Our founder wrote this to commemorate her birthday and from all of us at SHADES OF US, we want to wish her a wonderful birthday today. Happy Birthday Ramat!
And it is here.
On this day in 1989, a soon-to-be stubborn and pretty determined queen (read highly opinionated and motivated Zena-the-warrior-princess-like-woman) was born. She grew up to have three personalities, plenty baggage, lots of fire and achievements and a whole long list of things she plans to do until she is 75. But today, this oddly weird woman – AKA all three personalities of mine – is 28 today! Ramat, Remimah and Ada are older today! Whoot whoot. Let’s party and drink…and party and dance…and party…and party…and party. (PS: I am really not doing all that).
On a serious note though, I never look forward to celebrating my birthdays and now more than ever, I am not in a celebratory mood. I am more of the celebrate-your-achievements kind of person. What I do is acknowledge that my new year starts on this day and honor my Creator for another year added to my life.
This year, I am quite jaded turning 28. The last year took its toll on me and my spirit and I have become a little more subdued.
I started 2016 with so much enthusiasm and optimism. While this wasn’t far from my character, I wanted to be quite different in 2016. I made plans to go to school, start a video log and podcast in expanding my platform, get a better job and generally turn my straits around. I believed I could do a whole lot if I only put my mind to it and gave it all I got. Did it work? Well, let me start from the bad parts.
I knew I had to leave my old job because I needed to grow. Knowing this, I prepared for my exit by sending out applications to many media firm across the country. I sent hundreds of applications and crossed my fingers in anticipation. Soon enough, the invitations for interview started rolling in.
I felt things changed for me when a company (whom I will not name because I will blast their grandmother in this post) reached out me up for an interview. Let me call them ‘Company A’. They were supposed to be a new media firm trying to set up in Nigeria and they needed on-air-personalities. The key players were Nigerian-Americans who were returning home to start a pan-African station to create content Nigeria and the United States of Trump; sorry, America. The founder was going to be in the country for one day to look at prospective employees and I was invited. On the date in question, I could not travel to Lagos so we did the interview over skype. I was grilled and to my credit, I was able to answer most of the questions to the best of my ability. When the interview was over, I was optimistic that I would get the job. A few more follow-up questions happened over the week via social media and finally, I got a letter of appointment. The letter shocked the socks off me. I was offered a position FAR BIGGER than the one I applied for with a salary that was a whopping 1500% increase on what I was earning in Yola! Yeah! I AM NOT EXAGGERATING THE FIGURE.
You should have seen me dance! After reading the six page letter for a second time, the number of ‘Santa Maria’s I said should have been enough to bring back Mary from the dead (no offence dear Catholics). I was excited, revved up and thankful to God that my years of ‘chopping Kwakwa’ in Yola finally paid off. There was one catch though; work was to properly resume on June 5, 2016. That should have been my first clue that something was off about the company. But when you REALLY WANT something, you can be blinded by all reason.
So I went to film school and kept applying for other jobs. The thing is, I got EVERY job I was interviewed for with the exception of Bellanaija (where I got something better than a job but that is a story for another day). Why didn’t I take the jobs as I waited for June 5? I felt their pay was ‘paltry’ in comparison to what ‘Company A’ had offered me. So here I was with a couple of employment letters that made me feel like my interview game was strong. I felt that my only option was to reject them. Though I was rejecting job offers, I kept sending out applications.
Then May came and I rounded up film school. I returned to Yola to get my stuff and prepare for my new job. What a huge mistake that was.
June came and I didn’t hear anything. I sent mails and didn’t get responses until the end of June. When I got the mail, I was told the Company was having ‘Licensing Issues’ and as soon as they worked it out, I will be in the know. I must admit that I was a bit naïve and didn’t see anything wrong; even though my friend told me they could have been a fake (read 419) company. I felt my friend didn’t know what she was talking about since I had vetoed the company online before taking the interview.
Soon June became July and July became August. By this time, the number of openings in the media sector had dwindled which translated to fewer applications and even fewer invitations for interview. I started getting depressed. It was the 8thmonth of the year and I had not earned a salary since February. I am not business savvy so it meant that I had been dependent on family for ALL my needs; which was the first time in three years that that had happened.
