Do you, when you dip your hand into your pocket to reach for cash, pull out crumpled white transaction receipts instead?
Do you find your mailbox littered with subscription renewal notices, bank transaction receipts, and newsletters (that you never read because you were blackmailed into signing up in the first place)?
Do you spend your entire productive day behind corporate walls, sifting through tedious paperwork while obsessively checking the clock for the 5 o’clock mark?
Do you make great movie plans just to slip into a cold slumber at quarter past 10? Does it now take you 14 days to finish one episode of Black Mirror because you no longer have enough attention span to tie you to any commitments?
Do you spend all your free time thinking about writing, developing talking points, philosophizing privately, having profound conversations with yourself all day but only being able to write jack shit when you eventually hunch over your computer?
If the answers to all or most of these questions are affirmative, then thank you, for living vicariously through me.
It’s much easier to write about yourself in the third person, Princely says. Anita wonders why. I suggest that it’s because writing in the third person takes away the burden of responsibility and shame when you have to put down intimate details about yourself.
We were feasting on spicy food and alcohol on a night we all met to execute that writing project we had started talking about. I’m more motivated to write when I’m spending time with people who are talking about writing; so I thought it was a good idea to turn Princely’s lavishly furnished studio apartment into a makeshift writer’s room.
Anita is Princely’s colleague at work and they have become great buddies. I sometimes like to idealize their sort of friendship but I have never been one to let myself devolve into that extent of vulnerability with a woman I’m not having intimacy with.
I spent the weekend with my friends and hoped to spend the night writing but we ended up drinking too much while attempting to watch David Fincher’s ‘95 psychological thriller, Se7en. Some of us didn’t make it through the entire movie before succumbing to the snoozing effect of the booze. But it didn’t take long for us to wake up again, this time to the unhinging magic of alcohol and all the serotonin it pumps into our head. At past midnight we were all awake again, taking turns to reminisce on childhood trauma.
People have been through shit, I swear to you. For all that we went through, I am eternally grateful that we did not, as kids, have the situational awareness to understand the full extent of our tragic existence. The profundity of childhood trauma is best examined in retrospection, you see.
The weekend was swole, and I enjoyed every bit of it; except that I went back home without as much writing a single paragraph of whatever I had left home planning to write. Weird, considering that a shit load of things has happened in my life since the last time I clicked ‘publish’ on a Medium article.
It took me four years post-convocation to finally start serving. Nothing remotely exciting — mostly because I’m mentally past that phase already. Wearing white and khaki has been downright embarrassing for me and I’ve been having problems socializing with folks at the CDS meetings. You would understand, wouldn’t you? I’ve been working full-time for at least a year before I went to Camp and haven’t had to rely on any pecuniary benefits the scheme may have availed me, so I don’t exactly operate within the budgetary confines of your everyday ajuwaya.
I spend most of my free time with Princely (and Anita). He started working at Human Angle earlier this year and moved to Abuja. We now spend most of our weekends drinking wine and ordering meals and binging on TV shows together. It’s in the middle of this that we have profound conversations about the most random subjects. Anita does this thing where she attempts to philosophize everyday occurrences, and so it’s not uncommon to find ourselves theorizing on the cost of garri at the Ibilo palm oil market.
Those conversations mean a lot to me because it’s my safe space. As a civilization, we are currently at the peak of PC culture — especially on the internet. And this has inadvertently given rise to thought-policing where nuances can be lost to outrage and clickbait activism. With Princely and Anita, I can express opinions that I may not have had the confidence to express on the free internet without getting my ass fried even before I get a chance to give more light to the subject.
I and Princely may have come since way back but Anita has only been around me for a couple of months now. Nothing stitches all three of us together more than the collective trauma of being troubled creatives. I’m sure you understand. There’s a reason that alcohol seems to be the most prominent of all vices we share. We are young people punching our way through turgid career paths and complex emotional situations. I have started to have panic attacks.
