2023: Year in Review (Gratitude)

iyosayi14 General 1 Comment

For someone who has never fully trusted happiness, always weary that soon enough something will go wrong, it’s amazing just how I freely gave into joy for most parts of 2023. Tagging 2023 my happiest year yet won’t be farfetched. I’ve had good years in the past, but 2023 stands out not because everything worked out (I still haven’t passed my driver’s license practical examination, I haven’t completely repaid debts to my parents and myself, and I’m currently 0.37 marks below cumulative distinction in my MSc programme, e.g.), but because a large part of the year had me glowing in unforced happiness, not contentment…complete satisfaction with my life.

Several times, I found myself with a full heart, bursting with joy. One might think this has to do with escaping agbado economy for a saner clime, but the truth is that I felt this way largely because it felt like the life I have always desired had been handed to me.
2023 unveiled a new me, and for a moment, I forgot about how I used to drown in sadness, seeking comfort in sad music. The Sayi of 2023 learned to control his anxiety and draw strength from past experiences and understand that all he has to do when confronted with uncertainty is stay still.

“When you don’t know where you’re going
Just stand still, soon enough you will
And when all the hope and joy you feel turns into paranoia
‘Cause it will, remember, just stand still”
Just stand still…” – Noah Cyrus (Stand still)

2023 was a gift. An affirmation that the life I’ve always desired is both feasible and attainable. 2023 was a confirmation that the life phases I’ve gone through, the intentional pursuit of interests, and doing things that did not make sense to others, have all led me to a sense of trust that not only am I on the right track to living my dream life, but I am closer than ever to doing so. 2023 was an answer to a random question I asked my friends: will all of our struggles be worthwhile in the future? Because, when you look about, older folks are still striving to reach a goal that almost seems like a mirage. 

That is not the life I want for myself; I want a life where I’ll get to the point of enough and hit pause. A life where I don’t have to be  constantly be on the grind, one where I can measure my steps, enjoy slowed-down times, and savor every moment. To be free to explore and to do the things I love because I want to and not out of obligation or survival.

2023 made me understand that relocating abroad was not starting my life afresh but rather a continuation of my efforts to achieve my goals. Looking back, I wonder why I ever thought a quiet life of slow living was possible in Nigeria. Fate rewarded my hopes and dreams by pushing me here even though I never wanted to make the move. I am in an environment that has so much promise for career flexibility, something I used to fantasise about during my university years. 2023 gave me a taste of what it’s like to be able hold multiple experiences at once. I haven’t felt more at ease month after month as I have in the last year. It’s been a huge blessing to be given the life I’ve always wanted.

2023 was a year of possibilities, of confirming that God is genuinely with me, and, as Eme told me in 2022, ‘everything will align’. I’ve seen God walk with me and set everything in place. As one opportunity faded, another emerged, even when I didn’t notice or I tried to hold on to the old. I’ve learnt to cope with uncertainty while remaining calm. 2023 had me repeating to myself that my schedule is in God’s hands. A year of re-surrendering and affirming that His thoughts towards me are thoughts of peace and not of evil but to give me an expected end.

“In every high and every low
You never left me without hope
You were good, and You’re good right now

Your promises never fail
I’ve got stories I’ll live to tell
So I’ll pour out my praise again
You’re worthy, God, You’re worthy of all of it…”- Passion & Melodie Malone (I’ve witnessed it)

I found peace in my daily life, in the quiet, in walks through nature, and a sense of safety, enjoying the little life blessings. Nigeria deprived me of. I found my happy place in the kitchen classes, where I learned new recipes and improved my skills for making familiar dishes. Cooking became my preferred stress relief, even surpassing music.

The second half of 2023 reaffirmed my belief in sacrificial years and delayed gratification. Although juggling two schools made my schedule less flexible and I got caught up in the hustle, the first half of 2023 serves as a reminder that slow living is feasible (for me). I was happy and contented;  I had traded my suit and tie for t-shirts and joggers, but I felt more relaxed and happier. My mental health was at its best and ironically, my earnings were even way better relatively.

When I closed my financial excel sheet for 2023, I looked at my annual gross and realised why my brother-in-law kept teasing that I earn more than he does.. Finding this job was a result of God directing me to Akin and Niyi, and adhering to their advice even though I came into the country with a different idea of the kind of job I wanted. 

