Not Quite An End of the Year Review

As we end this year, I thought to take a step back and write something more retrospective. Sure, I write for an audience but I also write for me, for various reasons I have talked about on this blog. I am reluctant to title this in memory of because like I said last year, end of the year reviews can be narcissistic. But let's take a step back for a second. I started this year explaining my distrust for social media, and in  recent times after finding private information about me online (!), I became even more distrustful, and slightly livid. How can you balance a love for sharing some things and an ardent desire for being private? How about the overload of information? Believe it or not, I just don't care about your new purchase of bedsheets or yet another discount code from another sponsored brand. Ohhh and social justice warriors? Bless them, but they can increase your anxiety levels. Let me tell you, you don't know peace until you're free from endless tweets about the damage trump is doing to America or some other apocalyptic problem. So, again how do you balance wanting to KNOW and care for the world you inhabit, but also wanting to avoid insane anxiety levels? My quest these past few weeks.

My blessing and my curse is that I am very self aware. Osemhen's end of the year review reminded me that I am also very deliberate with everything, and there is nothing I do that doesn't involve me thinking and thinking and thinking. I don't mind that trait at all. So it is possible my exhaustion with social media is merely me overthinking. I know though that social media is more harmful than helpful. That post by Osemhen inspired me to write this whole post, which is basically me, meandering. Anyway, like her, I am rethinking social media. I will probably not completely shun it. However, can you imagine the freedom of just enjoying things and experiences without the pressure to share them with folks who don't care?

In the same post, Osemhen wrote about generational curses, and how we always think it is about witchcraft and literal curses, when it is often repetitive cycles, and persistent harmful or (sometimes) beneficial behaviors. But many people hardly recognize these because no one really likes to admit that there are aspects of their upbringing they don't like. And those who don't idolize their upbringings blame everything on their parents and refuse to take responsibility for their lives. Don't be either. In this new year, take responsibilities for your actions, but also be aware enough and pray against all forms of generational curses. In the very beginning of this—now famous (thanks to me, haha)—post, she mentions getting counseling and therapy, and I was very impressed and frankly, fascinated with all the clarity therapy brought her. To be honest with you, there was a part of me (the Nigerian in me, I guess) that thought that therapy has been idolized. Don't get me wrong, I think our mental health should be priority, but I still don't think everyone needs therapy. Osemhen's post might have changed or at least challenged my opinion. And I'm here for it.

This year was a lot. But isn't every year? The one thing adulthood has ingrained in me is the perfect understanding of life as a mix of the good and the bad. You can't get the rainbow without the rain. Life is mostly mundane and that's fine. I knew all this beginning of this year but I still started the year with an insurmountable amount of fear, ennui, anger, and exhaustion. The kind of fear that even thinking back now, was unhealthy and I still don't quite understand.  I mean, the beginning of this year was in fact a train-wreck, just from thinking back now. I even struggled with my faith. But my greatest miracle is that God didn't give up on me. Now, some of those fears almost materialized, and the funniest part is it never is that bad. I mean, there was that one time I had the worst sickness of my life and legit thought I would not make it, but I did. Despite all this, what I remember the most about this year is the successes. Good news, good news, good news. There is nothing like the end of the year to remind you of the seductiveness of pessimism. So to briefly recap, humble brag, but mostly thank God, I will say (what I'm usually too shy to mention) I presented my research at a major conference, defended a qualifier, wrote two MAJOR exams (and passed one with a distinction), won two great fellowships etc. I worked HARD this year.  But don't even get started on the amazing things God did for my family and loved ones—truly my favorite part of this year. I remember knowing without a doubt that God is GOOD. I remember also having a perfect understanding of a salient fact: even if, nay when I fail, God is still good. And that was beautiful. That was the best part.

