Day 7: What is your dream job, and why?

When I was younger, I wanted a job as a radio presenter. I thought it was pretty awesome and since the visual aspect was removed, I could be as relaxed as I wanted and still deliver. This was at the point in my life where I always wanted to pick the easy way out. I got to realise that having a successful career in radio isn’t easy; in fact nothing is easy. I had a 6 week programme that I hosted during my internship at a radio station and it really gave me the confidence I knew I had. Sadly, I haven’t been in a radio studio in over 2 years and I feel like I might be as rusty as old pipes. I still hope to work in radio, even if it’s not full time.
Right now, I’m more concerned with doing work in development studies. I recently got a Post Graduate Diploma in Peace and Conflict Studies and I’m going on to get a Masters degree in the same field. Studying this course for one year has opened my eyes to a lot of issues in Nigeria that we need to fix. These issues range from gross disregard for human rights to environmental pollution and overall social responsibility. I hope that as time goes on, I find a place where I too can help my community become a safer, more peaceful place for all.

Also, if I could hold three jobs without one affecting the other, I’d start a career as a baker. I love to try recipes for all sorts of baked goods. I believe that desserts ย can change the world and warring nations can and should settle their disputes over tea and sweet cakes ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜†๐Ÿ˜ข. Jokes apart, baking relaxes me and excites me at the same time. Seeing how excited my friends when they eat my treats makes me really happy. I hope that after I’m done with school, I can find suitable time to perfect to my skills and turn this hobby into an occupation. Who knows, I might even end up owning a beautiful bakery one day. โค

Day 5: 5 things that make me the happiest right now

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions. – Dalai Lama.

1. My family’s happiness: To be honest, I’m most happy when I see that people around me – especially close friends and family – are healthy, happy, and fulfilled. Seeing the people I love making efforts to do better and be better and actually succeeding makes me very thankful and grateful. It gives me even more joy to know that they’re secretly and openly rooting for my success as well. I guess I’m truly happy that I have a great support system from which I draw strength. 

2. Being productive: I get the best feeling when I’m able to tick off all the tasks on my to-do list. There’s nothing better than setting goals and accomplishing them. I think it’s great 

3. Learning new things: I’ve always loved baking and trying out new recipes. After trying in vain to enrol for classes, I eventually decided to teach myself by making YouTube my teacher. Some days, I’m successfully and my treats are bomb AF ๐Ÿ˜Ž. Other days, they’re a total disaster. I still hope to take an actual baking class though. 

4. Shopping: It could be for clothes, shoes, books, incense, underwear, or even food. I don’t even know anyone who doesn’t appreciate new things. I especially love it when it’s sales season ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿ’ƒ. What’s more fun than buying three items for the price of one?

5. Reading: Give me good books and a comfortable bed and I guarantee you won’t see me (Well, except when I get hungry). Books are a source of comfort and entertainment for me. I’m currently reading Efuru by Flora Nwapa. The author’s style is quite different from books I’ve read in recent times but the story is beautiful and very Nigerian. 

Books keep me happy. Period.  

Day 4: List 10 things you would tell your 16 year old self, if you could.

Dear 16 year old Aretha, if there’s ever a time where people can travel through space and time or regenerate, I hope you find my (our) blog and read this.

1. Stop worrying so much about how tall and awkward you are. When you get older, some people are going to think you’re a total babe (and sometimes you don’t even understand why)

2. People are going to misunderstand you and take your kindness for granted often. Be kind anyway.

3. The things you’re most scared about right now don’t even compare to the troubles you’ll face in your 20s. Really.

4. Study harder.

5. Stop being so unsure about everything.

6. Don’t starve yourself to lose weight anymore. Just embrace your double belly and go on occasional health binges.

7. Run away from froggy, shifty boys. You do not, repeat, do not need a boyfriend till… forever. You do not need a boyfriend ever.

