Becoming Mindfulness vulnerability

Breaking Free from Biases: A Journey of Self, Forgiveness and Growth

When we say ‘forgiveness,’ we often forget that forgiveness should start from within. For us to forgive another, we must first forgive ourselves.

We don’t realise how much bitterness and resentment we hold within ourselves until we face a similar situation. Over time, this bitterness grows into fear, walls, and biases, making it challenging to embrace a different path. But to move on, we must first forgive ourselves.

To forgive ourselves, we must first acknowledge what happened. Sometimes, these mistakes are not ours to bear; however, because of the expectations we place on ourselves to be perfect, we fail to see past the current situation. We say to ourselves, ‘never again,’ and shut ourselves off. Because we never confronted the first situation, we may find history repeating itself as this bitterness grows deep and imprints itself into our hearts, creating burdens we need to release.

Years later, we become a product of our traumas, unaware that we hold these biases unless someone calls them to our attention.

Some years ago, my friend called my attention to a prejudice I held so tightly that I didn’t even realise it was there.

What are the beliefs we hold as truths that are actually prejudices?

Just because I’ve had similar experiences with people of a certain gender in the past doesn’t mean every individual of that gender will act the same way in the future.

What happens with biases is that when we hold on to them so tightly, we close ourselves off from a part of the world. In my case, any man driving a car who stops me on the road must want something more. I couldn’t believe I held on so tightly to this mindset, thinking it was the absolute truth. I even mentioned this to my sister on our walk.

How long had I closed myself from love, friendship, or connection because of this bias?

I wept when I finally faced the truth I had been trying so hard to avoid because I felt so guilty that I had to talk to my friend about it. I let myself cry for all the hurt I’d been holding onto; for not loving myself enough to realize that I needed to forgive myself, and for being rude to a stranger whose only crime was stopping me on the road to ask for my friendship.

What follows from here is love, lessons, forgiveness, and self-compassion; love and forgiveness that comes from within; lessons learned from the incident; and a promise to be more open-minded. In this experience, we remember to be kind to ourselves as we work on moving forward.

‘We are a product of our traumas,’ my friend, Biodun, says. ‘Our traumas shape us and make us who we are.’

Imagine we give ourselves time, love, and care to forgive ourselves, learn from our situations, and move forward. Imagine we acknowledge that it is not our fault that these traumas happened to us. And imagine we write the future with so much love bursting through us as a byproduct of the lessons we learned and the love we allowed ourselves to feel and produce when we didn’t let that incident define us. We become love, telling love stories with kindness, passion, and sincerity towards others we meet on our way.

Gratitude Corner Mindfulness Slow down

Remembering to Stay Present in Moments of Awareness and Gratitude

Last December was a myriad of events, as we were all exhausted from the spike in ridesharing fees, congested traffic, and fuel shortage. On this day, we walked a long distance from our house to catch a bus at the junction and then walked even further from the bus stop to the hospital because it was during this time that my brother was ill. After seeing the good doctor, we walked a good kilometre to reach the next bus stop, and it was here that we encountered what was going to be our fate for the next few minutes.

A keke driver appeared, as if by magic, with one passenger on board.

“Ojota!” we screamed in excitement, as it was almost too good to be true. Other buses that had gone by either needed only one passenger or none at all and many people were waiting at the bus stop. We were already on our way from the bus stop as we’d resolved to continue the journey on foot or if we were lucky, we’d find a suitable vehicle to take the four of us. We quickly got in as the vehicle slowed down. “Wole, (Enter)” the driver screamed in pidgin. “Enter sharp sharp, dem dey arrest keke for here! (Enter quickly, they’re arresting keke drivers here)

We jumped in. My brother Newman and I got into the keke, followed by Bobo, who took the front seat. However, another passenger was already in the vehicle, and the seats were not going to be enough for all of us. The driver, acting as if he was in a hurry, instructed my younger brother Neche to sit on Newman’s lap. The driver had previously apologised for the inconvenience caused by the extra passenger, saying that the man would come down ‘up there.’

In horror, I blurted to the driver. “He’s sick, he can’t carry him.” I didn’t realise what I had said until the driver retorted in pidgin: “how I wan take know? My own na mek him enter, mek we dey go. (How could I have known? I’m only interested in moving this vehicle).

Of course, how could the driver have known that we were just coming from the hospital?

Newman lapped Neche, and laughter bubbled up from within me, as I shook my head at my own silliness.

Na true, you for no know. (That’s true. You couldn’t have known)” I responded in a voice that sounded almost like a whisper, in pidgin.

This was me in my element, surrounded by family, full of excitement, and almost forgetting to breathe.

After about two minutes, which felt like ten minutes, I heard the driver ask Newman for a rag behind him. I turned to look at the rag and noticed how dirty it was and wondered if I had my hand sanitiser in my tote bag.

But that was not what Newman was thinking. In fact, I was not privy to Newman’s thoughts until we got off the keke. The events that followed seemed like something that happened in movies. Because I later found out that Newman reached into his right pocket, pulled out his phone, and held it in his other hand before grabbing the rag for the driver from the booth.

Just before reaching the Coca-Cola roundabout at Alausa, the driver suddenly became manic. “Na for that hill I go drop una. I no dey reach Ojota bus stop o. If una want, I go drop una for here, give you change. (I will drop you people at that hill. I’m not getting to Ojota. If you want, I will stop here and give you your change.” In a calm voice, still oblivious of what had happened or was happening, I asked, “Which hill? I’m sure we can get off there.” Neche started to add in Igbo, “Ify, do you know that place where…”

Out of the blue, I heard Newman say in his calmest voice, “Ifunanya, don’t argue. Listen to me. Collect the change and let’s get off here.” 

