An Anatomy of a Farewell

 

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

There was no perfect time to begin Livelytwist. Four years ago, I did not have all the answers I needed to start a weekly blog. Chief among them being whether I could sustain the tempo—whether I could produce writing that would entertain, inform, inspire, or provoke thought, week after week. In Six Degrees of Separation and Other Stories, I bare my soul.

I started this blog with grit, a little knowledge, some research, plenty goodwill, confidence, trepidation, and a two-month content calendar.

The question that I am frequently asked after I introduce myself as a blogger, after, what do you blog about, is: do you monetize your blog? The question is not always direct. Sometimes, it is cloaked as queries about ad revenue or sponsored content.

In his book Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell says that hard work is a prison sentence only if it does not have meaning. Monetizing Livelytwist was never my primary focus. I just did what I love with dedication and excellence, which are hallmarks of everything I set to do.

The result is a resume I can present anywhere.

  • Produced over 200 articles with quality content.
  • Displayed my range with a rich landscape of varied writing: creative non-fiction, short fiction, op-eds, reportage, memoirs, and personal essays.
  • Highlighted my range by tackling topics from the mundane and comical to the serious, made relevant because of the underlying message(s).
  • Synthesized and delivered local content to international audiences. 
  • Facilitated and sustained online engagement with heterogeneous crowds via the comment section.
  • Identified, managed, and promoted (new) writing talent.
  • Discovered and negotiated new business through engagement on other platforms.
  • Harnessed marketing opportunities by collaborating with others and leveraging their social networks to reach new audiences.
  • Developed and managed diverse teams by initiating several writing collaborations.
  • Received 100,000* blog hits on livelytwist.com through organic growth. 

However, the emails and conversations that attest to the fact that I lit other candles remain my greatest treasures. All because I dared to ignore the butterflies in my stomach and move in the direction that my heart was tugging me to go.

. . . this gift that chose me, feels like a solemn trust, like a platform to do my life’s work. When you read something and say it inspires you to do life better, I let my tears fall where they will. –Timi Yeseibo

Someone said that it is not that life is too short but that we take too long to begin. I concur. People now ask me, “So you’re gonna stop blogging, what next?”

Four years ago, I could at least define what I was beginning, a blog. Now, it isn’t easy to articulate my next steps. This is what I know for sure. Whatever follows will involve me writing in some form. I now know that when you identify your gift, develop it, and use it to serve others, you will inspire others to do the same.

I once read that sometimes when it seems as though things are falling apart, they are actually coming together. In hindsight, it was true four years ago when my life took a difficult turn. I believe it to be true now.

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

P.s. April marked four years of blogging at Livelytwist, a success story that has you, dear reader, by my side. It is now time for new adventures and to stop blogging. I first wrote about it here. I’ll write some more in the coming weeks and then I’ll stop.

  1. Gladwell, Malcom, Outliers, The Story of Success, (London: Penguin Books, 2009), 175
  2. Not quite 100,000 hits . . . yet.

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/child-beautiful-model-little-cute-920131/
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Falling From Lofty Heights

Timi Yeseibo on Loss

We are all dust passing through the air, the difference is, some are flying high in the sky, while others are flying low. But eventually, we all settle on the same ground. ― Anthony Liccione

To reinvent yourself in your late-thirties, you work with a job coach. She will turn the years you spent chauffeuring your children to and fro school and swimming, and ballet, and football, the months you spent volunteering to cut out hearts and read poetry to classes of fidgety children, and the days you spent  hosting meetings for a diverse group of women, into credible examples of leadership and teamwork. On paper. A resume that she has to work on you to believe.

You believe. And you can tell every interviewer about yourself, stitching the holes in the years between your first degree and the present in a perfect line.

Still I did not get the first job I applied for. Or the second or the third. Each time I finished strong as a close second, I vowed to eliminate the words consolation prize, if I were God for a day. The ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm is what Winston Churchill described as success. I did not feel like a success, but I tweaked my resume and wrote more cover letters.

With bills mounting, I prayed, “God, anything. I will do anything, even hospice care.”