The one thing I have not perfectly nailed however, is the art of not caring. Don't get me wrong. I'm supposed to care. I just should not care too much. I should not care what people think or say. I should learn to scroll past all the terrible news on social media without a heavy heart. I was really there for a lot of people in 2018, and it was good. However, in 2019, I want more of me for myself, you know? Some people deserve all the love I have to give. Some people don't. I must never conflate both groups. Most of all though, if I could just give myself half the attention, time, resources, joy, celebratory words, cheerleading I gave to others in 2018, then 2019 will already be perfect.

Ah what am I saying? What is the point of all this? Meh, who knows? Whatever you do in this coming year, be better. But please don't overkill yourself with the idea that you have to be perfect. So what if you don't achieve all your goals? Just be a decent human being. Don't be that person who never returns calls. Or who only ever messages people when you need them. Be better. Do better. Most of all, remember that in the end, everything will be okay.



Friday Reflections

1.) Last Friday Reflections of the year!

2.) "I am certainly not seen as a visionary, but I hope I'm seen as steady and prudent and able." - George Herbert Walker Bush

2.) Please read this, on the so-called millennial entitlement. Like, yeah right! The same generation that works hard like a dog, juggling two or three side hustles with a main job? getting more and more education? Yet saddled with debt, unable to own homes and marrying much later than other generations due to financial hardship? Get outta here, please.

3.) This story about how a devoted wife bludgeoned her husband to death is quite shocking and frankly, I'm surprised it took her so long considering the immense psychological, emotional, physical, and mental abuse she endured all those years.

4.) Michael B. Jordan will be king.

5.) 100 years of black hair

6.) "Why Love Actually is the worst movie." No really, that movie is trash, and dumping all those celebrities in it does not make it any less trash. I said what I said.

7.) Read about this single woman in her 30s tell you about how dating is the hardest part of being single. Lmao. Despite the humor in the article, it carries one reminder: no matter how single you are and no matter the age, YOU ARE FINE. Seriously.

8.) A follow up from the same writer about wanting to be boyfriend rich that reminds you that having a partner, nay, LIVING with a partner dramatically reduces the cost of rent. If that ain't true?! Imagine how much you'd save in rent and expenses if you were splitting the cost with someone?

9.) Remember when I said reading Money Diaries revealed to me how many girls are actually being bankrolled by their boyfriends, and thought, wow no wonder we are so far behind on the quest for gender equality. Yeah, I said it.

10.) When you are confused about your calling?

11.) Anyway, looking forward to a new year and maybe cranking out one final post for 2018. I feel like I wrote more in December than the entire year combined. This irony is not lost on me.

Eating My Way Through Lagos: The Foods You Should Definitely Eat in Lagos, Nigeria

I went to Nigeria for the second time this year this past October. This time for my friend, S's wedding, and for some work too. Because this was going to be a longer trip, I planned to document my food. Yes, everything I ate. I would not necessarily call myself a foodie, but I like taking pictures of food, and I have a particular fondness for food photography. And we all know the one thing everyone misses about Lagos is the food. So with the opportunity to visit Lagos, I was on a mission: take as many pictures of food as possible. The problem however was that I went for meals with serious, smart,  chic people. This meant there was no way to take pictures of my food without seeming...uncool or unchic buhaha. Long story short, I resorted to taking only pictures of street foods that I ate in the car instead. Street foods are actually gems in Lagos, so this was a good problem to have. Enjoy the pictures.

Okay this one was technically not in Lagos. It was in London, at the Wagamama in Heathrow. I think it was chilli ramen, and it was meh. There was nothing fantastic about it so let's move on real fast.