The manner in which Newman spoke caught my attention, and I listened without arguing, which was unusual for me, as I would typically argue with my brother. But, oh well, he called my full name, and anytime he does that, he means business.

We took the change and got out of the keke. The driver then quickly drove away with the other passenger.

Newman explained what happened then. The driver had used an “old scope” to try to distract him. When the driver asked Newman to grab the rag from behind him, the thought was that this would cause Newman to turn and thus be momentarily distracted, which would allow the other passenger the opportunity to try and steal Newman’s phone by slipping his hand into Newman’s pocket. However, Newman was alert and had noticed the passenger’s attempt to steal his phone because the phone was nearly half an inch away from his pocket then. The driver and his accomplice didn’t expect that Newman was familiar with the scope as pickpockets had tried this tactic on him in the past.

Then he asked. “Did you notice that the passenger was still in the keke even though the driver had said he was going to drop soon?”

This experience with my brother was another crucial step in my ongoing journey towards mindfulness. For days, I would reflect on this experience, as I had been oblivious of this side of my brother. As I applaud his ability to slow down in that moment of need, I also recognize how difficult it can be to stay present.

Last year, I became a member of Akanka Spaces—an intentional community of people focused on nurturing a mindset of love, backed by the framework of intention. This framework teaches that everything begins with slowing down, followed by gratitude and responsibility. Adopting this mindset has helped me become more intentional in my life, allowing me to approach situations with a greater sense of purpose and understanding.

Sometimes, we are fully aware of a moment, and other times, we only realise it when someone or something calls our attention to the present, and I wonder how many of such times I have failed to recognise such moments. My answer is ‘probably a lot of times.’

A lot of times, I find myself acting impulsively and absent-mindedly. Much to my detriment, this happens more often than I am proud to admit.

If we can slow down to be present in the moment, we can catch these moments before they slip away. Otherwise, we may find ourselves acting in ways that we may later regret.

Awareness of these moments is a rare gift, and my brother’s actions served as a powerful reminder of its importance.

Since that day, I have made a conscious effort to be more present in my interactions with friends and family. I have discovered that by slowing down to pay attention and be aware of the moment, I can better understand and support the people around me. This awareness has not only enriched my relationships, but it has also allowed me to grow as an individual.


Travelling Means Finding Connections: Building Relationships Across Cultures

When I travelled to Ghana, I did not have a set plan of what I was going there to do or the places of interest to visit. My goal was to go to Ghana and see Mawuu. Perhaps, this lack of a plan was why I paid an expensive amount to reschedule my flight, as I had arrived late for check-in at the airport and could not move with my scheduled flight.

In the afternoon of the day I arrived in Ghana, Mawuu asked me if I had places I had planned to visit, and I responded in the negative. I was only going to meet with my colleagues later that day, and that was it. Oh, and then travel with the Travel Tribe to Southwestern Ghana; this was a plan that Mawuu had sold me when I told her of my plan to visit Ghana. As I bit into my brunch at Starbites Restaurant at East Legon, Mawuu drew up an itinerary on the spot for me and added me to a Whatsapp group with the subject – “Ify in Ghana.”

People gape at me in disbelief when I tell them this story of never having planned my Ghana trip. If only they knew that I had also borrowed the Ghana trip idea from my dearest friend, Doyin.

Initially, Doyin had shared the idea of going to Ghana to rejuvenate herself, and I welcomed the thought. Life was too short to overthink about doing something for oneself. My new ambition is to travel, and I would not waste time worrying about the details.

And when Doyin’s plan of travelling to Ghana changed, the thought of visiting Ghana stuck out like a sore thumb, that I could not shake off. Without further ado, I packed my bags and headed off to Ghana.

In Travelling Just For The People, Derek Sivers wrote of a friend who had travelled a long distance just to come and stay with him. When Derek asked if he had planned to visit any sights, he said No. “I don’t care what we do. I just came to see you!” 

Bewildered, Derek probed him further, and he replied, “Dude. I’m serious. I really don’t care about any of that stuff. I came here to see you, hang out with you, talk with you. That’s honestly the only reason I’m here. You don’t have to take me anywhere or show me anything.”

Reflecting on that experience, Derek wrote, “I remember almost nothing but that conversation. Sometimes we connect with a place, but usually we connect with people. Yet people connect us to a place.”

Yes, people connect us to a place. My journey in Ghana crystallised at the airport – meeting Mawuu for the first time and Eyram for the second time – two lovely people whose souls introduced me to the heart of Ghana. This meeting would define the rest of my journey in Ghana, for when I think of this meeting, I think of old friendships and new beginnings, of laughter and warmth, of the vibrant colours and sounds of the people in closed spaces, and of the kindness and generosity of the people I would meet along the way.

And when I think of Flo, Sol, Nyash the cat, or the good old dogs – Whiskey and Charlie, I will remember Escape 3 Points for all its warmth. When I think of Escape 3 Points, I will remember all these and more – the Travel Tribe’s nightly conversations, the ‘good mornings’ that came with the question of ‘did you sleep well?’ the look of concern when one of the Travel Tribe members so much as breathed a cough, the shared breakfasts. I will remember the picture of Akwasi Mclaren standing out as the man in action, moving around and being there for his guests one at a time. I will remember him coming to our dining table with an antihistamine for Mercy because she had reacted to an ingredient in the food. I will remember Flo, another lodger and the good doctor scurrying over with his travel group to care for Mercy. And when I think of the Travel Tribe, I will remember not just the places we visited but the journey we took together, the road trips, the stop at God is Love Chopbar at Takoradi, the conversations on the bus, the sing-alongs, Efua’s singing wafting into my Instagram recording, meeting Sheila of the travel tribe.