Then one day while waiting at the bus stop, I saw a woman I used to know in orange overalls with the insignia of the town on her chest and back, using a pick-up tool to clear rubbish—empty cans, funnel-shaped cardboards with remains of mayonnaise and patat, and a lone pink mitten—from the road, trash bag in tow.

It was not the harshness of the sun that kept her head down, spring was just emerging from winter; the sun had not yet roused itself properly. It was shame. She had lost her former status just as I had. She could not and would not raise her head to say hello, even though I no longer had a car. Had she not seen that my coat, fraying at the cuffs and hem, was one from a few seasons back? I looked at my bus pass as though there was information on it that I had not yet read, and I let her name die on my lips.

I was no longer so sure about my prayer. “Okay God,” I prayed, “not just anything.”

I landed a clerical job, which I would have rejected when I graduated with honours fifteen years earlier, a mindless job that did not even require the kind of critical thinking I used when I played Mahjong Titans.

One evening, I took a file full of reports to my boss, a woman in her mid-twenties, whose jawline was just discernible from her neck. Colleagues whispered that she was a casualty of one of those expensive diet plans. She barely glanced at the reports before signing. She had come to trust my work, and she commented on my level of accuracy.

“You’re better than this,” she said, looking at me, searching for my story as if I had written it behind my eyes. “You should find another job.”

“I know,” I whispered, as if it was our secret, “it’s just a matter of time.”

I no longer worry about bills and I use my brain to do the things I love. I saw a man in his fifties begging for alms. His pale blue shirt tucked neatly in navy trousers, set him apart. Although his eyes were weary, he stood as though he had steel in his spine.

I am seldom asked, who are you, but I am always asked, what do you do? It is easy to confuse the two.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2017

 

Photo Credit: https://pixabay.com/en/levitation-young-woman-in-the-air-1884366/

 

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Two Hundred and Counting

200

 

I received a WordPress notification about my 200th blog post about six weeks ago. What does this mean to me?

1.
Because Nigerian musicians frequently fuse their local dialects and English to produce hits that resonate beyond their shores, I thought the word colabo, and I spelt it like that, in the song collabo by PSquare featuring Don Jazzy is a Pidgin derivative. However, collabo is a word in the dictionary, which means something produced by two or more people working together, especially a piece of music.  I did not get to two hundred on my own. Many collaborations with different writers brought me here.

2.
Every year I check boxes and add scores on tests designed to show me an aspect of myself. I am always trying to answer the questions, who is Timi and what does she want? Perhaps I am more curator of stories and editor than I am writer. The collaborations I inspire and drive bring me double joy. Flipping through one of my old journals, I smiled as I read my handwriting, cursive, strong, sure. I had written: I want to tell other peoples’ stories. Self: A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.

3.
For years, my answer to the question, “So what do you do?” was fluid because I was like a natural hair enthusiast growing out a perm, one leg here and one leg there. To define my ‘do’ by my day job seemed limiting. Then I stumbled on Adam Leipzig’s Tedx Talk and discovered a way to answer the question with ease. Recently, I answered the question like this: I write a blog, dismissing Leipzig’s recommendation. The man to whom I was speaking probed further, “What do you write about and are you any good?” I answered his second question before the top of his lips settled on his bottom lip, “I am very good.” Gone was his disinterest. Confidence: A feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities.

4.
Sometimes people leave me comments and messages that they wish they could write like me. I take it as a huge compliment and nothing more. I have stopped wishing I could play the piano like the musician who is a wiz at the keyboard. I have no desire to put in the work and disciplined focus required to reach that level of proficiency. I do not have another 10,000 hours. In making the point that excellence requires a critical minimum level of practice, Malcom Gladwell says ten thousand hours is the magic number that researchers have agreed on for true expertise. Two hundred blog posts is not yet 10,000 hours. Practice: Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.

5.
The line between just asking and a free consultation is smeared with politeness. Doctors and other professionals know this. I know this now; 200 blog posts means I have a feel for what makes a piece of writing work. A party is not the place to read me a sentence then ask if it is grammatically correct or whip out your phone to show me something you wrote. That is what emails are for. I do not carry a red pen in my clutch bag; I carry red lipstick and blue mascara. People ask me to be brutally honest in my feedback, but the only place to be brutal—savagely violent or unpleasant and harsh, is the gladiator’s ring. The only adjective that should go with honesty when it comes to feedback on a piece of writing is kind. I have made and kept more friends this way.

