Living Our Best Lives! – A Short Story
I had only spent two days at Mide’s place when I realised that something was very wrong.
On my first night at her place, she trudged in after a hard and long day’s work, looking bowed under the effect of the difficult commute between the island, where she worked and the mainland, where she lived.
My heart went out to her and, I was glad I had taken the liberty of using her kitchen to prepare dinner for both of us.
A week before, I had called my friend from my place of residence in Abeokuta, letting her know I would be in Lagos for a three-day training. I’d asked if she could accommodate me for some days.
She was elated and sounded excited about my request and I was sure she looked forward to it. I also did.
Though finally being able to get on-board with the other trainees who would be learning from world-class chocolatier and baker Jess Sanders was like a dream come true for me, the fact that I would be coming home daily to a friend rather than a cold hotel room upped my enthusiasm and I believed it was going to be a great week!
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Since I was likely to arrive her house before her, Mide had dropped a spare key to her space with a neighbor and I had access to her house.
I’d even made myself comfortable hours before she finally slugged in.
‘Ewo! Girlfriend, look at you! You look sapped and that’s for the lack of a better word!’ I exclaimed as she let herself in with her own key, force of habit I guess. Or she thought I’d be asleep and she didn’t want to wake me.
I’d discovered that Lagosians somehow believe we in the other states lead a less active life of the countryside and thus are likely to be down for the night while they’re still caught in the usual night traffic.
‘Ah! Teni, I feel like an 18-wheeler truck walked over me. All I want is a hot bath and a nice meal and then sleep.
‘Ore, believe me, it won’t take more than two seconds for me to drift off once I hit the bed!
This life ehn? I just tire!’
With a slight chuckle, I gestured towards her shoes reminding her to kick the monstrosities off.
Then I said,
‘Well, I guess it’s a good thing I made dinner then. Why not go get undressed and have a hot bath. I’ll boil some water for you. Then you can come eat and then hit the sack! Viola! Mission accomplished!’
‘You made dinner?! You’d do all that for me?’ The surprised look on Mide’s face slowly crumpled as she squeezed out tears and my heart broke.
Just how hard were things for my friend?
The second morning came quickly and by the time I woke up on the other side of the narrow bed I shared with Mide, she was gone!
Not just from the bed, but from the house!
It was just 6am. She’d said something the previous night about waking up so early to catch the staff bus, and that she won’t be seeing me till night falls and I wondered just how long she thought I slept simply because I was self-employed.
At that point however, I understood she knew what she was saying.
By the second night, while I was bursting at the seams to tell her about my day, Mide came in again tired and stressed. She wore a lighter countenance than the last night though.
Then, as she showered and ate, we made jokes, talked about our day and caught up on juicy news about our lives.
Mide kept trying to make me do all the talking, insisting I was the one with the exciting life and that she only maintained a monotonous one where she was always looking forward to the close of the day as soon as her eyes cracked open every morning.
From the little details I was finally able to force out of her, I realised she was very unhappy with her life.
Working in a junior position at the Federal Ministry where she did the same things every day was anything but fun.
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There was also the challenge of working with and under difficult colleagues in a work environment where everyone was trying to curry favors from their direct supervisors.
Between these, she wasn’t only finding it hard to survive and be more than just a pushover, she was also finding it hard to stay a Christian.
Also, she’d never expected her life would be all about her 9-5 job, she’d always wanted to combine it with something else. Something that had to do with the ministry God had called her to.
However, not only was she not sure what that ministry was and didn’t have the time nor the inclination, anymore to find out, she wasn’t sure she had it in her to even put her hand to the plough.
So, by the second day of my training, in between sessions, rather than networking and going over my notes, I found myself wondering how to help Mide. I wasn’t coming up with anything however!
The girl thought I was living the perfect life!
And my stories- about the challenge of variety and creativity, and the competition of the confectionery industry that pushed me to be up and doing, always trying my hand at every and anything that could set my brand aside, and have more people coming back for more- were not helping my plight.