My brother, my friend, E, and I wanted to wait out traffic on our way home one day, so we went into Casper and Gambini's at Ikeja. First of, I feel like things are generally overpriced in Lagos for no reason. I don't remember the price of what was supposed to be a mojito? But what I remember was literally tasting granulated sugar in the drink. Now I'm as much a sweet tooth as the next person, but no.
Super Yogo. Of all the street foods in Lagos, this is King. I feel like I took this every single day. Anyway this frozen yoghurt drink is what dreams are made of and what has been rescuing people in Lagos traffic since the beginning of time. It is usually paired with gala, another street food. This did not disappoint AT ALL. When we were kids, was it even Sunday if we didn't buy this or other variants of this after Church? I don't know how I would have lived my relatively healthy diet lifestyle if I lived in Lagos. There are so many seemingly healthy things that are filled with sugar. And the terrible part of most foods in Lagos is how they give NO dietary information about what you are eating. So weird. I always had to Google calorific and nutrient information Lol. But YOLO, man.
 Ofada Rice. Before I even left the states, I had been dreaming of Ofada. One time I told E I could give my pinkie finger for some Ofada rice, and she said she didn't doubt me. So this was my first attempt at Ofada or what was supposed to be Ofada and it was a fail. I got it from The Place, but it was still technically street food since I ate it in the car. But anyway, it was just pepper stew with palm oil. It was so underwhelming and disappointing.
 Coconut covered doughnut. This thing requires an entire post on its own; an ode, if you will. This thing got me through the worst traffic, and was just altogether glorious. Goodness. Let me explain. I don't care for doughnuts here in America because I consider them wack. They all taste like powdered sugar. Doughnuts in Nigeria are usually fluffier and more flavorful, but I didn't care for them that much either. But then we were at Shoprite one day, and I saw this and I have a thing for coconuty anything. So I took a risk. Let's just say, best risk ever. It was so freaking good! So good. Every time I went to Shoprite, I bought it. Soft, fresh, delicious, and flavorful. Yum. I miss this :-(
 Pasta? Another from The Place. I swear, the name of the place is actually The Place. No kidding. Anyway, whatever this was, was okay. One thing I don't include here but I feel like I should mention is the asun from The Place. It would be unfair for me to crap on everything from The Place, and not mention the one thing I actually really LOVED. Their asun is really good. Every other thing was not very good. But my friend, R, already warned me lol. On a second thought, this might not have been from The Place. I think it was from another fast food, but I don't remember. So scratch this. BUT, the asun from The Place is bomb nonetheless.
 Plantain Chips. Girlllllllll. Enough said. So good and so cheap. I loved it.
 Amala from a local buka. This is another one that was technically not from Lagos. It was from our trip to Ibadan. Bukas are basically local restaurants in Nigeria. Ibadan is a city in Oyo state  (also in South West Nigeria). Now, Ibadan is famous for really good Amalas. Hmmm, the thing is I don't know very well what the standard should be for Amalas from bukas, but if my standard is homemade Amalas, then this was not excellent. It was not very good. If this was the first Amala you ever tasted, you would hate Amala. And Amala is a beautiful, delicious meal. There was way too much oil than stew in this. And excess oil in stews irritates me. Also the meats were too tough, and this was a challenge on Lagos-Ibadan expressway, with all the potholes. Meh. Still, being inside the buka, and placing our orders was an anthropological study in itself. Haha.
 My second attempt at Ofada. Yay. This was actual ofada rice and ofada stew, courtesy of E. She knew my desperate attempt to eat ofada, so one fine Monday morning, she called us to come over  because she bought Ofada from an Ofada hawker. Now, you gotta know, no better ofada than those sold by hawkers in leaves too. It was delicious. Hella delicious. And I loved it.
This was ewa agonyi, basically overcooked beans with palm oil sauce, locally made with some smoked fish. This was okay, especially when paired with fresh bread. My only problem again, was too much oil. Otherwise, it wasn't too bad. I was really scared about upsetting my stomach, but I was good afterwards.

So there you have it. Some of the street foods I ate in Lagos. To be honest, these were the real winners. So even though I couldn't take pictures of the actual meals in restaurants because ahem, I couldn't be uncool, they were mostly not as good as some of these street foods/snacks. Honorable mention, and exception to the previous sentence is Wheatbaker Hotel. The food from that place was hands down the best meal I had: all courses. But I don't have pictures, sorry.

