As promised in the previous article, I will be sharing some more lessons I learned growing up in the slum that have contributed to my personal and professional growth.
To Go Nowhere, Follow the Crowd: My parents sold some of the items I won from an Indomie essay competition (a washing machine and gas cooker) because we needed money and there was no space to keep the items in our 1-bedroom apartment. I was given N20,000, which was a substantial amount back in 2006. As a teenager, I thought of how to invest the money so I could use it to pay for my university tuition in the future. Buying stocks was the ‘in thing’ at the time, as everywhere you turn, there is either a stock investment seminar or people talking about someone’s stocks that tripled over a short period of time. Blinded by my excitement to become a teenage millionaire, I hopped on the bandwagon, bought some shares in the financial and FMCG sectors, contacted a stockbroker someone introduced me to, and gave him my certificates to manage, though I was troubled inside. Long story short, the stock market in Nigeria sank in late 2007 and worsened in 2008. The company handling my stock folded up, and I knew I had to double my savings from my meager income to fund my education. 2008 taught me very harsh but helpful lessons. With this setback, I learned how to do due diligence before making any decision – research and ask questions, weigh the pros and cons, and trust my instinct. That way, you are prepared for the consequences, whether good or bad. Most of the time, the crowd is just as ignorant as you are and will blame you when the chips are down. That experience whetted my research skill and inquisitiveness.
No One is Coming to Save You. Your Life is 100% your Responsibility: I got my first job in February 2007 at a hospital as a receptionist. While I was thinking of how to deny myself some luxuries so I could save more, the compound we lived in was razed by fire in 2008, leaving my family homeless. Each one had to look for a place to stay. My brother and I went to stay at my late aunt’s place in Apapa, which meant that we had to pay the rent, bills, and food. My elder brother was doing his internship then, and so he had limited income. My salary went from just being enough to never being enough. I painfully learned how to pay these bills at 19 and still save for school. That experience taught me the best lessons I would ever learn about financial literacy, self-discipline, adaptability, and resilience. Today, I manage my financial resources like a pro and see challenges as situations that make one creative, stronger, and wiser. I have gone through many difficult changes while growing up, that when I do not experience some form of change in my career and life, I ask questions, try to spice things up, or explore better ways of doing things. When you take responsibility for your life, you will discover how powerful you truly are in driving yourself to where you want to be because no one else knows your journey like you do. Stop the blame game; take responsibility for your life!
Celebrate People Now, Don’t Save It For Their Funeral: Like Patoranking sang, “Celebrate me now when I de alive,” it is crucial to appreciate and celebrate those in your life while you still have them. A woman shared a story of how her mother struggled and sacrificed a lot to see her and her siblings through school. She promised herself to build a house and celebrate her mother in an elaborate party organized in her honor when she started working, but her salary was barely enough for herself, let alone to fund her tall dreams for her mother. She kept hoping to do these big things in the future until she lost her mom. While giving an eulogy at her mom’s funeral, she realized she never told her mother those sweet words while she was alive. I heard this story as a child and decided to celebrate those around me in words and in little ways that I can, especially those who were there for me during my trying moments, because whatever you do for them when they are dead is a waste. I spent most of my free time as a teenager helping my mom at her tailoring shop. I saw how hard she and my dad worked and vowed to take care of them when I started working. It was difficult sharing my meager salary with anyone, but I started and have never stopped, even during those very hard times. Sometimes, they would refuse to accept the money because they knew I needed it more. When they do, I buy them gifts and tell them how I feel about them. Sometimes, my mom would just hug me so tightly without saying anything, but I could feel every unspoken word. Don’t just think about how kind or great people are; tell them, show them! That may have been all they badly needed at that moment. I have found out that the best way to save yourself the heartache and guilt of writing those long, fancy eulogies is to act now! Start with what you have, no matter how little. Celebrate people. Appreciate people for great and little things, regardless of who they are. There is never a better time to start than now, while they are still breathing!
Which of the lessons in the first and second parts of this article resonates with you the most? Please share in the comment section.