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Book of the Month: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

This book is ah-mazing! I had heard a lot about it so I was very excited to dig in, and I'm excited to tell you that it surpasses the hype for sure. Homegoing is a historical fiction novel by a Ghanaian-American author, Yaa Gyasi. First of all, it has a unique attribute: each chapter follows a different descendant of an Asante woman named Maame. We start with her two daughters, half-sisters Effi and Esi who are separated by fate and never actually met each other. Effi marries James Collins, the British governor in charge of Cape Coast Castle, whereas her half-sister, Esi is held captive in the dungeons below where Effi lived. Thereafter, each chapter follows their children and following generations: such that each chapter is narrated from the perspective of a descendant of either Effi or Esi, representing each generation.



The book opens in mid eighteenth century, when slave trade was at its peak up to the present day. So in following these descendants, the author explores a variety of very important themes like exportation of slaves from Africa, introduction of cacao as a crop in Ghana, and segregation and racism in America. These are very heavy themes and I think the author handles them excellently. Somehow, Gyasi narrates a a very familiar story of slavery and oppression in an unfamiliar style of personal triumphs and failures. The book is extremely ambitious, but also clearly lays out the place and participation of Africans in the slave trade.

This book is extraordinary in so many ways and I was in awe of how she thought about such a brilliant idea for a novel. But even beyond this, the way she tells the story draws you to the intricacies of these characters. In some way, you follow each character and get to witness the fate that life brings them, and particularly how they handle it. And if you squint, their main ancestors are the similar thread across many generations.

There are some critiques of the book that mention how the unique style makes it hard to follow through. I can see how someone would think that, but in the front of the book is a nice family tree which she drew, and I found myself turning back there a lot so I could know who I was about to read about. For me, the one downside was that we didn't get to know each character enough. They each seemed to have such complex backgrounds and stories, and she writes them so well that you want to know more about this person and what makes them tick or what makes them make certain decisions, and just as fast as you start to learn about them, you have to let them go. In that sense, a lot of the stories just did not feel complete. I guess the implication of this is that our ancestors have more effects on us than we think? I don't know. The most amazing part is that this book truly personifies the quote, "we are our ancestors wildest dreams".

Before now, I used to not pay a lot of mind to my ancestors/progenitors. I mean yes, grandparents, and great grandparents, but I have never been curious enough to want to go beyond that. I have the luxury and privilege of knowing where I am exactly from so I guess ancestry does not matter as much to me. I always joke that people (ahem our white counterparts) spend so much time learning about ancestors that were probably terrible people lol. Anyway, this book created a renewed sense of curiosity in me to know my earlier progenitors. Where did it start? Who were they? Heck, am I related the random stranger on the road somehow? I will never know.

Each character from each chapter could be a book on its own. And if that's what Gyasi spends her entire career doing (maybe making a series of some sort with each book based on each character), she would retire successful. I suspect she is much more ambitious than that though and too creative for that. But yeah, that was my problem, I wanted more.

Don't get me wrong, there were some things wrong with the book, as there is no perfect piece of art. But the narration, the dialogue, the symbolism were astute, with each just suitable with whatever generation we found ourselves. The facts of the themes, and the immense research that must have be conducted to produce this body of work must not be underrated.

I hope you read it, and when you do, let me know what you think about it.

Love,

I

Seven Differences Between Getting a PhD and Going to Medical School

As I mentioned in a now deleted post, I'm currently getting a PhD. It's something I never used to like to talk about on this blog, and really in real life too. But more recently, and mostly inspired by the amazing Ijeoma Kola, I've been more inclined to talk about my experiences. The main reason is because over the course of my own journey, I've had sooo many questions and not enough people to ask. I usually sometimes resort to Google but frankly most questions go unanswered and I just figure stuff out as I go. Not to mention, there is sooo much to say about academia and while I can't quite go all in yet because ahem, I'm not fully anonymous, I can at least be a resource person, right?

So I thought to create a [grad school and academia] series addressing such questions, and this will mostly be for black girls like me or someone that belongs to a minority group (So really anyone that isn't white) as academia was not created for us.  And if you have any question, feel free to ask. Especially if you're just about to start (you need to know what you are getting into before you begin, please). That's not to say if you are white, you can't read any of this; certainly not, but you might not relate to any of what I say. And for my non-academia friends and readers, don't worry,  I will still be blogging about regular life stuff and all. This is definitely not a academic blog (yuck). Plus who knows, you may be able to apply some of these principles to your life too. I'm excited about this, yay!

the view from my sister's apartment is breathtaking

Now on to the very first post in the series. Last week was my sister's White Coat Ceremony for medical school (Yay! Still so hyped). Anyway, all through the event, I noticed some things about medical school that differ extensively from grad school (getting your PhD), and thought about writing about those differences. Now of course, substantively, they are vastly different. An MD is a medical degree and medical students are being trained to become physicians. On the other hand, a PhD can be obtained in a vast array of fields: from the humanities to STEM fields, you can get a PhD in numerous degrees. In a nutshell, a PhD from a reputable program (not those online nonsense, sorry if you're a recipient of one of those!) is mainly research. In the U.S., after taking a few years of classes, taking comprehensive exams, defending a qualifier, defending a dissertation proposal, giving your sanity, giving your kidney, giving your eyes, giving your heart and your liver (kidding for the last four points, or am I?!), you are expected to produce original research and contribute to your field. So in that sense, of course they differ. But I'm talking of something else, and you'll see below. Here goes:

1.) Collegiality: There seems to be a more collegial atmosphere among medical students. I think they are more likely to support each other and work together as colleagues than grad students are. By its nature, a PhD is very isolating and so it's less likely that grad students are close friends. There is also the fact that the entry classes of medical programs are notoriously larger than PhD programs. At most, a PhD cohort might be, what, 30? And it's usually less than that, with some cohorts having only 5 students. Meanwhile, MD cohorts can be as large as 200. So of course, there is more opportunity for nurturing friendships in medical school. Interestingly, I think in both, it can be cutthroat with too much competition among students, so this depends largely on context and school. Also PhD programs have a lot of attrition rates: fifty percent of doctoral students leave without finishing. Medical schools on the other hand, have an attrition rate of about 5%. I'm not saying collegiality solves anything, I'm saying there is something medical schools are doing that PhD programs aren't.

2.) Concern for students' wellbeing: my family and I were somewhat late for my sister's White Coat Ceremony. Right as we were walking in, the person giving a speech (might have been their dean?) was imploring new medical students to not only focus on school and academics. He said they needed to diversify their time; that if they like movies, they must keep watching films; if it's writing; if it's art; if it's getting manicures and pedicures; that they needed to still exercise; eat well; whatever it was they liked to do, they must do, otherwise they would be on a fast track to burning out. I was so impressed that someone that high up on the food chain showed concern for the most basic welfare of their students. But is it really basic though? The problem is, in academia, it's the opposite. No one cares about your life outside of your dissertation and publishing, or if they do, they never show it. In fact, the trope is that if you are not doing work for 80 hours a week, you are doing it wrong and you are already a failure. It is expected that getting the PhD should consume your entire life. Case in point: there are soooo many medical students and doctors who blog or who are social media influencers. They always have this picture perfect life on Instagram and perfectly curated timelines on Instagram. I used to always wonder how the hell these women have the time to even post. I sometimes forget I even have an Instagram account. I struggle to even keep up on this blog or to focus on my numerous other hobbies. It's not that medical students/doctors are not busy (they take some of the toughest tests and exams in the world), it's that they prioritize doing fun stuff. They prioritize doing things that bring them joy. That is basically nonexistent in academia.

3.) Work life balance: given my last point, it is no surprise a lot of people in medicine talk a lot about the need for achieving a work-life balance. I don't want it to look like I'm romanticizing the medicine profession because I'm not, but at least they are having the conversation. You see a lot of mamas in medicine (there is literally a hashtag like this that exists!) struggling, but trying nonetheless to achieve some semblance of balance. In academia, there is  literally an active discussion to keep you from having kids either in grad school or even when you're on the tenure track. In fact, if you mention not wanting to do something work related because it might be detrimental to your family, they look at you like you're crazy. This recently happened to me. It's like how dare you? And no one really takes you seriously if you are factoring your romantic life or family life into a work decision in grad school. But I have read about medical students who chose resident spots based on where their partners can live or where is close to their family. In fact, they know they need the support system. My sister's school had a completely separate orientation for families, because they believe the support system in necessary. The dean of student affairs personally told my family that we needed to support my sister. No on cares about that in academia. And the truth is we will never be better doctors without our families. I could never have survived these past grueling years without my family. I know this without a doubt.

5). Your identity: by this I mean, the idea that you are more than a doctor. Basically, the sense that there is more to you than what you do; than being a doctor. This is  somewhat relative to the above too. I find that it looks like many medical doctors try to be more than doctors.  In academia, there is a weird fixation on the PhD itself. A lot of grad students have their identities wrapped around getting a PhD. Because of this, failure is often personal since it is hard to disentangle who you are from what you do. This thing is so destructive.

6.) Duration of study: This part is tricky. Yes, a medical degree takes four years, whereas a PhD can take anywhere from 4 to 10 years in the United States, with an average of 8 years. This means getting a PhD can translate to losing a lot of opportunity to build wealth, save for retirement, and well live a good life, only to graduate and not get a job because there are no jobs in academia. However,  while a medical degree is just 4 years technically, their training usually takes longer, depending on the field. Residency can take anywhere from 3 to maybe even 7 years. But the different is, once you finish your  medical degree, I believe Residents actually earn a salary, albeit not much. And of course, when they are done, you earn a whole lot to cover for lost years. So go figure.

7.) Support: there is an inherent kindness I noticed, either among medical students or between medical students and their teachers, which was surprising because I had always heard of lots of bullying in medicine. But it's worse in academia: the hazing, just because; the caustic, toxic way of providing  feedback is so prevalent, it's worrisome.  Due to some of the aforementioned problems, it is no surprise we have an alarming rate of suicide among graduate students.

Okay I know I said seven, but I will give one bonus, which is ranking. When it comes to prestige of medical schools, I do not think it matters so much. In other words, I can't imagine a medical doctor not getting hired because they did not go to Harvard Medical School. As long as you go to a good medical school (that is accredited, this should be needless to say but hey, you never know), you will be fine. A PhD on the other hand, erm rankings matter A LOT. Whether your school is top 15 or top 20 might determine where you end up post-PhD. This is particularly important if you want a job in academia. You have to pay real attention to which type of school you go.

So that's it...for NOW. The truth is a lot of this depends on individual contexts, personal circumstances, and your program. I don't think this should sway your decision to go for one instead of the other haha.  I mean deciding to go for either is a huge decision by itself, but these were just some differences I noticed. What about you, ever noticed any difference I missed here? Or did I overstate anything here? In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or anything you want me to address in this series.


Love,

I

Life is Meaningless but How to Live Your Best Life Anyway

There is a video by Patricia Bright, where she talks about how she spent 40,000 British Pounds on frivolities and things that really don't matter at all, and how she has learnt her lesson. That's not exactly why I'm writing this post, but it seems like a good preface for this post and what I'm about to blog about. P.S: Spend your money on whatever you like. That's your business haha.

Around the same time I watched that video, I was reading Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a book of the bible written by King Solomon. If there is one thing we all know about Solomon, it's his wisdom. He was the dude God gave a blank check and told him to ask for anything, and my guy asked for wisdom. Not money, not wealth, not cars. Just wisdom. So God gave him all of that in abundance.  When you are royalty, and rich, and wise, you know you would always have something to say. Boy, did Solomon have a lot to say in Ecclesiastes? But honestly all of it is so practical and relatable to real life. I decided to write about it. Maybe perhaps some of them can be imparted upon you.



You know how we always feel like life can be really repetitive and mundane. Well, Solomon addresses this in Ecclesiastes. This sole thing has caused people a lot of sadness. Solomon really wanted folks to understand that that's exactly life. That life truly has no meaning. Generations come and go, but the earth does not really change.

the sun rises
the sun sets
then hurries around to rise again
the wind blows south and then turns north
around and around it goes, blowing in circles
rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full
then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out
again to the sea

He continues on to say everything is wearisome, even beyond description. History just repeats itself and nothing is new under the sun. I don't know about you, but this provides some relief. I think we can often be very tunnel visioned, and I hate to trivialize anyone's problem. However, we are notorious for often thinking our problems are the worst and we are the only ones going through challenges in life. Meanwhile a.) people are going through worse, and b.) no matter how bad it is, it has happened to someone before.

This man was the wisest ever, but he didn't stop there. He sought out even more knowledge than you can imagine, and then learned it's all meaningless. At first, this might come across as hopeless, but it's not. What it should do is provide some humility.

Then he said, aight, it's time to chase pleasure. Now, if there is one thing you need to know about Solomon, it's that he epitomized enjoyment. He was the original Minister of Enjoyment. The man liked the finer things of life and was not very timid about it. He had about 700 wives, and a few hundred concubines. To put it simply, my guy overdid it. All that being said, surely we can all agree he is a trusted voice when it comes to enjoyment, because been there done that. Amright? No? Okay. He built HUGE homes for himself. He planted beautiful vineyards and filled them with all kinds of fruit trees. He even built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate his flourishing groves. He bought slaves (side eye). He owned large flocks and herd, MORE than any of the kings before him. He had silver, gold, he hired singers, and had everything a man could desire.  Anything he wanted, he would take. And his wisdom never failed him. Yes, I am right. No one personified enjoyment like King Solomon. Yet this man looked at all of it—all  of what he worked incredibly hard to accomplish, and he described them as meaningless, like chasing the wind. It's shocking that this same man referred to everything as "boring". But should't that tell you all you need to know about material things?

The unattractive truth is that, success and prosperity do not last long. All human accomplishments will one day disappear and if people actually lived with this on their minds, they will experience more peace. Because without this knowledge, you are left chasing after the next big thing. Happiness then, becomes something you always seem to pursue but can never quite attain. Because you have attached it to the next promotion, the next raise, the bigger house, the bigger and finer car, the nicer wrist watch, and yes  the newer iPhone model. But Solomon's main goal in Ecclesiastes was to  demonstrate that earthly possessions and accomplishments can be very meaningless. I don't think Solomon meant to say don't enjoy life. That would be hypocritical coming from him. I think he meant to say the opposite—enjoy life. I think he was saying, in reality we need much less than we think to enjoy life and have a good life.

The "chase" of the next high is why many people feel restless and unsatisfied. An inability or unwillingness to enjoy what you have is why even when you can afford the finer things of life, your inexplicable restlessness would further create bigger holes in your heart, so to speak. People seek to feel this empty hollow in so many ways. You can party from sun up till sun down, date the dateable and undateable, be on social media 24/7 without blinking, pour your misery on someone else as much as you like, buy the most expensive car, have all the power you can amass, and still be in great despair. Because those are the wrong things to fill that hollow with. So many people are tired and unfulfilled and wonder what life even means. I'm convinced life is meaningless without something more divine than the aforementioned. For me, that's God. Without God, life is meaningless. And even if you don't agree with me regarding God, surely you must know that using things to fill that restlessness and despair you feel is not helping. Chasing popularity, fame, prestige is  really a a waste of time. Money and wealth will never bring this happiness.