Of course, it’s good to plan. It’s also great to go to places for its landmarks and sights. However, this Ghana experience is very special to me, and I would not give it up for anything. Yes, Mawuu had shared the Travel Tribe’s plan of visiting Escape 3 Points with me, but I honestly didn’t read anything in the chat group. If not, I would have known to go with my Ankara for the 31st dinner.

On the eve of 29th December at Escape 3 Points, Mawuu asked us what we hoped to get out of this trip, and I said something about wanting to get out of myself and feel more comfortable with other people. I had made that up on the spot, but perhaps it wasn’t far from the truth. Perhaps, if I had also said I wanted to slow down, that may have also been close to the truth. But the truth was that I hadn’t thought of anything I had hoped to get out of the trip.

Reflecting on this trip, I think just like Derek Sivers and Amit Chaudhuri, my purpose of going to Ghana was to meet the people I’d had the pleasure of meeting – Mawuu, Eyram – the travel tribe – Sheila, Efua, Mercy, Kennetha, Ama, Nana, Prynx, Fui, Kwaku, Pearl, Jenny, Kelechi, Whiskey. The guests I had connected with at Escape 3 Points – Sol, Flo, Artis3, Eva, Charley, Nyash; the cheerful staff at the wondrous lodge and Akwasi Mclaren.

And these conversations with these people who have become a family I never knew I needed are precious memories I cherish. Meeting them and knowing them, interacting with the places I visited, writing the story of Escape 3 Points, meeting me again.

Travelling means finding new inspirations because when the thought of writing a story about this place came like a guest during my Yoga with Efua, Mercy and Sol, I watched it as it made its visit. The thought flitted around, then came again and again until I made sense of it. Still, never in my wildest dreams had I imagined making a video until the interview day when Eva accompanied Akwasi with her phone and a tripod. 

Travelling means finding new experiences. It means finding new perspectives. It means finding new adventures. It means finding memories and creating lasting impressions. It means finding connections and building relationships across cultures. It means finding more about oneself. Because in travelling, you take pieces of yourself to foreign places where you meet other people who have also brought pieces of themselves. Travelling offers us a chance to start all over again with others without preconceived notions of who we are or who they are. Doyin says, “travelling makes you a new person,” and I could not agree more.

PS: You can watch my travel highlights on my Instagram, or read my interview with Akwasi Mclaren about the Escape 3 Points story on Creatives Around Us.

Gratitude Corner

Gratitude Corner – I am grateful for the joy of being a beginner

I am grateful for writers like Brene Brown, who are able to share meaning with us through their writings.

“…this is what I’ve found. To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, VULNERABLY seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee, and that’s hard. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we are wondering ‘Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this, this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?’ Just to be able to stop, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful,” because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.”

Brene Brown on The Power of Vulnerability

The following are what fills my heart with so much warmth today – going on today’s run and my soul sister, Sheila Adufutse.

Coach Bennett always says to look for joy in every run. 

Today, I went on a run with Nike Run Club Coach Bennett and Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe on the A Whole Run, and throughout the run, I kept thinking about this phrase – look for the joy in everything. Look for the lessons, look for the thrill, look for the excitement, look for the discovery.

I learn a lot from my runs. This particular one taught me that I am a new person every time I experience something again. It reinforced the topic of setting a new intention with any activity. Before this run, I had fought with my will to move my body to go for a run.

A photo I took of myself today before my run
A photo I took of myself today before my run

In the Gospel of Nature’s designers’ catch-up last Tuesday, I learned from Chine that I am anything I call myself. I don’t have to be a professional to call myself a designer. If I can use design tools to create a beautiful design, and I say I’m a designer, I am a designer. If I say I’m not, I’m not. 

When going for a run, I always tried to hit a better pace than the previous one. I had felt that this way, I could call myself a runner. 

But as I hit a new 1k on this run, I reminded myself to go slowly and not focus on the pace, but on my intention. I kept my body and mind in sync with the purpose I had set out for this run, urging my body forward and reminding myself that this run does not have to be perfect.

Today’s ‘A Whole Run’ with Coach Bennett and Andy Puddicombe

With every run, I learn the joy of being a beginner. I started running in 2020; I have gone on about 70 runs. On each run, I see how much of a beginner I am; this teaches me that any activity can come with many possibilities.

I am also grateful for Sheila Adufutse, my soul-sister. Today is her birthday. Sheila was the first person that taught me to slow down. We have never met because she is on the other side of my world. Sheila lives in Ghana while I am in Nigeria, but it feels like she is close to me. I am thankful for her friendship that keeps giving; hers is one that accepts me for who I am. Sheila shares opportunities and lessons with me and constantly teaches me that I am okay, I am doing well, and I am enough.

Sheila Adufutse

I am thankful for your kindness, love, patience, and being Sheila. Because being Sheila means being someone your friends can rely on – you are a Godsend.

And to sum up my gratitude, I want to share my lesson from this week. When we allow ourselves to be a beginner with any activity, we create the space to learn and do things even though we are afraid. We embark on the exercise with the thrill of discovery, without facing the weight of our expectations.

Mindfulness Slow down Travel

How do I sustain this feeling of bliss I experienced on my journey at IITA?

Photographed by Ifunanya Okolie.

I never knew I could enjoy my company as much as I did on this journey at IITA. Solo travelling is exciting, and I would do it all over again.

