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All the things I was too drunk to say at my 4oth birthday party.

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

 

 

Blog Feature

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***.

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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.

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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.”

 

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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.

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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.

 

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Nevertheless we Persist

 

 

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Last Saturday I was invited to speak at an International Woman’s day event organised by the Smileers. The focus was on “what it takes to build something” I was invited to participate as founder of Path to Possibilities. Here are extracts from what I said:

Success is not lonely: You can’t do it by yourself, so tap into your support network and use them to propel you forward. For those who plan to get married, I said be wise about your choice of husband. Marry someone that loves you enough to support your dreams or your crazy adventure. Your choice of partner can be the difference between soaring or stagnation, it may even derail you completely. No marriage is worth a derailment from purpose.

If you marry a man who expects you to be the sole child carer, sole home maker, or to always take care of his needs first, this may not be compatible with your own individual goals. Much respect to women who have no dreams or aspirations outside of their immediate family, feminism is about informed choice, with no value judgement – family may be enough fir some . But as I said, for me, and for some women our husband, and our children are part of our world, not our world.

Define success on your own terms: Do not let the noise of the world define what success is for you. It may not be CEO. It may not be a six figure salary. It may not be the trappings of wealth or drive for more and more material things. It may be at odds with what everyone considers to be successful. Success is individual to you and your values. Success is rarely compartmentalised either, so you should see it manifesting in every area of your life once values are aligned.

Strengths and weaknesses: in trying to develop ourselves we sometimes think we must always improve on all our weaknesses first. And that we can’t move forward until this has been developed. Sometimes this leads us to focus obsessively on those areas we are not good at at the detriment of understanding our strengths and letting that strength guide us into spaces where we will flourish.

Knowing our weaknesses is important, but the rhetoric that suggests developing them is instrumental to success can be flawed. I used body building as an analogy. I said I apply the principles of bodybuilding into my style of exercise or training. Body builders in general split their training into body parts; so one day they may work legs, next day they work arms, another day shoulders, next is back – you get my drift. There is an intense focus on splitting and training muscle groups together, this system works very efficiently because no part is neglected. Now because bodybuilders do this, they are also very much aware of their weak areas. I know for me my weakest spot is my abdominal- I’ve had two kids and muscle separation and quite frankly it’s been stretched to wrinkles. For a while I obsessed about my abs, I tried to train it hard but then realised it was making my muscle separation worse, so I stopped training it hard, I got stricter on my diet, but then I realised I was cutting out too many things because they bloated me, which made my abs appear worse. I focused so much on my abs I started to forget about how great it felt to be active, or how great my legs were looking or my shoulders, and my back. My point is yes we all have weaknesses, but overly focusing on them may stop us appreciating our strengths and even limit our drive to go to places we can occupy inspite of our weaknesses. The founder of the Smileers Francesca Danmole said ” you can simultaneously be a masterpiece and a work in progress” this is my belief too. Do not let your weaknesses be the excuse. It doesn’t have to hold you back. You don’t have to be perfect to succeed! You don’t need to tick all the boxes. Your strengths can take you far.

Stop waiting for affirmation: I was asked what piece of advice I’d give another female starting their career and I said I’ll say stop waiting for people to congratulate you, to promote you, or to value you. You wouldn’t always get the recognition you deserve or the promotion – if it’s not happening and you’ve asked and it’s not happening then leave! You don’t have to stay in the same job, or on the same path, you can leave. Sometimes the old adage is true ” a queen is not recognised in her own queendom”

I was asked why I stated the charity Path to Possibilities and my answer was simply. I am
here today, not because I’m special, or brighter, or more intelligent , I’m here because I’m standing on the shoulders of many other women who helped my mother. My efforts to educate other children is born out of that knowledge. My greatest hope is that many more of us will realise that we didn’t do it alone and that we can be instrumental in changing and touching other peoples life’s. and although it often seems like a Herculean and thankless task we owe a duty and a responsibility to God, the universe or Mother Earth not just to take, but to give back.

If you would like to join me in making a difference please come and run with me on 1 July 2017 in North London. We will be fundraising to keep more children in education. Last year Path to Possibilities established a library which we can only keep open with support. Please sign up for our annual race, if you raise £50 you’ve done more than enough to help us. http://www.race4change.co.uk

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Above is a picture of the centre I’m desperate to keep open!

happy international women’s  day.