This was fun! I will take more pictures of food or I should say, I will post more pictures because I always took pictures anyway. Haha.

How was Christmas?



Merry Christmas Eve!

I always say I love Christmas and that it's my favorite holiday but I don't know why. And there has to be a why. Since there is no why, I'm beginning to think what is going on is I merely love the idea of Christmas.  I laugh at this because I once told my siblings that someone liked the idea of me and not necessarily me. I digress. Yes, so when I say idea of Christmas, I don't necessarily mean the underlying idea: the birth of Jesus, beginning of salvation et al (I mean, I do love that obviously). By idea, I think I mean, the joy, gift giving, laughter, family and friends time, and just the spirit of it all. Check out this Smith Family Christmas video for what I'm saying. There was so much joy in that video. I gotta say, no one personifies black man joy like Will Smith. And I love all that love radiating in that video too.

Now, if you don't have that, don't beat yourself up too much. I hear the holidays have the highest number of suicides and depression rates, which completely negates every BS I just said about the "idea of Christmas". I can really see how people would be sad during this period...especially the lonely. Since lonely encompasses varying kinds: maybe you're without family, or without romantic love, or just without cheer. It is fine too. Jesus came for all of us. Last Christmas, I mentioned that if you have a heavy heart, remember that Christ has overcome. It is still true. The one mistake people often make though, is to think the biological family is the only kind of family there is. That is not true. And even if there are no friends, the holiday is a season and like most things and every season, it will pass too and things will go back to normal. So try not to worry about that sadness that engulfs you too much. In the meantime, here are pictures from the National Zoo lights festival to cheer you up. The cheer comes from just how underwhelming the photos are, hahah. get the joke? I hope you do. Yeah, so this is me signing out and wishing you a Merry Christmas! In the meantime, I am about to go back after a long and quite frankly, peaceful break from social media, to feed off from the cheer of others as well and see how everyone is celebrating Christmas, before exing again. Social media is exhausting (let's talk more about this later).

Merry Christmas, for real.

I wish you all the joy and cheer of this season.



Now the photos:

Jesus was not a deadbeat

Less than two weeks to 2019!! Are you pumped? I'm not. Kidding, Lol.

Today, my devotional talked a lot about the disciple "whom Jesus loved", whom everyone believes to be John. Now, every verse read today where John was mentioned, it's prefaced with "the disciple whom Jesus loved". The really interesting part of this is when we first met John in the Bible, his nickname was "son of thunder". There is a lot of speculation that "son of thunder" was in reference to his temperament: impetuous, headstrong, etc. But as we progress in studying the bible, and as John spent more time with Jesus, we notice a transformation in his behavior: gentility, love etc, He allowed Jesus to transform him. So now I'm thinking have I let God use difficult circumstances and people to transform my character? Honestly? The jury is still out on this.

Seven Habits That Show I Took My Relationship With Money Seriously in 2018

At the beginning of this year, I told y’all I was getting VERY serious with money, and I meant it. My relationship with money this year is the biggest (and probably only) proof that I am an adult. To be fair, I was never reckless with money to begin with so it wasn’t such a huge leap. Anyway, so find below some of the ways my relationship with money has changed since beginning to be more conscious about money habits.

1.) Budgeting: listen, this is a game changer. After a few months of tracking what I spent, I was able to develop a realistic budget. This means, I factor in my rent, food, entertainment, utilities, transportation etc. and set a financial limit per month for each expense. The goal is to not exceed the budget for each expense. Because of this I write down every SINGLE expense. If I pay $4 to get a cart at the airport, I write it down. If I get a $4 white chocolate mocha at Starbucks, I write it down too. I’m almost anal about it. And at the end of the month, you know what you earned, what you spent, and the rest can go towards your financial goals: saving, investing, paying back debt etc. So basically, money management.