8. God. Is. Important. Never forget.

9. Love more. Not just others, but yourself as well. You tend to be less judgemental this way.

10. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Day 2: Describe 3 legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fearsย 

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. – Franklin D. Roosevelt 

We’re all scared of something. Whether it’s snakes or spiders or something a bit more extreme like holes or belly buttons, we all harbour a slight or deep fear for something/someone. Mine change often, and I jubilate when I overcome them. I hope I get to overcome these as well. 

Escalators: Anyone who knows me well or has ever been to the mall with me knows how scared I am of escalators. Hand to God, I’d rather take the stairs to the top of the building than use escalators. Who the fluff invented moving stairs, seriously? It strikes me as something conjured by witches or aliens and is only fit for nightmares. Maybe it’s the bush girl in me; maybe it’s just that I don’t want to die Final Destination style. 

I think I developed this fear from movies or cartoons where people’s dresses get hooked to the moving steps and they just get dragged into the engine and turn into dog mash.

Escalators are the devil. El diablo. 

Failure: Everyone has a fear of failure in my opinion. Everyone. I’m sure that even the world’s greatest geniuses had a hard time with wondering if their craft/work was good enough. I think my fear of failure stems from the fact that I’m really scared to try new things. Even when I try to be more assertive, I get really frightened at the first negative comment/reaction. However, if I don’t take chances, I end up resenting myself and then I spend the rest of the day/week/month asking myself: “Really, what did you have to lose?”

I’m currently working on this fear and I hope that I get to take more chances, be more assertive, and understand that sometimes failure is part of the process.

Death: Truthfully, it’s not the idea of dying that scares me. Everybody dies. Michael Jackson is dead. Death is just like shitting to me. No matter how fly you are, you’ll still shit. You’re never too cute to die either. Death will find you whether you’re Miss Universe or one of the great unknowns in a flooded Lagos street. What scares me about death is the next life: what will I meet in my grave? Did I please God enough before my death? Will I be sentenced to eternal damnation?  The possibilities of what can befall one in the afterlife is what scares me. I hope when the time of my death comes, I would’ve done a few things that would grant me a place among God’s angels.  

Xs and Os

Day 1: 20 random facts about me

Greetings!

It’s been very hard for me to write anything lately and I’m beginning to feel ashamed to even say I have a blog. In order to sorta kinda get my writing mojo back, I decided to dedicate the month of February to partaking in a blog challenge. 

Yay!!

A huge part of me does not believe anyone wants to know 20 random facts about me ๐Ÿ˜ข. Still I went ahead to compile this list because: YOLO. I pray I have the strength to see this through. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 20 random facts about me.

1. My middle name is Aretha. Used to be my first name but I switched it up when I converted to Islam. 

2. I learnt to drive at 23. 

3. I can’t ride a bicycle to save my life. Balancing is really really hard. 

4. I’m half Ebira and half Igbo. 

5. I’m the middle child.

6. I loved to eat chalk as a kid. 

7. I don’t know how to whistle.

8. I’m scared of the dark.

9. I like DC villains. I like Marvel Heroes.

10. I’ve always been the tallest girl in class.

11. I hold both liberal and conservative views. Someone once called me confused for this. 

12. I’m an ugly crier.

13. I can sleep through noisy situations. I consider it a gift lol.

14. I don’t have a lot of sneakers because I feel like my feet are too large to look feminine in them. (I’m a size 9/ 91/2)

15. I want to die on a Friday, preferably morning.

16. I don’t know how to skip.

17. I desperately wanted to study law at some point (Thank God it didn’t work out).

18. I wanted to be a singer/actress/model when I was a kid.

19. I wuuuuuuv babies (who doesn’t tbh?)

20. I love love love harmattan.
Xs and Os.

Malak-al-maut

January, 1975.
Okene, Kogi state. 

Death twitches my ear. ‘Live’, he says. I am coming. – Virgil.



