I wish a fear would!
For those of us whose mumu buttons have been donated to bookstores, those us of us who, if left unshackled, will consider spending someone’s child’s inheritance on good books – you’ll understand when I describe the hypnotizing feeling that comes with smelling a new book. Professional Troublemaker smelled like a gad-damn audacity to me.
So, when you get your copy (yes, I made the compulsion that you get yours), before reading, as a safety measure, please ensure you “off your wigs,” protect your edges, remove the fake Gucci glamour you’ve used to cover your shame or fear, and all other valuables. The reason is, with the assistance of our matron saint, Grandma Olufunmilayo Juliana Faloyin, whom this book pays a huge tribute to, aunty Luvvie will drag you and that stinking fear you cling to your chest. Then, when she has thrown you up and down a couple of times, ensuring there is no ounce of the hesitance to be true to yourself or pursue your dreams, she will clothe you with royalty.
Speaking it to the universe, I lowkey fantasize about aunty Luvvie and billionaire Riri dropping a fragrance titled “the Audacity.” So that after dressing every day, I will spray that anointing from my head to toe and say, “I am covered with the massive audacity of an unshackled white man” (which Luvvie explained in the book). Then, with grandma Faloyin’s peppering shakara, seal it with, “no weapon fashioned against me shall prosper in the name of the lord.” If I decide to be humble, in Sarah Jakes Roberts’ voice, I’ll scream, “Today, I wish a fear would!”
We all NEED this book!
In the introduction of this book, Luvvie wrote,
“I think the fear will always be there, but what’s important is that I go forward anyway. This isn’t a life of sine metu (Latin for “without fear”). It is a life of “I might be afraid, but I won’t let it stop me.”
She further highlighted how this is the book she needed when she knew, she didn’t want to become a doctor but was afraid of choosing something else, didn’t call herself a writer even though she had been writing four times a week for nine years, and was asked to do the biggest talk of her career, then turned it down two times before saying yes because she didn’t think she was ready.
To say this book resonated deeply for this first reason is an understatement. Seeing several pictures of this book online with people commenting and possessively highlighting their pages, I wondered why many people could “relate.”
Now that I have read the book, the lord of all side-eyes will forgive my transgression because I understand! Professional Troublemaker strongly brought back the memories of a recent victory that I never celebrated because, deep down, I knew I let fear sell me short of what I could have accomplished.
Imagine God saying, "I was rooting for you!”
Sometimes, we don’t realize our audacity and potential until fear knocks on the door. The last time I remember having the massive audacity to dream and dear my fears was before graduation from New York University (NYU) in 2020. Here is the back story.
For as young as I can remember having my desires independent of many influences, I have always wanted to study creative writing and professionally be a writer. Unfortunately, the inflictions of stereotypes and fear didn’t let me be great. So, I studied Psychology and then Organizational Behavior and Change to fulfill all righteousness of being marketable for employment after graduation. Fall of 2019, I decided to apply to eight masters’ in creative writing (MFA) programs and one summer publishing program. This time, I was so determined that no one could tell me nothing about not studying creative writing. I knew I had all the bragging rights to fill my application. Particularly I said to myself, I earned it! If the devil and Kris Jenner collaboratively worked hard, I worked twice as hard to earn this moment where I can pursue what I have always wanted.
While in my undergraduate years, in addition to all the things I did to support the majors I pursued, which I had little interest in, I did everything an individual interested in creative writing or publishing would do (except study it). I did internships at 3 top publishing companies in the United States, co-founded a thriving non-profit for Nigerian writers named SprinNG, edited anthologies, published some of my works, and used my writing skills to help others secure numerous scholarships and admissions to top universities. This fearless audacity was in the air until admission responses came in, and the responses either started with “unfortunately” or ended with “declined.” Of the eight programs I applied to, I got admission to only one MFA program with no scholarship and a summer publishing program. This is not where the story ends.
At first, I was happy; I celebrated until the sense kicked in that I couldn’t go for that MFA program because, as a proud Nigerian who cannot misrepresent her folks, I knew “ain’t nobody goon rack up student loans in America.” I kept hyping myself with the thought that if I could do undergrad at a top university in America, financially liberated and secured all these experiences that will make me an asset to any MFA grad school that chooses me, why should I go and suffer. Jesus has paid my debt. Notably, it was at the beginning of the pandemic when things began to shut down. So, I declined the MFA and summer publishing programs’ admission offers. I decided I would try again in the fall of 2020 when applications reopen.
