The Life of The Sheltered Nigerian
"Don’t go there!" is something I grew up hearing very often. It was the chant that stood out amongst my mother’s very long list of ‘do nots’ including but not limited to; ‘do not collect food from strangers (strangers I realized meant my classmates, neighbors or even friends of theirs that weren’t friendly enough to consider as close)’, ‘don’t talk to anybody you do not know’, ‘don’t play with those children’, ‘don’t go to anybody’s house without good reason to (no reason was ever good enough) and others that threw me off so much I never bothered to ask what it is I COULD do.
These rules stayed but eventually got modified as I got older, softening at their edges but remaining firm. At 13/14, it was so much of a battle to even consider to ask if I could go out with friends, I eventually stopped asking all together. My mother maintained that having friends at my age was not ideal and wanting to go out with them was certainly out of the question. The one time she did allow it, I spent so long going over the details that when I eventually got to, I was so fidgety I could barely enjoy myself. The idea that I wanted to not be surrounded by people more than twice my age all the time & actually wanted to be social was absolutely ludicrous to my mother.
This, of course, affected me socially. I became so tentative with making friends because it would never progress outside of school. I developed the habit of staying mostly by myself and started to fill my time with music and books. By 17, I could fully do without them. I had a few good friends but it never got past school. I was in Uni and could count on one hand how many times I’d been out with friends.
I had become so awkward in dealing with others, in order to get through most conversations I had to pinch myself during the entire exchange. Being around people that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, drained me. Having spent most of my formative years deprived of the ability to form relationships with my peers, the thought of merely sitting in a room with a group of people I had never met and had to socialise with, often filled me with dread.
My parents, mother especially, couldn’t see a thing wrong with this arrangement. She insisted that I couldn’t leave the house on my own, claiming that the danfos were too complex for me to maneuver and insisted that I be driven everywhere. This naturally became how things are. I’m 20 now and I still don’t know how to use a danfo to get around and now they somehow blame me for not knowing my way around. They tell me to leave the house but even if I knew where to go, I have no idea how to get there.
I try not to feel trapped in my immobility. I figure that it could be worse. Now, at least I have friends—friends with cars that are nice enough to take me places sometimes. I could also learn how to drive and take myself out. I shudder at what it would be like if I didn’t have these options, if I had to sit on my hands and choke on my own company & the company of family members I have become perpetually bored of.
This happens to be just one of the many downsides of not being allowed to be properly acquainted with life on the outside. Spending so much time being shielded from the actual realities of what goes on in my surrounding environment has failed to prepare me for the eventual shove into the outside world nobody prepared me for. After Uni, I’ve had to go out more, inevitably and nothing could have adequately prepared me for what I have encountered.
I have learned that; Lagos moves quickly, with or without you. Speaking English will only get you so far—there are way too many types of people that are not like you and therefore will not understand you, and more importantly learning how to jump okadas will save your life.
Now, I’m learning to come out of my shell. I realized early on that I’m very comfortable in my aloneness and this might be the only upside about my experience. Since i started my service year I’ve been thrust into so many situations that I have not been prepared for & I survived them without imploding. I’m also trying not to blame anyone for me turning out the way I did. I’m focusing on becoming a better social entity and taking steps towards exploring my surroundings more, talking to more people and taking bomb pictures.