Why so serious?

Image Credit: For Harriet

You will often see people, going about with faces tight with tension, an unknown sorrow and general discontent with the world. They shout and snap at the slightest deemed altercation to them. You must have witnessed the sour-faced man on the queue at the ATM who barks at you when your card gets stuck as if you are the reason for the machine’s slow operation or the woman that scowls at you for brushing against her lightly with your arm. Why are these people so serious? How can you avoid going about with such a sad demeanour?

Don’t take yourself too seriously
It is often considered a negative trait to be unserious but there is also a thing as too serious. While it is good to approach life with seriousness in going about your tasks and aiming for success, you should not attach seriousness to everything. Don’t be so serious that the little baby making faces at you over the mother's shoulder does not make you smile even just a little. Don’t be so serious that you cannot laugh at yourself sometimes.
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Control situations, don’t allow situation control you
There are situations that occur beyond your control but it is wrong to think you cannot control your reactions to such situations. You can choose to go about unhappy about it or you can choose to stay happy despite the situation. Focus on the solution out of the dreary situation instead of lounging in the depths of despair over what could have been.

Keep away from triggers

The maxim that prevention is better than cure also works here. If you have identified situations that tend to trigger your episodes of being angry and unhappy, you should keep away from them. This can be your friends, family or co-workers. When you cannot realistically keep them out of your presence as in the case of a workplace, you should learn to zero their influence. When that annoying co-worker goes on in a meeting; poking at you, so that you can react, you can drift away into a twisted imagination that shows their neck stretched out, nose droopy and eyes bulgy. You may find yourself smiling to the chagrin of your tormentor and they will drop their badgering immediately they notice it’s not having the expected effect on you.

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Have a laugh siesta everyday
Most people realise the importance of sleep to keeping good health but often neglect the function of laughter. Laughter has been scientifically proven to release happy hormones in the body which generally has an impact on your well-being. Look for something to make you laugh everyday. It is easier nowadays with the flock of funny skits that can be found online; you can watch one video daily especially when you are having a bad time. After your dose of laughter, you will feel better and be able to face the world not looking so weighed down or angry.

So, next time you get a feel of your serious face coming on, try to put these ideas into practice. Your serious face could put an extra cloud to someone else’s day so why not let your smile brighten their day instead. 

Overcoming the 30’s blues: A guide for the unmarried Nigerian Lady

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So, you have lived through the blossoming teenage years and the fast paced twenties. Now, you find yourself in the ‘dreaded’ 30s; dreaded because of your unmarried status since birthdays are usually deemed worthy of celebration. You try to faze the world and say it does not matter but you find your life is being defined by the society’s stamp of ideals. If you are not careful, you might just lose yourself in the tide that follows. It is worse in the Nigerian society where a lady is only given due respect when she wields the ‘Mrs’ title. How can you overcome the blues that come with being in your 30s and single in Nigeria? Continue reading to discover some ideas.

Stop waiting
The first thing you would notice is the lag in your life. They call you lady in waiting, so you actually transcribe this attribute into all aspects of your life. When you plan for things, you put them in a cupboard of ‘I will do them after I get married’. Then, you keep waiting and get frustrated because you are holding off so much for this one expectation. Stop waiting already! Start to live like this is the life you have always wanted. You want a change in your career or an upgrade to the next level, do it! You want to buy a car or build a house? Go ahead and damn all the theories about how that will keep away intending suitors. Stop waiting and start living.

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Choose your company
You do not have to surround yourself with ‘tear-gatherers’. These are people who delight in reminding you of your single status; asking when you are going to invite them to eat rice. If they are so hungry for rice, invite them over one weekend and dash them one cup each of uncooked rice to cook in their homes. Well, maybe you should not go to so much trouble, just tell them you are not the ‘keeper of rice’. Whether this set of people are friends or family, stand up to them and tell them not to pressure you. They often veil their pressure under cans of genuine concern for you. You don’t have to tolerate badgering, no matter how well-intended it seems. Spend time with people who treat you normal, not like an invalid needing treatment for being in your 30s and single.

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Count your blessings
If you have adhered to the first advice of not waiting and going ahead to achieve all that you desire, you should have so much to be thankful for. Focus on these blessings and if you are religious, learn an attitude of praise so much that nothing can disturb you. Here is an unpopular nugget - use the tragic marriages to comfort yourself. Yes, you are not supposed to gloat at the misery of others. However, thinking over these incidences of unfortunate marriages will help you feel better. Imagine, you could be that woman trending on blogs for being battered to death or bathed with acid by a rabid husband. This could have easily been you, if you had given in to pressure to marry the first male homosapien that came your way. Be peaceful in your choice of not being one of these statistics.

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Date, date and date again
The most common advice, you must have gotten from people is about removing unserious men from your life. However, you may be closing out some wonderful connections and potential relationships this way. If you are looking for the ‘husband material’ in every man you meet, the desperate stamp will be shining and warning off men from a kilometre. Learn to enjoy dates with new acquaintances without necessarily seeing them as a potential suitor. When you decide to weed out prospects, you will not be limited to a few ‘bad’ choices. Dating allows you to choose who to get involved seriously with, without risking your heart another hurt by jump-starting a committed relationship.