Now, here is where I messed up. Fall of 2020, I began to reapply to MFA programs. With the pandemic and post-graduate job hunting process, fear and imposter syndrome crept in. I told myself that I wasted money trying to apply to all those schools last year, only for me to get one broke admission – so, no need to try as hard this year; no need to have any wild fantasies about my dreams coming true that can break my heart. I decided to apply to just five MFA programs. I kept thinking, “at least, I’ll get one admission, and if I don’t get any admission, next year, I’ll try again.” Admission responses came in April 2021. As if my fears were mocking me for falling into its trap – I got four admission offers out of five (two with scholarships at the top schools of the list). While I knew I could rejoice and be happy, and my circle of support was celebrative, I sat in my room just sad and angry at myself for weeks. I was angry because, deep down, it dawned on me that if I had taken just a little leap of faith in myself (just even half an inch), I could have secured admissions into some of those big schools I was afraid I couldn’t get into, which I cut out of my list.
The worst part of that feeling was that for the past 5-years, I worked in higher education and outside that, mentored young Nigerian writers to believe in themselves. Yet, here I was, not carrying that same ego or pride. To be honest, I was ready to get five declines again this year. I wanted to win, but my preparation to fail was even more, which made me so ashamed of myself. I am that person friends will come to get the gingering motivation to slay their goals or step on their enemies’ necks, but I didn’t give me, myself, and that hurt. Days, weeks, and months just passed by, and so did the desire to celebrate this win. I kept staying in my room, talked less about it, and sweating through my eyes (a big girl can’t admit to tears). Some days, I would re-read my resume and application essays aloud, and I swear I could imagine God saying in Tyra Banks' voice, "I was rooting for you; we were all rooting for you. How dare you?"
Deciding not to disappoint the lord like that again, I wrote a list of all the scholarships and grants I was afraid to apply for and started checking their boxes one after the other. I started asking people who I knew had the power and resources to support for help. This experience taught me three things. The first is, “It is better to do things afraid than to not do them at all.” Second, “You can aim for success, but if failure happens, it will never feel as bad as knowing you had a chance at success and you didn’t take it.” Third, as Nigerians will say in pidgin, “Na person wey no try, na him short.” Meaning, it is the person that didn’t try that truly lost.
Dreaming Big Is In Itself a Privilege…
On page 47, in a chapter titled “Dream Audaciously,” Luvvie wrote, “Dreaming big is in itself a privilege. However, I’m asking us to trick ourselves into thinking we have the privilege of dreaming big.”
Luvvie covered all that you can ask for when it comes to dreaming big, most importantly, highlighting the circle that we surround ourselves with. It is no news that your circle will transform as you grow, and sometimes, the fear of losing people along the way unconsciously holds us back. Some people discard their dreams because they inhale the fears that others project on them. To that, Luvvie says, step on the necks of anyone who tries to look at you and your dreams too low!
On page 57, she writes, “Sometimes we must dream so big that we make people uncomfortable. That is actually when you know you’re doing what you should – when you mention something to someone, and they gasp. YES! LOSE YOUR BREATH ON MY BEHALF.”
Many parts of Professional Troublemaker where she talked about building allies to your dreams and potential reminds me of two quotes. The first is when Steve Harvey, during an interview with Oprah, said, “Stop telling your big dreams to small-minded people.” While you catch the holy ghost on that one, the second is from my book, “To Bee a Honey,” where I wrote, “You are an ocean, do not let people with small cups tell you how to be.”
There is another part of Professional Troublemaker where Luvvie talked about fear being a good biological function because it keeps us safe. So, to be fearless is not to be reckless and unwise about life. Instead, fear can be good because it insights the potential of something in us, which we can hope in.
The Journey to Greatness Isn’t a Suffering Olympics
Because of social media, there is the painful trap that many people fall into regarding what they ingest and believe. There is the trap that “what’s popular is true” or that “what’s said by someone with a platform qualifies as the truth.” I remember reading one best-selling self-help “aspire to inspire” book years ago and just nodding my head to say, “this ain’t it.” As a contract-binding introvert who will seize any opportunity to live in a “safe forest” somewhere in Mars where I am certain God’s arms can reach, since earth is his footstool (I know I said too much here, but stay with me)… I knew damn well that the idea of isolation to improve oneself and pursue one’s dreams was not as glamorous as that book sold. Same as every time I come across these “I can do bad all by myself” quotes on social media, “I’m like, you sure will do bad all by yourself.” There is a reason why one of the severest punishments for crime is solitary confinement – it is the direct opposite of one of our most important human needs to succeed, which is socialization.
In Professional Troublemaker, Luvvie discussed how having a circle of diverse like-minded individuals who support each other’s goals has helped her gain clarity, audacity, and truth in some situations that would have scammed her. Even outside the book, I always admire pictures she posts of her circle, network, and support, the same as of other individuals whose perspectives align with my prospects. If you think you can do bad all by yourself, you can do better by being with the right people.
Of course, setting boundaries matters, and perhaps a brief moment of separation to help clear your head will come in handy every now and then. What I am saying is that if we find ourselves in the wrong circle of people who are unsupportive or do not align with who we are, what we stand for, and our life’s pursuit, instead of immediately thinking “isolate yourself” and glamorizing painful loneliness, we should encourage ourselves to revise our circle. In the last section of this book, titled “Do,” Luvvie has chapters such as “Build a Squad” and “Get a Nigerian Friend” that guides you on evaluating your circle and adding more profitable people to it.
She also guides you on how to have yourself. Especially as social empaths, sometimes while trying to give yourself to others like the Mother Theresa you are, it is easy to get lost. As a high achiever, it is also easy to not want to be a liability to others in a way that limits you. On page 127, Luvvie paints a vivid example of how this plays out. Despite having a squad of support, some people fail to maximize their lives because they think, “I don’t want people to worry about me. The world is enough of an unpredictable junkyard. I have never want to give those I love or those who I am around another reason to be anxious, upset, or stressed out.”
Some of us even have the mindset that we will turn out great because we can “do everything.” However, the journey to greatness isn’t a suffering Olympics. Great people are those who know how to delegate responsibilities to maximize their impact. That section of Professional Troublemaker reminds me of this African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with people.”
Have you ever desperately searched for the answer to something, and a question comes as the answer? Of course, there is no answer, but a question comes to you that provides more clarity, knowledge, or understanding of things.
In therapy, I am finding that I am content not finding the answer and solutions to all things, but I am the type that needs to think about things. In my last session, I asked a series of questions that were more like a rant. Why can’t life just tell us what’s right and what we need to do? Like, why does God leave us guessing or in an eternal longing to make sense of things? Why should we continue making hypotheses of our lives and the best of what life has to offer? Why can’t we figure all things out and possible outcomes before we experience them?
Those questions stemmed from a current dilemma I feel about romantic love. Some people believe that you enjoy romantic relationships with people who have more differences than similarities. Some people believe otherwise. Life doesn’t tell you one way or answer to many things, like how to know the kind of love that’s perfect for you. Today, while braiding my hair, a question came to me: am I driven by similarities or differences? This harmless question seemed unrelated to my dilemma on the surface, but it was like an aha!
Since graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I have engaged in opportunities to keep learning in the past year. While I have slowed down with book reading – I have been listening to opinion pieces, podcasts, commentaries, and even different questions on prevalent social issues.
One of the habits I have consciously cultivated is asking people for their perspectives of things. I am not necessarily asking for what they believe, think is true, or right, but simply how they see something that I am seeing. Whether the topic relates to conflict, religion, a social cause like feminism, or an imminent social issue like the canceling culture, as usual, I extend the grace that what people think can change and doesn’t always define who they are. I also allow for a safe space in the conversations where it is my responsibility to establish such an agreement. With these practices, rather than judging people for their thoughts, I thank them for their honesty and vulnerability.
Often, we think a thought is a finished process when it comes out of people’s mouths, and we forget that we simultaneously think as we talk even when we have had practice. So, when people say something, rather than reacting with judgment, I respond with “let’s discuss that,” or I ask critical questions as simple as “well, why do you think that?” I also sometimes paraphrase what they say to ensure that I understand them clearly and they have communicated effectively. In conversations and, most importantly, listening to others, I find that it is easy to fall into a space of judgment, and worse, this new cancel culture to conclude “you’re a bad person because you said x y and z that I disagree with.” It is not our fault; it’s just how our mind is wired to make instinctive conclusions for safety and compartmentalize things. However, we do better when we train our instincts, from thoughts to actions.
Perspectives are important and affect our relationship with the world, the conclusion of our lives, and connections with people who matter or matter less to us. I will share a couple of things that I am learning from this issue and where this started from.