Milestones, lessons learned and unintended intermissions


It was my birthday a few weeks ago, and what should have been a routine, barely noticeable bump on the flat line that has become the ultra predictable, safety first, thirty-something year old life that is my lot somehow morphed into a swirling mess of mildly depressive emotions. The trigger was an epiphany of sorts, one that I had no business having. If having that epiphany was odd, where it hit was even odder – midway through my morning ablutions, just before the commode gave way to a four minute duel with sensodyne and a power toothbrush. Leading up to it, I was stoking along nicely, keeping up with my annual birthday ritual – deactivating my facebook account, turning off all but my private phone and lobbing a text message in the direction of the one friend I know whose birthday is in the same week as mine.

I would blame the perfect storm that was the accretion of several niggles for tipping me over the edge this time. My Nigerian inquisition, subtle reminders from my father – ostensibly in jest – about how at the age I was turning he’d met my mother, a not entirely cerebral dalliance with my friend Q, and a general feeling of malaise all played their parts, as did an emotionally fraught two week period where an event in the life of the bloke I count as a work mentor shook me up majorly. There was also the small matter of waiting on three big decisions – vacillating between pumped up anticipation as resolution seemed near and the dull listlessness that boredom, and the sense of nothing happening, seemed to spawn.

Four key conversations ended up defining the period – three random ones which helped kick me out of my funk, and one not quite random one. If there is anyone in my circle of friends who’s earned the right to give me a kick in the gonads and shake me out of any bouts of moroseness, it is my friend Kizz. Between twice uprooting her life to go live outside her comfort zone, expending it for a darn good cause in far away lands and soldiering on in the battle for love, no one has epitomised for me the get-on-with-it-ness and gumption  required to enjoy life. She delivered – one morning texting back and forth as I wove my way to work, head bowed seemingly by the weight of the world on my shoulders and irritated by the piddling rain, she listened to me moan on and on about the lousiness of the life I thought I had and how waiting on a few big decisions had me feeling depressed. She let me blow on for a few minutes and then proceeded to give me a gentle rollicking – if those can be gentle – pointing out all the good things I have had happen to me in 2012, for which I should have been thankful. Suitably chided, I slunk into work, grabbed a large coffee – thankful for summer Fridays and the joy s of having the office all to myself –  and promised myself I would be more thankful.

A few days later, I got sucked into yet another cerebral conversation with Q – about all things work, and how my old nemesis from a Nigerian assignment had come right back into the picture at work. Somewhere in the morass of all the things she talked about, she dropped a nugget, a three legged stool model for deciding what was a good job, namely, a good role that one enjoyed, team mates that one liked enough to work with, and a company one was proud to work for. On that scale, I’m 2 for 3, which didn’t seem that bad after all.

The not so palatable conversation was one I needed to have – if only for the clarity it brought to what at best was an awkward situation. Way back in May I’d sensed (and that not for the first time) that certain thresholds had been crossed, but like all foolhardy blokes on a mission I chose to soldier on in blind hope, biding my time. August provided the opportunity to bite the bullet and seek clarity. That I half expected the response I got did little to mitigate the keenness of the disappointment. Paradoxically, it provided some much needed relief too, not least for the opportunity to deal with a certain elephant in the room and firmly draw a line in the sand. I suppose if being once bitten leaves one twice shy, being twice bitten should put paid to any lingering bits of foolishness.

Birthday eve did bring some cheer in the form of a phone call from the buddy I jokingly call my Strategy Specialist (she still hasn’t sent my Big Bang Theory box set though), as well as my god daughter and her kid brother singing me my very own ‘Happy Birthday’. No thanks to my Linkedin profile, one of the guys from work found out it was my birthday, and surprised me with a paid for lunch at Union Square’s TGIF the Friday after.

It was Jorge Luis Borges who said, in his beautifully sad meditation on love and loss, ‘With every goodbye you learn.‘ Here there have been lessons learned, and re-learned if the truth must be told, not least of which seems to be that the only thing that piques my creativity is emotional turmoil.