Written by Joy A. Adewumi

‘A fresh start! That’s it! That’s what I need!’ Lana exclaimed as she sat up on her bed suddenly and began sliding down the high wooden frame. I noticed she had zoned out for a few moments, but it was nothing new. Sometimes, she does it in the middle of an idle conversation or while surfing her phone. I think that’s her way of addressing thoughts that come to mind when doing idle stuff like that. While I choose to file them away for proper mulling and rumination later, Lana zones out immediately and deals with the thought. Usually, she comes out of her head and continues what she was doing but this drama she was acting was new. It was like someone called her to sudden action in her head.

‘Fresh start?’ I asked with a hike of my brow as I readjusted the laptop on my thighs and peered at her over the rim of my glasses.

‘Yes, fresh slate, new start! Tabula rasa!’ She replied with a determined look as she threw one palm out in a sweeping motion, as though she was wiping a surface, then returned promptly to making her bed.

It seemed like a serious moment, but I couldn’t keep in the chuckle that burst through my lips. ‘Tabula rasa is for babies.’

She rolled her eyes at me and finished it with a ‘duh’ look. ‘Well then, I identify as a baby.’

I had to hold on to my laptop as I doubled over in laughter. Okay, don’t look at me that way. I know she is probably having a serious moment, but in my defense, she used an inside joke. It’s a joke both of us make about identifying as whatever suits us at any given moment. Like when I identified as a 24-year-old a few days ago at the YMR 2022 meeting when young adults under 25 years were called upon for special blessings.

I got a hold of myself and looked up to see that she had finished straightening out her sheets and was moving into her closet. Boy, oh, boy! It’s not one of those long weekends where the weekend stretched into a public holiday and Lana is about to go organize her closet?!  Did I mention the fact that she only makes her bed when she brings in her sheets from the laundry? Every other day, my loving roommate gives the sheets a good dusting and moves on. So, this was huge!

‘The closet, really? What’s up L?’ I asked as I placed my laptop on the study chair in Lana’s room and stood at the entrance of her closet, leaning against the door frame.

An exaggerated sigh was what I got with a dramatic slump of her shoulders as she turned to me with arms full of clothes and said in a small voice, ‘I’ve been playing with my life.’

I reared my head back in surprise and brought it back as I asked, ‘Come again?’

‘I said I’ve been playing with my life.’ She sighed again and dumped the clothes in her laundry bag. ‘You know how people say, “Dey play, just dey play.” I feel like I’m the one they’re talking to.’

I shook my head, folded my arms on my midriff, and took a step into the closet. ‘Why on earth would you feel that way?’

‘Because I’ve been playing with my life!’ She said in a singsong high pitch that made me think she thought that statement was self-explanatory. She went on to pick out clothes and throw them in the laundry basket.

I pushed my glasses up my nose bridge and pondered a bit as to how to move on. My normal response would be to just laugh off her drama and expect her to return to normal after getting busy for a while, but a nudge from the Holy Spirit said otherwise. I had an inkling in my spirit that this was not the run-of-the-mill, momentary feeling everyone gets that they aren’t doing enough with their lives. It was more. It seemed like the start of something destructive that had to be nipped in the bud.

‘Lana, what did you see online? Or what have you been consuming online?’ Where that came from, I wasn’t sure but the moment I said it, I knew it was the Holy Spirit. This was the turn He wanted the conversation to take. Nothing like having the Spirit of God resident in you. The guidance He provides is perfect!

Another sigh, smaller, tired, screaming resignation, spilled out of my roommate as she sunk to the floor and sat. I joined her. ‘You know, I feel like I should be doing more. Scratch that, I’m not sure I’m even doing the right thing with my life. Like I don’t feel like I’m fulfilling any special purpose here on earth. I feel like the average Jane Doe.’

I was stunned into silence. Mind-blowing, brain-smattering, heart-stopping silence! I was sure I was gaping for those few seconds after Lana made her confession.

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‘Osas! Osas! Osaruese!’ I was pulled out of my shock as I heard my full name and I just burst into laughter. Stomach-grabbing, tear-streaming, head-over-heels laughter. I covered my mouth as I got over the worst of it and turned to her. The residual chuckles died in my throat as I turned to Lana and saw the hurt look on her face. She was serious. Of course, she was serious, even the Holy Spirit was involved. I sobered immediately and turned to her.