I felt each time I opened my mouth to talk about myself, I ended up sinking my friend deeper into her abyss of unhappiness and dissatisfaction with her life.
As I got home that night- which was supposed to be my last night at Mide’s, since I planned to travel immediately after my training ended the next day-
I sunk to my knees asking God to help me give Mide a better memory of my time here, rather than add to the reasons why she was so unhappy with her life.
I prayed and prayed till it was time to make dinner and kept at it even while I made dinner.
Just as dinner got ready and I wanted to wash up, there was a jangling of keys, which was followed by the door’s lock turning.
With a start I wondered who else had keys to the place. I didn’t have time to think further before the person on the other side of door pushed it open unceremoniously.
It was Mide! She was at least two hours earlier than she had been the previous night.
‘Wow! Wonders of all wonders! It’s you at home and the sun hasn’t even retreated!’ Mide chuckled and I noticed the look on her face was void of the normal stress I’d come to associate it with.
‘Oh, come on! You’ve only spent how many days here? There are some days like this when I run errands out of the office and come home from there.
‘I don’t get to come back with the staff bus though, but the absence of stress makes the added expense worth it. They are days I like to call half-days.’
I smiled, all thoughts of showering gone as I settled opposite her and we chatted about how the day went.
‘Ah! Babe, you won’t believe what happened today at work!’
Mide’s gist tone piqued my curiosity, she’d never sounded that way about work since I got to her place.
I leaned forward wanting to hear all about it.
‘That’s how someone messed up one girl like that at our office o.
‘The person actually circulated pictures of her with one of our bosses, however only her own face was showing, but you could tell the office belonged to one of the ogas.
‘Chai! The babe ran blindly out of the office, my heart went out to her sha! I hope she didn’t do something terrible to herself.’
My hand flew to cover my mouth as I muffled my gasp! That was sinister!
‘Then, as if that is not enough,’ Mide continued.
‘On the bus today, as I was coming back, I couldn’t believe what I heard a lady share with her companion in the row in front of me.’
I swallowed hoping this news was at least better than the last.
‘She was talking of a friend of hers. This friend happened to be a big designer in Lagos high fashion.
‘Then a scandal happened and her business and reputation went down. She had to relocate and now she is looking for even the least office job to get by.
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‘Unfortunately, she can’t even tender her work experience because between people finding out how successful she was before and discovering what pushed her out of business and reputation, she would be back to zero point.’
I drew in a shaky breath as I rubbed a palm over my face.
Mide also looked lost in her own thoughts and then I remembered my prayers earlier and immediately I saw the big picture.
I wondered if I could use this opportunity to help Mide see that she still had tons of things to be grateful for. And that she had a reason to maintain her Christian stand at her workplace.
But just before I got talking, Mide beat me to it.
‘And you know, this couple of events made me realise just how ungrateful I’ve been.
‘I have a good life Teni, and I’m both sorry and not so sorry for making it seem like I have the worst!’
My eyebrows arched in surprise.
‘I’m sorry because since as long as I can remember, I’ve been so ungrateful and dissatisfied with my lot in life forgetting at the end of the day, my life is still good. Very good, in fact.’
A small smile was playing on my lips now.
‘And I’m not so sorry, because if you hadn’t come with what I believed was a star-studded and perfect life, I wouldn’t have finally voiced out my ingratitude and realise I’ve been ungrateful.’
My heart swelled with joy. It was as if I didn’t even have to say a thing!
God had found His way to Mide without my verbal input and I was grateful I’d prayed rather than just run my mouth forming motivational speaker!
Who knew this was how God had planned His thing?!
‘I’ve been ungrateful because each time I considered my killer schedule and how I have little or no time for myself, I always to compared my lot with someone like you.
‘Someone who seems to have all the excitement that should come with being young and in her prime.
‘And it made me wonder if my life would ever amount to anything more than this 9-5 job.’
I shook my head at her words in pity and understanding.
