I was going to give a powerful speech on my 40th birthday but I was deliriously tipsy I can’t remember anything I said, and I know for sure no one else can either. So it’s a good thing I blog. Here are some reflections so far which does not include my heartfelt thank you to everyone who has helped me on my journey thus far
The 40’s Blues
When January snuck its horrid pale head through I went into a sulk, a sulk I struggled to get out of for months. If I’m honest it was more than a sulk, it was a full blown sad mood, but not quite a depression. It was all the more annoying because friends and family constantly reminded me that I was going to turn 40 this year! Like I didn’t know. And they kept asking what the celebratory plans were, when I was in no celebratory mood. And when I showed my disdain, they reminded me of all my blessings which was equally as irritating as reminding me I was about to turn 40. If 40 hits you like it hit me, just let the low moods take its course, wallow if you must, it will pass, especially if you have good friends prepared to hear you moan and bitch.
The vanity of becoming invisible
For me 40 was that age when I firmly became middle age and invisible. I was no longer a youngish female, no longer in my prime of attractiveness. As a feminist I felt completely disappointed with myself for even letting society or its standards of beauty f*** with my head, but it did. And whether you agree or not, women become more and more invisible as they age. The box that society tries to enclose us in gets even smaller. All of a sudden there are even more rules; you ought not to wear certain things, go to certain places, or get too drunk. Even I, had created rules for myself prior to turning 40, useless rules. I once announced on Facebook, at the age of 35 or so that I was going to give-up my hot pants at 40. I will not. I’ve changed my mind. I have great legs! Science also conspires against us. these are facts. Your metabolism slows down by 2%. Your muscle tone is down by 7 pounds from 10 years ago. Your libido declines because of hormonal changes. Stress is higher because of worries about kids, parents, career and finances. the worry is real! I slept at 1:00am yesterday completely in a wreck about whether my daughter would get into the extremely selective free school in our area. And research shows that depression is more likely now than in later in life. What the actual f***.
There is no such thing as perfection
My late 30’s were amazing because I embraced my imperfections more and I relinquished any attempt to them from others. Chasing perfection, or wanting others to see you or your lifestyle as perfect will keep you entrapped in a world where you can’t express your need for support. You will be trapped in a world where you can’t relax. You will be trapped in a world where you can’t be open and honest with your friends or family about the challenges you are facing. And the saddest thing is you will limit your connection with people. You will limit deeper understanding, insight, and even respect, because your pursuit of perfection keeps everything on the surface. I am not perfect. And my greatest delight in my 30’s was being able to reveal that to others. My relationship is not perfect. My children are not perfect. My finances – not perfect. Sometimes my children go out wearing the most ridiculous clothes, because they choose it, and because I’d rather let their own identity develop without superficial interruptions from me, than worry about whether they look or are perceived as well-turned out. My daughter got a shocking 22% in a maths paper! I actually was stunned into silence!! Sometimes I snap at my husband and he at me for the most ridiculous reasons and!! and on a good day you will see me in London looking disheveled, without a scrap of makeup because I am not not not not about that perfect lifestyle. Perfection is a burden and a trap. And it would keep you from excelling. Let it goooooooooo.
Walk in your own light always
I have always hated and dreaded failure, so much so that I was probably handicapped by it in my 20’s. But things changed as I turned 30. I can’t tell you specifically what changed, but it sure had something to do with reading a fantastic quote by Marianne Williamson.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
In my 30’s I stepped outside of my box on numerous occasions because I remembered this quote. For years I wanted to start a charity but held back because I knew there would be critics (myself being the biggest one), not least because anything attached to Nigeria lends itself to criticism, some well-deserved, some not. I also knew I didn’t necessarily have all the expertise I needed, and I’m certainly not Mary Slessor. However, reading that quote nearly 10 years ago gave me the confidence to dare a little bit more, step out a little bit more. I have learnt the importance of showing the different aspects of me, and I’ve become even more content as an individual for this freedom. There is Titilolami the philanthropist, the career woman, the fitness lover, the scandalous dresser, the wife, the mum, and more to come. Being true to all of those facets is a recipe for self-actualisation and contentment. We as women can be more than wives and mums if we choose to be. But it is not easy. I have always had to fight and be resolutely stubborn in the quest to be myself. You cannot do it if the approval of others is important to you. And for someone who is not religious I seek only God’s approval.
My greatest achievement yet
My greatest achievement till date is the charity Path to Possibilities. All from an idea that we could do more collectively. With the hard work of volunteers this charity has established a learning Resource Centre in Ikota, Lagos. This is a purposely designed building offering free access to books, other learning resources and soon computers. The center opened in November 2016, and it is used by over 300 children each week now!. A video link is attached here https://youtu.be/Llk5qJpstDQ. We built a Borehole for Idale primary school in Ogun State, Nigeria. This school had no access to water for 50 years. We built and fully kitted two libraries for Asarudin secondary school in Ondo State Nigeria, and Idale primary school in Ogun State. We are currently sponsoring 11 children in full time secondary education at Caleb International School (Lekki and Magodo branches). We currently support three secondary school graduates, our first scholarship recipient is in Imo state University studying Government and Politics.
This has been possible with my full time job, my role as wife and mum because I decided to step out of my comfort zone. When you think about the lives you might inspire, the lives you can affect, not to talk about the personal satisfaction of beginning to realize your own potential why wouldn’t you step out. This applies not just to charitable deeds but to everyday life; that business you are planning to start may be the business that pulls someone out of poverty because you offered that someone a job. That job you are afraid to apply for (once you get it) may be the catalyst which propels someone below you to aim higher, work harder. When you shine you give others permission to shine and to sometimes outshine you. You give them permission to walk in their own light, even if you are just beginning to glow in yours.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE 40’s
There is so much left in me and death is my motivator. I told my friend recently that when you have grown up knowing death at a young age, my father died when I was about 6 or 7. That certainty that you might not live till old age can be the best motivator for living your best life. There is more to come because death is certain.