While writing this post, I randomly stumbled on this post about how this man sort of suddenly became a millionaire. He also reiterates the fact that once you have your basic needs met, the fallacy that hitting millions would somehow make your life complete is just that: a fallacy. if anything it reveals the emptiness even more. An emptiness that buying a Lamborghini or buying a a purse worth $16, 000  (Christ Jesus! what is wrong with you people?) would not solve. Sorry, I had to judge for a second. Moving on. This is why it is never worth it to give up your "integrity, dignity, humanity to gain all kinds of money all to have it do more harm than good." Sure, all that money is good and worthwhile but it rarely solves everything. If you don't believe me, then surely you will believe an actual millionaire. And of course, this does not apply to someone struggling to feed their children or to clothe their kids, or to take care of their sick family. Because in the life of someone like that, money would absofreakinglutely change EVERYTHING.

Knowing how useless most things are, isn't it beneficial to think about what you consider worthwhile? The implication of Solomon's words is that we invest our time, energy, and money in what we value, what we consider worthwhile. In some sense, everything Mark Manson said in his book—to spend your time on only what is truly important and immediate—has been said in the bible. Of course Manson may not be  a Christian and probably doesn't know that part.

In essence Solomon implores us  to enjoy life. To not worry too about things. In the end, it all matters so little so don't be so consumed with chasing happiness. Solomon tried that after all, and found how useless they all are since he found no self-worth or fulfillment in any of these, and I know so many people can relate to this. The one thing I feel Ecclesiastes teaches us is to not get worked up over things at all. Life ain't that serious. which is why Solomon recommends there is nothing  better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can.

So go ahead
eat your food with joy
and drink your wine with a happy heart
for God approves of this

I love those words. This is especially for my Christian brothers and sisters. We think a life for God is one that is miserable. Scratch that, Christian dudes are the most notorious for thinking to be a Christian is to weird, have no sense of fashion, or to be incredibly corny. Please no.  Dress up nicely, eat good food, laugh, party, celebrate and rejoice with your loved ones. What you should not do is to let these consume you so much that you can't do without all of it.

There is a lot to obviously unpack in Ecclesiastes, that I can't quite fit into one blogpost. Solomon also asks one of my biggest questions as a Christian and person of faith: how can there be so much injustice in the world if God's plan is perfect? How can there be so much evil?  The truth though, as this and other passages in the Bible say is that, God does NOT ignore injustice (no matter how much it looks like it). He will bring an end to it at his appointed time. And best believe there is a time for everything under heaven. There is a time to rise up in anger against that injustice around you. There is a time to chill and be quiet.

What makes all these even more staggering and powerful is that they come from a man who had it all.  When you feel burnt out, when you have many unanswered questions, remember that someone as profound as Solomon felt all that too. I gotta tell you, no matter what you believe, you have to know that wisdom is accepting there is a mystery to this world we will never understand. And sometimes, it's okay to bask in that ignorance.

Love,
I

P.S: Thanks to my sister who somehow remembered that it's been SIX years since I started blogging. Maybe I should write something on that. Or maybe not: no wisdom to impart here. What people would want to hear is how to make money through blogging, and sorry hun, but I can't tell you that because I don't know how. In any case, HURRAY to this blog, you, the reader (thanks!), and me.


On Love, Relationships, Dating, and Marriage: Why You Really Should Never Settle For Less

When you are an unmarried woman in your late twenties, you get a lot of unsolicited advice on love, marriage, and relationships. If we are being honest, if you are an unmarried woman of any age, you do get a lot of unsolicited advice on what's causing you to be so single, as if being single is a disease. When you are an unmarried woman, and if by some misfortune you are an unmarried Nigerian woman who is supposed to be married but isn't, it's a double whammy. This is interesting because a lot of Nigerian marriages are not exactly the most alluring situation that a person should want or desire. I mean, for the most part many of the wives are glorified slaves in makeshift roommate situations they call marriages (through no fault of theirs of course). But I understand that the fastest way to get some modicum of respect in Nigeria is to at least be married. Otherwise, you are not respected in your own house. But also landlords would not allow you rent their houses. People would think you have no "covering", and yes I have heard people tell me that even their friends would preface the simplest stuff with, well you're not married, so you don't understand. Fortunately for me, although I am technically an unmarried Nigerian woman, I don't have to experience most of the above listed things because I have the privilege to also be an unmarried American woman. I don't live in a society that pressures me to get married, and frankly American women are marrying later than usual. It still does not mean that unmarried American women do not get unsolicited advice from people, worrying about why they are sooo unmarried. Let me say that whether or not this concern comes from a good place does not eradicate the fact that asking why someone is so single can come across as  sounding like to be single is to have the plague.

Go out more

Put yourself out there

Your standards are too high

But you never know, he could be the one (said about the most basic guy).

A more polite  bunch of questions I tend to ask my unmarried friends is, how is the dating life? Is marriage something you're interested in? I also make sure to never ever suggest that they just are not doing enough to combat singleness. Yuck.



To marry someone is to be tethered to that person for the rest of your life. Even when you carefully make this decision, the chances of making a wrong one are still incredibly high. Human beings suck. They are unreliable. They are angry. They are badly behaved. They suck. Still a lot of us want to marry. Nay, a lot of us need to marry. We have the unfortunate luck to have been created to desire companionship. It's primal. Beyond that however, many of us need the financial strength that comes from combining your assets (or debt) with someone else's. We need to couple up. That's okay. What is not okay is to lose yourself in the process.

