This year, I celebrate my 29th year birthday. I am so emotional about it, but at the same time, I’m also grateful for the opportunity that life has given me. There is a science to success, but fulfillment is an art. The art of fulfillment determines the worth you attach to your life.
5 things I’m happy I know going into my 29th year
Being true to myself
It had been very difficult for me to be myself before now. The world is binary and there are so many boxes you have to check. If you refuse to check those boxes, people begin to label you a rebel and call you a lot of terrible names. They want you to define yourself or find a label that fits you; black or white, gay or straight, man or woman. I myself have not found one single box that defines my identity as a black, gay man, and also a refugee. With an accent, and 6 ft tall, I just want to be myself, I just want to be a human being.
Being true to yourself is taking responsibility. Responsibility is knowing that people will have opposing views, but are you bold enough to stand by what you say? There have been times in my life when I said things I believed in but quickly changed my perspective when someone came at me with an intimidating tone or look. Then, I refused to stand up for myself in places where I should have.
It is a good thing to ask for feedback from family and friends, but follow what you believe in. And, that is being true to yourself. Life is too long to always play by the rules. Only people who took the bold step of being seen as a rule breaker end up changing the outlook of life forever. For both themselves and the people around them. People who disobeyed for love are now respected 50 years after the riot in stone wall, New York.
Now I’m 29 years old, and I’m really happy to have a grasp of the idea. Even though I still fail at standing up sometimes, I am glad I’m now aware of the patterns.
2. Confidence builds by doing
I had planned to do several things but ended up doing nothing at all. I failed to act. You have no idea of what you can do unless you try. A typical example is the Facebook and Instagram brands. They both started out on a small platform but are now brands known worldwide. I started out my career as a very shy public speaker, but now I am more than a public speaker. With little English writing skills, I wrote my first book, and now I’m constantly writing blogs. The more I write, the better I become. I have been able to start a podcast, register a business, on and on, I even performed a play in Studio 54.
Many people I know have these same ideas, but they haven’t implemented any as I have done. And, this is because they are taking too much time to prepare. Yes, planning before execution is good, but no product is a finished one. It’s a constant work in progress with feedback. Always remember that there’s no perfect launch. If you continue to read how to play soccer in a book for six years, and someone is playing soccer for six years. The one who has been playing and practicing for six months will beat you 99% of the time on the field of play.
You have to start from somewhere and improve your skills, never paralyze your ideas due to the idea of perfection. Everything improves with time.
3. Document more
Documenting is better than creating. When you document more of your life events, it gives you the volume of content. Good creators are not born, they document, and it helps them to express depth in context.
Documenting is the most important resource at your disposal. Now, I wish I recorded many of my experiences and the countless things I’ve said. I would have liked to know how I was when I was three years old, or when I was nine years old. I also wish I could show people my place of birth, and how difficult it was for me to have food to eat sometimes. Compared to where I am right now. I want to play back some tapes, look at some pictures, and say to my younger self or myself today; Edafe, look back at the last 15 years and see how much you have grown. Just keep your ship flowing, you will get answers to all the questions you have now, just as you found answers to the ones you had as a child. Questions like if you would be able to graduate from university, if you would be able to enter into a plane, and so many other funny questions.
Living in the United States, I wish I recorded myself the day I was released from the detention center. I wish I had the recording of what I said would come out of my life as a newcomer in America. I’m in the United States not by my design, but I would have loved to use it to show people how humble my childhood was.
4. My health is more important
Before I moved to America, I never took notice of the lack of proper health care I experienced all my life. I’ve seen the dentist just once in my life and I was 27 years old at that time. I don’t do physical body examinations except I fall sick, and admitted for either malaria or typhoid. Little did I know that the act of caring for my mental health was very crucial to my overall well-being. Growing up, I had so many traumas which I never paid attention to. I was too afraid to pay attention to them because of the stigma attached to mental health where I come from. In Nigeria and most parts of Africa, mental health is almost considered as only manic bipolar. People take depression and anxiety as boredom or lack of friends. I have been persecuted, harassed, blackmail and stigmatized. These actions left a stain, and I needed to address them. Now I’m more cautious of both my physical health as much as my mental health.
Growing up, I never knew what a vacation was. I mean, I saw people traveling and all, but I never knew you had to set aside a specific period of time to relax and decompress. Your health is more important than work! If you are no more, work will continue after a few days of mourning. If you are burnt out, it’ll be difficult for you to provide for yourself and your family. Health is the number one factor in building a beautiful life.
5. Explore more Trying new things
It is never too late to explore life. Life at the end is what you make of it. And, I believe the experiences you create, is the life you have lived. You can choose to fight for people, but you cannot fight a good fight if you are ignorant of what you are fighting for. Your ideas do not have much weight if you have never experienced what you are preaching. All my life, I have been too careful to fail, too cautious to experimentalize. I was forced to flee my home country. I didn’t leave on my own free will. Henceforth, I want to do things on my own free will.
I have been too afraid to lose, called gay, seen as a black man in a white-dominated country, and of my identity. But now, I’m ready to explore what life has in stock for me.
Happy 29th Birthday to me. And, I hope you’ll learn from my insight and experiences to act on your life.