They say some people can see death, smell it even. They say you feel its presence. Not just a metaphorical presence. They say death visits five times a day, bidding it’s time till your scroll is folded. Till your thread is worn out. Till the last grain of sand in your clock drops. 

Inya woke me up around 2 am. The night was silent, save for the sound of the wind and the chirping of crickets. It was early January and the harmattan was in full swing. In the left corner of the room, the single flame produced by the shakabula danced alone, a sort of melancholic dance. It’s shadow looked something like a shrunken ghost. 

“Fadi”, Inya called and nudged. “Wake up, Fadi”.

I groaned and turned to face her. With each movement came a series of sounds. The spring under my mattress was the best part of sleeping in my late grandpa’s bed. At the very least, it distracted me from the smell of old sheets and tired bare foam peeping through the threadbare mattress cover. I rubbed my eyes absentmindedly and managed to sit on the edge of my bed. The room was cold and  I felt goosebumps creep up on my arms and neck. Inya better have something important to tell me, I thought.

“Good girl”, Inya said. She had carried a wooden stool from a corner of the room to the side my bed where I sat. She regarded me with calm, serious eyes.

“I want to tell you something, Fadilah. Promise me you’ll listen”.

I looked at her, surprised. I was also beginning to get scared. It wasn’t odd at all for Inya to wake any of us up for a midnight discussion, she did it all the time. But there was something eerie, somewhat creepy about this time. A dog barked in the distance. I heard another one howl back from a farther distance. I exhaled.

“Inya, you know I always listen to you,” I said. I forced myself to smile. It was followed by a chuckle. Anything to remove the concrete eeriness that had so easily entered the room with this Inya’s talk.

“I’m serious, Fadilah. Listen to me”. Inya held my hands in her much larger, drier hands. I felt the roughness of her palms on the back of my hands, the palms that had held hoes and wielded cutlasses and roasted fish. The hands that had once cradled and cared for me.

“No matter what you do, no matter what happens, ensure that you complete your schooling. If you complete it and can go further, it would be the best thing. Once you’re educated, no man can ever do like this to you”, she said,  pushing my head slightly with her middle and index fingers, signifying that no man would ever be able to push me around if I took her advice. 

“Do you hear me? Do you understand, Fadilah?” 

“Yes Inya”, I replied. This midnight speech scared me. I feigned a smile to assure Inya and myself, but mostly myself, that everything was fine. Everything was just great. 

“Good girl,” said Inya. “Now, go back to bed”.
                                                                      ~~~~~

I only managed to get one hour of sleep after Inya’s talk. The weirdness I felt refused to leave my room. At some point, it felt quite near, something like a fog or cloud above my head. Something close and visible, yet intangible. Tossing and turning, I kept myself entertained with the noise made by my grandfather’s old spring bed, and said silent prayers when I heard the dogs in the distance howl and bark. Inya always told me pray for protection when I heard barking dogs at night. “They see and understand that which we cannot”, she would say. 

At the crack of dawn, I stood up and went about my morning duties. Even though I had only slept for three hours in total, for some reason, I was sprightly and sharp. I prayed, cleaned my teeth with a small stick Inya cut for me the previous morning, took a quick shower, and dressed up for the journey ahead. The journey back to school in Kabba. In the past, these journeys were fraught with tears and screams from both Inya and I, well, mostly me. But things were different now. After the third year, I actually anticipated my return to school. 

Inya prepared a breakfast of akara and eko for me. She also packed three sweets, two oranges, and a plastic bottle containing Dr Pepper. My departure was always emotional for Inya. She tried very much to hide it, to hide that she missed me dearly when I left, to hide that she cried herself to sleep on some nights during my absence. She did a good job at concealing her emotions, but I still found out anyway. 