Oh well, the balance in my account as at December 31st was  37% of my overall annual after-tax income. This is quite low in comparison to my previous savings rate in Nigeria, when I saved at least 67% of my income. Ivan and Henry worried where the remaining 63% went. They assumed the cost of living over here was higher, but nah, this was not the case. My bank sent my one-year statement, but I haven’t looked at it because I already know what’s there…lol

2023 was my happy year. I spent without holding back, no delayed gratification or ‘there is rice at home’. Whatever made me happy, I went for it. I gave myself permission to enjoy myself and always reminded myself ‘You only live once’, and then after spending I’d run to my friends to cry about it, and the following week I was back to swiping my debit card. Call it revenge spending after years of depriving myself in order to be able to fund my japa plans, but whatever it was, it made me feel good. However, going into 2024 it’s back to the basics and as Henry calls it ‘aggressive savings’. I’d like to begin my post-work study on a soft note, with enough funds to give myself breathing space.

2023 reminded me that people will come and go. Some people enter our lives for a limited time, serve their purpose, and then leave. It’s okay to say goodbye to friends as you’ll meet new ones (who might even get you better). 2023 taught me not to be afraid to let go of people; as the saying goes, letting go opens the door to greater and better things. Friends relocated from my city this year and at first I was worried I’d be alone, but then, I ended the year co-hosting a games night.

On love, 2023 showed itself yet again as the year of possibilities. I finally got vindicated that I was never delusional for wanting a relationship that was as peaceful as my friendship. I had to go through chaotic relationships to learn about communication and become a better man for the person who presently occupies my heart. This relationship feels like a breath of fresh air, as easy as Sunday morning.

“I think about the years I spent just passin’ through
I’d like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You’ve been there, you understand
It’s all part of a grander plan that is coming true
Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you” – Rascal Flatts (Bless the Broken Road)

2023 truly showed me that I can be happy in this life without reservations. I adore this new version of myself, the happy Sayi. I have had my years of pain, of questioning the reason for my existence. 2023 was a gift for my perseverance, for keeping the light on even when I longed to set myself free.

I once saw a tweet where the person feared that their creativity was tied to their melancholy nature. I’ve always appreciated pain-inspired art, and I found writing easier when I felt low or going through a difficult time. It has taken me until mid-January 2024 to complete this end-of-year review. Since life hit me hard in 2021, it’s felt like I’ve been on a journey of reclaiming. Life has been quite hectic, nd I have not had the time to settle down to enjoy writing. I used to loathe soft copy texts, but it’s been two years since I held a hard copy book to read. I have bought a couple of books in the past year, but still, it almost seems like there’s no time to indulge in these things I once readily found myself doing. 

Maybe my life has become too busy working hard to attain the life I have always desired, or maybe I am just evolving away from writing (hopefully not reading hard copy books). I saw this post from Cassie Davies I resonated with –

Back then when life got overwhelming, I would resort to writing, especially long-form writing. I haven’t dealt with those emotions in a while, and I’ve been busy creating my life, so perhaps that’s why writing hasn’t come readily to me these days.
A part of me still hopes that once everything is settled and I’m finally enjoying my slowed-down living, I’ll return to this journal I’ve kept since 2012 (without having to require sadness to inspire me please).

Recently, I’ve been questioning why I switched from the free blogspot, which has an indelible mark on the internet. Mostly, I pay for the domain on this site as an oxygen mask of sorts to keep it alive, even though I haven’t been consistent here. I would hate to lose everything I’ve documented on here about my life. I may not be regular here, still I can’t have my words disappear; it feels like losing a part of myself. That will be too much loss to bear and grief to sit with. 


2024 seems like a year of consolidation. Knowing I’ll be graduating from both schools in 2024 holds a lot of promise of freedom. Freedom to be who I want to be, to discover and reinvent  myself. Graduate school takes so much from you that you almost lose yourself. I’m looking forward to post-work studies without visa restrictions. Even though immigration laws in various countries are currently moving mad, one thing I have learned about my life is that God has never and will never leave me stranded, even if there are waiting periods which I have since come to see as a gift of rest within phases.

If there is one thing I hope for in 2024, it is ease. I want to experience the feeling of excitement and freedom I had in early 2023, when my life seemed to slow down and I could notice my surroundings and take in every moment. This may be a long shot given the demands of attending two schools at the same time. However, I am willing to wait patiently until the sacrificial years are over and I have unlimited flexibility to return to the life of comfort. I’ve learnt to be patient and appreciate the process and stages of life rather than  being fixated on the destination. I’m excited about the future freedom to live and explore in a functioning system. What I pray for is good health and continued joy, to keep embracing happiness all through 2024 and years to come.

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