2.) Reading books and getting financially literate: umm, I have read many money books and contrary to what you might think, many of them are actually fun; think Broke Millennial and The Financial Diet. I also watch YouTube videos. Dave Ramsey is really good, but he can be too intense and somewhat unrealistic. I mean, you want to be good with money, but not at the expense of actually living or glorifying it. Important or not, many other things surpass paying debt, and tracking your expenses. I also read Refinery 29’s Money Diary series. I want to say I read it to see how other millennial women in America spend, but really I am a nosy person who likes to feel good about not spending so egregiously like the rest of America. Bite me. Seriously though, Money Diaries give you the full spectrum: from the twenty-something-year-olds that earn middle six figures per year (and make me think of my life and inadequacy LOL); to the ones that earn $20,000 per year and spend half of it on a stupid boyfriend; to the one that granpa left a hefty inheritance for. Wild. Biggest lessons from that series are: people are hella privileged; many Americans can’t survive not being coupled up; and many, many girls wouldn’t survive if their boyfriends weren’t footing [at least half] their bills. Yeah, I said it.

3.) An emergency fund: I haven’t completely nailed this but I am onto something; meaning I am building it. The most concern here is so you don’t lose your safety net if anything happens; say, you lose your job or something. And let's just say my faith in God comes to play here (HAHA), plus I am somewhat privileged to not be afraid of becoming homeless. That said I am working on it. One huge lesson you will learn from becoming responsible with money is that it is not a one-size-fits-all thing; different lifestyles, different goals, but a few basic and fundamental principles: like an emergency fund is compulsory.

4.) Buying investment pieces: I was never a big shopper. Don’t get me wrong, I like the fine things of life but I can do without them. I also really like to look good (sometimes) so yea I buy clothes. Now though, I am learning to buy things that will last forever even if they [sometimes] come with hefty prices: like a good winter coat, a nice pair of boots etc. I am not going to be bougie and say never buy fast fashion. Meh. Buy what you can afford, but consider buying things that last and staples rather than every single thing in fashion at the moment. I mean there is also the conversation about the ethical standards of some of your favorite clothing stores, but that's conversation for another time.

5.) Treating my credit card like a debit card: ooh this one. One time many years ago, young
Ife had no job, but had a new credit card and totally forgot that APRs kicked in after a year or so. Long story short, I tanked my credit score from not understanding when minimum payments were due and completely ignoring the credit card (I just kept on spending lmao). Now though my credit card is like my debit card, so I buy only and only what I can fully pay back at the end of the month. That way I am building my credit history but also being responsible. Now, once in a while of course you will have needs that you can’t afford, so you may need to use your credit card. Do it, but try to pay back quickly. P.s: these kinds of needs are why emergency funds and savings are important.

6.) Building my credit score: Enough said. Many of the aforementioned principles have contributed to my success in this regard.

7.) Thinking about retirement: Not in the sense of wanting to stop working, more like in the sense of thinking about my future. Before I didn’t even know what IRA meant (individual retirement account), stocks were like rocket science to me. But now, and again this is due to consciously willing to learn, I have a better understanding and know where to begin with investing in my future.

It's like Chelsea Fagan says, this is all basically like taking care of future you. You will probably not regret it. Listen, pick one thing to do to get better with money. And to be fair, for a lot of people the solution to their money problems is to earn more. However, for a WHOLE LOT of others, it's superfluous spending: shoes, clothes, natural hair products you and I know you will never use, gym memberships that you don't need, trips you can do without because traveling is NOT and will never be that big a deal, expensive cars, and all of that lifestyle creep you allow just so you can post on Instagram or compete with your friends in a passive aggressive manner. Do better in 2019. Okay? Okay. Haha

I promise this is not in any way a criticism of people's lifestyle but mostly to say there are benefits to getting better and having a better relationship with your money. There truly is.