It was around 7 am. The air seemed colder and stronger. The mango trees opposite the house that served as shade on hot sunny days bent and shed leaves at the sound and movement of the wind. Market women with perfectly balanced baskets and firmly strapped babies waved as Inya and I strolled down to meet Mr Idowu, my Math teacher and school guardian, at his house. Inya and I walked slower than usual, as if savoring the taste. Our hands were locked in a tight grip, and Inya stroked my hand with her thumb as we walked. 

We found Mr Idowu cleaning his bike in front of his house. Mr Idowu was a tall bespecatcled fellow with a cheerful face. He was possibly the most cheerful Math teacher in the world. He had assisted Inya in getting me admitted into the Girls College in Kabba as soon as I completed primary school. Even though I had been accepted into one of the federal unity schools in a neighboring state, Inya wanted me as close as possible. I remember her speaking to Mr Idowu for days on end till I got admitted. She was so excited the day I got my letter that she carried a basket of yams and one whole broiler chicken to Mr Idowu’s house. A bit embarrassed, Mr Idowu initially refused all the gifts but eventually collected the yams after my mother knelt and begged to. That evening, Inya and I had a small feast of rice and chicken, something we usually reserved for the end of Ramadan. 

“Ah, good morning ma! Fadi, it’s nice to see you. Ready for school?” 

“Good morning sir. Yes, I’m ready.” But I was not ready. I was not ready to leave Inya.

“Good morning Mr Idowu. She’s ready o. Please take good care of her for me.” Inya pressed a one pound note into his palm, almost clandestinely. Mr Idowu looked shy for a few seconds. He however managed to mutter “Thank you ma. She’s in safe hands”.

Mama turned to me and smiled. Before she spoke, she rested her hands on my shoulders and pulled me close. “God be with you, my child. Please study well, and don’t forget what we discussed. God bless you, Fadi”.

“Thank you Inya, God bless you too.” I closed the gap between us and hugged her firmly. Her hands moved from my shoulders to my back and my face rested on her stomach. I inhaled and took in her smell: firewood and old wrapper. 

“Okay let’s go. We don’t want the traffic to slow us down, do we?”. Mr Idowu’s voice broke our little moment and Inya slowly released me. I looked into her eyes and they had grown red. Not from tears but from a lack thereof. I felt my eyes moisten and my throat tighten. No tears, Fadilah. No tears. 

Inya placed my portmanteau on the back of Mr Idowu’s bike and he tied it firmly. She also lifted me gently unto the small space between Mr Idowu and my load and told me to hold tight to him. “When you get hungry, eat your oranges. Safe journey, you two”, Inya said, with a sad smile on her face. 

“Thank you ma. See you in a few months”. I stretched out my hand and Inya and I locked fingers. Mr Idowu revved his bike in readiness for the trip. Inya moved back at the sound. The tightness in my throat returned. I waved as the bike took off.

Inya stood there till we were no longer in sight, her hand above her head waving like a politician at a campaign rally. She stayed there amidst the dust and the cold and waited and waved, not minding that people walking by looked at her the same way the looked at people who were victims of new madness. It took the sound of another bike to move Inya from the main road. Even then, she stood with the trees, her eyes still fixated on the road we had taken. Eventually, she walked home. Some say she stayed there up to an hour, or half an hour. 

This thing they call death is everywhere. I think it roams the earth everyday, register in hand. Ticking off names and setting reminders for impending victims. That day when I left for school, it was there. The day I got the news, I’m sure it was there. I imagined it sitting in the room with us, Inya and I, that fateful night when we talked. I imagined it looking through its register and knowing Inya was next, knowing these were our final moments together. It knew. It stood with her when her eyes refused to tear away from the road, it stood behind her. It walked home with her. It caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand as she sat in my room, on my bed. It watched as she shed tears and lay down and sniffed my pillow. It listened as those tears became soft sobs. It stood as she drifted to sleep, as her headscarf shifted and stayed loosely on her head. It waited. It counted. 

And it took her. 

