Free Yourself

Recently, I’ve been reminiscing on “the good times”, and for some reason, I have heavy rose-tinted glasses on thinking about my childhood. Anyway, what I’ve really been reflecting on is the freedom and bravery of youth. 

I have never ever been described as shy. Rambunctious, lively, talkative, exuberant were all words (rightly) used to describe me, and as long as I was doing well at school my parents really didn’t mind or try hard to change that about me. I had a bunch of friends and was involved in a number of extracurriculars. So for a while, before society started to kind of, sort of, mind my business for me, I was free. 

I was terrible at picking my own clothes, but my mum would get tired of arguing with me and let me express myself, and what I would choose was a fashion disaster. But I liked it, and I loved the way it made me feel, so that was all that mattered. I asked a lot of “annoying” and repetitive questions in class. However, most of my teachers seemed to care about making sure I understood things and didn’t call my questions stupid, so I learned a lot. I have always enjoyed dancing but before puberty hit, I would really break it down on the dance-floor. I remember once being sprayed at another kid’s birthday party at the height of my reign as Lagos’ most formidable child dancer. I have asked my parents for that money several times over the years but so far they’ve been pretending not to know what I’m talking about. I was also keen on trying new things. Not worried about being “bad” at it. You know, enjoying life with zest, and vim (and no worries too, but that’s what having zero bills and obligations will do to you).  

I miss all those things, but what I really miss the most is curiosity. The world does an amazing job of discouraging curiosity. Culture, religion, family, work, and the daily grind seem to conspire against cultivating and maintaining curiosity. Let’s not even get into the shame now attached to admitting a lack of knowledge. It’s all so bizarre. How can it be more stupid to look for knowledge than to pretend to know? HOW? 

I really do think we have been living lives that are not as full or happy, because we are weighed down by what others think of us, even in the mundane. We don’t laugh as we would like to, or dance, or travel, or change careers, or start new hobbies, or new side hustles, or date, or break up, or dress as we would like. In the big and small things, we’ve boxed ourselves into corners and seethe in silent resentment, wishing and hoping we could be free. I’m working at freeing myself, one step at a time, and hope I don’t lose my nerve in the process. Life is too short, and 2020 has shown us that anything can happen to cost you the time you already don’t have enough of. Why waste time overly bothered about what people think about your decisions, especially as you are not hurting them or you? 

What have you become more encumbered about chasing or doing as you’ve gotten older? 

23 Comments

  • Precious Okhimamhe

    To live. Just breath and leave. I never knew growing up would take away the choice to just live and breath when you want to. Sometimes, I just don't want to work but I know I need the money, I just want to lay in bed and sleep till 12pm sometimes on Mondays, but no, I have to join 3rd mainland bridge as early as 5 or 6am. Sometimes I don't want to cook but instead just sleep and have food by my side or being called to come for already prepared breakfast but no, I have to make my own meal or starve and even if I want the other life, na money. I want to party hard till 7am anytime I want, but you know, you have to wait till it's the weekend. Phew! Call it laziness if you like, I would rather call it the desire to live. The choice to catch a breather is much harder as an adult than ever and I hope as 2021 comes, I am able to live and breath even more.

    • Adebusayomi Oyeneye

      This is exactly how I feel and at times I feel so bad for it because I also want to do otherwise. I don't think there's anything more satisfying, at least to me, than making my own money and in my own little way, changing the world. But then, I also want to be a trophy wife enjoying old money🤷‍♀️

  • Olatoyosi

    Growing up, I was the child with so many opinions who couldn't express them. Largely because I was shy and didn't want to be seen as stupid or an 'I Too Know' (ITK). But now, I'm unlearning silence and speaking out more, when I know it won't hurt anyone to hear my voice.

  • Olasomi

    I generally over work myself but I'm learning how to just be still not because I don't have money to make or responsibilities but because sometimes it's not about how much I put in and it's okay to figure it out.

  • nelly jonas

    It's like there's a long list of things we should and shouldn't do and it just places us in this invisible box. I have all this guilt and anxiety whenever I try to break out of the box, constantly worrying about what people will think or say. The interesting thing is that I'm learning no one actually cares what I do😀😀 It's difficult because I'm fighting against years of ingrained behaviour but I'm slowly getting to that point where I understand that it's how I feel that matters most. Thanks, Jollz!

  • Ada

    2020 really was the year I sat down and asked myself, "all this for what?" The cycle of people-pleasing gradually makes you forget yourself and push your real ambitions/desires into a corner. For me, I'd always loved the fashion world and longed to be a part of it in some way. I consumed as many fashion magazines as I could find when I was younger; it was all so fascinating to me. I don't know how it happened, but between secondary school and rigorous years of med school in uni, I gave up on that dream, told myself I could never. I didn't think seriously of it till the pandemic and lockdown hit, and I begun askig myself important questions. I don't want want to live my life and tell my children about my "what ifs" and "maybes". I want to be positively adventurous and live my life boldly. For me this was a huge turning point, and though I'm currently not doing any fashion-related projects at the moment, my mind is opened up to the possibilities and I definitely believe I can do it. You write really beautifully Jola, congratulations on Happy Noisemaker!

  • Mariee

    To me, I've lived in a cage all my life, figuratively. I'm the highest form of introvert one can be. I doubt if I've been able to express myself the way i want to. Everything about me is by design from my parents, the clothes, shoes, school..In fact my mum once told me that so long she still pays my bills, that i have no opinion. So I'm working really hard to make sure i break free. I'm doing little gigs online to get enough money and start a side hustle next year. But one thing they weren't able to cage is my mind. I have a free mind. *Tems free mind playing in the background* Lol.

