2017: The Year I Dusted My Arse And Walked Away
A few months ago during morning devotion, my father said to me sullenly, with the voice he reserved for any particular child of his that was erring or “trending” in the wrong light, “You are not getting any younger. You are twenty-seven, twenty-seven years old;” as if by repeating it, the reality of my age and the expectations that follow would dawn on me.
I have not always lived at home. On this occasion, I was here for a month and few weeks. I returned after I resigned from my job at the bank in Nsukka. My rent had expired and renewing it meant spending another year on a job which had already taken twenty months of my life. I no longer felt generous with my time or energy towards the banking industry; the monotony of the job had reached its pitch and an urgency I could not explain mandated that I leave before I grew a reputation of being yet another disgruntled bank worker who gave customers a hard time with countless bottleneck bureaucracy. Sign here. Go upstairs and meet the HOP. Your BVN has issues. We cannot provide your ATM card right now. Your signature is inconsistent.
Banking didn’t prove a suitable profession nor did it create perfect environment for my creativity to thrive and I had exhausted the length and breadth of the quiet university town whose antiquated magic had fizzled out in my eyes.
When they got wind that I had left my job, my folks were perturbed. They were a crop of people who could not comprehend the fact that someone with a mind intact would simply dust the seat of her skirt and walk away from a job they believed was a good one. My actions confirmed something that plagued their mind for a very, very long time. Something is definitely wrong with that girl. I avoided responding to the inevitable summons before the council of elders but the more I tried to keep away and dishonor their behest, the more it looked like their sanity and life depended on my appearance before them. Out of the love and respect I had for them and the intervening relatives, I began considering going home to see my parents, to talk things over and lay my plans—if I had any— before them.
En route, I tried to find the sunny side of my sojourn home. I weighed the pros in one hand and the cons in the other. The allure of my parents’ country home. The serenity to write till I completed a book. I could stay in my room over there and redraw the graph of my life before launching, like a projectile into the wild. This would give me the chance to safeguard whatever fortune I had amassed until I was ready to pay for rent in the next town I found employment, seeing that food and board would be provided me in exchange of errands. Still on the other hand, I feared what would become of me, what dwelling among them for awhile would do to my spirit; if they would finally crack my will and my daring. For I had done something I believed was startling and brave, what many in unfulfilled jobs dream and plan for decades without finding the resolve in them to walk away. I was besotted with self-belief and the ability to exhaust the numerous options life offered the courageous; I didn’t want any elderly counsel to sober me up and introduce doubts to my spirit.
My fears were not unfounded. They were based on my past relations with my folks which were mostly jarring, especially when it came to making defining decisions like choice of course of study and even state for the mandatory National Youth Service. My younger self basked in those fights and their eventual victories, for somehow, I always won. I liked that they did not find my life malleable in any sense of the word. They had also been against my decision to work in “no man’s land”, a town away from where I grew up and where they still lived, preferring that I chose a branch of the bank closer home. They are the kind of parents who love their brood under their wings and any stint of independence is often interpreted as rebellion. By the time of my resignation, my cup was already full and running over but I am made of many restless things that cannot be stilled. I have always wanted to fly, fly far away and never perch anywhere close home. While I was hoping my stay this time around would be as swift and temporary as possible, they assumed I had finally retraced my steps as the infamous vagabond and come home for good. It was an I- told-you-so moment for them and I allowed them bask in it.
“So you mean to say na igbala resign? You have resigned, just like that?” My mother asked as she welcomed me. “Without consulting anybody? Is that how things are done?”
Besides the interrogation, the welcome was very warm, so warm the biblical prodigal would have been envious. It thawed further after one week when I announced I got called for an interview in a renowned media firm.
Many people, including the interviewer, wanted an explanation about my decision to quit my previous job.
“I felt divorced from my passion and I needed to find my way back. I don’t ever want to look back someday and regret why I didn’t leave earlier." She nodded like she heard this too often. I got a call from the firm after a week for another series of questioning and thereafter, I did not hear a word from them again.
That was when the pressure began to mount and anxiety crept into my parents’ eyes whenever they looked at me. First they suggested that I use the lull period to pursue a post graduate degree and I needed not to worry, the bill was on them. My refusal was strong. I never wanted to use school as a form of pretext for joblessness. I would return to the academia whenever I deemed myself psychologically ready. My refusal posed great pain to them as usual. They feared anew that I would not find another job as quickly as I presumed and I would end up wasting away. They pointed in the direction of my younger siblings who were preparing to enroll for post graduate studies in the next academic session. This was only the fourth week of my stay but my spirit was too strong for them.
Then a family friend’s son, whom I shared the same birth year with, got married. The pressure doubled. See how young and responsible children are plotting their lives whereas this daughter of ours is busy chasing the wind. Time for morning devotion, rather than exhort one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, my age was brought up and the discussion revolved around how men did not fancy jobless, heedless women who do not have clear plans for their lives. Rebellion was bad market for a premium wife.
I love my parents and in retrospect, I have come to see that all of those parental concerns stemmed from love and its cousin, affection. But in their counsel, there also was fear tinged with embarrassment. But fear was chief of them all. Prior to my resignation, it was easy for them to reel out each child’s accomplishment to people who bothered to inquire: Oh the first one, she is now a magistrate, the other one is a banker and the younger ones are in final year. But now I had introduced a crack to that narrative.
I knew it was a phase that would come to pass and they would eventually come around. Yet I came as resolute and as mentally prepared as I could. I did not expect my family and the entire community to hold hands with me and pat my shoulders because I quit my job. But those first weeks made the rift between I and them more pronounced; the constant comparison, the lack of understanding were enough to disappoint even the person with the staunchest of hearts.
But every time I looked in the mirror, I chopped knuckles with the chick on the other side. Girl, you did it. You dusted your arse and left that job. It has not been all cupcakes and rainbows after this move but I found my muse and my will to write. When the fraught mood between I and my parents simmered and ran its course between, I took the time to study and complete a manuscript. 2018 is the year to leave the cocoon and launch myself, this rocket in space. I am gathering my sail again and I will fly and not perch anytime soon. There is no telling what the New Year holds for me.