Success Metric — Japa

Nnebuugo Paul.
7 min readJan 4, 2024

I wrote the title of this article in mid-2023, if not earlier. I had just had lunch with a friend, the topic of japa came up, and I had so much to say. Many things that could not be said, so I came here, scribbled a title, and waited for the words to come, but they didn’t.

When I was little, my daddy used to tell me stories. On days where I am generous with the details of how I started to write, I tell people that my father fueled my love for storytelling. It is true. Hearing his stories fueled such a fierce desire in me to retell, and so retell I did. With my mouth, with my pen and paper. Because creativity is like a running tap, when I was done with the stories my dad told me, more stories found me. But this is not what this post is about, so I’ll backtrack a bit.

Alongside the stories my daddy used to tell me, he used to sing to me. I say sing because it is the verb closest to what I am trying to describe. His songs were recitals similar to what the Yorubas call oriki. He would call me his world and tell me that one day, I would go to America, to London, that I would travel far and wide — his pride. So, when an airplane passed my compound, I would run after it a bit, wave to it, and scream to the air that one day, I would fly in it.

As I grew, I started to discover myself even more, and then I realized that if there was something I was constantly in search of, it was home. I wanted to feel at home in myself, in the house I lived, in the job I found, in the people I befriended, and then, in the one I loved. And home, I found.

For the longest time, Nigeria was home to me, but then, things changed. All the people I found home in started to up and go. Some without goodbyes. I didn’t know what to do. To stay or to go. I didn’t know. And then, it started to get to the time where my confusion was mistaken for nonchalance, and conversations started to begin with “What are you still doing in this country?” or “When are you leaving this country?”.

Not too long after, it started to cause fights. It started to piss me off. Sure, going overseas sounded good, but why did I have to go to be successful? And for how long? Why did I have to uproot my life and carry uncertainty in my hands to prove that I knew what I was doing with my life? Also, people spoke like relocating was the easiest thing to do and that it didn’t require a shitload(pardon my French) of money and lots of will, energy, time etc. It started to piss me off, and I started to revolt against the thought of “japaing.” I didn’t want it. I didn’t want it. But my mind changed.

In 2021, I was thrown into the labor market. I spent almost six years instead of four years getting a degree at the university. After another year of compulsory service ak.a NYSC, I decided that I didn’t want to do what I studied in school. In my life, this is one of the most audacious things I have done. I didn’t know what to do, but with the way I struggled so hard in school, I knew that I did not want to practice Finance.

God had mercy on me, and I had a Eureka moment. I started to see that people who loved to write like me made money from writing. And then, from exploring freelancing aka shege, especially if you are dealing with local clients (don’t worry, na only me know the shege wey I see), to taking various writing classes where nothing substantial was taught, to finally deciding to just throw myself into the labor market like that, I finally found an internship job.

I remember that after the interview, when I knew the job was mine, I nearly sat on the stairs to cry. I felt validated. I felt seen. I was happy, genuinely. The salary was not excellent, but I didn’t mind at all. I had to journey for hours to work, but I didn’t mind at all. I was just happy.

I saw another phase of premium shege in my new job, but that is a story for another day. However, one thing I was grateful for was that it opened my eyes to see that I could be more. I could do more. And so one day, I resigned. I was called back to the job and sacked unfairly on December 31st, barely a month after, but again, that is a story for another day.

I started job-hunting again, and then, one day, home found me. It was a dream come true. Everything was perfect. I started to see the possibilities I could birth, I grew wings. But there was one tiny problem, actually a big problem — I couldn’t fly. I will be honest, I did not immediately start feeling that way.

When I started the job, it was like coming from a village without electricity and network to the city with just enough electricity and network. But the thing is, seeing what was possible triggered the Oliver Twist in me. I was unhinged, and so again, I wanted more and went after more. Just that this time, I realized that to be more, I had to do more.

Were they people around me becoming more without doing more? I guess. I just didn’t want to be lucky; I wanted to be qualified. If luck alone is great now, imagine a combination of luck and excellence — that’s what I wanted. And so I decided to further my studies. To go to school to actually learn Communications. And then, I decided that I wanted to do this on a global scale. I decided to travel out for my master’s.

When I decided this, I struggled so much with my decision. I had fought people for this, I had shouted at the top of my voice not once, not twice, that I wasn’t going anywhere. My decision made me feel like a hypocrite, but here’s what fascinated me.

One day, during lunch, I overheard people talking about people “leaving their homes to slave in another man’s land.” Some had sold lands, cars, etc., and instead of building businesses in their hometown, making their country work, they were carrying the money to another land to be looked down upon and do dirty work. It was fascinating because before I decided to travel out, people were talking. They were talking about how anyone not thinking of traveling out was unserious. And now that I have decided to travel out, people were still talking! Lol! Either way, people had stuff to say. People will always have stuff to say. Always.

Whether you are the one that is already established here, has everything going well for them and does not for the life of it understand why people are traveling out En masse, or you are the one who thinks everything is messed up here, and that the grass is definitely greener on the other side, here is what I have to say: Face your front. Mind your business. Do whatever it is you have to do, to stay or to go — just do it at your own pace. I want to say “and when you are sure,” but I don’t think in major decisions, people are ever “sure.” I think they are just convicted enough. So, do whatever it is you have to do, to stay or to go, when you are convicted enough. Also, if like me, you don’t know, it’s alright to still hold on to what you know. You can always change your mind if you feel differently. Don’t worry about being late. When you wake, na your own morning.

Finally, let people be. Whatever decision they make, let them be, even if you feel differently. I don’t know how to put it, but please, let people make their own decision, even if they may make mistakes, extend grace. Create room for people to be human. To be human is to be fragile, to be unsure, to explore life with frailty. It is an experience that sometimes feels like walking on eggshells. Let people at least try to navigate that without you breathing down their necks.

Preparing to Japa and eventually japaing took a lot from me. Money, time, strength. I received rejections from schools a lot, but let us not go there, lol. This article is long enough. It was draining yet rewarding, and in the draining, I learned to extend grace. Grace to all the people that left without saying goodbye. Grace to all the people I have felt left me out of their lives because they left me out of big decisions. Life does take a toll on us sometimes.

One thing I have discovered about this relocation matter ehn, is that like every new beginning, you need time. Time to settle in, time to load your gun, position it and then shoot and I wish that people extended more grace to themselves in their relocation era as they did with other new beginnings.

As I start this new phase, I have just three resolutions: To go with God, to trust my journey and give my best while at it, and to extend grace till I cannot extend grace anymore, then go again.

It is well.

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Nnebuugo Paul.

Words are beautiful, stories are beautiful pieces of memories.