I did not go to IITA to have fun. I was on a soul-searching journey. As cheesy as that sounds, I went to IITA to bring myself back to me. I was not in a good place, and I needed to go somewhere that felt safe and familiar, and because I was at IITA in June and liked it there, I knew it was the perfect place for me.

I am not in the habit of travelling; June was the first time I travelled. However, I recommend leaving our safe spaces every once in a while to do something that feels good for us.

As I walked through the driveway at IITA, I found myself reflecting on Fred Minnick’s Experiencing the world through my senses on Meditative Story, and this line stayed with me throughout my walk: “I have smelled eucalyptus hundreds of times, but I have never taken the time to really just become entranced with it. Now I allow myself to let the smell linger in my senses with nowhere to be and nothing to prove.”

After my stay at IITA and on my long nights of walking the streets of my neighbourhood, I would come to understand why Fred Minnick spoke to me. 

Coming home to a familiar place: How my senses play a huge part in my upbringing.

At IITA, I felt the trees and plants through their individual scents, and as I walked through them, they hit me, leaving behind a scent that feels so familiar; a smell that takes me home to a time when I was little and walked the woods to fetch water from the stream at Udu Ukpor in my village, and firewoods at Ugwu ekwensu and nri ewu (fodder) for the goats in my grandparent’s house. My memory of fetching fodder may have awakened these senses in me, as I learnt to recognize goat feed through their scents from foddering fetching with my cousins and mama (grandmother). Likewise, I learnt their names and knew not to fetch ata because it was a plant that could tear a goat’s mouth. I also understood that ara ma njino is nutritious and helps with red blood cell production for goats, so we made sure to fetch plenty of it.

This scent from home guided me on my walk through the residential driveway, led me on my run to the forests at IITA, down to the lake, and straight to breakfast as I dashed, first, for the glass of water at the breakfast table. I tell everyone who cares to listen that the water IITA served at breakfast is delicious and leaves behind a feeling of freshness that registers itself in the back of my head. Drinking the water at IITA reminds me of a time my papa (grandfather) drank the water we fetched from Udu Ukpor on a hot afternoon, and the first words he exclaimed were ‘mmiri nke a ná ató nọ òmí.’ In English, it translates to “this water hits the right spot of the brain,” meaning that the water tasted very delicious. 

At the breakfast table in June, I had argued with my friends about why I thought the water was pure, and they had responded in utter disbelief, ‘Ify, pure water should have no taste.’ Of course, we learnt in school that one of the qualities of good water is ‘tasteless.’ What if I had said it had a distinct smell? I would have shot myself in the foot by unintentionally declaring that the water, which I had argued was pure, failed to meet two safe water quality requirements. But I am uncertain how to debate that I did not mean ‘smell’ in a bad sense and that I meant it had a good scent. That also would not have bode well, as good water should not taste or smell in a certain way. I could argue that good water should not taste flat. However, please forgive my argument here, as I am not a water quality specialist.

“How do I sustain this feeling of calm and bliss that I experienced at IITA?”

As I journeyed home from IITA, I felt a sense of dread as I wondered how I could sustain the feeling I had on my travel. How do I keep the calm and the bliss I had experienced as I move back to my life of responsibilities? 

The first few days after my arrival from IITA, I concentrated more on my hearing, paying extra attention to nature as I walked my neighbourhood. I felt my senses heighten, and I swear I could smell something familiar from the sparsely grown shrubs on the roads. I listened out for birds’ sounds, and their melodies seemed distinguishable from other sounds, and I wondered if there was a time I did not hear them before. I could perceive the freshness of the morning, and I squinted when an unpleasant smell of gas broke the pleasant air.

I focused on continuing the routine I developed at IITA until I realized I was trying hard to maintain the euphoria I experienced at IITA. While meditating with Rohan Gunatitillake, I came upon Lehua Kamalu’s story:  Tracking the path of the sun, and saw I wasn’t alone. Lehua also felt the same way on her trip back from the sea when she asked the question:

“How, I wonder, will I orient myself on land? How will I spot the stars, when the sky seems so much smaller from land than it does at sea?”

Lehua Kamalu

“I think it would suck if God did not exist. Otherwise, how can I explain beauty, nature, love?”

One sunny evening on my way back from Lekki, as my inDriver steered the car through the roads of Ikoyi, I beamed in delight as I saw a world I may have been oblivious to. Ikoyi was beautiful against the evening sun with the trees and tall buildings. I realized I was letting myself see Ikoyi for the first time. My driver asked if it was my first time visiting Lagos. No, it wasn’t. I didn’t realize we had such beauty around us.

In my journal entry, I wrote as I watched, “I think it would suck if God did not exist. Otherwise, how can I explain beauty, nature, love?”

“No, nature keeps on giving. It’s beautiful out here.”

As I go through my daily routine through life and work, I realize that the experiences I take from my visit to IITA will remain with me if I let them. They are here, with me. I experienced them, and I take them with me. In being here — present, I become content with this place and accept that this imperfect place can be a happy place too. 

One of the blessings I bring with me from IITA is clarity. I can listen to the thoughts in my head more clearly. I feel thankful for the people I met at IITA. Even though I may never get to meet some of them again, I feel my paths may cross again with others. 

This place can be a happy place if I can slow down and remain present.

IITA has become my sanctuary; it is a safe space for me to slow down and unwind. But I don’t need to go to IITA to slow down. I can recall the lessons from my journey and slow down with myself or my folks at Akanka Spaces. And I can decide to go back anytime, and it does not have to be when I feel my spirit separate from my body. However, I am back to my reality, home, friends, siblings, family, and responsibilities.

