Irritated because I would enter “along” from Berger to Kubwa and see ‘Area boys’ harass drivers who pick up and drop off passengers along the express way, these drivers trying to make little money to feed their family back home…. I was annoyed because a girl would wear bum shorts and a bra in the scorching sun of Abuja and would be molested on the street by these ‘Area boys’ and even her fellow females, who would call her names like prostitute and what not.
I was irritated because with my big Afro, sometimes plaited, strangers would stop me to preach to me to change, or ask “bros eh! You be footballer? Or “you be musician? (like dude, wtf, mind your business, leave me alone).
I was annoyed because I was bubbling with so much creative energy inside. I would call up a dancer to share my knowledge for free and get responses like”would you pay my tramsport fare?”
Even though, this was an honest question,it was also shocking;to me, at least. Then there was that close friend who would take my phone to read my text messages – (omo, I deleted him from my life sharply, before you could say snap) .
I was irritated because even when the dancers would show up sometimes to learn, the male dancers wouldn’t want to do the dance moves I showed them because they thought they was too feminine.
Anyway, I was sha done in my head. Nothing else excited me. Little things annoyed me. I began to seek opinions from people I trusted about my already made decision to leave Naija and go elsewhere to start afresh. The decision was scary, which was normal. Where would I stay? How would I stay a week without eating Suya? How would I make money to gain legal status? Hadn’t I gone too far in my career to start afresh? How would I begin to make new friends?
The answers I got ranged from a huge “Naija is the easiest place to make your money” to ” my dear, leave this place “.
So, I quietly packed everything that I valued, told nobody my plan to not return soon; even my mum (who is my everything) and left.
Fast forward to three months later…
The new environment came with the new challenges. I had to jump from one house to another because people in New York would not let you stay more than a week at a time. I was even lucky I had people who would let me stay for a week as a result of my previous two trips to the USA.
I had to learn to smile back at strangers at the mall, to strike conversations with dancers at the dance studio, to step aside by the train for exiting passengers, to dress warm (even though I thought I knew how to as I had learnt from the harmattan periods in naija) to put a new twist to my Nigerian accent, which they found sexy- so that I wouldn’t have to repeat myself each time I spoke to people ( I didn’t change to American accent o- I just pronounced my words more carefully).
I had to become comfortable with the fact that I have a beautiful body – back home, my friends always told me to please, always wear a shirt because I looked like a HIV patient .
But this was new to me- hearing at least once a week someone say “I love your accent”, you have a nice body” and such. Cussing, however became a norm for me, using the “F” word to express anger, disgust, surprise or excitement. Also, in such a fast city, people barely have hearts. You could become homeless in a snap of a finger if you angered your host.
You couldn’t get “access” to people as much as you would in Naija. In other words, people wanted to see you only when they had time and truly wanted to see you. No one dashes you a dollar and from these, I became hardened and wise.
A certain Nigerian was shocked I couldn’t borrow him a hundred dollars when he asked. Me, borrow a Nigerian money? Ok o!
Story for another day…
He claimed he wanted to use it to pay an agent to help him get undergee work. He asked we hang out and after I bought all the food and drinks, begged me for cash dash. Of course, I refused. He was so shocked and he said ” you don dey behave like oyibo- wicked people”.
I also, only met my American friends when I had time too and gave priority to none of them, I was losing myself. Going crazy. Feeling numb… But thanks be to God, I had a creative outlet – DANCE and a friend who helped out financially.
This year saw me making some long haul and spontaneous travels across the USA that got my friends asking “ please show us the way” … (waka!! Biko, find your way) ….
I think I travelled to over ten states in the USA in this blessed year. Hawaii was on my list but I didn’t make it. The dance classes were giving me life. It was so much fun meeting almost every dance teacher I had watched growing up and learning so much from them (Willdabeast Adams, Tricia Miranda, Brian Friedman, Yannis Marshal etc)
2016 taught me to follow my heart. Listen to it. It won’t lead you astray.
2017 will be much better. I feel it in my spirit. In that year, I intend to up my networking game. Like…Get into the market. I hope I get signed by a talent agency. I hope to have two or three studios where I teach Afro fusion constantly. I hope to make more genuine friends. And travel even more.
Anyway, I am thankful I am doing just fine in one of the greatest cities in the world.
“If you can make it here”, they say, “you can make it anywhere”