My routine for ten straight weeks:

Monday – Rehearsals

Tuesday – Volunteering

Wednesday – Work

Thursday – Volunteering & Popcorn_City

Friday – Work

Saturday – Work

Sunday – Be a bum.

Twelve to fifteen-hour days of joyful stress. The early morning routine of Oprah’s Supersoul podcast, reading then gym tuned me in for an eventful day, usually ending with a long walk, writing or an evening with someone. During this period, things were not only moving efficiently for me but for my mother too. Further progress had been made on her property back home, was cast in a film, made a return to further her education, and she landed a new job – she was glowing. She and I operated with a sense of wholeness; compassion filled home as we listened to one another, laughed our way through family nights in or one of her many informative stories. The reality I hoped for my entire life seemed to have presented itself. Then came the unexpected six weeks of confusion. During this period, I was no longer volunteering, I took time away from Popcorn_City, had no gym membership, dealt with my partner working abroad, panicked over a program I’ll be running, no internet access for a month, and I was suspended from work. I was forced to be still; as demotivating as this period is, it was an opportunity to learn – a perspective that did not allow me to wallow in self-pity. Everything around me seemed to be crumbling, but I was determined not to find comfort in the chaos. With the help of those I confided in, I was able to approach the future with an open mind; I soon found myself dedicating much of my time to my community. A refreshing plan that took up much of my time, but that sense of fulfilment still eluded me. I grew in frustration; unable to pinpoint the cause of this uncomfortable feeling, I relied on my unhealthy coping mechanisms to alleviate the uncertainty. I regressed.

One day my mother received a phone call from my brother’s school, regarding his focus during lessons, a call that prevented much-needed rest, as she had work that evening. I could feel her frustration as she went on a rant about the number of hours the school has cost her over the years, and during that moment, I figured out the subject matter. That day I came to realise that my sense of fulfilment came from a routine that did not involve the lives of those I lived with, that my mother and I weren’t aware of how little quality time we spent together as a family. Home was a checkpoint, a charging booth, as our routines required our full attention. After that realisation, I found myself wondering what it’s like to live out a large portion of your years being responsible for the wellbeing of three kids, work to survive, all while being an unwilling spectator to your dreams and passions. Sacrificing much of yourself in hopes of giving your children a right to opportunities so they may not experience the hardships you’ve overcome. All in hopes of a day where you’re able to reap the benefits you’ve sowed. I know how it feels when my expectations are not met: my dealer being out on a date with no runners available, not being invited to an event, not being checked up on during dark times. I’m also aware of the effects harboured feelings has on you, the slight resentment towards people for not fulfilling my needs, leading to the creation of many burning bridges. After all, I’m paying for that date; they should have at least shouted me, or am I not worth checking up on? I harboured those feelings towards people of no relation, so I can only imagine how the thought of your child failing in school – a privilege you have sacrificed so much for – made her feel. A dent in that perfect image of her child, and with the rise of knife crime, alarming, but often exaggerated chain messages on wazzup – all with the knowledge of our situation – the worst is about to happen; fear takes over. And, when you unconsciously view yourself as nothing more than an authoritarian, your personality often prevents you from communicating those feelings in a caring manner.

Acknowledging the rant for what it truly was, I obtained the burden of dealing with a school system unable to relate to black boys on an emotional level. I chose to aid in my mother’s realisation that my brother and I acknowledge and appreciate all that she has sacrificed, that communicating one’s feelings is not a sign of weakness; that our respect for her will not diminish at the sight of vulnerability. I strive towards a solid foundation by being present: communicating my feelings, sharing my passions and fears, not being afraid to ask for what I want; never shying away from discomfort. To be vulnerable, to be the change I want to see. We were two individuals with the faintest idea of how the other’s routine truly made them feel; we were only spectators to its effects. A child to a family of nineteen – overcoming adversities far beyond my imagination – growing to be in a position of owning properties, living out her dreams and passions, without the stress of financial income. She is the epitome of success. A scarred child, utilising his privileges to not only understand the effects of his ordeals but to realise the beauty in them, as it has made for a man willing to accept the givens and choose to paint the image he envisions. I take pride in my journey. My mother and I continue to work on building a foundation maintained by love, trust and vulnerability. Supporting one another as we create a functioning environment for David [My little brother] – for his image needn’t have blemishes we could have prevented. Our relationships will extend far beyond our titles, the pre-existing belief of our roles has gotten us this far, but it’s incomplete – a bond exceeding that of a ‘typical Nigerian family’ is our aim.

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