Book of the Month: The Financial Diet

I included this book because it’s the only book I’ve read in December, so far. And that’s okay. People like to compete slash show off: I read fifty books this week. Lol, ok boo. As I have often said, I diversify my hobbies and what not. And reading is just one of them, in addition to you know, actually working some 60+ hours (or more) every week. So yeah. I say this to say, people often feel bad about not reading enough and the thing is, reading should be fun and/or educational, not punitive. When you can, by all means, please read. When you can't, don't feel bad. More importantly, this is the book of the month because it’s a money book. In my next post,  I will share how being better with money has improved the quality of my life, so this seemed like a good precursor.

The Financial Diet was written by Chelsea Fagan and Lauren Ver Hage, the co-founders of a hugely popular website with the same title. They were my first teachers in this whole millennial-becoming-good-with money business, and it seemed like it was worth it to invest in and support them. So I’m glad I did. Well technically the book was a gift from my friend but I requested it sooo same difference. Even before the book, the goal of The Financial Diet website has always been to inspire women to take control of their finances, become more comfortable talking about money, and just be a general bad ass in life in the most realistic, yet optimistic way. The book models this approach. It gives step-by-step guides on how to save, spend, cook, decorate your apartment, thrive at work, and dress your way to your best financial life.

The first thing I want to say is this book was a very easy read. Truth is, I tend to select books of the month that are easy to read because no one has time for authors who write to deliberately confuse their audience and complicate things just to sound smart. My favorite writers have always been the ones that write plain and clear. So yes this book is easy and it takes you through the aforementioned life necessities through practical applications, suggestions, and interviews with experts.  While I enjoyed it, I also was left wanting for more. But I think this was largely due to the fact that I have watched many of their videos and read several posts on the websites, so nothing the book said was particularly new [to me]. Again, perhaps because they are millennials, their approach to finance is very relatable and they are sure to emphasize that managing money is not a one-size-fits-all thing. How you handle money depends on your lifestyle, financial goals, personal hobbies and favorites, and of course your reality. They also remind you not to forget to live or  enjoy life because of insurmountable and unrealistic expectations you have set on yourself.

Chelsea is the perfect person to talk about finance. She has gone from maxing out several credit cards, to quitting college, to drunkenly quitting her job over the phone at 4am (?) because she didn't feel like waking up early the next morning or so, to co-founding a successful lifestyle and finance website, and now leading a team of about 5 at the the same website in New York City. Yeah, what a rollercoaster, huh? Chelsea is humorous, and she has a lot of personal advice to dispense without coming off as condescending. Even if you don't read her book, watch their videos on YouTube. You will enjoy them.

Another finance book I read earlier this year was of course Broke Millennial, which frankly, I slightly prefer to this. I found that one much more resourceful, as far as learning technical terms, investing, saving, paying back debts, the different kinds of financial institutions that exist etc. Broke Millennial was incredibly helpful. Not to say The Financial Diet wasn't at all helpful; it was. But it was also very lifestyle-bloggish, if that makes any sense at all. Again, I think the reason I feel this way might be because it is geared towards total beginners, and as my next post will show you, I'm no longer a beginner with money *flips hair* so some advice in the book seemed rudimentary to me. However, one way The Financial Diet stands out for me is the real, practical advice on making career choices. They are careful to warn readers to beware of the "dream job" trope; even going as far as coining a term "career lattice" in place of the traditional career ladder. You know, life is real and not an Instagram hashtag or yet another trite motivational quote. Don't seek all your happiness in your day job. Sometimes, your job is not the answer to all your fulfillment and happiness challenges. Sometimes, you job is just that, your job; your source of income; another outlet to prove yourself smart and resourceful. Diversify; meaning spread out the source of your fulfillment and happiness. Another interesting part of the book includes all the cute graphics at different points of the book; they made it even much more engaging. I mean, even the paperback is definitely one of a kind and makes for a good coffee table book/decor.

In the end, you should know (and this book reminds us often throughout its pages) that there should be a goal to money. It's not just about acquiring and acquiring; as one of the experts in the book say, "Money is nice, but there has to be a point to it or you'll ever have enough."

That's it. I have actually started another book, and maybe to compensate for my sporadic postings this year, I will do another book of the month. Maybe not.