I never thought I would be a writer. I was cool with words and slick with grammar but I never saw myself writing stories, articles, blogs or the likes. I hated books with no pictures, and had a severe case of ADHD. Back in the day, people didn’t really pay attention to mental health, and so I got to understand what was wrong with me very late; at my last year in the university (2014).
I started out in life thinking I’d be a doctor. Then I heard how much they would have to read and being a lazy reader, I decided to be a pilot. I later discovered that was worse as I hated geography, and would still need a lot of books, so I decided to be a lawyer.
Hold on, hold on, don’t give up on me yet. I was a kid, and there wasn’t a long list of things you could become. Just the small list you had to chose from during the “sandalili sandalili” end of the year party presentations.
I ended up with a degree in computer science. How? Truth is, your immediate environment shapes you in one way or another.
Well my dad is a computer scientist. More into graphics design. Not the one you guys do today, I mean the early one on dos windows. Black and white command prompt kinda designs. He had a large computer in the house before computers were popular. Creating designs for those black and white magazines, where the Peugeot 504 was sold at 5Naira 50Kobo.
No, my father didn’t influence me. I found his job boring. He would sit in an AC office of maybe 16 degrees and blast ABBA, Neal Armstrong, dolly patron, or other classics and I will be looking for his suit jacket to stay alive in that ‘winter’.
So one day the computer gets faulty and the repair guy has to come over. Each time the repairman – any repairman came, someone had to watch him so he doesn’t steal anything. I was the youngest, so that someone was always me. Dad always felt like they would steal parts and replace them with faulty ones which they would later ask you to buy. Back then they never did. These days, they do it a lot.
I had to give up cartoons that start at 4pm or Cadbury’s breakfast show on Saturday to look at some guy opening up computers or generators. I was always angry, but as an African, you dare not complain. My mother’s flip flops (slippers) could find you anywhere in the house when she hears a grumble. Those flops always felt like they had their own missile targeting system. I be trying so hard to dodge it and get hit mid air by the second one. So, no, you dare not grumble in the Andrews house.
I sat there wondering when this torture would end. When this guy would get up and get out of our house. When he would tell me, “please call your daddy for me, I’ve finished”.
When you are on repairman sentry duty, you are also the experience tester. If that repairman leaves and something is still wrong with what he repaired, you get your butt whooped ’cause you weren’t paying attention. But how really could I? My mind was making up fantasies elsewhere. But I did pick up on the repairman’s passion for computers.
Decades back, repairmen were loyal. They were honest to a fault. They took pride in their craft. If they hear a sound that is off when they were done with your car, you better believe they would open it up again. If the computer wasn’t running smoothly, he won’t leave or would come back next day. Their craft was their honor. A good name meant something in those days.
This our repairman was passionate and there my love for computers begun. I decided to become a computer scientist. I worked hard, got a good UTME score, aced post UTME, and there I was in the Federal University of Akure, FUTA in one of the most difficult departments to get into. Why FUTA? That is a story for another episode.Off I went to FUTA and discovered that “this life is not my own, I am just passing through”.
FUTA was nothing I wanted. I wanted to be those cool hackers in movies. I wanted to build video games. I wanted to be the nerdy kid in glasses(I achieved this tho, partly because of my nonexistent social skills and glaucoma I inherited from my father). I wanted to eat and breathe code. Sad tale, FUTA in 2009, wasn’t just it.
They laid a bunch of mathematics courses on me. Every semester I was taking at least 3 mathematics or statistics courses. My ADHD had set in, and I started to fall apart. If I couldn’t relate what you were teaching to a real life event, I just wouldn’t understand it. So I started doing poorly in school. I graduated as a computer scientist but it was like a case of molestation. The certificate is the scar and memories that I was there, but I never talk about it. I hated every day of my life there. I hated what the school did to me.
