At the beginning of 2020, my only plan had been to graduate. I was finally in my final year of university and that was all I could think about; graduating and then, serving and then… and then, nothing. After serving, the next steps had been a blur. Do I get a job? What kind of job? One that focuses on health or one that focuses on writing? Do I immediately work towards attaining a Master’s degree and maybe, a PhD? A Master’s degree on what? Public Health or Creative Writing? I was so confused that I decided to pretend I was not. Adulthood anxiety is a real thing.
But on the second of January, I came across an app that one could use to design a goal board. I downloaded it and installed into my phone. While trying to design my goal board for 2020, I asked myself a question: what are the six most basic and most important goals I would like to have achieved by the end of 2020?
After soaking the question in, I came up with these:
- Healthy living
I knew how unhealthy I was in 2019 and I did not want a repeat. From getting an injured stomach lining because of the carelessness of a doctor, to my weight that was never stable because of how sick I got and the junks I fed on, to writing my third year exams in pain. It was a whole lot and I did not want to experience it again.
- Perfect results
Unlike a lot of people believe, all the years I had been in school before 2020, I had been going with the flow. I barely studied, especially my first two years in school. The only consistent thing I did was attending lectures and doing my assignments. I never really had a goal of making a commendable result at the end of sessions. I just believed that I should. It had been like that growing up too. I remember sometime in junior secondary school, I was at sixth position or so and I barely read. I probably never read except the day before the exam. But something got to me and three weeks before the exam, I told myself, “Yvonne, what if you actually tried? What then would happen?” I came out second position that term.
That was pretty much what I said I would do this year; put in effort.
- Reading more
My goal of 2019 had been to read sixty books but I ended up reading just thirty-five. I did not have an exact number of books I wanted to read in 2020, but I knew I wanted to read more.
- Being more intentional about God
Although I identified as a Christian, I barely had a personal journey with God. The plan was to know God for myself.
- Writing more
With writing, I was pumped to dish out more poems on IG. Thinking about it now, this was probably my most shallow goal. You will see why by the end of this.
- Meaningful relationships
2019 had been somewhat lonely for me. Apart from my roommates and one or two other people, I barely had a group of people I could learn from; people that could inspire me in some way; people whose goals were similar to mine. I wanted more and I was ready to offer more to get it. Yes, I had friends. I even had one or two close friends, but what I wanted, was an inner circle, a little community. This had even been my top goal for the year.
After designing my goal board, I took a screenshot of it and made it my Lockscreen; I wanted to always be reminded of what I wanted to achieve.
The first two weeks of January were not so eventful. They were mostly about settling down in a new room in my hostel. I even painted my room myself and it was not entirely horrible.
I also got to leave my comfort zone a bit by joining the DSC UNN core team. I remember my first meet-up with the team. All I could think of was, “what the hell am I doing here? Why did Kosi bring me here?” The second meet-up was great though. I got fascinated by the people there. We ate bread and drank soda and talked about movies we liked. It felt good being around smart people. I could barely relate to what they talked about in tech, but they were comfortable to be around. And if you know me, you know I am not a social butterfly.
I started working on my final year project. It was really stressful but I chose a topic I cared about, so it made it a bit bearable. The topic I chose is “Prevalence and Determinants of Depression among Undergraduates in UNN.”
An acquaintance I made from DSC invited me to a Figma meet-up in Enugu and I went. It was awesome. And how I felt, had nothing to do with how the event went and more to do with me bringing myself out more. I met a lot of awesome people. There was this fine young man there (winks). I didn’t get his number though. But I got the number of another person who put my “meaningful relationship” goal in motion. That was probably my first time seeing someone whose mind-set I admired and then, working towards a relationship with him.
By the end of February, my friend, Angela came to my room to cajole me into joining an organization she was interested in. The organization was AIESEC. We both did not know anything about AIESEC and that was the main reason she wanted me to join her. We were to buy the interview form and she had heard that not everyone passed the interview stage, so it was mostly an adventure for us. Well, we passed.
March 6th and 7th were our induction days into AIESEC. We were supposed to go to an “undisclosed location” in the evening of the sixth where the induction would be taking place. It was a sleep-over kind of event because the induction was to continue the next day. Because we didn’t know much about AIESEC (being the clueless individuals we had been), Angela created funny instances in her head. She was like, “Yvonne, this one they do not want to disclose the location, are you sure they are not kidnappers? What if we get there and they kill us?” It was mostly us “catching cruise” though.
But because some of the things she was saying got to my head, I sent a text to a friend. The text said, “I am going for this sleep-over/induction thing. If I do not come back tomorrow, call my parents.” Leemao! I said it jokingly, but in my head, that statement was valid. He asked me about the organisation and when I told him it was AIESEC, he knew about them. It made us feel stupid, but it was relaxing knowing that we were safe and I even had friends who were already part of the organisation.
During the induction, all I could think about was how grateful I was that my friend urged me to join AIESEC. The people there thought far and wide. They were aware of who they were and they had visions. They were welcoming and I still get awed by some of them.
