In 2005 I had a boss, a very kind man. He asked me this question: What do you want to do with the rest of your life?
I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with my life. I was like what, Twenty-five? But here’s one thing I knew for certain then: I wanted to write. So I told him, “I just want to write.”
He wasn’t buying it. He was a writer himself and he knew it was hell being a writer in Nigeria.
In 2005, all the publishers had died off. No one was buying novels. If you wanted to make a living as a serious writer, you had to be a journalist. But we were already journalists, he and I– at The Guardian, Nigeria’s biggest newspaper. And we were poor as dirt.
He told me to prepare for hardship. He’d been through the wringer himself so he should know what he was talking about.
If you were in the ringer, as a man, a time would come when you wouldn’t be able to provide for your family. If your wife had a good job, you would end up competing with her or you lose your self worth. You wouldn’t be the man anymore.
I was afraid and for a long time I made decisions based on that fear. I didn’t want to be in competition with my wife.
Here I am today, though, still writing. But I’m in advertising now. I’ve been doing it for 11 years. It’s been a good 11 years. I’ve learnt some business tricks to use in my writing hustle. But I still wonder.
I have friends who are just like me.
They left journalism and full-time writing. The went into banking. They took jobs in oil and gas, and government.
But they don’t like their jobs. They think they missed an opportunity to be great and happy instead of just being okay and not competing with their wives. When I talk to them now, they wish they’d made better plans.
Better plans. We didn’t know what those were.
We just wanted to be rich. No one knew what happiness was about or if it was important. In Nigeria, big clothes is big man and we’d all like to be like our role models and wear big clothes, too.
Last week a young friend asked me: “Do you have Master’s?”
No, I don’t have a Master’s degree.
“So it’s not important then,” she said.
Wait. What? Why?
“Since you don’t have a master’s degree and you’re a boss in an ad agency, it means it’s not important.”
Okay, hold on a minute, young lady. First of all, are you trying to be like me?
No, you’re not because I’m a copywriter and you want to be an account executive. On this subject, I’m not even qualified to mentor you.
I’ve not walked the walk you hope to walk. I’d suggest you find someone who’s currently living the life you want and ask them how they did it.
Also, know your strengths first. Ask yourself those questions about what fires you up; what gives you the feeling that anything is possible. Do not fall into the template everyone has used for decades and often have regretted.
“But that’s hard!”
If it’s not, everyone would have figured it out. But you know what? When you finally crack it, life design is a thing of joy. Nothing beats living according to your own choices.
Or else, give it 10 years and you could end up sitting in your nice little cubicle and wondering, am I still competing with the wife or have I won now?
In the meantime, this: