Ladies, it’s that time of year. The holidays. Friendsgivings, gift shopping, Christmas trees, travels, the end of the year rush to check off goals from your list and you’re doing it all alone. Without a bae to help you enjoy the festivities. The holidays definitely have a way of highlighting unfulfilled areas of our lives. Because we’re spending more time with family and friends, the notion that we’re still in the same predicament a whole year later compared to some of our friends who have gotten engaged and married can be daunting. And nosy aunts don’t make it any easier.
Beautiful people, I have struggled with this career issue for years. When I was younger, my mom asked me what I wanted to become, I told her Janet Jackson’s backup dancer. After she stared at me for a few minutes, she told me, “I didn’t come all the way from Nigeria for my child to aspire to dance behind someone, you don’t even want to dance in front of the person, you want to dance behind.” It was at that moment that my interest in entertainment appeared bleak. So when I entered high school and started seriously looking into my career path, I started to focus on Nigerian approved careers. The ones that Nigerian parents strongly encourage their children to become: doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, engineer, nurse, accountant and any variation of such. These are the quintessential careers that allow our parents to brag and believe that their migration to the States was worth it just because of the “Title.” I wanted a career I could grow to “like,” while also pleasing my parents. I finally decided on Law, after Advertising was shut down too.
However, times are changing. Values are shifting and professional school loans can be drowning. These days there are more options and need I say better options for career choices that would not only pay us a higher salary (hello Chief Technology Officer at a Startup), but also have potential to be more fulfilling.
Three weeks ago, I turned 33. I asked myself how do I feel, and to be honest, I don’t feel much different than 32, or 31, or 30 or 29. I’ve pretty much been steadily focused on what I believe God has called me to become. But my Nigerian mother and my cohort of Nigerian aunties have a different way of viewing my age. From 25 and beyond, the seasoned women in my life have made it their duty to remind me of a clock that is ticking somewhere and have been committing co-operations to introduce me to men I’m sure they haven’t properly profiled for compatibility, all in the name of making me an M.R.S.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen friends or friends of friends getting married to supposed men of their dreams only to be abandoned after their husband’s permanent residency is established. Not only have I seen it, but I almost became a victim.
I was introduced to a Nigerian guy who was living in the UK with a student visa that was expiring. He had no desire to move back to Nigeria. We conversed over the phone for about 6 months until I decided it was time to meet in person. When I got to the UK, ladies, he was a different person. He told me he wanted to marry me and had already arranged for a court ceremony (which wasn’t possible, because neither of us were British citizens) without meeting my parents. I refused. That’s when the trouble started. He was hostile, verbally abusive and condescending. I had never been with a man where I feared my safety. As soon as, I got back to the States, I broke our courtship off, especially since another woman called me confessing that she was with him the entire time and he told her he was using me to get his papers. Ladies, that was a frightening and confusing time for me. But I’m sharing my story so that others won’t go down the same path. Through the ordeal, I learned a few lessons that I hope you learn to.
If you’re young Nigerian and fly without a man, chances are people are trying to introduce you to someone every other week. I’m I lying? I get it, marriage is an accomplishment to most and our parents and aunties want to brag about that too. They have our best interest in mind. But to a certain extent, you wonder whether they really know you when you meet some of these men. I’ve been there and trying to diplomatically escape from those situations are not easy. But I’ve learned a thing or two about human interaction that might be beneficial. However, it’s a process. Learning the art of politely rejecting people, so that they truly understand that you’re not interested (and not playing hard to get) is an art I’m still trying to master. Here are some common scenarios that may arise. It always helps to be prepared.
Instagram is overloaded with inspiration and influencers. However, it can be a bit daunting trying to sift through and find accounts that not only have great images, but also give a nod to your cultural background. As an expert inspiration finder, I constantly search for women who are unique in their talents that I can culturally relate to. Here are 7 influential and inspiring Nigerian women to follow…like now.
Inspiration: This model-like beauty gives me 90’s fashion editorial stimulation. Her vintage style and striking cheekbones are just accents to her amazing illustration skills. From Youtube personalities to fellow grammers she uses her pencil to artfully construct beautiful faces through shades and gradients.
Inspiration: This beauty inspires me to jump in her suitcase and tag along on her many travel excursions. Her attention to detail and artistic way of capturing the simple things in life whether in Nigeria, Kenya or in her backyard keeps me coming back for more. The profound descriptions take you beyond the image itself, to a place of deeper thought, understanding and meaning.
Inspiration: Her feminine and elegant style gives me goosebumps. As a lover of beautiful and dainty things, this feed capitalizes on my feminine sensibilities. She inspires me to put my best pump forward while her love for ivory roses grants her extra credit in my book.
Inspiration: Her big textured mane gives me life. What I love about her feed is that it’s not really about her hair, but her lovely mane provides just as much inspiration on its own as the whole image itself. The vibrant colors on muted white backgrounds are candy to my eyes while her travels satisfy my wanderlust dreams.
Inspiration: This lovely ladies’ downtown chic street style is infectious. Just ask the ladies who like to remix her style. Her cute pixie cut coupled with her cropped pants and leather loafers reminds me of our version of Audrey Hepburn.
Inspiration: This artist brings her creativity to the canvas when she paints images of beautiful black girls. I love the authenticity of her pieces. Bold and vibrant colors and patterns flood her feed giving a nod to her Nigerian heritage while her textured fro make statement appearances.
Inspiration: This photojournalist effortlessly captures the beauty of Nigerian culture in unexpected and common places. Her prose reveals the mind of a visionary who studies her subject and speaks forth intangible observations that aren’t easily noticed to the untrained eye.
Who inspires you on Instagram?
Lately, I haven’t been reading, as much as, I want to. I used to be an avid reader, before I went to law school. But it was something about being forced to read chapter after chapter of ancient case law, tedious briefs and monotonous legal opinions that sapped my energy from reading writings that celebrated creativity. Year after year, I fell into the habit of reading more academic prose than literary fiction. Now, I want to get back to reading for pure enjoyment.
In university, one of my majors was English and I concentrated on literature of the African diaspora. My concentration was a no-brainer for me. However, during my time, I found it difficult to find books by African authors who gave tribute to the American immigrant experience. So, I have a habit of searching for complex African literature that either speaks to my dual cultural experiences or teaches me about my African heritage in a way that brings life to my history. If you’re like me, you probably have a standing reading list on Amazon or another platform where you can store books in reserve that peak your interest. Here are five literary sweets from my list…
1. Every Day Is For The Thief // Teju Cole
About a young Nigerian living in New York City who travels back to Lagos to visit. His happenings and observations in Lagos leads him to an introspective path of truth and reconciliation.
2. The Thing Around Your Neck // Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A compilation of proses about Nigerians in America and how they cope and live with their piece of the American pie.
3. Boy, Snow, Bird // Helen Oyeyemi
Although this book is not about African culture per se, it addresses the issues of passing as an element of cultural divide and the essence of race and heredity.
4. Chike and the River // Chinua Achebe
A children’s book that sparked my interest, so much so, I included it on one of my Christmas gift guides. It follows a sheltered Nigerian boy’s quest to travel to Asaba, a city he has never explored, which takes him on an adventure through quintessential Nigerian experiences.
5. Foreign God’s Inc. // Okey Ndibe
A desperate Nigerian cab driver living in New York plots to steal a statute of an ancient deity from his village in order to sell it to a NYC gallery. On his trip, he faces dichotomies of the Christian faith versus ancient beliefs, the modern life versus the exoticism of tribal living and the shifting nature of memory.
What African literary works are you reading?