Then, ASUU went on a strike we thought would only last two weeks. Also, the government announced a lockdown of all schools. I didn’t take it seriously (who did?), so I packed a few clothes and travelled back home on the 22nd of March. Guess who ended buying new clothes? Me!
Lockdown happened and the tension grew. Because I was mostly free, I put my time into creating content for my Instagram. I made friends online. I grew a community of people who were interested in what I had to say and I loved it. Sometime in April, I decided to change my eating habits and it helped my stomach heal. The ulcer pain reduced – maybe even disappeared – and I stopped suffering acid reflux. I was really proud of myself.
But with lockdown came a lot of quiet time for reflection and when you are an over thinker like me, your mind might try to overwhelm you. The reality that I would probably not be graduating in 2020, was also there. I felt greatly underachieved. I felt I was not good enough at this writing thing. I let the doubts into my head and I gave in to them. I told myself I was going to quit writing and try something different. Maybe tech. Maybe marketing.
You know how they say some things happen in your life for a reason? On the 7th of May, just after I had decided to quit writing, Praise sent me a DM in the early hours of the morning, saying that I had been longlisted for the K and L prize. It came as a surprise because I wrote that story hours to the deadline and I didn’t even think it was good enough. I only submitted because Praise had been pushing me to. It brought a little confidence back in me. And that was when I decided to try again at writing. But I ended up doing nothing. I also joined Varscon as the company’s technical secretary sometime in May.
Sometime around June, I was viewing Henry Anumudu’s status and he said something about a writing boot camp. The plan was to get a group of people to write every day for 66 days and hopefully, by the end, we would all have developed a writing habit. It was a lifetime dedication really and not a challenge. It felt like the right opportunity to actually do something, so I said decided to join. I had a call with Henry where we discussed the course of the boot camp and what I hope to have achieved at the end of it. He made us create a writing system we swore to follow till the end; something to aid the development of the habit of writing.
The JustWrite Bootcamp was one of the best things I was part of this year. I decided to use it as an opportunity to write a poetry collection and I succeeded. I have not published it yet and I am glad I did not rush to do that, because my growth level poetry-wise skyrocketed during this period. I started studying the fundamentals of poetry writing. Every poem I wrote was better than the last and it was beautiful to watch. I finally decided to start submitting my pieces to magazines since I had written so many poems. Mind you, throughout the Lockdown, Praise had been in my DMs begging me to submit more. But fear made me keep postponing it.
By August, I started submitting and a week later, I had already gotten three acceptances. I thought life was that easy but maybe, it was just beginner’s luck. Whatever it was, I was happy about it. But that was not the only thing that came out of the JustWrite Bootcamp. In the last days of the bootcamp, Henry suggested that we do a LinkedIn challenge where we would be required to post every day for ten days. I bought the idea and went with it. It was an opportunity to become more present on LinkedIn. During the challenge, the head of a production company noticed my posts and popped into my DMs and our conversations led to us working together on a project. Months later, I got hired into the company as a Content Manager and Storyteller.
On the first of September, Praise came up with this beautiful idea of putting his close friends who were writers together in one Whatsapp group. It was his attempt at building a community. Those people became family and a month later, our community grew. They were what I needed at that point in my life. They became my writer’s circle and they make this journey more beautiful and a bit bearable.
By December, I got shortlisted for the Kreative Diadem Annual contest and also got nominated for the Spoken Word Artist of the Year category in the YWCA. I did not win any but being amongst people I admired was a win for me.
Oh! I also taught a Digital Marketing and Content Creation in one of DSC’s online webinar and in AIESEC Enugu Two-week Skill-up Carnival. I taught two classes of my own too and they were successful. I created a tribe – WrytersTribe and if you want to be part, you can join here. I send mails biweekly. I co-authored an anthology, Ethereal, with authors of different backgrounds and nationalities. I became a better friend to some.
If I were to look back to the goals I set for myself for 2020, I would say I did well.
- Write more: Although this goal was shallow because I only thought about writing more and not becoming a better writer, it was a success; I grew. I also ended up disliking some of my published poems because the more I read them, the more I saw what I could have done better. But a friend told me that as poets, our poems are our babies and we should always adore them, so read some of my poems that got published last year here and the nonfiction here.
- Meaningful relationships: You already know why this is a double check check, lol.
- Perfect results: This one was cut short because of the ASUU strike but hopefully, we will achieve it this year. Amen?
- Read more: Double check. I read a whole lot. There were times I even read one book a day.
- Healthy Living: Double check. I put more effort to being healthy these days. I love it.
- Being Intentional with God: I joined a community of Christians and at the beginning, I read my bible daily. I prayed. But along the line, I flopped. I was not as committed as I had been at the beginning. So this is definitely a carry-over goal.
For me, 2020 was the year I survived in a world that was ravaged by a pandemic and in a country that denied the massacre of its own people. And for that I am grateful. I still do not know what the future holds for me, but I plan to take it one step at a time, to give myself grace and to always remember to learn from my experiences.
2020 was a whole lot, but I left it a better human. If you got here, I am honoured. Happy New Year! Cheers to more growth and to the lessons learnt!