6.
Space is not a continuous area or expanse, which is free, available, or unoccupied. It is a place stamped with evidence of my presence, neatly littered with comforting memorabilia—a weathered collection of poems, old photos of my children, journals, books about writing, ideas on yellow post-its, and greeting cards that affirm who I can be. Space is freedom to live, think, and develop my writing in a way that suits me. It is saying no to play and living like a hermit Friday night and all day Saturday. Space is showing up for lunch or dinner with my laptop, typing away while conversation wafts around my head. Two hundred blog posts later, space is the greatest gift my family and friends have given me. Extroverted Introvert: Also called social introvert. Sociable and friendly but needs to recharge in solitude often.

7.
When I decided to start a blog, I had three options: WordPress, Blogger, or Tumblr. I am yet to regret my choice. Often I struggle to leave a comment on other platforms but I have scarcely heard that anyone struggled to leave a comment on my blog. It is true that I do not want be bothered with technical things like code, wanting only to upload and publish, but more than that I have found a community of generous people who are curious about the world beyond them. Two hundred blog posts ago, I published my first post to a warm welcome from several bloggers who I did not court. Welcome on WordPress is like a revolving door. A good number of bloggers with whom I engaged in those early days have exited the blog stage and in their place, other bloggers have taken my hand. Welcome: Greet (someone arriving) in a polite or friendly way; React with pleasure or approval to (an event or development).

 

To all my readers: I owe you a debt of gratitude. You have pushed me to become better than I was.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

  1. All dictionary definitions from English Oxford Living Dictionaries
  2. Gladwell, Malcom, Outliers, The Story of Success, (London: Penguin Books, 2009), 43 -44

 

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Forty is the New Forty

sign-speed limit

When you’re twenty, you listen to popular music. When you’re thirty, you discover different kinds of music. When you’re forty, you listen to the music you grew up with. – Galanty Miller

When a friend turned forty, she posted photos of herself of Facebook. She looked great, for her age— a euphemism for women with flabby Brazilian butts and men sporting four-and-a-half packs, which in our youth-obsessed culture, is a compliment women and men alike covet. The photo, which garnered many likes and complimentary comments was captioned, forty is the new twenty. Is it?

My twenties were a time of finishing school, getting my first job and navigating the workspace, getting married and raising a family, and defining and redefining who I was according to the roles I played. In retrospect, I was finding myself, although I did not then know it; did not know there were still plenty heartbreaks and joys to experience. In my twenties, mortality was far, invincibility near. This is as it should be, I think. Life is a series of experimentation, and my twenties was peak season.

Done right, the experimentation of the twenties lead to consolidation around the forties where finally one accepts that just because it is fashionable does not mean that it is right for me. Twenty is a marketer’s dream, the landscape fluid and accommodating undergirded by credit cards. Forty is like marrying a man who squeezes toothpaste from the middle of the tube. If his hands slip to the end, more often than not, they find their way back to the middle. He has come to know, there are no prizes for pressing the tube, only clean teeth.

I understand that when we say forty is the new twenty we mean that the person in question does not look forty. But what does forty look like? Old? What is old? Grey hair, wrinkled skin, poor sight, and an abbreviated gait? The fountain of youth begins in our minds not our bodies. Forty is confidence, and confidence is attractive. Forty is finding the balance you sought for in your thirties. For me, forty is peace brought on by my faith.

My twenties were great; I will not pass that road, littered with people pleasing and tangled apron strings, again. I do not want to. Older is not automatically wiser, but in my forties I see the link between the choices I made in my twenties and the fall out in the years since. Making the connection enables me make informed choices for the years ahead.

Experience is not the best teacher. It can be a good teacher, but an expensive one. If forty were to be the new twenty, then it should be twenty with experience and then the real twenty somethings can learn from the future, from those who have gone ahead of them.

The only thing I want from my twenties? My super fast metabolism, and that only on days I feel vain. The view from my forties is great. I hear it gets better in the fifties, until then, I am wearing my forties like a badge.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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A Space Too Little Explored [1] When I’m Gone

When I'm gone

Every man is trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes.