While I am back in this very familiar place, I remind myself that this place I have here can be a happy place if I can slow down and remain present. I needed a return home to bring me back to this place of consciousness and intentionality, and I am thankful to be home again.

Product launch

I started a thing – I launched a creative and community platform

I started a thing. Again.

On 10th June, I did a soft launch of my new creatives and community website. Creatives Around Us is a community, a platform for creatives and community managers who have unique stories to tell. In a world filled with distrust and doubt, I want these stories to inspire a world of change, positivity and hope.

Creatives Around Us and The Community Managers have been around since 2018. I started sharing stories of creatives and community managers on Instagram, but I wasn’t sure of the direction I wanted them to take. I felt like the social platforms were moving me, so I decided to pause until I understood where I wanted them to go. 

Social media can get suffocating. I know this because I’ve logged out of my socials and even deactivated my Twitter on many occasions. These stories feature on social timelines, but they can get lost and exhausting with the numbers of updates, terrifying news, and promoted posts you have to deal with on the timeline. 

I want to create a space that inspires people to be, to love, and to feel good things. 

A community manager is a leader of a tribe who inspires changes within their community. In this context, a community does not have to be a large gathering of people. It can be inspiring change within two or more people or consistently doing good work wherever one finds oneself. I had fun chatting with Sheila, who is doing amazing things in her community. Sheila is amazing. I know this because she is my friend. I think that this is also what endears her to her tribe, the knowing that she would never desert them. Sheila would rather have you call her an ordinary leader of tribes, and that, I believe, is the whole point of what I want people to see. The stories I feature are of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Sheila didn’t think she deserved the title of ‘sophisticated, intelligent,’ but I said to her, ‘Sheila, this is my intro, this is where I write what I know about you. You get to say your part, and I’ve included those. Allow me to write mine.’

Sheila Adufutse’s tribe

It’s amazing. This whole process is exciting for me. I also got to tell the story of Tunde Onakoya, who is inspiring his community by teaching vulnerable kids to play chess. One thing that stood out to me in Tunde’s story is that he is not just teaching his kids chess, but he is also proudly telling their individual stories. The way he told the story of Ferdinand inspired me. They had a recent tournament where Tunde and his team made suits for the kids who took part in the competition. He wrote that the reason he made the outfits for them was ‘to tell a new narrative of children in the slums that is not just one of poverty, but an image of what is possible if they are given equal opportunities to excel.’

Tunde Onakoya with Ferdinand beside him and one of the participants of the tournament holding the trophy they won.

Sheila said, ‘Life is possible with communities: intentional communities that have a common goal to explore life genuinely.’ When you read their stories, you feel so inspired; in reading these stories, you can tell that they have a genuine intention to care for these communities. 

Creatives Around Us celebrates creativity. I shared the story of Hanan, a student of Architecture who makes notebook covers, bookmarks, keyholders, and sketchpads from a place of prayers and dreams. I think Hanan is incredibly talented. Her designs are brilliant, and she has a story to tell. She said to me, ‘I started with notebooks to make my audience understand the value of writing things down, it really goes a long way. I want to let people know it starts with a book filled with dreams.’

Hanan, designing the cover of her notebook

Segun Akano uses screws to make art. One thing about Segun is that he studied Analytical Chemistry at university. I wonder if he ever knew he would make art while at school. I forgot to ask him this. 

Segun Akano makes art from screws

Asides from being an artist who makes art from mixed media, Dare Adenuga is also a storyteller who tells the stories of his craft with each creation. You can see them here on his Instagram.

Dare Adenuga Makes Art With Threads, Ropes, Fabrics, Newsprints and Acrylic

Our stories define who we are. Brené Brown wrote, ‘Maybe stories are just data with a soul.’ We read these stories, and we see struggles, imperfection, passion, and determination. I feel so honoured to share these beautiful stories. The story is in the journey; may we own it.


What pain is teaching me about time


I had never really thought about this until I came through from my unconsciousness with blinding pain. ‘Where is my stomach?’, my boyfriend said I’d mumbled to nobody in particular in the mumbo jumbo slurred speech of someone who was still under the influence of anaesthesia.

Where was my stomach indeed?

Shalvah had read out every nonsense I’d said in the post-op room to me, and we’d laughed about it, but the more I think about it, the more I realize something new from that experience – my experience. 

I was getting to know more of myself through my wounds, through my scars, through my pain.

Before this operation, right before I had the excruciating pain from my hernia – when my outie was still really big, I think. I’d thought of my belly button as a scar. A scar that I thought came from the carelessness of the nurses who helped deliver me.

My belly button gave me my nickname in secondary school – ‘big dodo’, which translates to ‘big navel.’ I hated that nickname and felt embarrassed that I’d cover it up by wearing oversized T-Shirts, skirts up until my navel, and girdles that held my belly button in place and made it less obvious that I had a ‘scar.’

It wasn’t until late 2019 that I decided not to give a care about people’s thoughts regarding my outie. I was going to embrace my scar and see it as a part of me. I was going to show it off. And yes, I did show it off on my Instagram stories, photos of me in my workout suit, flanking my outie belly button until I felt the worst pain shoot through the insides of my stomach. No, this should be fine, I’d thought. It wasn’t the first time I was having abdominal pain.

But this was a different kind of pain. This pain did not stop. It choked me, and at a point, I thought I could not breathe. Was this an aftermath of covid? I booked a Bolt ride to the hospital, and one look at my belly button, the doctor confirmed my fears. ‘It’s an umbilical hernia. We need to take it out.’

Lying in the hospital bed, I’d wondered about pain, about scars, about time. This year has dealt me some numbers. 