‘I’m sorry, Lana. I was just stunned.’ I pushed my glasses up again as it had slipped down during my dramatic laughter. ‘Not fulfilling purpose?’ I asked unable to keep the fact that I found that incredulous out of my tone. ‘I mean, I understand the feeling of not doing enough, especially when all one does is see other people’s wins all over the media, social and otherwise, but not fulfilling purpose? You? Being in the wrong place? Take it back!’

It was Lana’s turn to wear a look of utter surprise. ‘I don’t understand.’ She said with furrowed eyebrows.

‘I said, without mincing words, that you should take it back!’ I reiterated with vehemence. ‘You, Oluwalanafunmi, are pure inspiration!’ I took her both her hands in mine and turned more squarely to her. ‘I mean, if the pursuit of purpose were a person, it would be you. You’re my biggest inspiration for a well-rounded life. You know why?’

Lana shook her head in response. I couldn’t believe this girl! I threw my back in disbelief as I asked God for help and looked back at her. ‘Because, Lana,’ I said with a chuckle, ‘Anyone, anyone at all, can post or profess anything online, even consistently, and not be that thing. But you, my friend, every day of every year that I’ve known you and lived with you, have been a living, breathing, walking example of someone who strives to live her best life under God. “Best life under God” here is the key phrase.’

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Lana’s eyes took on a teary sheen as she looked away and sniffed. Frustration warred within me. ‘Lana, I understand that sometimes, we feel inadequate, like we’re not doing enough, and the imposter’s syndrome sneaks in on us, but don’t let it get to you.’ I wrapped one arm around her shoulders. ‘It’s okay to pause, take a step back, and take stock. Assess your journey, its alignment with your God-given vision, and revise a plan of action, especially at the start of the year like this, but what you must never do is question all the hard work and consistency you’ve invested into your life because of someone somewhere behind the screen of their gadgets.’

I turned her face to me. ‘I understand that things could be better on the work front, and you’ve been feeling pressured to do something,’ ‘I drew apostrophes in the air, ‘“more purposeful”. But you have to remember that God, not society or social media determines your purpose. Look away from unnecessary pressure, and by all means, avoid comparisons. You know very well, what the Bible says about that. Just concentrate on your journey. Concentrate on God’s direction and guidance. What you need is not to question your life’s purpose, what you need is to get clarity from God on what you know He has called you do.’

Lana nodded her head with a wry smile that was nowhere near convincing, so I added, ‘And when you are in doubt of whether you’re,’ I drew invisible apostrophes in the air again, ‘playing with your life, then ask someone who knows you. Someone who sees you. Not some motivational speaker online. And as that person, who can make a genuine evaluation from a human standpoint, I daresay, without mincing words, that you,’ I pointed at her chest, ‘Oluwalanafunmi Adepero are doing fantastic with your life.’

The look Lana gave me said she thought I was trying to make her feel better. I was not taking it. ‘Oh, now, don’t you dare do that! You know making people feel better is a chore for me, right? It’s not something that comes to me naturally like you. So, no, I did not say that to make you feel better. I meant every syllable!’

Lana chuckled and her smile remained as she held my hands in hers. ‘Thank you, Osas. That means the world to me. I feel so much better, and you weren’t even trying to make me feel better.’

I chuckled at that. ‘Well, since I’m at it and I don’t know when else I will be in the mood to put on this encouraging act, if I were to identify an inspiration and role model amongst my peers, it would be you, no cap. I mean, not even the see finish that comes from living with you can take that away.’

She burst into laughter at that one as she pulled me into a hug. I returned the embrace and said as we separated and I stood up, ‘So, please, do normal, abeg. If you want to clean up and reorganize your room, fine! But don’t go about questioning your life purpose anyhow abeg, you’re scaring me. You run a faith-based podcast that attracts hundreds of listeners each week, listeners who contact you, wanting to know more about Jesus, and you’re here questioning your purpose. Don’t even try it!’

Lana’s sonorous laughter followed me out of the closet as I picked up my laptop to return to work. I felt fulfilled.

It was true, encouraging someone and making them feel better, is not my forte. I was more of the say-it-as-it-is, dissect, and deliver-blunt-feedback kind of girl, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, today being a classic example, I’ve been able to combine, honest feedback and the ministry of encouragement to lift someone that truly needed it.