When I’m Gone

My father was not what my kids refer to as the African dad. By that, I mean he knocked before entering the room I shared with my older brother when we were growing up and he never opened any letters addressed to my siblings or me. He took us out to play football regularly. My father said please before he sent us on errands and thank you when we returned. He called me, young man and all of this made me feel respected.

He was a disciplinarian who stuck to his words. While playing football in the living room one day, I broke a glass frame. He calmly said, “You will not be going with us on the trip tomorrow,” referring to the family trip to Yankari Game Reserve, Bagauda Lake, and Tiga Dam, which I had looked forward to for weeks. Because of his summary judgements, which we could not appeal, we jokingly called him commander-in-chief-with-immediate-effect.

The memories of his many when I’m gone sayings eclipse all others. One time, my mother said, “You keep going on about, when I’m gone, when I’m gone, are you very keen to die?” But so focused was he that he did not relent. He replied, “You all will remember everything I said when I’m gone.” There it was again, another when I’m gone saying! He was right. As I prepared to leave my previous job, a colleague told me, “I will miss you, but I will miss the stories about your dad even more.” I was surprised, as I could not recall saying that much about my dad.

I realize now that my father was not obsessed with death; he cared deeply about his legacy. Like a good leader, he was raising successors to advance what he believed in. At every opportunity, he passed on the baton of leadership.

I do not recall my dad ever calling in sick; he worked hard all the time. I am the same way. Although I have always had jobs I enjoy and never experience Monday morning blues, I wonder if I am just being me or if I inherited his work ethic. Is work my way of saying watch me daddy, I’m being just like you?

I am running my section of the relay race. Sometimes doubts crowd my lane. My father always seemed to know what to do or say in a situation. Am I being a well of wisdom my children can drink from? Am I still holding the baton or have I let it slip as I race through life? I hope my children see me the way I saw my dad. I desire to pass the baton to them too.

Reacting to my pragmatism about life especially material things, my wife once said, “You are just like your dad.” She compared me to a father-in-law she had never met. Like my colleague, she had seen him come alive in the stories I had unconsciously woven into the fabric of my life. It remains the best (unintended) compliment I have ever received.

William Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” My father has never left my stage. He has been there all along.

Before he passed on, dad gave us the words he wanted inscribed on his headstone: Here lies M O O, who in his own life, tried to serve humanity and make a part of the world a better place. I pray my family says the same about me, when I’m gone.

Ayo Ogunsanlu makes his home in Essex, UK with his wife and three kids. He enjoys microbiology, running, and housework. On Facebook, he describes himself as a faithful and loyal friend.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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Drawing the Line

relationships

I once had a client, a man with lofty ideas and limited resources, whose business was pertinent to the success of mine.

In those days, a Lagos bus conductor who did not have adequate change for his customers, would ‘join’ two or three passengers together by giving one of them the total value of their change.

At their stop, he would explain to them, in between soliciting new passengers and calling out the names of the bus stops ahead, that he did not have enough change. Then he would give one passenger a single Naira note, which represented all of their change, as the bus driver rode away. We understood that as far as change went, our fate was sealed with that passenger and we had to find a way to split the change.

I have walked away from this arrangement—the huddling, the debate, the shadowing the ‘lead’ passenger as he perambulates in search of change, so we would not be duped twice—without my change because time was more important to me than it was to the others.

I felt as though my client was the passenger with our change but this time, the stakes were too high for me to up and leave.

I shared my worries with a friend.

“Get close to his wife. She will make things easier for you,” Ronke said.

I knew what she meant and I recoiled at her words. My client’s wife was a woman with a smile for everyone. Petite and pretty, she remained mum if she happened to be around as her husband and I discussed business, but I was aware that her intelligent eyes took in everything. It seemed cavalier, predatory even, to befriend this angel for the sole purpose of using her to influence her husband as we did not seem to have anything in common.

I endured my client’s belligerence and failed promises, promises he made after I made presentations and shared proposals. At my wit’s end, one night I sat in Ronke’s car for hours and itemized the problems I faced. She suggested, yet again that I make friends with his wife.