When I was younger, I always wondered how a couple could get divorced even when there had been no infidelity. Now I know better. Now, I know there are so many reasons to decide that you would rather die than remain married to a toxic person. This is why before even getting to the marriage stage, make sure that  no matter the advice people give you, no matter the cajoling, if you do not feel like dating a person or marrying them, do not do it. Even if your wedding is next week, do not do it. Our instincts are powerful. In Lade Tawak's newsletter this week, she mentioned a powerful essay in The Paris Review that inspired this post. The autobiographical essay by a writer and professor tells a story of the events that transpire in the author's life shortly after breaking her engagement. It also gives us a glimpse into what life was like in said relationship. Spoiler alert: it was terrible. When you read that essay, you will first agree that some people are really terrible human beings. But you'll also see how easy it is for you to lose yourself. We always think we are doing too much when we desire what we want. We don't want to hurt people, or offend them. As a woman, it is so easy to give up on standards and values that matter to you. It is so easy to convince yourself that you're overthinking it when in fact this person is treating you like trash: the truth is if you find yourself crying all the time; if you have to wonder if the person you're with loves you; if your boyfriend sleeps with your mutual friend or frankly with anyone other than you, don't be pressured into acting like it's fine so he thinks you're cool, it is not fine.

It's incredibly easy to allow people mold you into what you are not, especially if like me you have strong opinions about life and people living in it. If you are also very unlike me and have no strong opinions about anything, do not let anyone bully you into being what you are not: an opinionated, strong-willed person. Whatever you desire in a life partner is what you should demand. The double whammy of being a woman and an African (or black or person of color etc.), I realize, is that we are always afraid of being too much. Our white counterparts never are. When my Uncle recently asked me why I stopped blogging or why I sort of reduced the intensity of my blog's voice, I said I worried about being too much. I said I didn't want to be that person either among friends or on cyberspace. I didn't want to make people uncomfortable. This is BS.  The same way it is BS to cower or compromise on what you desire in a life partner, like respect, love, honor. In a lot of African homes, women are groomed for men. Maybe not explicitly, but on days you didn't do your chores or maybe didn't do it well, you're told "is that how you will behave when you're in your husband's house?" I know men were never told this. So a lot of what you do can be a result from how you're socially conditioned. If you're too bookish, if you like a good political argument, a tiny part of you starts to wonder if that would discourage a potential husband. If you don't like certain things, you start to wonder how that would seem to the man you are supposed to marry.

If you are unmarried (I am deliberate with using the term unmarried), make a list of the most important values to you. Does he have to share the same religion? Does he have to be diligent in that religion? Is it okay that you are feminist but your romantic partner thinks women don't matter? Is he a card carrying Republican who thinks black people make too much noise about "racial issues" and voted for Trump, but you are a pro-choice liberal feminist who thinks AOC is too moderate? Now that makes for a good storyline in a movie, but you won't work in real life. These shared values, lifestyle, principles are what matters, more than whether he is from a particular country or the color of his or her skin, interestingly. Of course, their background plays into aforementioned factors. And even if a person shares all of the exact values as you do, and looks exceedingly great on paper, but you just either do not find them attractive or perhaps there is just something missing, do not let people around you bully you into dating/marrying them anyway. Listen to counsel sure, but most counsel on marriage is more about getting you coupled up by all means than about a genuine concern for your romantic life.

You can extend these principles to friendships too. My father always says (I can literally start any piece of writing with my father always says or my mother always says because they literally always say haha) a friendship that is not mutual is not friendship. I am reevaluating my own relationships, and while I always struggle with trying to live as Jesus would and trying not to be too selfish,  I have started to create too much allowances for people. Yet people are fairly predictable. If you bend you back, they WILL ride against it. I think my father said that too. So yes, be a little selfish. If someone only calls on you when they need you, sometimes, don't answer them. If you think someone is treating you like trash, they probably are. And they can gaslight you from now till next year, It doesn't change the fact that they are mistreating you. This goes especially for women. Even if you are old and grey, do not let anyone blackmail you: treating you terribly but rewarding you with the promise of marriage to keep you hanging. There are so many men on God's green earth, you will find another.

And never ever be afraid or ashamed to say you desire love. That you need love. That you want love. And don't be afraid to want to be loved a particular way. If you can be loved by the Almighty God in the most glorious way, then you don't deserve mediocre love.

This is a long way to say for something so complicated, relationships can also be fairly straightforward and predictable. You are worthy of a great love, don't settle for less than that.

Love,

I

P.S: I think I'm really, really back to blogging. I say this a lot but I'm ready to take this seriously so watch this space, and follow the blog on Instagram. Lots and lots of contents coming your way :-) Especially long form, life essays like this one (this would be really awkward if you hated this or hate long essays haha but yes, let me know if your style is more short and simple and we can do that too!).

Book of the Month: Trevor Noah's Born a Crime

I like to think that I have read a lot of books in this life. But hands down, my favorite memoir has to be Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. I talk a good game about all the books of the month I write about  here, but I'm very excited about this one. Of course I always knew Trevor Noah as a comedian.  I have watched clips of his show here and there. I even went to the taping of his show in New York and had a great time. I always knew him as a brilliant, articulate, and funny person. I also knew he wrote a book but never really got around to it, and frankly, I don't think I heard so much about it from people. Truth is,  nothing could have prepared me for this book.