I hated depending on ANYONE and worse, I hated that feeling of not being able to being able to buy my basic necessities if and WHEN I needed it. This led to frustration and eventually, staying at home all day every day with only my thoughts to keep me company, led to full blown depression; the first in all my life. Someday, I will share what depression did to me but for now, it can wait. What I will say now is that, it was ugly and it broke my spirit, my resolve, my self-worth and esteem.
I started to long for the jobs with the ‘paltry pay’. I wanted to go back in time and accept them and kiss their feet and beg for forgiveness for daring to think I deserved better. And when the openings in the media sector started dwindling, I started obsessing about the companies that didn’t call me back; especially companies that I WANTED to work with. I would check my mail every five minutes and each time I didn’t see an invitation for interview, I would take a further slump into the depression that had my heart firmly gripped in its evil bony fingers.
August turned to November and ‘Company A’ sent me a mail telling me to prepare for a January 1 new work date. My hope peaked and we started talking again. After a couple of interactions, the manager started asking me questions about the kinds of equipment I would like to use in the studio so they can purchase them. I was like, ‘you cannot be fudging kidding me!’. It then dawned on me that I had been taken on a grand ride by people who were not ready to work. I wanted to tell the manager – and thus the company – to EAD but I refrained. I told them I was no longer interested and they could remove me from their mailing list. I was done!
The thought of that fat juicy bird in the bush had kept me from enjoying the ones in my hand; ones that could have been reared to become even fatter birds as time proceeded. I knew it was all on me and that helped my get the hell out of the depression. I knew I needed to take my life back.
The depression was bad but it allowed me reassess my life and make some necessary changes. I walked away from certain relationships because I knew they had just run its course. Some of them were easy to walk away from but walking away from others really hurt me. I only went through the Rexit (Ramat exit.
Hey! Britain started it) because it was what was needful and long overdue and because friendships should never be forced.
It wasn’t all bad news though. I learned so much in the last year. I became a film director who has shot two short films
(and again, don’t ask me where they are. I am a perfectionist and until they are edited to near perfection, I am NOT sharing. The critics in the Nigerian film industry are not playing at all!). I learned to edit videos and create content that is more than writing. I started my video log and podcast as planned and generally improved traffic to my platforms. It is still touch-and-go but I am learning so much more as I do me.
While this cannot be classified as good or bad news, I still have to talk about it. The pressure has begun oh! People will just be dropping marriage up and down as if that should be my concern. I had to outrightly tell some family members and friend to back the hell off. What I know is, it will get worse so if you want to be a part of that team, prepare for that horrible frown of mine whenever you bring up the topic. Honestly, I no longer censor my word. I will tell you something that will not make you sleep for weeks.
Now to the extra good part. I am grateful for my sisters – Enigbe and Sadiya – who have been the biggest support system a sister can ever ask for. If I didn’t have them in my life, I would have been lost by now. My besties, Triqx and Shade, were my backbone during my worst moments and their constant encouragement kept me from throwing in the towel and doing something crazy. My homie Yten would call me out of the blue and make me laugh like a loony. He didn’t know that he was bringing me from the worst parts of my depression with his jokes and honestly, I never told him. His spirit must have been tuned to mine. And best of all, the love of my life, my best friend, and my number one person, Abe Onche, who bore the brunt of my sadness but whose patience, love, strength, wisdom and understanding kept me sane, is one of the best parts of 2016 for me.
(PS: Abe, now that I have told everybody, you CANNOT break up with me. If you do, ama go Jasmine Sullivan all up in your car, house, job, friends and your life boo. LOL. You know I love you like crazy. And you know you girl is curaizy!)
So I really don’t know how to handle turning 28 and what plans I will have this year. In the media scene, I am getting to that age that some stations may consider old. My options may now lie in serious programming or news; even though I always wanted to grow into that. Yes my role models didn’t make it until they were older but these days, people want younger and fresher and I am just not that person; especially as I have always looked older than my age. My only option is to continue to do me.
The only announcements I have for this New Year is that I am making some changes to myplatforms and I am willing to work harder at my dreams and goals. Personally, turning 28 means not repeating the mistakes that mired the last year. I want to work hard every single day until I break even and even then, do some more. I am not going to stop learning or stop putting myself out there. What I am not going to do is be a second rate version of anyone. I will be me and I will do me.
So I guessed this is the time to wish myself a happy birthday. I pray blessings upon myself and wisdom to come out of all these a stronger woman; always.
Happy Birthday Ramatu Ada Ochekliye!