Of menses, death, and worship

I wake up at exactly five am. It’s dark and there’s no electricity. I grope in the dark and find my rechargeable fluorescent lamp. It lights up the room, but starts to rapidly dim out. I rush to the bathroom to make wudu. There’s hardly enough time to brush my teeth if I want to pray before the lamp dies, I think. I’m deathly afraid of the dark. I’m able to complete my ablution and rush to my prayer rug where my jilbab lays. All of a sudden, I feel a sharp pain in my lower belly and its accompanied by the urge to pee. At first I ignore it, but I’m certain my concentration would be divided in salah if I hold it. Grudgingly but hurriedly, I make my day way back to the bathroom and silently pray for the lamp not to die out. 

As I sit to pee, I hear a low sound as if something dropped into the water beneath me. I look into the toilet bowl and what my eyes meet make me both sad and angry at the same time.

Fudge. Aunt Flo is in town.

Why Lord? Why?

Just then, the power returns. Alhamdulillah.

What saddened and annoyed me wasn’t  the fact that my menses crept up on me like the proverbial thief in the night. I was mainly angry at myself, and I was saddened by my laziness and my procrastinatory tendencies and how they’ve constantly gotten in the way of my productivity. How many times had I said “I’d do it tomorrow” or “I’d do it later” or “I’ll see you tomorrow” and reneged on my words? 

If I had a dollar, guys. If I had a dollar.

The day before, I had meant to fast but told myself I’d do it on Thursday. I also wanted to pray my Witr prayer after Isha but decided to skip it because I told myself I’d wake up before midnight and ended up sleeping throughout the night. It’s just a long list of things with me, to be honest.

At times like this, my mind tends to grasp the total meaning of these Hadith of the Prophet (S.A.W) :

  
  
How many times have we made promises to ourselves that we end up breaking? How many New Years resolutions, even the relatively easy ones, have been thrown out the window just because we never found time to actually see it through? How many times have we been presented with opportunities that we’d taken for granted only to find out that such things indeed only come once in a lifetime? How many times have we failed to recognize the true nature of our situation just because we assume things would get better or there’s still a lot of time to fix everything?
The truth is, there really isn’t time. Everyday, I manage to procrastinate or waste time doing certain things that won’t benefit me in the long run. It could be tweeting when I need to pray, or engaging in a conversation that ends up draining me instead of uplifting me. I really wish i could learn to manage time better.
As Muslim women, menstruation tends to slow us down in terms of worship. We need to learn how to make the best use of our time before Aunt Flo gets here and puts a stop to our activities, just like we need to utilize our time on earth before death, the ultimate reality check, puts a permanent stop to our deeds. 
I created this death and menstruation analogy because these are times when certain actions are put on hold or stop completely. While death puts a permanent end to both good and bad deeds, menstruation merely reduces your ability to carry out ibadah you’re already used to. If care is not taken, you might not partake in any form of  ibadah for the whole week (or for the length of time your period lasts). If one, with all things being equal, can’t worship Allah, what exactly is one living for? 
Death can come anytime, so can your period. Fortunately, we can kind of calculate our period cycle (not me, I suck at math) but death has no calculation. I’m utterly guilty of leaving things till the last minute and there are times I’ve been made to pay dearly. I once had an interview to transcribe and I left it till the last minute. Just when I was getting ready to start work, I fell seriously sick with malaria. I shed hot tears of regret and shame and said I was never going to procrastinate. How easily we forget!

I hope I ended up making sense and just to sum up my point, I’d end with this Hadith:

 Abu Hurairah (r.a.) narrated that the Prophet (SAW) said, โ€œAllah said: โ€˜The son of Adam hurts Me by abusing Time, for I am Time; in My Hands are all things and I cause the revolution of night and day.โ€™โ€ (Bukhari 6/351; 9/583and Muslim 4/5581)

Assalam alaykum loves, please feel free to share ways by which you still carry out Ibadah even on your period days. Thanks.

Xs and Os.