Interestingly, I randomly bought it at an Amtrak station store while visiting home. I had just finished a grueling presentation and by extension, I was having a terrible day, and was looking around the store while I waited for my parents to come pick me up at the station, and bam I saw it. Meanwhile two nights before, my siblings and I went to New York for his show. So when I saw it at the store, I thought hey, this guy was funny, perhaps his book will be too. TRUST ME when I say, it IS. This book is funny, enlightening, educating, hilarious, and has so much depth. At some point, I had to ask how a book can make you laugh so much and also make you cry a little.



In telling his life's story, Trevor Noah explores various themes of his life while growing up in South Africa. As a child of a white man and a black woman, his very conception was already a crime. I think the brilliance of the book also comes from the fact that although it seems like Trevor Noah was telling his story, he was really telling the story of a phenomenal woman—his  mother. Trevor Noah is a fantastic storyteller. Everyone says Michelle Obama's Becoming was something and I haven't read it yet; I don't really like reading or even consuming any form of entertainment when it's all a rave. I like to take my time to digest it. The point being it will be hard expecting any memoir to trump Noah's.

As usual, I will mention some things that stuck out without revealing too much about the book because this is really a book I want you to read. I say this a lot, but I truly always mean it. I really liked how his mom taught him about women, and also about how to be a man. She told him that he had to learn to respect women and treat women right, and that a man is not a man because of how much he earns. This was especially necessary because as Trevor himself mentions, he never really grew up around men per se, and ahem his step father was not the exemplary father any person should have. There was something about his mom, and by something I mean, she was outright amazing in her perception of the society, her fierceness, and her values. Who am I kidding, their relationship might be the best part of this book.

Something else I really learnt was noticing cycles of abuse; really, abuse in any form. You would understand this better if you read the book. One thing is common, abusers are always nice. They laugh with you, they are charming until they are not. Until something extremely trivial causes a switch to go off and that's it. Because there is always that "good time" that lasts pretty long, the abuse continues to escalate and victims are more likely to suffer. In Trevor's words, "it is sporadic enough that you would think it would not happen again, but it is also frequent enough that you never forget it is possible," and there lies the danger of an abuser. So you see how after an incident, you fight them. Maybe you even go a while without talking to them, then later, you casually say hi and then there is a joke here and there, and slowly life goes back to usual, until they strike again. And knowing typical abusers, they always will.  Another thing is common: lots of societies do not do enough to protect vulnerable women and it's unfortunate.

Interestingly, though a victim of poverty, abuse, apartheid, and injustice, and many more things that would make a person give up, Trevor Noah tells his story in such a way that you do not feel pity for him.  What you are left feeling is complete admiration. That someone could endure all that and still make something for himself is amazing. But he doesn't have the hubris or arrogance that tells people that all you have to do is work hard to be successful. He understands how systems can be designed to harm specific groups of people. I guess you chalk it up to growing up in Apartheid South Africa, no? Either way, this is not a memoir you will forget soon, and as Refinery29 describes:

"This isn't your average comic-writes-a-memoir: it's a unique look at a man who is a product of his culture—and  a nuanced look at a part of the world whose people have known dark times easily pushed aside."

When you do read this, definitely let me know how you think!

Love,

I

Why The U.S. Women's Soccer Team is the Best Sports Team Ever and Why They Deserve Equal Pay

Yaaaass.

The FIFA World Cup Finals was just recently concluded. By recently, I mean less than an hour ago (as of writing this). And yes, the USA won Lol. Of course, I was rooting for them so I am very happy. Apart from my own bias as an American, the team is quite an exceptional one. Ordinarily, that's all fine and dandy. Of course, you should be great at what you do, what's the big deal yada yada. But what makes this win even all the more amazing is that members of the team, especially the great Megan Rapinoe, are quite the political activists. Like their coach said, they are great players, but even better human beings.

The thing is, these women have been fighting for equal pay for a while. The unfortunate irony is that the mediocre men in the U.S. men's team get paid more the women's team despite the blatant superior performance the women always display. This is the fourth time America is winning the World Cup, and the second consecutive win for this team, but the men's team has NEVER won and they don't even play as well. Yet they are paid better than the women. Now, there is in fact an inherent sexist approach to sports. Women's sport generally get less acclaim than the male sports no matter the quality of the actual game. I mean, the men's competition is the "World Cup" but the women's is the "Women's World Cup" as though to imply that the actual and original World Cup is the men's. If they were given the same weight, then the men's World Cup would be called: "Men's World Cup".



People always argue for unequal pay in soccer by saying women's sports get less viewership than men's  and chalk it all up to economics and a sound business model. False. The US men's team do not get as much views as the women's. According to the Wall Street Journal, from 2016 through 2018, the U.S. women's games pulled in $50.8 million in revenue compared with $49.9 million for the men. Not to mention, the same people who complain that women's teams don't get as much viewership are the same folks who refuse to watch. Such people dismiss women's sports simply because women are the ones playing. Such chauvinistic, myopic, and ignorant tropes hurt the quest for gender equality overall,  but also specifically hurts pay equality. The fact that we are still fighting for equal pay in 2019 is heartbreaking and another reason why should all be feminists.



