2020 has been a lot.
At this point, it feels like saying that is now routine but I don’t think I’d ever not say it. Several times a day I catch myself saying ‘omooooooooooooooooooooo’ in the midst of work or just random chores. While I still hold that ‘2020’ itself is innocent as it’s just a random year, it will be disingenuous of me to not acknowledge that this period of time tested us, individually and collectively as homo sapiens.
The year started on a ‘just there’ note for me. I am generally not freaked by new years so the chants of ‘2020 is the year’ weren’t it for me. I like to do things when they need to be done, as opposed to pushing it to the new year. This didn’t stop me from making a vision board though – I liked the idea and so I thought to try it out for the first time. My vision board was quite colorful and I was pleased, I still look at it randomly. The first quarter rolled by and it was just filled with gbas gbos. I went from unemployed to employed to employed with another job offer waiting to unemployed again – all in one month. It was a roller-coaster for me and I still don’t know how I took it so calmly. I think having friends to rant to helped a lot. By the end of this period, I had gone to NYSC camp and then had to leave after 9 days because COVID-19 – the disease that will pause the world – had reached Nigeria.
The lockdown in Nigeria started in April. It was cool for a bit but there’s only so much staying at home one can do before you start getting tired. Around this period, I also ended a relationship so it was like jobless, loveless, locked up at home – a very terrible combo. Looking back now, I think this is the period when I started sleeping for long hours. I legit could sleep for 14 hours straight – I really just didn’t want to have to deal with the world. I initially wanted to volunteer as a doctor at one of the COVID-19 isolation centres, even went for the training but I eventually didn’t get to work there. In this ‘what am I doing with my life’ period, my friend shared a book with me ‘How will you measure your life?’ by the late Clayton Christensen, and this is literally the best book I read this year. The author essentially pointed out steps to follow to get the life you want, both in your career and your personal life while emphasising that work has to be put in. Tbh, if you are looking for a motivational book to hold your hands and say choose a or b, you will be disappointed because that’s not what this does. Thankfully, I secured a job by June, so that made me feel good for a bit.
I thought starting a job will help with lifting my mood and the excessive sleeping, but that wasn’t exactly the case. I still found myself preferring the bed to the rest of the world, and just generally feeling sad. It was somewhat scary because I remembered from my psychiatry classes that sleeping for long hours, losing interest in activities were signs of depression and I didn’t want to get there. I decided to sign up to speak to a therapist. This therapy thing is kinda funny because I didn’t tell any of my friends about it, told just 2 after the session was over. For someone who talks about this whole opening up about mental health and stuff, this is quite laughable. I am not sure if the session helped, probably because I didn’t divulge everything, and I didn’t go back after the first sesh. I eventually had to recruit one of my friends to be my alarm clock/accountability partner and that helped – he used to tax me any day I woke up late. Randomly ranting helped too.
September and October seem rolled up into one in my head because a lot happened this period and I will say it was a turning point for me. I read ‘Obstacle is the way’ by Mark Manson, after reading his first book ‘Ego is the enemy’ which another friend recommended. The book helped me see life from a different angle, eliminating self-pity as much as possible. I believe that is what has kept me sane for most of this year – I am now thinking that stoicism may not be a terrible idea; it seems like the one thing that can keep a person rooted in this journey of life we got plunged into. I started a new job around October/November and I can say this is the happiest I have been this year careerwise which is somewhat ironic because my last job paid more. What I love is that I am getting to do what I really want and that seems like the greatest blessing one can ask for (doesn’t hurt if it pays handsomely too. We’ll get there). Also, with the madness of Lagos traffic, I am grateful to work 10 mins away from home (30 to 45 mins or more if there’s traffic). I also started a platform, Doctors Without Steths, which has been on my mind since January, 2020. I am glad that, with a team of amazing colleagues, I have been able to kick it off before the end of the year.
In this moment, I feel happy albeit punctuated with some moments of sadness. Sometimes, I wonder if the ‘we move’/stoic attitude I’m beginning to adopt may be a problem long term, because I fear that it may just be sweeping things under the carpet. I don’t think that’s what’s happening sha but only time will tell. I think it may be a good idea to see a therapist again but I don’t know when or if I will do that.
I am writing this in November, and I am pretty excited about December – not because it’s my birth month (December 13th, send dollars), but because I have a getaway planned with friends. [Side note just to say that I am tremendously grateful for my friends. As you may have noticed, they are a great part of my life and I think their quality increases as the years go by. Is this what fine wine feels like? I could get used to it!] It’s just a 3-day break in a place with lots of green views but I am still excited regardless (it’s said that humans relate more with environments that have lots of plants and trees because our brains are still similar to those of our ancestors who roamed the forests). I have been on a roll for so long and I really just want to chill small.
If there is one lesson I’ve learnt this year and would like to pass on, it’d be to take charge of your life and steer it in the direction you want – be it in your career, health, fitness, whatever. You can’t whine about not getting lucky or not seeing results when you haven’t put in enough effort (you’d be like me wanting abs but being a clown about it). It isn’t an easy task and change may not come so quickly but once you control your own end of the bargain, you’ve done your bit and increased your chances of ‘getting lucky’. Looking back, I can say this period of history called 2020 eventually turned out okay for me, especially career-wise. This is the part where people say ‘all things work together for good’, and maybe they do. I am just grateful for where I am at right now, and measuredly excited about what the future holds.
Merry Christmas and a pleasant new year in advance!, Olakunmi.
PS: I think I achieved 50% of vision board goals, which I’d say is pretty decent given the year we had.
Olakunmi Ogunyemi is a medical doctor, among other things. She blogs at www.sisikunmi.com where she shares her musings and experiences hoping to teach and inspire people, and also let them know that they are not alone, whatever they may be going through.
You can chat with her on twitter or IG via @sisikunmi, mails are also welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org