Soon after, a chance meeting with my client’s wife occurred. After pleasantries, she lowered her voice although we were alone and told me about a similar project they were undertaking with another publisher. In her words, the wahala nor get end. Sensing an opening, I took the ball she’d passed to me, but I did not run to the goal post. I dribbled until all obstacles were cleared and then passed her the ball to take a clean shot to goal.

“Ah ah men!” she exclaimed, “They don’t understand. Leave it to me. Here,” she handed me her business card, “if you have any issues, give me a call.”

I collected her card without looking at it.

“I’m serious,” she said, stopping me with her intelligent eyes. “Timi, if you have any problems, call me.”

I never had to call her. My client gave me my change and then some.

I’ve wondered about this incident and what I call my moral high horse. I guess because I have been used as a stepping stone in business, I did not want to bathe someone else with gifts and attention and then slam the door not minding if her fingers were trapped in the hinges or not.

But isn’t that what we all do? When we were younger, my siblings and I chose the favourite child, the one whose requests were hardly turned down, as an emissary to our parents. I sometimes attend social events with colleagues, when I’d much rather stay at home in my pajamas, to influence outcomes in the office. Relationships grease the wheels of business and human interaction is fueled more by trust than logic. We trust referrals from those we know.

My client’s wife and I never became chummy. We didn’t share enough common ground and we could not commit the time needed to explore what little commonalities we might have had. I see her once a long while and respond to her smile, the one she has for everyone, without guilt, but with warmth. And I sleep easy at night.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

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Leave Trash For LAWMA

“Stop, stop,” I urged the Uber driver.

He obliged and I came out of the cab with my phone to take a photo of the signpost. 

refuse disposal

“Why did they put up the sign,” I asked the driver, shaking my head as I returned to the car and put on my seat belt. “Do you think people will obey?”

“The first problem,” he said, “is that the people that it’s supposed for can’t even read it. When they see it, they will think it’s about 419.”

I nodded recalling the caveat emptor signs commonly seen on buildings and plots of land: This Property is Not For Sale; Beware of 419.

But, I was not sure if he had correctly estimated the literacy level in Lagos, Nigeria, because I was using the people in my circle, who can all read and write, as a gauge for the rest of society.

“Hmmm do you think it is fair for God to dirty their lives if they can’t read the sign?” I chuckled at the image in my mind of an angry God with smoking nostrils, waiting to rain trash on dissidents.

“I don’t know why they have to bring God into this matter. This thing is simple.” He went on to describe the current system of refuse collection initiated by the local government authorities.

“See,” he slowed down and pointed to a refuse heap, “they can throw their rubbish here . . . but only those who have paid, those that have cards.”

I have written about voluntary compliance before, marveling that Nigerians need the brutal arms of uniformed men to coerce compliance out of us like malu congo, yama yama congo—a derogatory chant that I cried out as a girl. It was aimed at cows being driven with a stick by a herdsman intent on the cows doing his bidding.

But as the driver and I exchanged ideas about efficient systems of refuse disposal and the role of government and religion, I observed that humans in general, were wild at heart, bucking at authority and searching for short cuts. That if law and order seemed to prevail in the western world, it wasn’t so much the result of “civilization”, but the result of sophisticated systems of policing—a speed camera mounted on a busy street ensured compliance without invoking the wrath of God.

I asked the driver what he thought people who aren’t able to pay the fee for refuse collection should do with their garbage.

“I don’t know o. Na wa! Only God can save this country!”

He had come full circle and now embraced a premise he had earlier rejected, why bring God into this matter? He (and I), had done more thinking about a social problem than we normally would have and that was not a bad start.

He brought me back to the present by interrupting my thoughts with a double entendre.

Madam, abeg leave trash for LAWMA!”

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

LAWMA- Lagos State Waste Management Authority.

Abeg leave trash for LAWMA– ordinarily, in this context, Pidgin English for: please allow Lagos State Waste Management Authority do their job.

(Abeg) leave trash for LAWMA– a hashtag on Twitter, the result of feuding between two Nigerian music producers. It has morphed into a slang that means (among other things), please talk about something else.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.