Right from the call I got on January 4th, 2021 that I tested positive to Covid-19, to moving to the isolation ward to spending 14+ days with other covid positive patients, to losing my sense of smell and regaining it shortly after, and coming home to having the worst fever and losing my sense of smell again and wondering if this was it. 

There were a lot of questions. 

Was I ever going to get better? 

Was I ever going to see the outside world again?

Was I going to die? I mean, I’m not different from others who lost their lives to this deadly virus. What was going to happen to me, I thought as I downed the drugs recommended for me. 

When I think about pain, I think about my trips to the toilet at the isolation centre with my perfume, spraying it close to my nostrils, and willing myself to smell again. 

When I think about pain, I think about the pills I took during covid and the side effects I got from taking them. I think about the muscle aches I endured and the numbness that took hold of the left part of my body for over a week.

I think about the constant pressure on my left chest and the nights that I stayed awake wondering if I was about to have a stroke or a heart attack or if I was having a pulmonary embolism. Yes, I Googled my symptoms. 

I think about my early morning trips to UCH Ibadan, scared about the long queue and screaming at a doctor that I found strolling that I had an emergency and needed medical attention fast! I was having a heart attack, I said to him. I walked into the emergency quarters and had a chest x-ray and an ECG. Everything looked normal on paper, but what was this pain? What was wrong with me? 

I think about how shortly after I’d tested negative to Covid-19, I’d developed another cough, the worst, and wondered if this was it again. I think about the number of antibiotics I had taken before the sputum test results that showed I had streptococcus pyogenes and, I wonder if I’d somehow cursed this year and brought this entire ordeal upon myself.

I had thought so much about time and death. I used to be a part of a group that comes together every last Sunday of the month to discuss death, and you would think that this would have made me ready to be unafraid of death.

But, I have anxiety just by thinking about the thought of dying. I lost my mum when I was fifteen, and I am not entirely sure if I’d completely gotten over her death. My grandmother and great grandmother died around the same time last year, and my dad’s elder brother died last December.

I am not unafraid of death. I fear pain the same way that I fear the thought of getting sick.

I am scared. 

My stomach hurts so bad I think it’s about to split into two, and my right arm is swollen and painful that I wonder if I’m having a DVT

My thoughts about time have shifted a bit from ‘with all the time we have,’ to never existent. Please, hear me out. I spent almost 18 days at the isolation centre, and those days didn’t feel any different to me. It felt like I was living the same day over and over again. 

Mike Quigley wrote, ‘Once you’ve stared death in the face, every day is a good day.’ These days, I am intrigued by time, and I think a lot about the question, ‘What is the time?’

Does time matter when we can’t do those things we used to do because of ill health, or God forbid when we are staring death right in the face? 

Then, the question, ‘What time is it?’ wouldn’t matter again, because, then, time becomes one long string of never-ending nows. 

I’m still trying to figure out time and why we say we don’t have enough of it. In my theory, time doesn’t exist, and yesterday is the mind as it remembers, and tomorrow is the mind as it anticipates – I’m not sure whose philosophy this is again. 

If this is true, I wonder if the mind ever survives time.

Becoming Mindfulness

Six Tips and Tricks to get started on your fitness journey

The body that moves

I started this article to write a good workout tip for a friend and not a blog post, but as the words kept coming, and I continued writing, I decided to publish it on my blog.

The idea behind this blog post started with a single tweet I wrote on 31st, of December 2020 – A tweet, which, I deleted, sadly, with the bulk of my other Twitter posts on 1st of January 2021 with

I had shared a photo with the caption: ‘Once upon a time, I was very thick.‘ I also shared similar photographs of me, and my Twitter friends were surprised because they didn’t know a bigger Ifunanya.

November 6th, 2019

One of my friends, Biodun, asked ‘why, Nanya. What happened?’, and why again when my answer was that I started working out.

June 28th, 2020.

Why did I start working out, or why was my goal to lose weight?

Now that I think of it, I started with the intention of losing weight because I felt out of control with my body. I explained a little here in A failing well series #1: Running.

I wanted to get my body to move and to bend without friction.   

Losing weight was the intention until I started noticing other changes – My body became taut, and my face cleared, and my skin started glowing, and I started dancing easy. 

What apps and tools did I use on my weight loss/ fitness journey?

The apps and tools I use and recommend are:

  1. 8fit: (Pro helps with customized workout sessions, coaches, and meal plans. I started with the free plan and tried out the pro for free until I unsubscribed, then they provided a discount)
  2. Noom: (Noom lets you log your weight and track the meals you eat in a day. It is more than just a food tracker as it also gives behavioural insight on diet and weight loss. The pro plan provides an educational approach that helps to understand why some food is recommended more than others with the labelling from green to yellow to red).
  3. Nike Training Club: (NTC is a free app for customized workout sessions, but it can be busy, and the workout plans can get pretty intensive, which is why I paid for 8fit.)
  4. Nike Running Club: (NRC is a running app)
  5. Lose it Nigerian meal plan
  6. Bathroom weight scale: (I check my weight every morning naked before I go to the bathroom to take a leak. I think it’s best to be consistent with the way you weigh yourself. Here’s what Healthline has to say about how to measure yourself.
  7. Kitchen scale: (I’m not consistent with this, but I use it to weigh the food I prepare).

How I lost 15kg Within Two Months

First, Have a Plan – Do you want to lose weight or get fit?

The first thing is to note what you plan this journey to be. Do you want to lose weight, and or do you want to get fit? Do you also want to practice mindfulness while you’re at it?