  • Maryam Abdullahi

    To answer your last question- Becoming a full fledged writer. I was praised for my work as a adolescent and teenager but when I turned 21, I started feeling like there was no point trying because I wasn’t as good as others. 21 was when self realization set in and when I started to see myself as less than. I have a whole 55 page book of unpublished poems, an unfinished novel and a bunch of short stories that will never see the light of day because I’m afraid of the shame that comes with failure.

  • Vee

    I've felt caged since my awkward teenage years. I used to be a gifted, carefree child then I became taller than everybody with absolutely no breasts. Got bullied and received "teasing" comments from family and friends, of course and I never quite regained my confidence. This lack of confidence spread from just my physical appearance to my intellectual abilities and my talents. I genuinely feel stifled and trapped. My therapist goes on and on about putting myself out there and working on self love but Jola it's so hard. People on the internet and even in real life can be so cruel in their assessments of other people's appearance and their works. I'm not sure I can recover if I get picked on again. I want to live, find myself and be her. I hope I'm bold enough to. On another note, I love your blog. You're doing amazing.

  • Debs

    Growing up, I was taught that you don't talk too much, you play it safe and religion did not help matters too. But as I got older I realised that I needed to come out of that cage and explore

  • Gbeke

    Yes,I will live again and be free. People look at me like I’m crazy when I show curiosity or do something out of the norm(God forbid that I want to wear a bikini to the beach). I needed this,I want to be happy again.

  • Funmilola Agoro

    So relatable. 2020 has really revealed how fragile life can be. I have been working from home so have had lots of time to reflect. I have had time to review what brings me joy, what are my priorities, who and what are important to me. Also I have learnt to have boundaries and protect my mind and peace. I take breaks from social media and learning to slow down, focus on my own race and not be distracted by comparison. Learning to slow down and be more present. Stay blessed and hope 2021 will be an even better year.

  • Chi

    Feel like I've lived a sheltered life for most parts. I never really allowed myself to live, explore, make mistakes like my mates.

  • Favour Atomon

    Living. Living unapologetically. Comparison and a chase for perfection coupled with the fear of what people will think formed the walls which prevented me from just doing what I loved and trying née things. That’s why in 2021, one of my mottos is to just live freely, and unapologetically. To write, learn new languages, explore new parts of me and not be afraid to take chances. This is one of the most relatable blog posts I’ve read in a while (I’m a first time reader). Thank you.

  • Olugee

    It's the 'wondering what other will think' that I am trying to break away from...I was a rule follower as a child, I think. Was too buried in fiction to actually live what I read. Now it's harder to break away. But i am trying, I want to have fun doing silly things and just be happy, not wondering if this person knows me or not.

  • Elyon

    I definitely miss the freedom and the absence of worry in my childhood. As I have gotten older, I am burdened by my need to nurture friendships and maintain a healthy support system. I think having that in itself can be freeing because you have the backing to be vulnerable

  • Tosin Toriola

    I have recently started my journey of being free. Growing up, I never knew what freedom was, I grew up with a single mum who for the most of raising myself and my sister, was still navigating life, discovering herself, and breaking free from the judgmental society she lives in. And so, for so long, I was controlled by this person who didn't know how but was only guessing. Now that I'm being free, there are many things I am doing now that I wish I had done as a child, grow up doing them and continue, my self-esteem and confidence would've been on A1!

  • Shalewarh

    I miss lot of things I used to be as a kid/teenager. Why I'm not at the top of my game in academics, why I'm a kinda sick child, why my body is the way it is, why my mom sees me as the black sheep of the family, lots of whys but I'm still yet to work towards getting free. I just hope I can

  • Munibbyy

    Just trying out new things without the fear of failing at it holding me back. When I was younger, I tried my hands at a lot of things - bead making, singing, dancing, rapping, writing music, fashion designing, learning a new language, anything. I excelled at some and failed at most, but at least I did it and didn't care about the outcome. Now I've become more reserved and there's this fear of venturing into new fields and failing that always lingers in my mind, and I end up not doing what I wanted to

  • Maxxie

    I think I'm doing better at freeing myself. I just need to make lots of money to be great at it. At the moment, I've changed careers, which is a good thing. I hope that by the middle of 2021, I can change careers again. As I've gotten older, I've been more encumbered with making money, but it's never enough. Black tax is also killing me. The next thing I want to get better at is my sexual expression. Pheww. PS: play Sam Smith's Young.

  • Crowchay

    To just be myself. Even as I child, I was never allowed to be myself. I had to act a certain way, dress a certain way, be a certain way because it made my parents look good. I'm very tired of doing that now and everybody seems to think I've become unruly just because I'm asking to just be myself. I just need to leave home

  • Fikayo

    I've lived a sheltered life. 2020 made me realise a lot of things, I can't wait for things to settle down a lot more so I can try out alot of things on my own, I have passion for a lot of things but I haven't had the opportunity to try them out. I look forward to moving out to a country that works and just try things out.

  • Ehi Osimhen

    Growing up I was the quiet, stubborn and temperamental child. I was often judged harshly for not conforming, not being like my siblings, not having the same interests as others etc. Sometimes it feels like all my life, I've had to fight to be able to express myself and it takes a toll on you. It has left me really doubtful of myself and I have let go of opportunities because of this. Recently I was deliberately on starting something and I felt the fear grip me physically. I'm taking it one day at a time anyway but I hope to be free someday

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