As part of my transformation/growth journey, all my readings and the podcast talk about looking within and healing past trauma to be able to move forward. So I am looking back, reflecting and musing over the past two decades; what was and what could have been …
In the January 2000, with an 8 year old daughter and one year old son in hand and my mum visiting from Nigeria, I received an offer to London School of Economics to study an IT course I had applied for. I looked at the cost and thought definitely not! If I had that amount of money (£7K), I could do so many other things (talk about being naive)! A time when the dot.com/digital age was taking off, what a move that could have been & in hindsight, what doors a post-graduate qualification from the University would have opened!
I however, went on to take a one week temporary role in a charity organisation as a purchase ledger clerk (in spite of holding a degree in Business Administration and another in Finance & later on, to complete a masters degree in Finance & Administration). That temporary role became a ten and a half year job in which I grew to become the professional I am today. I had a great mentor in my line manager to whom I owe a lot of my work ethics, diligence.
The charity organisation, I describe as my “professional training ground” – every time I thought/had plans to move on, opportunities to learn & grow opened up.
After ten and a half years however, I bid farewell to my “professional training ground” & took on a role in The Gambia, where I was responsible for the organisation’s operations; with support from the Directors in UK.
At this point, my daughter had just finished the first year of her law degree and my son had just finished his first year of secondary school. We all travelled to be with my dad for his 70th birthday. Turned out to be a great reunion as my brothers also came home with their families (last time we were all together before my mum’s passing last year).
On the first week I settled in to work, I received a call that my daughter was in a condition that I later got to know was a “mental breakdown” and was later diagnosed to be “bipolar”!
What in the wold is that? I had no clue and was in no way prepared for anything like this; I was distraught! To make it worse, I couldn’t immediately get to her as there was only one flight out per week! I eventually made it out to her, where she was in hospital and on medication. My brothers (who fortunately hadn’t returned to their bases after dad’s birthday) and her god-mother held space for me until I got to her; I am so grateful for them and the role we continue to play in each others’ life. Thus began a four year journey!
I was eventually able to bring my daughter home where she received further medical attention. After about three months being monitored and medically cared for, we agreed it was best to defer her studies for a year, so we returned to The Gambia together, where I resumed work. My daughter returned back to her studies after about a year with me, with support from an NHS appointed case worker, but relapsed. It was a really difficult time balancing work and being there for my daughter, but we were fortunate that by the time she relapsed she had been allocated a new case worker, who turned out to be a God send (and who continues to be in our life to this day)! The universe does indeed have my back! Every time I was about to give up my job, she’d tell me not to and that if I needed to be there, she’d let me know.
I held on to my job, but I was in despair, crying and praying at night, consumed with work during the day (I guess it helped keep the worry at bay). My son was in boarding school in Nigeria, where I eventually also took up a job, after almost two years in The Gambia. I recall (and chuckle) a day when his god-mother, who was listed as his guardian called me while I was still working in The Gambia, to tell me the school had called to say he had an injury and she had been asked to pick him up: I burst into tears at my office desk! At that moment, I felt like the world was caving in on me; it turned out to be nothing serious, but just the thought of something being wrong with another of my children was too much to fathom.
To this day I question myself; was it my fault that my daughter had a mental breakdown, was it because I took up a job outside the U.K. at that time, should I have given up my job, so many questions I ask myself, but then I tell myself I am not that important to have been the cause (but who knows)! I am however grateful for my daughter’s transformation today, I am so proud of the woman she has grown (and continues to grow) to be.
When I listen to the news and see the care available for mental health and how young adults who have breakdowns/episodes sometimes have to be held in police cells, I empathise with the families, but am also reminded that in spite of my family’s experience with mental health we have reason for gratitude in respect of the timing (as it was at what now seems to be the early stages of what is proving to be a global epidemic amongst young adults) and based on our experience, there was sufficient resources for my daughter to be able to access the care she required at the time.
My son returned to U.K. a couple of years before I did. I also returned when he insisted he needed me to be in the U.K. I resigned with a plan to also use the the opportunity of being jobless, to reflect and figure out which direction I wanted to go with regards living my dream. Fortunately or you might say unfortunately, but I choose to put it down to timing (I believe everything happens in the right time for each of us) my employers offered me a role in the U.K. office where I got to work from home!
I accepted the offer and six years on, I am where I am still in employment (changed jobs, grew professionally and am now a Director and still dreaming of things I would like to do to be of service), but am now beginning this journey of self-discovery, reflection and finding my purpose (and trying to conquer the fear holding me back from stepping out to live my dreams).
Of course, I can’t reflect on the last two decades without a mention of my personal life. I feel that I have been very naive in my relationships, sometimes compromising on who I am , but I am glad I eventually stood up for who I am. Of course that has meant not being in a relationship for quite a few years. This again is something I beat myself up about; not being able to have provided my children with an example of what a great relationship looks like (as we all know, children learn by what we do)!
In spite of my thoughts about what could have been and questioning of what I should or could have done; I truly have no regrets about the journey so far, rather I am full of gratitude for where the journey has led me and for the opportunity of time to be able to commence this new journey
I believe the time is now (it is not too late, but time won’t always be there) to work on myself, to practice more mindfulness and gratitude and go do those things that truly fulfil me; and hopefully along the way, attract someone who is also on a spiritual journey of mindfulness and wholesomeness.
Next steps for me:
- Keep addressing any past traumas
- Find my purpose/my why and start “doing” rather than just “dreaming” and building castles in my head
What are you doing to live your dreams?