When I started, I began with the intention of losing weight, because that was the only thing I could see – my weight getting in the way, so I started with 8fit and Noom and Naija Foodie meal plan on loseItNigerian.

It’s best to start with a less intensive plan and then build towards the more intensive ones.

If your goal is to lose weight, it would be counterproductive to keep your old eating habits. What I mean is creating a calorie deficit meal plan is best when trying to lose weight, and you can do this by either eating fewer calories or increasing your physical activity.

I didn’t continue for long with LoseitNigerian, because I have an ulcer, and, I couldn’t take some of the stuff that they recommend, like more habanero pepper (which is healthy, of course, and contains lots of vitamins and capsaicin), lemons, lime, etc.

I also figured out that their method involved eating fewer calories by tricking the body by eating more leafy vegetables, oatmeal, reducing oily, fried, and processed foods.

One of the many things I love about LoseitNigerian is that they don’t tell you to starve your body. They also don’t ask you to eat liquid meals. They encourage our Nigerian meals by recommending you follow a routine of eating less starchy meals, filling it up with greens, and taking nutritious home-made juices.

For example, if you wanted to eat Jollof rice for lunch, preparing a healthy meal plan would start with your first thought of the meal. Understanding that every ingredient you cook with adds to the collective calories of the serving of the meal you eat. After cooking, Lose it Nigerian would recommend going for one serving of the Jollof rice, a protein, and more leafy vegetables to fill you up.

Another thing I did was to cut out sugar by drinking non-calorie beverages like water. I stopped drinking tea and eating ice cream at a point, even though I indulge sometimes. But what I think is finding a routine that works for you and sticking to it.

Also, in my journey, I realized that, while fruits are very healthy, they can also have high calories. Dried fruits like dates and raisins or dried strawberries are nutritious but high in calories and sugar. Removing water from the fruits concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller form. A practical way to think about this is to look at 109 grams of sliced apple which contains 57 calories and 1 cup (86g) of Dried apple that contains 209 calories.

Eating one medium banana is great, and eating a full bunch of banana is equally good if you’ll fit it into your meal plan and make sure you don’t go above your intended calorie for the day. This understanding is why taking smoothies can be counterproductive as mixing more than two fruits can have over 1000 calories, which might be more than half of your daily goal if you intend to lose weight.

While eating fewer calories might seem like a great plan and help you lose fat, it can also lead to muscle loss, and wouldn’t be such a great plan when you look at it in the long run if you don’t add HIIT (High Intensive Workout) to it. Just sticking to long-term calorie restriction can significantly reduce your metabolism, but spicing it up with workout sessions can increase your metabolism and tighten those loose skin. (An aside and a joke: This is why Lose It Nigerian spice up their meal plans with Habanero pepper as it contains capsaicin which can boost metabolism).

Incorporating Mindfulness into your Fitness Routine

Mindful practices can help us understand how to have a healthy relationship with food and to appreciate our body and love it for all that it is. It also helps us see our body as a machine that can flex and move as much as we want it to go.

At my core, I practice yoga in the morning for 10 to 15 minutes, and then I end it with a 5-minute meditation. Just closing my eyes and sitting still can set my day for me. 

Mindfulness teaches you to pay attention to your breath and body, and sometimes as an observer to see how reality is in the moment. 

Incorporating mindfulness in your fitness routine allows you to just be. 

It helps you to pay attention to the food you eat and to your body. It also gives you purpose for how you want each workout routine to go. For example, I started my fitness journey wanting to lose weight, and then I lost weight, then, I told myself I wanted to stay healthy, and then, I started working towards staying fit.

Mindfulness also helps you slow down and remind yourself why you’ve chosen to go on your fitness journey. It also helps with remembering that the journey is yours alone and that sometimes, you might not perform as much as you want, and that’s also a good thing, and to remember to turn up and end each exercise on a good note.

Becoming Failing well

Becoming Brave – Will you bring back the child in you?

“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness and also the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging, and love.” – I stumbled upon Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability the other day, and I haven’t stopped thinking about the adult who was once a brave child.

We all started somewhere – the child grows to become an adult. I remember what it feels like as a kid who was never afraid to try out new things and who never thought to engage the idea that she might not get what she wants.

I wonder, sometimes, what happened to that kid.

I think we have to agree that children are the bravest of us all, because, do children not get to do new stuff that we introduce them to every time? Of course, they throw a little tantrum, but these are things that adults would not normally do. Children say ‘yes’ even though they aren’t ready.

Children aren’t a little bit worried about people judging them. They don’t hesitate to act, which I think can be a good thing, sometimes. Because in hesitating, we remind ourselves of all the things that can go wrong without remembering that things can also go right.

As a child, I owned a little provision store, and I participated in a lot of school challenges. I was the kid who entered offices asking for an interview and when they asked if she was not too young to work, replied ‘No.’

At what point does the fearless child become scared to perform in the society? Where did it go wrong? Maybe if we can point to a particular cause, then we can find the strength to move on to become the brave person that we can be?

Sometimes, I think my fear started when I entered university. Nigerian colleges have a way of instilling fear in you and making you believe that you are undeserving of where you are and should be grateful that you even have a score in your name.

But, this is not the time to point fingers. This is where we acknowledge our calling to reclaim our true selves.

Many of us are afraid of failing, and it shows in the way we give ourselves to our cause. We are scared that we may not be successful with our mission. We are afraid of the shame that comes with trying, we are terrified of the name-calling, of the guilt, of the tongue-lashing, of the fall.

We ask ourselves questions like – What if we fail? What if it is not worth it? What if we risk it all and we lose it all?

But what if we risk it all and win some?

What if we win it all?

