These were my father’s exact words to me when I told him that I wanted to return home. His voice sounded normal but his response was uncertain.
He said “Are you sure you can live in Nigeria? It’s not like when you’re on holiday”
“Yes Daddy I am sure” I replied.
As a journalist and online editor I have always been a free-thinker, no nonsense, break the rules wanderer, believer and traveller. If I took a new job in the city it would have been a horizontal move, one that brought me centre stage with more shops and boutiques with which to squander my money on. I knew that any move that I made had to be a vertical move, almost like a quantum leap of faith.I wanted more than just a payslip at the end of every month, I wanted a chance to do something different, to make an impact and have a fresh start. These were my reasons. I wanted to break the norm and try what seemed like the impossible.
So I quit London in search of greener pastures, a more certain weather forecast and less grey thoughts. This was not an overnight decision; this was a two-year-long- suffering-what-shall-I-do-next-decision. Now before you say here we go again another returnee story, please read me out. I love London, it’s a world class city and tourist destination and one of the best places to live, visit, shop and dine out. Truly, there is nowhere in the world like it, every corner of the globe can be found in London. At night the lights across the embankment, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye light up the sky for miles around. Truly there is no where in the world like it, but if like me you have lived here since birth then you might just want to try something else for some healthy comparison.
I guess you could say I was just tired of the system of London or in other words the rat race. This rat had become a one-legged rat, hopping from one day to the next. This Londoner was in desperate need of a change of environment. The question for me was always when rather than how. After ten years of working in a great city I felt worn out and needed a new challenge.
To stay or to go?
I was desperately in need of a change of environment. The decision to stay or to go was constantly on my mind. Whilst I had thought about this for two years, others with less passion and in some cases less qualified than myself had gone ahead and switched lanes as I sat watching the world go by sitting in traffic on the A406. I just knew I wanted to live abroad and spend time back home in Nigeria. People go to Thailand and Austrailia to live, why could’nt I just get up and go to Nigeria?
So one rainy forgotten day last year, after months of wondering “what if” I had a light bulb moment when driving back from Sainsburys after an interesting conversation with an elderly cashier. She told me to go out there and explore the world, “You’re young!” she beamed. It was then that I realised that to all due respect the people who worked in one place for a long time for years without change, they were not dedicated staff members they were actually people who had decided not to seek new opportunities. I shuddered at the thought, refusing for that to be my fate I made up my mind that I must do something different sooner rather than later.
Around about the same time I listened to a TED talk online, by Meg Jay titled “Why your twenties are the new thirties” all about taking a leap of faith and doing something ‘life-defining’ in your twenties, by gaining”identity capital” – but I was 31 and it seemed like it was a little too late. I quickly began to realise that those that had left these shores for warmer climates and different lifestyles did not as my father liked to say “have three heads”. So resolved with the mantra that “if you have tried you have not failed firmly planted in my head” I decided that it was high time I tried living and working somewhere else for a change.
I began to work hard in silence to prepare for a change that I did not know how it would or could take place but I knew that it had to take place lest I perish an unfulfilled and poor intellectual in this cold place.I stopped driving, sold my beloved Audi A3 (yes I know, this faithful fellow had endured many an adventure) and began to prepare for what would become one of the most exciting phases of my life. I considered sabbatical leave as it dawned on me that I did not have a plan B. I mean what the heck was I going to do if it didn’t work out? Well honestly I did not know, but I didn’t want to have a plan B because having a Plan B would sabotage plan A in the battlefield of my mind. I would always feel that I could backout at anytime, I just had to take this risk, I had to try and make this work.
It seems like everything happened so fast, like it was a whirlwind change but actually now when I look back I can see that God had this on the cards for so long, and my life and current job was just part of the bigger plan and preparation time for living in Nigeria. I absolutely believe that making this decision has made me stronger and more independant human being. It taught me not be afraid even when the stakes are high because this is what brings the greatest rewards in life.
Right now, I cannot measure how much it has changed my life but I know with time I will look back when I am old and grey and say this was definitely one of the life-defining periods of my life.
So, like the ancient Chinese proverb says “the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step”. So here I am. I have taken the first step.
Thank you to those that followed my travel journey on Instagram and Twitter @editorsoffice. Your kind comments and tweets meant so much.
The original shorter version of this story was printed in Nigerian Watch newspaper. You can follow the story @NigerianWatch @editorsoffice #LondontoLagos #NigeriaRising