‘Then there is the issue of the crazy politics at work that makes the Christian one like me look unambitious and lazy whereas we are the ones doing the most work.
‘But see my peers doing the unthinkable for special favors in return, no be one of them don ja so?’
Mide’s swift transition to pidgin English turned my pity to slight amusement and I shook my head at the reminder of what happened to that colleague of hers.
‘Then, there are those situations, when I see my peers doing big things for God in His vineyard.
‘All of these just made me give up on myself and I stuck to the ordinary life I believed was my curse and lot.’
‘But not again!’
I chuckled silently in sheer joy as Mide wiggled her for finger at me with such vehemence that proved her words.
‘Teni, I’m where I am today because I’ve been busy comparing my life against the backdrop of other people’s lives, rather than appreciate what I have.
‘I have a 9-5 job, so what?!
‘It means so many things I never saw till today! It means job security! It means even more time for myself than many of my friends in the private sector, and I didn’t even see it till today.’
‘I’ve being thinking that the grass is greener on every other side but mine, but not again.
‘My lot in life is not a curse. I have a life- and it’s a really good one even if I never saw it that way before.
‘I have good health, a family that loves me and friends who care about me.
‘More importantly and the fact I’ve ignored most, is that I have a God who is supreme and despite the fact that I’m just one of His many creatures, He loves me and has a unique plan for me.’
As she spoke I was literally laughing silently with delight.
I just felt so happy. I’d prayed for this and it was happening way sooner and better than I expected.
Mide wasn’t done though.
‘God is taking me through a process. So, rather than mourn my lot, I choose to believe God when He says He has good thoughts and plans for me.
Plans that exceed this painfully monotonous life.’
At this point, I was ready to stand up and make a special dance offering to God but I held back my body, though not my laughter. It bubbled still.
‘My mates are happy and progressing not because their lots are better than mine, but because they’ve realised God’s plans for each of us though good, are unique and so are our journeys and are content with it.
‘What I ought then to do is not lament my lot but decide to live my best life everyday!’
Omo! My babe meant business o. Even I was getting motivated by the second.
‘I choose to wake up every morning and be happy for life and though I know my work that day might not be any different from what I did the day before, I still want to to it with a smile and be the best version possible of myself.
‘Happiness after all they say is a choice and I even have something better- the joy of the Lord! The joy of the Lord is my strength.’
I was beginning to think up a song to do my special dance offering but Mide interrupted my thoughts.
‘And then, I want to find that spare time I thought I didn’t have but actually have in abundance- for Pete’s sake, the hours I spend in Lagos traffic everyday is enough!
‘And with it I intend to create a functional and well-used communication line between my Savior and I.
‘My gut instincts tell me that, this is my ticket to living my best life!’
‘Whoa!’ I whooped as I jumped and threw a fist in the air!
Mide’s eyes grew as wide as saucers as she stared in surprise, and I broke into a praise song that I began dancing to.
This kind God ooo,
I never see your type ooo,
This kind God ooo,
Blessed be your holy name.
God always had a way of taking things out of my hands and showing me He could do better than my best thoughts, but that day He really blew my mind. In the best way!
It took all of five seconds or more for Mide to catch on to my excitement and once she did, she threw her head back in a very hearty laugh.
Then, she jumped up with a vigor I’d not seen in her since I arrived and joined me in dancing, giving me a run for my money.
I could feel the joy radiating off her in waves and tears of joy sprang to my eyes. And I thanked God for answering my prayers.
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Truly, while it’s important to aspire for more in life and not settle for what we have, undue comparisons breed ingratitude to God and goes ahead to fester into envy, jealousy and bitterness.
We remain where we are or even retrogress and wander while others are going forward, forgetting that we are supposed to be anchored to God and to fix our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our faith as He’s the only Giver of promotion.
Acknowledgement of God’s goodness and thanksgiving is a good place to start living our best lives.
But godliness with contentment is great gain.
I Timothy 6:6
The Girl with the Winning Smile,
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