What if, by delaying to take action on our call, we extend our suffering by going off the wrong path?

I think we cling to certain kinds of people because we seek something outside us – something foreign, kind, and possibly dangerous.

We want what we do not have – we don’t know what this thing is, yet we are terrified to think about it.

So, we follow the train and let it lead us to anywhere.

Sometimes we may not find what we seek until we’ve allowed ourselves to be pushed to the extremes.

Then we realize that perhaps what we’ve been looking for is what we’ve always had.

We recognize that we’ve not learnt to love ourselves, and in this understanding, we begin to find ourselves.

In defining vulnerability, Brené Brown said, “We cannot selectively numb some emotion. You cannot say, ‘Here’s the bad stuff, here’s vulnerability, here’s grief, here’s shame, here’s fear, here’s disappointment. I don’t want to feel these. I’m going to have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. You can’t numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions

And I think this is one thing that separates the child from the adult – the ability to give themselves wholly. Even though sometimes, we forget that children have feelings too, they aren’t afraid to embrace their vulnerability. Untainted, they love with all of their heart. You scold them, and after crying, they come back to you. They fight with their peers one instant and are ready to make up and play the next minute. Kids are the most vulnerable – they meet new faces every day at school, and most times adults act like they are too young to understand, therefore making them feel as though their feelings won’t matter until they get to a certain age.

Kids are braver than we think and are always acting, but how do you, as a grown adult, in a constant state of navigating through stress and depression, work yourself towards taking action on your goals?

Brené Brown answered:

“and this is what I’ve found. To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, VULNERABLY seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee, and that’s hard. To practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we are wondering ‘Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this, this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?’ Just to be able to stop, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful,” because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.

Money Ramblings

Beware of the sunk cost fallacy

Question: Have you ever sat through a bad meal because you’d already paid for it and leaving would seem wasteful to you? 

Once, I had held onto a skirt that made me look bloated because I wanted to get my money’s worth. 

You may have heard the phrase, ‘cut your losses, ‘ it means to withdraw from a situation that is no longer serving you. Are you holding on to your job because you’re scared of the time and effort you’ve invested in it? Have you ever kept walking despite having the option to order an Uber because you’d covered a long distance and the oncoming vehicle might be your ride? 

Cut your losses if you’d paid a crazy sum for an item. Instead of crying over money spent, it’s more helpful to learn from your experience and make a note to watch out for next time.

If you’ve encountered something like this, then you have experienced a psychological phenomenon known as a ‘sunk cost bias.’

A sunk cost is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered.


Sunk cost fallacy explains the inclination to continue to invest time, effort, and money into an endeavour because of the costs we’d already incurred. 

My Experience at Dodo Pizza 😱

Last weekend, I hung out with my friend, B, at Dodo Pizza. The Pizza restaurant is known for providing Pizza by the slice and whole Pizza, in Ikeja City Mall, Lagos, which is one of the things I loved about them — the freedom to buy a pizza slice instead of having to purchase a full box. Their vast food menu is something to drool over. This restaurant provides not just Pizza, but other meal options like Sausage rolls, Chicken wings, Cinnamon rolls, different flavours of Ice Cream, and the bone of contention – Dodster. I had always wanted to have a taste of their Dodster — A dish that boasted of fine dining and chunky delights. It looked like a Sharwama, but one that went to Grad school. However, on this day, they messed up my order, switching my Classic Dodster with B’s Beef Suya Dodster. 

I did not have an idea of what the Classic Dodster tasted like, but as I bit into the hot baked wrap, I knew that this was a case of a sweet dream gone stale. Walking over to the counter, I asked if what I had gotten was the Classic Dodster, and they admitted they had mistakenly switched it up. I asked that they fix it, but they did not. The pizzaiolo who had prepared the Dodster came back to me with a message from the manager – he couldn’t care less. Their poor customer service oozed as they bade me farewell while I left their restaurant abandoning the hot baked wrap I’d purchased.

One thing about my Dodo experience is that I was able to call it quits when I could, although I felt sad that I didn’t get to eat the Classic Dodster, and peeved that the Dodo team didn’t consider me customer enough to treat me well. 

It’s okay to call it quits when you can

Here’s the deal. It’s okay to acknowledge that we’ve made a mistake and move on. Calling it quits is better than holding on to that career that you loathe. It’s better to leave a toxic relationship regardless of how much time you’ve invested. If you feel like ordering an Uber, do it right away as the bus you keep waiting for isn’t coming. It’s okay to lose $1000 instead of putting more money into that investment with the hopes that this time would yield a better result.

It’s okay to know when to abort mission, sailor.

Concluding my Dodo Pizza Story

The chef had asked how I was sure I’d have liked the Classic Dodster if they’d prepared it. In answering his question, I wouldn’t know if I’d have preferred the Suya Dodster, but it would have been nice if I’d gotten what I ordered. Taking a second look at the menu, I also might have hated the Dodster because I don’t eat ketchup. If I’d ordered a second time, it might have turned to a case of the Sharwama that went to Grad school but couldn’t finish because it flunked classes. Either way, I might not get to try out Dodo Pizza’s Dodster again. 

Lessons from Sunk Cost Bias

  1. Think of a sunk cost as money you’ve spent and cannot recover. This way, you do not depend on it to make decisions that will affect your future.
  2. Stop, once you realize that it’s time to move on to something else.
  3. Past mistakes are irrelevant. Accept what’s happened, understand that there’s nothing you can do about it, and move on.
  4. If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. The point of no return only exists in our head.
  5. Invest in something new.
  6. Track your expenses and future opportunity costs.