See, I always say if you are going to fight, you better be excellent. This team has reinforced that idea for me. They have embodied the idea that sometimes [because we live in an unfair world], you have to demand what you have earned; what you deserve. You can't just take what's handed to you, you gotta get up, and you gotta PUSH back. They refused to accept defeat. And even in this final game, after they had scored twice, they refused to relax, they kept working hard. That's the spirit. In that, I saw diligence and relentlessness (is this even a word?). They are not just asking for more for the sake of it (although even that is not always wrong), but these girls armed themselves with preparation and excellence. They knew their shit.







And that's exactly how you fight. That's how you respond to critics. They have faced so much criticisms. First, it was that they celebrated too hard after beating Thailand, 13-1. Then it was that they are arrogant. Then it was HOW Alex Morgan celebrated after a historic goal against England when she mimed sipping tea. No matter what they did, it was one thing or another. People wanted them to cower, to apologize. But it was as if these girls knew their worth. You have to be extra ballsy to sue your employer before the World Cup.  They knew the burden this placed on them. But in the words of Alex Morgan, "having success gives us the platform to fight for equality". Now, the team is already capitalizing on this success. ESPN has agreed to televise 14 of the league's matches this season; 55 players on the World Cup rosters play in the leagues. Budweiser also announced a multi-year partnership agreement with the NWSL. The equal pay suit is headed for mediation. Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is how you win. 

This World Cup was historic in other ways. According to Time Magazine, in Britain, England's semi-final match against America had 11.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in Great Britain this year. France's quarterfinal game against the U.S. had 10.7million viewers and was the most watched broadcast of the year in France too. In Brazil, 35.2 million people watch and that was the highest ever audience for a women's world cup game. 








These girls don't even deserve equal pay with the mediocre's men's team, they deserve MORE. And let's face it, a team that gets me interested in soccer is one that has earned every single coin. SO PAY them.

"In the last three games of the World Cup, the U.S. faced an ascendant French power on home soil, England, a team that won a tune-up tournament in the United States earlier this year, and in Sunday's final, the  reigning European champion, the Netherlands." - Sean Gregory

The U.S. beat them all.

Now, Megan Rapinoe. That woman is a legend on her own. She is really the one I knew beforehand because all her activism, that has gone beyond fighting for her own identity to protesting injustice against black people. She's a good leader, she's an inspiring person, and if all of that don't mean jack, well, she is exceedingly great at what she does. And I am always here for that. She was awarded the golden boot AND golden ball. From reading more about her and her story (particularly her complicated relationship with her brother whom she shouted out/wished a happy birthday during her post-win interview today), I am learning grit and determination.




It is sooo good to be on the winning team, I tell ya. I am very proud of them, and it's been a lot of fun watching them play and represent us at this tournament. They are the actual world champions. My overall greatest lesson from this is, whatever you do; whatever your hands finds to do, be excellent at it; be great at it;  be best at it.

Love,

I

Busola Dakolo, Biodun Fatoyinbo, and the Role of The Church in Sexual Assault #Churchtoo

I should preface this post with the disclaimer that I am pissed! Normally, I would take some time to reflect on an issue before writing about it, but I deliberately want to write this post while I'm still feeling very angry. So if you are Nigerian or somehow you have found your way to Nigerian Twitter then you must have heard of Busola Dakolo who bravely and courageously shared her story earlier yesterday. What is this story, you ask? She gave an exclusive interview detailing her alleged raped by COZA's Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo. She alleges in painstaking detail how Fatoyinbo found his way into her life, groomed her, and when the time was right walked right into her house and raped her. She was only about 17. There is a lot to dissect on this issue, mostly because this is a problem that is a symptom of a much larger problem we are facing today. Generally speaking, the Church as an institution has been notorious for protecting rapists and other predators. And I am SICK of Christians turning a blind eye to this. I am also sick of pastors and the likes being conspicuously silent on the issue of rape and sexual abuse in the Church. Most of all, I am sick of enablers who continue to worship these so-called men of God who are predators.



Let's start with this specific case. Ordinarily, any allegation of rape or sexual assault is enough to make any sane person angry. But this is far worse. In 2013, Ese Walters, then media personality narrated her ordeal with this man and how he allegedly sexually assaulted her in his hotel; how he took advantage and manipulated her; and worse, how he has done this to a slew of other girls. He went unpunished.  His response was that he would give a "robust response". He never did. For years, whispers have been circulating of how this man used his position and charisma as a "man of God" to lure girls, convince them that he was their "spiritual father", and when they were completely vulnerable, would rape them or sexually assault them in one form or another. The unfortunate part is this man has never once been held accountable. His church has been growing. If anything, he kept on being ostentatious: he would throw fancy yacht parties in Dubai, and he would throw banquets to welcome dignitaries and pastors from America. For lack of a better word, the man is tacky. I have read my Bible enough to know that that kind of greed and excessiveness is not of God. And since by their fruits you shall know them, I knew something had to be up with him and frankly, that specific church. This man is so audacious that when he would finally respond to Busola Dakolo's accusations yesterday, homeboy basically equated himself to the Church. As far as he is concerned, an attack on him is an attack on the church. I can't even. I really can not.

