I stepped into the office compound at exactly 7:20am this Wednesday morning, smartly dressed in a grey corporate gown, a black jacket and a touch of red from my bag, 4 inch heeled peep-toe shoes and accessories. Work does not start until 8:00am, so I had about 40minutes to prep myself for the day’s work.
I briskly walked into the office and as usual acted like I did not hear
the greetings that some of my colleagues seated at the reception gave me, I wonder why they still bother to greet me as I almost never responded to their salutations each time they did and even when I did, it was usually a mutter of nonsense while I walk past them. I got to the office I shared with other Executive Assistants of Directors, walked straight to my table without saying a word of hello to anyone, pulled out my seat and sat down. I switched on the black Dell desktop which had been my work buddy since I resumed at K&U Foods Limited, logged on to Yahoo, scanned through my mail to see if I had gotten any reply from the job vacancies I had been applying for since the beginning of the month, but as usual, nothing. I logged on to LinkedIn to see if any recruiter had found me worthy of an employment, instead, I saw that I had 72 messages. “72 messages? Why?” I asked out loud not expecting a reply from anyone, as I clicked on the message icon to figure it out myself. Reading through the messages, I realized that everyone in the world was celebrating my second year working with my firm, except me.
‘’What! Today makes it two years that I have worked for this company’’ I said aloud, this time expecting a reply from my colleagues as I lifted my eyes from the computer screen and looked at the five people I have been working with for two years now -three talkative ladies (all from the same tribe), speaking their native language at every given opportunity and two decent young men who are too nice to a fault, it annoyed me-. They looked at me weirdly then echoed “Congratulations” with obvious disinterest, but what was I really expecting? A feast? With the way I gave little or no interest to anything they had to say that was not work related. Now, that familiar sad feeling started to build up.
I peeped at my wrist watch to be see if I could afford a little time to go and talk myself back to my place of sanity –This, by the way, is my ritual. Whenever I feel down, I go to a corner and talk myself into positivity. And this day, with the realization that I had spent 2 years of my life stuck in a job I did not really enjoy doing, I needed all the positivity there was on earth- It was 7:35am, which meant that I had 25 minutes to do my mumbo-jumbo ritual before work started. I quickly minimized everything that was up on my system and stepped out of my office. I went to one of the company’s pool cars which the drivers usually left open as a favour for staff who got to work really early to take quick naps in before work started. I opened the car and sat on the passenger’s seat, shut the door and then the words started to rush out of my mouth:
“2 years? 2 years Becky! How did you do 2 years here?” -I paused, took a deep breath then continued- “Oh my God! I have been on this thing for 2 years. I wake up by 5am, take 30 minutes to shower and get dressed, leave my house at exactly 5:30am in order to avoid the Lekki-Ajah traffic and get to work before 8am and days when I leave at past 5:30am, I certainly get to work late –past 8am- and then portions of my salary gets deducted as a punishment for my lateness.
Then, the work: I type and reply emails for my boss, attend some meetings with him and type minutes of the meetings, have my lunch cum break time for 30 minutes at 1:30pm and then get back to work and make sure I do not leave the office until he has left. Shut down my system at 7pm and some days when work is really crazy at 9pm, get home between 9pm to 11pm really fagged out.
And my colleagues: they must really think that I am one angry soul, an impression about me that I made very easy for them to have. If only I could show them me, my inside, make them know that I have a lot of me that I have not dealt with, make them know that I used to be really sweet and caring when I was in my element. Where then has the sweetness gone to?
“I do not look forward to anything my day consisted of: waking up really early in the morning, the monotonicity of my work and then the long walks to my house from my estate gate and back. Usually, when I take the walk home each day, the people around the street always stare at me funny, probably thinking that I am mad, because I always talk to myself, talk about new stories I come up with, editing the stories, correcting some parts, chuckling aloud while I play all the characters of the story as I take the long walk from Abraham Adesanya estate gate, through to street 6B till I get to the gate of the one bedroom mini-flat I shared with my sister.
The conversation with myself helps me ignore the darkness of the night and the fact that the security men with all the muscles they had equipped themselves with and enjoyed flaunting are stationed only at the estate gate which is a far cry from my street and an even farther cry from my house. At the beginning, I would plug my earpiece to my ears so that people who saw me would think that I was either talking to someone on the phone or listening to music and singing alongside. One month… four months and I stopped caring about what they thought, I would just talk myself through the walk but made sure I was done with the talks once I got to my sister’s gate.
I shut my eyes for about 2 minutes and then continued, “What kind of life is this? I would soon be 25, I am certainly not that little girl any more who needed the world’s approval before she sought happiness. I cannot go on living my life for someone else. I can’t shut out who I really am to be who some else wants me to be.”
My Boss’s call jerked me back to reality, I peeped at my wrist watch and then gasped, it was 8:30am. How did I lose track of time? I quickly opened the car, stepped out and headed straight to his office.
“Becky, where have you been?” He was shouting, “It is 8:30am now and you still haven’t sent the mail to… what is wrong with you?” His voice suddenly softened, I looked up in surprise, “Have you been crying?” He asked?
Astonished, I lifted my right hand to my cheeks and felt the wetness of my tears on it. I had been crying all along and I did not even realize it. He gestured that I sit on the guest seat directly in front of his table and I did, slowly, in an obviously tired way.
“Mr Bankole, I sincerely cannot work today, I don’t feel up to it, please” I heard myself say, then I felt hot tears roll down my eyes.
“I have a lot of meetings to attend today, but you have never asked for a day off since you started working with us” He replied, then paused for a while as though he was considering my request, then he said, “No problem, you can go. Bukky will cover for you”.
“Thank you Sir” I replied, surprised at his response and quickly stood up as though I was scared that if I stayed there an extra minute he would come back to his senses and stop me from leaving. I got to my desk, with my face down in an effort not to meet the prying eyes of my colleagues. I picked up my bag, shut down my system and headed out of the office. At the gate, I boarded a keke –the very popular tri-cycle in Nigeria and our fastest means of transportation in Victoria Island - to Adeola Odeku junction in Victoria Island, then a bus going to CMS and then another going to Ikeja. I alighted at Ikeja under-bridge, walked down to computer village –the home of all thing electronic- headed to Slot store where I was sure I could get reliable phones, computer and their accessories. I purchased a grey HP Pentium Intel laptop for N150,000 which was way more than half my savings, but I didn’t mind; then I went back home feeling like a heavy load which I had no idea I was carrying had been lifted off my chest.
“This is the turning point for me. Today and the rest of my life, I make decisions for me. Going forward, I will work for K&U Foods Limited from 8:00am to 7:00pm and then write for Talk2urHommie blog thereafter. My first story will be my journey to my blogging life… How I started to live my dreams might just be the title”, I kept muttering these words to myself as I made my way home.
At home, I picked up my sister’s black hard drive that laid on the floor just beside her laptop in the room we shared, turned on my laptop and began to install Microsoft office and then I said out loud with a wide smile, almost like I was talking to “a me” that I could not see “Becky, let us make history”.
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