The Age of Stuff
A non-fiction piece and book review of Adulting in Nigeria by Michael Emmanuel & Emmanuel Faith
I know that I keep disappearing. I have even run out of excuses to give and ways to explain it to my friends that one day I want to be here and here well, and the other days I just want to disappear. It is equally the same feeling I have as an introvert when I attend a social event for two hours, and I am convinced that I have exhausted my socio-emotional capacity to interact with people for the next six months. One or two months, I’ll be consistent on social media, and without warning, one midnight, decide to delete everything. Earlier this month, on a three-hour train ride, I deleted a thousand, five hundred and thirteen pictures on my phone, and I felt lighter. I don’t understand the connection between my mind, body, and deleting pictures on my phone, but I count unburdening myself of myself in any way or form as therapy.
While there was surplus space on my phone to accommodate five thousand more pictures if I wished, the act of removing something even if it didn’t need fixing made me feel like I was doing something right for this age. It made me feel as though I truly was unraveling myself while ignoring the actual clutter of the midnight hours my insomnia has now married. This age also feels like a betrayal. After pumping my nose with Nasacort (allergy medication) in the morning to chase the things stealing my breath and chewing magnesium gummies at night, yet, still unable to sleep, I mutter angrily, this stuff is not working! I don’t know which one I am angry at, my body, or the medication for not working. I look at my nightstand and mockingly say, “Don’t do drugs.” These days survival requires a good sense of humor than sleep, food, and breath which my always running and sneezing nostrils dribble.
In a poem titled 20-01-2021, on page 44, Michael Emmanuel & Emmanuel Faith write,
What is adulting if not a pendulum swinging profusely
with no pivot. Hell sets loose and you write life’s
examinations every day without past questions.
COVID hit, and masks became our accessories as we
mask up our anxieties and fears with eerie smiles.
We are valiant warriors, our voice a force of reckon;
let us not be weighed down by transient troubles
threatening to stifle our breath.
Adulting is a phase of discovering, evolving
On food. Last week Monday, I spoke to my fitness trainer. I told her that it was as if I clocked twenty-something, and my stomach decided to show me all the rebellions I caused my mother in my teenage years. We talked about bloating and how everything I used to eat to keep this body alive now makes me sick. I said I am figuring it out, but it is frustrating, and people throw suggestions at me as if I haven’t even tried. One minute, they say I am too young to give up, and the other minute, they say I am old enough to know not to quit. Eat fruits, they say. The day I realized that cucumber made my tummy feel sick was another level of sadness. Soon, I realized too much water or drinking water too fast or “a wrong way” could make you sick. This is the age where you realize that water can make you sick while trying to find yourself. The human body is about 60% water, and I look at my body and my big bottle of water and just wonder in writhing pain, “How come we aren’t so easily compatible?!”
At this age, you would think my fear, like some older relatives, is finding a compatible man to marry, but day and night, I worry about becoming one with my body. My body, growing in all the places my ancestorial genetics have pathed, rebel against me and my clothes. Before, I would run for miles every morning and try to evacuate my breath to keep fitting into the body of my teens, but these days I just buy new clothes and let them equally take my breath away. I still exercise, but I remind myself every day that I don’t have to remain who I used to be to deserve love or keep on moving. Recently, a friend asked me what is an expensive possession that I love, and I said my mirror. It cost me a swallow, but I intentionally bought something that could fit all my shapes and angles. When other people choose something that makes them want to wake up in the morning, they choose a person, something spiritual, a goal, but I choose my mirror. I look into it every day and let it carry me whole and show me how to take my breath away.
An excerpt of a poem by Michael Emmanuel & Emmanuel Faith titled Song… on page 37 says,
Everything here is song. your body a song
of want and breakage. The pipe in your
throat a song of fatigue. Your scarred cheeks
a song of violence and vengeance. Your folded
silhouettes, accommodating fragments of sleep
a song of dreams and garnished reveries, of
crescendos and star-striped flags, of a country
embracing your strangeness like it is sunrise.
This is the age where everything subtly feels like stuff that I need to get rid of; my fat but fighting belly, time, unfruitful relationships, some parts of myself, and even unproductive joy in belief that only makes you feel good but doesn’t change things. On social media, I see many quotes about cancel culture and “cutting people off,” and I mock the sainthood at which people view themselves to validate their choices. Only a few of my friends have admitted that just like me, they have had to slowly end relationships where they saw themselves as the problem or where they genuinely felt insufficient and could no longer contribute positively to. This is the age where you know what it feels like to genuinely love something or someone good to you but don’t understand why it feels like it is choking you. When my friends rant to me – a newbie at living alone, that they “can’t wait to leave their parent’s house,” I tell them that I understand but they should also enjoy the rent-free years as paying bills isn’t beans. When they share their guilt for desiring to become adults or do adult-like things like being far from their parents, I help them understand that because they want to leave desperately doesn’t mean they don’t love their parents. We often talk about getting out of negative relationships, but this is the age where you realize that positivity and joy can still be a good enough reason to walk away.
Recently, I told a friend who complained about not being where she thinks she ought to be that the rest of us just look like we have our shit together. If you announce only the good stuff about your life too on social media and take pictures from the right angles, you too will look like you have your shit together. But are you pursuing appearance or purpose? Any well-pursued purpose will appear in due time. This is the age where you must remind yourself that success, figuring things out, finding your purpose and most importantly being yourself takes time. You must be patient.
An excerpt of a poem titled To Drip Like A French Wine on page 24 of Adulting in Nigeria says,
Like French wine
Is to ignore the vanities False Identities
Remember when you were a kid, and grown-ups asked you what you want to become? I laugh in sarcasm when I say this is the age where you would think you can be what you said. The more I try to be or answer that question when anyone asks me, the more confused I am about myself. Tell us about yourself; what do you do? They ask. And despite having a resume written by God and a plethora of accomplishments, my tongue denies me definition. During business hours, I work in higher-ed; after business hours, I am an entrepreneur. I am a poet at midnight, a freelancer on weekends, a chronic overthinker desiring to solve world problems, an obsessive knitter, a student, and I am just getting started. People will look at you and say you are well established, but here you are, wondering every five minutes, “what the fuck am I doing with my life?” This is adulting. This is the age where you feel like you are just being stuff and doing stuff just to make anything work more than you feel that you are being someone or doing something right and certain.
An excerpt of Opening Cadence on page 13, the starting poem of the book, says:
We are creatives, content writers
We camp on IG, Upwork, and Fiverr
Are we not the sneaky moonlighters
Your HR dreads to give an offer?
If you ask me why I write, I say to be. Because, right now, that’s the only right thing I know how to do. Writing - doing it at all is what makes it right. Even with all the grammatical errors, if what you write has some meaning, you are on the right path. Although I am showing up well to my mandatory commitments, I have struggled to write, read, and be very recently which is very uncommon of me. I tell a friend that I am even more disappointed because I am usually the one to motivate and inspire others yet, getting off my bed on some days feels like war. I had this non-fiction piece in my head for about two months now, and it only arrived because I read Michael Emmanuel and Emmanuel Faith’s brilliant collaboration. And to even call this collection of poems brilliant is an understatement. I often tell my mentees that a good book makes you write. This is a really good book. The dedication of this book will become my new mantra:
To adults adulting, adults still budding and everyone who is still figuring life,
Live fully, make lovely memories while you’re still alive.
While we can talk about the poetics and technicalities that make Adulting in Nigeria a gift, I think the most important reason why this book is a gift is that it makes life make sense for many of us. It is one of those books that I wish came in print, and I hope the authors will pity us and birth a sequence or full-length to. I am genuinely tired of reading books about adulting that don’t understand me. Every book and celebrity or influencer prescribe one action or another, one advice or solution to the chaos they don’t even understand or observe with keen eyes to know its strain. This is one of those books you don’t realize you need until you read it as a young person. It teaches you how to have peace of mind with the age of stuff. It teaches you that honesty and openness with many struggles that come with this age is as much of a solution as the cure you are searching for.
An excerpt of the poem titled Adulting in Nigeria on page 15 says:
You read about Okonjo Iweala
Herbert Wigwe and Awosika
You get pumped up, ready to conquer
But wonder if it isn’t aspire to perspire
Just like life, the book isn’t only about adulting. It is about love, friendship, and odes – one I admire my generation for doing so revolutionarily. These days, I have only come across a few books that meet my expectations, and make me want to read, write, and be. Adulting in Nigeria by Michael Emmanuel and Emmanuel Faith exceeds it. This is one of those few books where I say it is a must-read, and I genuinely mean it.
This is my age of stuff. How is yours going?
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