I’ve refrained from acknowledging my anxiety because I fear that I may dwell on it to the extent of romanticizing it. I fear that I may get drawn into that pool where the talent becomes one with his demon, acknowledging it by its name and nurturing it with an envious affection. But every other night, a reminder of the most trivial of my problems flashes through my mind and all of a sudden I feel like my heart will burst out of my body. When it happens become suddenly too afraid to sleep back because it feels like if I let myself slip into any state as vulnerable as sleep, I may never wake up again. When it just started I felt like I was having a heart attack. These days it feels like my mood pendulum swings between prolonged depression and fleeting euphoria. At work, I start to feel like I should be somewhere else doing something that gives me a little more adrenaline, and at home I think of a target I’m yet to meet at work and my heart starts doing jumping jacks again. It’s even worse because I’m in a transitional period of my life where I’m making big decisions and preparing myself for big steps. When the panic comes I try to tell my body that it is overreacting to something trivial but it doesn’t listen. My heart just pounds on and on and on.
I’m moving places. I’d been nesting at aunty Agnes’ since my call to the bar, mostly because it was convenient. I didn’t need to pay for food or save for rent — meaning I could afford to splurge on my vanities as much as I wanted. But I’m scheduled to complete another cycle in a couple of months and I guess I should start learning to let myself go through the strains of adulthood.
Moving is mad expensive. First you pay the rent, then pay the lawyer, then pay the agents, then pay the dude who took you to the other agents then pay for insurance. This is no hyperbole, I paid all of these, which amounted to about 40 percent of the initial rent. It is at this point you’ll realize that you haven’t even done half of the spending, especially when you’re moving for the first time. It’s at this point you’ll realize that everyday utensils cost more than whatever bride price paid on your mother.
Bruh, curtains, what the fuck? I had no idea that privacy cost that much. Then pots, plates, double-burners and the fucking cylinder? Bruh. Let’s not even talk about furniture.
I’ve had really bright ideas on interior design that I’m determined to see through. I like the elegance of white and the calmness of grey. I like exquisite mahogany finishes and I like the sight of having a pot of cactus sit on them. I’ve been possessed by a budding intimacy with plants whose names I don’t even know. I love cats a lot but I think plants are easier to nurture, so I’m getting a few pots of those.
I’m excited by the prospect of turning my home desk into a workstation. Maybe the creative juices will start flowing again. Maybe I’ll finally get past the first few paragraphs of the piece I’m supposed to be writing about myself.
I have come to a baffling realization that I no longer have the courage to write about myself with the unrestrained honesty I used to. I have become more self-aware, more sensitive to my vulnerabilities . . . like the stakes are much higher now. I have people in my life that I must now protect from certain truths. I have managed to build a network that may do without certain details about my inhibitions, and I’m comfortable with that.
Writing now takes more away from me than it used to. You will not believe how long it took me to finish writing this. I do not fully understand what is happening to me, given that I’m not exactly short on ideas on what to write about. I have projects that need to materialize into white sheets. I need more motivation than all the psychedelics I take can give to me. I need to be more proficient with this shit because that’s where some of the bread comes from. But I make the most killing from just being me, Victor Daniel.
I think I’m a little too laid back about everything. I feel very deeply that if I were a more motivated person, I would be sitting two times taller than I already am. You know, I’d had this brand thing going on in my head for a while but had never been motivated enough to actually scrape together anything tangible until this guy came around and gassed me up about how much of a goldmine my followership was. I mean, I knew that already. I’d made enough rubbers from endorsements to know about that. But you see I haven’t scratched the surface yet. I have not touched this soft Abuja money I see my boys touching. You know, big establishment money. Like the type Tayo Aina is touching. The type Kuyet Bamali sees. I may not be the most ambitious bloke in the block but I can sniff opportunities from places that don’t even realize they had them. How do you think I’m here in the first place?
The most challenging phase of personal branding is the knowledge that you can no longer do everything at your own discretion. You now have a manager breathing down your neck about the sort of things you put out there, about the sort of deals to take, about who to work with, and how to work with them. You no longer even have total control over the creative approach you take in certain situations anymore. I now understand the sort of conflict artists have with their management, and how influential labels are in determining perception and acceptance.
That’s it for me, folks. Of course, there is a lot more working in the undercurrents. I hope to live long (and motivated) enough to share. I hope to be doing more writing too. I have stories to tell and scripts to turn over. I’m happy about the network I’m building around me and I smell exciting times ahead. For now, I have houses to sell and a TEDx speech to prepare for.
(*The title of this piece was a “working title” I intended to change after writing. The inspiration to write this piece came after a conversation with Elissa where I was whining about my inability to write. I have however decided to keep the title just because I like the sound of it and because she was kind enough to listen. I hope it means something.)