I’ve waited so many years to yell out these Taylor Swift lyrics.
2020 is the year I turned 22, and I’m not sure what I was expecting.
Here’s where I thought I would be now – living with the love of my life somewhere in the countryside with bunnies and chickens, and the occasional trip to a magical place in Africa for work.
Here’s where I am – in Lagos, single, trapped within the Nigerian border because of a pandemic.
Heck, I didn’t even have a 22nd birthday.
But despite the doom and gloom, this year has taught me two valuable lessons; I have zero control over how life works, and there’s so much time in the world
My anxiety has always made me quite the control freak. Not knowing where my life would be in the next 3 months could send me spiralling into a panic attack that would leave me breathless and unable to move.
As a child who grew up quite exceptional, most of my worth has been vested in how well I perform academically, and now professionally.
I got my undergraduate degree before 20, thanks to the Nigerian Central Bank, I’d have to wait 2 more years till I could pay for a Master’s degree. So I spent all that time working my ass off. Denying myself basic luxuries, saving over 60% of what I earned, and just taking on more work to increase said income.
Then COVID-19 happened; I was forced to face more uncertainty than I had ever known, and find my worth outside my achievements.
In March of this year, there was no telling whether schools would open in September, or even if they’d be accepting foreign students from Nigeria. In addition, clients began to pull out, and the travel industry was thrown into unpredictable chaos. I lost many commissions I couldn’t wait to show off in my bio, and even worse; my income took a sharp dip. To top it all off, while I was fortunate enough to have a stable source of income here in Nigeria, the naira began to suffer even worse than 2016/2017.
It looked like the same policies that held me back for 2 years, would continue to triumph as I watched my so-called stable income lose its value day after day.
As at the time I’m writing this, ₦390 = $1 officially, but on the parallel market, ₦501 = $1. Wiring that $20,000 dollar payment to an institution can be a Herculean task if you’re going through a bank with all this scarcity; so many people are forced to go through the parallel market.
Anyway, how many years of work do you have to do to raise $40,000+ on $550 a month (excluding the occasional big cheques). Let’s bear in mind that I like in a country where over 40% of the population survives on less than $365 a year.
I can’t even complain.
All this uncertainty and loss should’ve sent me into a spiral of depression, but strangely I’ve never been happier.
After over 180 days of not leaving my house at all, the biggest lesson is that I’ve got so much damn time. So much of it. Much of my anxiety has stemmed from hurry; the need to graduate a year early to save my parents the stress of paying extra tuition, the need to find love before my parents aged – so I wouldn’t have to handle it alone, the need to be the youngest in the room.
All of this has faded away, and as the days blur into each other, I’m happy just doing the best I can.
Editors are regaining their budget, and I have my biggest travel assignment coming up in a few weeks.
I’ve developed a stronger bond with my friends. And even though I still have minor panic attacks at the thought of not knowing where my life will be in the next 6 months, I know I can always count on love.
Speaking of love, I’m no longer scared of getting my heart broken, and it’s removed the burden of overthinking in my relationships.
I started a travel blog in the middle of the pandemic and spend more time going on trips and enjoying myself. I can’t kill myself. I should’ve enjoyed December last year.
I’ve already got the dream job 15 year old me wanted, and I edit a pan-African publication and get to work with some of the women I’ve always admired. Now, I’m not scared of starting over in a new career – nothing is stopping the world from shutting down for another 4 months, so what’s the hurry really?
Overall my 22nd (or 23rd, I’m not sure how you people count to be honest), is off to a great start.
I’m existing as just Love, nothing spectacular. I’m being young, forming relationships and eating good food. What more could I want?