasn’t for me after I did my best.