Secondly, churches in Nigeria are too powerful. There is no oversight of any kind, no regulations, so they do what they want and when they want to. Now because Nigerian Christians worship their pastors a little to much, you can see the problem. People, develop your own personal relationship with God. Yes Christ really implored us to find a community of like-minded people to worship with and that will always make it necessary to be a part of a Bible-believing church. But no man is your spiritual leader, your pastor is not your "daddy".  Jesus died and rose on third day, and then left us with the holy spirit for direct access to God. Most of all, we are charged to call out BS in the Church. When Jesus was here in human form, He did not suffer fools gladly at all. Over and over and over again, we see how the Church in the Bible brought issues to the forefront and dealt with it.  Not cover it up and hope that by some magic it disappears.  We need churches [all over the world] to maintain this same energy. When there is evil in the church, call it out and when necessary hand the guilty parties to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Protect victims and fight for victims.




If you are privy to atrocities committed by your pastor or by your church, and you don't speak out or if you still go and worship in that church (COZA, in this case), you are complicit. You are not a person I want to know  because light has no business with darkness. And if you stand for evil and injustice, we have nothing to do with each other. My loyalty is not to any man of God or any church. my loyalty is first of all to God. I can wake up and leave my church today. Hell, I have done it before. I don't understand the silence of other Nigerian pastors on this matter. I don't understand how those Instagram pastors whose voice are normally loud and vocal when it's time to say feminists are going to hell fire, I don't understand how and why they are quiet now. I do not understand how those "mommy pastors" and "mommy GOs" who know how to condemn women for wearing short skirts or not being virgins, why can't we hear from them? Anyway, the rest of us will speak up for them.

The part that scares me is the amount of Nigerian parents that have subjected their kids to abuse in the hands of pastors or so called respected people in the society, only for those kids to be sexually assaulted. When they dare speak up, they are accused of one thing or another. I have never really understood what it feels like to suck up to a pastor. I have never even had a personal relationship with any pastor in any church I have attended.  This is largely due to my upbringing. First of all, we went to a church where the pastor could get audited. So accountability is at my core. But second, my parents were never those weirdos who would send their kids to the pastor's house to do chores or some nonsense. Olorun maje.  I want to emphasize that I do not think Busola's parents were like this. In fact, her mom was initially skeptical of the man, so props to them.

But this is a larger issue in Nigeria. Too many Nigerian women have been sexually assaulted and mostly by people they know and people their parents trusted. Women have been sharing their stories since yesterday and it's disheartening. It is also not an exaggeration to assume that about 80% of Nigerian women (in my generation) have been assaulted at one time or another. This is why I always implore men [and women too, of course] to watch how they react when stories like this come out because some of your loved ones who have been victims are watching you to see if you can be trusted to listen when they eventually share their stories.  And I promise you, I am certain you know someone who has been assaulted even if they still cannot share their stories because of fear of stigma or shame. And if someone reading this is one of those people, you still do not have to share your story if you don't want to.  Many people are also wondering why Busola is only just coming out with her story. The Igbos have a saying, whenever you wake up is your morning. This is Busola's morning. I will also say Nigerians are an interesting bunch. How is someone supposed to report rape when your lawyer, your first point of defense is already judging you? We see them on Twitter, we see how they talk about victims. Or when the police is acting as a mediator and begging your parents to just forget about reporting.

Let me make this clear, even if Busola was a full blown prostitute, she did not deserve to be raped. But Busola was a seventeen year old girl whose naiveté was taken advantage of and who was violently raped by a man who told her to be grateful that a man of God raped her. Pause. I need to breathe. Nigeria is an interesting place because there is a faux morality everywhere. So Busola was a perfect victim, if there ever was one. She is married to a successful and famous musician, she is a Christian, a businesswoman: the point is she needed to be perfect before she could be believed. If she was single, or if she smoked and drank, or had piercings and tattoos, well, I guess you can guess what comes next.  So I want to commend Busola's bravery and courage for doing this. Busola, we see you. We stand by you. We support you. Most of all, we believe you. We also need to do better for every person that has been a survivor of rape and sexual assault. You do not need to be perfect to tell your story. For every Busola out there, we need to do better by them.

One more thing. When a Muslim does something bad, y'all start disturbing other Muslims to "denounce" that Muslim. This is nonsense by the way, because when one White man shoots up a school because mommy hurt him as a kid, I don't automatically think of all White men as shooters, neither do I automatically make it the burden of all White men to criticize him. I will make an exception this time around: y'all, DRAG us Christians. Call out the BS and make sure that every Christian you know denounces this man and this act. Because if they don't then they are complicit so CALL THEM OUT. If you are quiet about your pastor’s rape, you are complicit. If he continues to be your pastor, then you’re just weird at that point.

People are asking him to step down from his position, that's his life's problem. I want the law to take effect. I want a world where rapists and sexual assaulters are tried, prosecuted, and sent to jail. I want justice. And I want victims to be protected at all cost. I want a system where people are not raped, but if it does happen I want a system that does not fault the victim for the actions of the perpetrator.

Love, and some justice,

I