Remember, the 30s-mark limit for getting married is a societal construct and should not determine your personal happiness. People have been known to find love in their 40s and even beyond. So if you are in your 30s and unmarried, you too can bloom even in the highly judgmental Nigerian society. 

Is it time to change your friends?

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Friendship is one of the phenomenon you cannot seem to explain in human relationships - from that childhood friend who shared their sweets and tumbled in the grass with you, with no care in the world to the more matured friendship of shared confidences. Friendships are highly placed.  However, many have been burned and even scarred by friends so bad that they have decided to avoid friendships. Friendship is not the problem here, it is bad friends who are the obstacles to your happiness. Instead of avoiding friendships totally, you can look out for these reasons to decide whether you need to change your friends:

Your success rate
If you have kept the same friendships for about five years and you find that you are still in the same position without any improvement, it may be time to change your friends. While you are totally responsible for your personal success, the circle of friends you keep can be affecting your success rate. If your friends are not forward thinking people, there is a high likelihood of thinking along the same downward lines with them. After all, it is said that the company you keep determines your mindset. Make friends with people who will encourage you to aim higher and go together for success.

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Strife is the order of the day
There is no reason to be holding on to a friendship that stresses you. Just because you started out as friends with someone does not mean you will remain friends forever. You may have initiated the friendship without full knowledge of their tendencies or they may change later. Whatever the case might be, do not feel guilty for having to drop some friendships that come with too much baggage. As much as friends cannot always agree on everything all the time, fighting always is a sign the friendship was never meant to be.

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Taking and never giving
No one likes to be taken advantage of. If you find that you have a friend that is always making requests for your help whether for monetary purposes or in other dimensions and they are never available to reciprocate same when needed, drop that friend ‘like they are hot’. Such a person is not actually your friend and is just using you to serve their needs. A true friend will also put your needs into consideration.
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They shut you off from the rest of the world
Your friend’s jealousy towards you having another friend may not be so healthy after all. It can start as a mild obsession and develop into controlling behaviours. You should be free to associate with anybody you choose and not feel restricted to hide your activities with others. Although you can have a personal grading for your friends in the order of who is closest to you, it should be a balanced equation. Don’t be caught in an obsession under the guise of friendship. If your friend can’t stand seeing you with another friend, let them know they don’t own you.

Real and beautiful friendships can make the world a much better place for everyone. 

Living in a compound in contemporary Nigeria

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Most African countries operate within a community system which means everyone living as one big extended family.  However, with the rise of modernity and widespread migration from the rural to the urban, this communal lifestyle has changed rapidly. For most people who grew up in Nigeria in the 80s and 90s,  some of your fondest childhood memories will include playing with other kids in your compound - getting involved in games such as 'catch me if you can', 'tag', 'freeze' and 'jumping the loop in squares drawn on the sand'.  If you are able to decipher the 'Englishcised' version of these games with no trouble, then rest assured you truly lived in the best of times. Back to the premise - with the increase in crimes and other sinister acts going on around, it's no wonder that many people stay aloof in their compounds or neighbourhoods. But is this really the best approach? As long as you have not 'arrived' yet to have your own detached duplex or personal bungalow, you will have to live in a compound with others. The following ideas will guide you on how best to live in a compound in Nigeria.

1. Mind your business but be mindful of others
There's nothing as irritating as nosy neighbours, - the ones that choose to tie their washing lines behind your bedroom window so they can be privy to your conversations, choosing the oddest of time to retrieve their sun dried clothes. Or the ones who will come knocking on your door to ask for a stick of matches or salt, not out of need but just for a chance to poke their heads into your house and lead the conversation into more private areas such as why that young man has not visited in a while - is he even your brother or husband? Because of similar examples along this line, many have rightly decided to mind their business and keep off from any contact with their neighbours. But you should consider one day in the dead of the night when you need an urgent ride to the hospital, or when someone is attacking you in your house or someone comes to harass you in your home, you will need the people in your compound during such times. Achieve a middle ground, be nice to your neighbours but have a boundary. Let anyone overstepping be cautioned.

2. Avoid romantic relationships
Never say never is a thing. So, you might just find love in your compound. However, such a relationship will be wrought with a lot hiccups. From serious ones such as neighbours tearing you apart to silly ones such as whose house to spend the night until one person decides they are wasting their rent and you move in together, cohabiting and speed-racing your relationship. You may end up stuck at the cohabitation level or you may rush into marriage and suddenly realise you do not really know your spouse because you have never seen then beyond the compound relations. In the event of a breakup, your compound will be the store of hurtful memories that may linger and slow down your healing. So, try and keep your heart safe in a Nigerian compound.

3. Don't share your prepaid meters
The coming of prepaid meters have improved the power sector giving consumers more control over pricing and electricity consumption. However, prepaid meters were not made with joint use in mind. It is best you get a personal meter which you can take along even when you move out. You will save yourself shouting matches over who is cooking beans with an electric cooker or the one who sells ice blocks for a living and owns a big freezer zapping the power units. Prepaid meters are still the best choices over the analogue ones that come with outrageous monthly charges that can be still be a source of argument when shared.

4. Keep your personal activities personal
Just because you pay rent does not mean 'enjoying' yourself at the expense of others. Don't watch 'Aye ma le, ibosi' movies into the dead of the night with your volume cranked to the highest. You may worship Tupac even though he has been dead for years, but not everyone has a fancy for listening to your crackly voices miming the raps even as you murder the lyrics. Respect yourself young man or lady, remember your gadgets and your voices are not auto-set on loud. You can keep it all under control.

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5. Clear demarcation of duties
Living in a compound means having some shared responsibilities which may not be included in your rent. This can include paying for security, cleaners and refuse disposal. If they had been rotating sweeping the compound before your arrival and you know nothing would make you touch a broom whether by reason of your dislike for the chore or having a busy schedule, let the others know about your alternative arrangement for such a task.  You can pay someone to do it for you or even suggest a change in the system by encouraging everyone to contribute money towards permanently employing someone However, don't be eager to act as the money-keeper for any compound projects - no matter how transparent you are in your dealings,  someone will go away with the thought of you 'eating' their money. Your reputation may be torched far away from your compound.

Care to share your experiences with living in a Nigerian compound? Drop your comments below.

Are you a slave master?

                                                     Image Credit: ushistoryimages.com

The subject of slavery is one that modern humans try to elevate themselves above. As a civilised human in the 21st century, you are not likely to identify with slavery in any way. However, is this really reflective of your activities? Nowadays, you don’t have to own a sugar or rice plantation, auction humans on a platform or snap their mouths shut with padlocks, but you can be a slave master or mistress in your own right. Many have carried on with the conspiracy of silence in the area of employing domestic staff. Some choose more polished terms like 'assistants' to further dignify the roles played. However, the problem is not with the status of the job as there is dignity in labour as long as the worker receives the deserved dues. To know whether you are a slave master/mistress, you need to consider these scenarios: 

How old is your domestic staff?
In several homes in Nigeria, it has become a normal thing sight to have a domestic staff- some as young as 8 or 9 years old or teenagers between 13-16 years. You work so hard that you often cannot find the strength for household chores at the end of the day or you don’t work at all but your fingers were not made for such chores. Whatever the reason for needing a domestic help, you don’t need to justify it to anybody as long as you can afford it. Where the problem lies is in employing underage children. The fact that their parents or wards release them to you willingly does not make it any better. So, if you have a domestic help below 18 at the moment, carry your title and embrace it – all hail the slave master/mistress!
                                                       Image Credit: askideas.com

Rest time – no time? 
Just because you are paying your domestic staff whose only job description is to work does not mean she/he is not entitled to rest. Yes, just as you have working and closing hours, your domestic staff should have a daily schedule that leaves room for rest too. I can hear you saying – ‘ah, they will just be lazy and do nothing.’ However, that does not justify having them on their feet the whole of 24 hours in a day. You should also think of giving them a day or two off each month. They are humans too and deserve a ‘me-time’. In more developed countries, there are laid down agreements which prescribes the number of rest days, your worker is entitled to. Sadly, even in these organised settings, several employers still don’t stick to it. 

It is totally up to you on how closely you want to integrate your domestic staff into your house. That is, do you want to treat them as part of your extended family, have your kids treat them like an aunt/uncle or older cousin or you want them to just be like the usual detached office-like staff? Each of these choices comes with its pros and cons. There have been reports of those who integrated their domestic helps so closely into their families that outsiders could not even identify they were not related and in the end such a staff brought criminals to rob and maim the employers. On the other hand, there are also domestic staff who have wreaked havoc on their employers with the justification that they were not treated as part of the family. Your major concern here should be on treating your domestic helps right and not concentrating so much on the sense of entitlement pointed out earlier. Do not starve them or feed them leftovers or scraps. Do not ration their meals. If you are restricting feeding as a form of punishment, you are a slave master/mistress.

With all the frustrations in the world today, people have the tendency of displaying aggressive behaviours and this has resulted in some tragic incidents. If you need anger therapy or medication to handle it, get it! Stop cutting your domestic staff with knives and blades or hitting them with pestles. They too are human. If your domestic staff commits a very bad offence and you can’t just deal with it, return them to the agency or contact who facilitated the employment. If you have found yourself, administering bodily harm to your domestic staff in the name of punishment, start polishing your title, slave master/mistress. You can change today and redeem yourself before it is too late. Even though you are a slave master/mistress, you are also enslaved to your parochial mindset. Seek freedom and embrace true humanity.

Why so serious?

Image Credit: For Harriet You will often see people, going about with faces tight with tension, an unknown sorrow and general disco...