It’s not all doom and gloom tho, I still enjoy being a techie. I write programs and build websites once in a while. For my final year project, I built a virtual reality simulation system. Got an “A” in that project. Probably the most deserved “A” in my whole education. So excuse me while I rub it in. Oooooh yeaaaah an “A”.
I am getting to how I started writing. I know the thought has passed your mind and you just went back to look at the title. A little patience please. A young fighter can’t afford therapy, allow me lay it all out.
A year after graduation, 2015, I called my mother one fine afternoon and begged her to send more funds. I hadn’t had anything to eat and was really hungry.
My parents are the most supportive people on the planet. In 200 level, I told them I didn’t like school and wanted to drop out. My father supported me. He was ready to pay for me to go abroad and start over. He however asked why I didn’t just try to finish. “Just get the certificate, any certificate at all, and we can sponsor your further studies abroad”. Sounded good. Legit deal. How hard would it be to finish? Well, it became phenomenally hard but they never stopped supporting me.
On this occasion however, my mum had nothing but the truth to tell me. My father retired before I went to the university. In fact, he sent all his children to the university on pension funds. Since he was a big shot when he worked, we were fine, and really comfortable. I lived in a self-con(studio apartment) with no roommate. As the years went by, the economy got worse but his pension pay stayed the same. We were slowly moving from rich to average and the income arrow still pointed downward.
I waited for my mother’s response on the other end of the call. She asked me, ” [child], how old are you?” I answered. She replied, “your mates have started making money in life, you have to make money of your own too. We just cannot continue to support you anymore. Your father is a pensioner. He should be eating the fruit of his children by now”.
Till this day I refuse to believe my father had the same idea, or would have given me the same words. He most likely would have told me he didn’t have money, and left it at that. My father once told me, “[child], whatever the world throws at you, always know you can come back home, I will always be able to feed you”. He always told all his children this.
My mother however had said the bitter truth. Computer science wasn’t going to put food on my table so I had to find a way out.
I went online in search for websites I can make money from. I did everything; filling surveys, user testing, clicking links, everything I tried. Nothing worked. One day we had a round table discussion in my school apartment block(off campus hostel). How really were we to make money? We all brainstormed till we found fiverr. It was a freelancing site offering a platform to sell digital services at 5 dollars. I did not have a digital service to sell. My coding skills weren’t that awesome, and I didn’t have a good laptop to perfect it. I had this crazy 2gb ram notebook you can only type on.
So that is what I did. I started typing. Sometimes I add a few words to what the buyer needed, other times I wrote a whole article. My imagination was running wild, so I added new gigs, gigs on creative copy and writing. I started making money. I sincerely enjoyed what I was doing.
Writing had saved me. So when I am asked “how did you become a writer?”, I just say, I was very hungry and needed to eat. My ADHD served me well, as I always had a story cooking up in my head. Sometimes I would start a story but can’t finish because some other story had taken over. I have pads and pads of stories I have started but couldn’t finish, but recently I have gotten better at finishing things I start.
Till this day, I struggle with my ADHD, depression, procrastination, and lack of certain social skills. I remember several times my Boss then would ask me something, and I would start an explanation, but he would be interrupted by a phone call and when he asks me to continue I’d have to ask where I stopped because my mind had wandered too far. The man legit hated me for that, he would always scream at me, “so you want me to tell you what you were saying?” I couldn’t help it.
Writing became my escape. I almost made a career out of it, well till I had to resign because each day my depression was fueled in one way or another (a story for another episode). I did meet some pretty fantastic people in the corporate world of writing though. I miss them every single day. Imagine sitting in a room with the hottest creative minds you can find. Those guys are exceptional. I still think my boss walked with a little bounce and swag because he knew there was no creative problem you threw his way he couldn’t solve. My MD too was always fun to be in the same room with, you’ll never leave him without a smile. In all this, I have learnt something over the years tho…
Sometimes you have to pin the cape on your own back.
Sometimes the hands you need to get you out of the pit are the ones by your side.
P.S. I’m a good reader now, totaling over 30 book a year. Trying to push it to 200.