Just a couple of days ago, I turned 30. The BIG THIRTY. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you, a few days before the big day, I was stressed. Was this the end of my youth? Have I accomplished anything? Have I made too many mistakes?
Once the big day arrived and went, I felt oddly at peace. For the first time in a while I felt balanced. Of course, no one ever stops growing and learning but I realised that I know myself now: my weaknesses, my strengths, my likes and my dislikes and I was completely comfortable with who I am.
So, after being inspired by this great post from fellow University of Brighton alumnus Ross Asubonteng (a great personal blog by the way with inspiring teachings), I have decided to write a list of the six pieces of advice I would tell my younger self if I was given a time machine (apart from going back to 2015, the last perfect summer).
1)Women are fun but not as important as your friends are making them out to be
Don’t worry too much about the opposite sex. I know most of your friends, particularly when you arrive at university, will be focused on sleeping with as many women as their hormones will allow. But don’t be too quick to chase women all the time or have a girlfriend just because your university friends have girlfriends. Take time to explore meaningful pursuits outside of girls because in your 20s, girls are mostly a distraction anyway. Trust me.
2)Don’t be too reckless with money. Cultivate the attitude of saving
Instead of the miniscule pocket money you used to receive from your parents, you will begin to start making some decent money after university. Try not to squander it all on alcohol and partying – that isn’t to say don’t have fun – but set some money aside for a later day. Trust me, you’re going to wish you had because your life will be rocked by a huge bombshell in your mid 20s and you will struggle with this new shift in your life partially because of your recklessness with money.
3)Don’t be so naive about raising a family
That bombshell I was talking about? Well, you end up having a baby with your then girlfriend at the age of 26. At first you will be ecstatic and excited, thinking about all the things you will do with your baby daughter but you are foolishly unaware of how unprepared and naive you are about the realities of raising a family. You’re naturally a nice man, having been brought up responsibly, but while you will be a good father you will be a terrible family man at 26 (there is still much you want to do with your youthful energy, staying at home with a crying child constantly will make you deeply miserable) and this will ultimately lead to the breakdown of the relationship with your daughter’s mother. But it’s ok. Everything happens for a reason and you’ll be fine in the end.
4)Don’t be afraid to cut off friends. Loyalty is not a given
There will be friends you’ve known for a long time who will deeply disappoint you. There are friends who you will realise were never really your friends to begin with. This will hurt you but, in the process, make you stronger. You will tolerate less bullshit from people, and you will become more ruthless in your ability to cut off friends if they cross your boundaries. You are a nice guy and you will realise you’re too nice and need to be an asshole sometimes. It’s a realisation that will stand you in good stead as you move forward in life and deal with more cunning people in your personal and professional life.
5)You will move jobs. A lot. But this is not a bad thing in hindsight
After graduating you will have a series of jobs because you’re naturally charming and people like you. However, some of these jobs will be good experiences and some will be very bad experiences, but you will certainly move around a lot for various reasons. At times you may feel like a failure for not staying in a single job for such a long time but as a result of this you will pick up a range of experiences from different types of companies and different types of people. This will make you a more well-rounded person, both personally and professionally.
6)Learn to be alone for a while – it will take time for you to grow into your own
Don’t be afraid of being alone. It is this fear of not being around someone that will make you rush into a new relationship when you just left one and put up with nonsense from some friends just because you don’t want to lose them. But being alone will be crucial for your development. Due to being pampered by your parents during your formative years and your friends holding your hand throughout university, you’re not very good at standing on your own two feet but this will change gradually. You will travel alone and start to enjoy being an independent person and become comfortable in your own skin.
There will be many twists, turns and bumps throughout your 20s but you’ll be ok. You’re a strong guy, always have been. You just need to realise that for yourself. And thankfully, you will.
“I don’t want to be with you anymore.”
As a man, but especially as a Yoruba, Nigerian man, hearing those words come from the mouth of my then girlfriend and the mother of my daughter snapped my heart like a twig and was like a point-blank shot to the face of my pride.
As soon as she said those words, there was a lot of shouting, insults, tears and pleading. Here was I, as a man, witnessing my family fall apart before my eyes. Deep down inside, I knew that my ex-partner was making the best choice for herself and for me as well– our relationship was basically a sinking ship with a gaping hole, and everyone needed to abandon it. But my Nigerian pride was too much and, to be honest, I was afraid of being alone and single again.
Having been fully single for nine months now, I have pretty much moved on and accepted the fact I am going to be a co-parent to my daughter most likely for the rest of my life now but never say never right? However, being single again has taught me a few things about the importance of being emotionally independent as a man, discovering who you are as an individual and self-reliance.
The problem with many relationships – particularly with African men
Although it’s slightly changing, for the most part, African men are still very conservative regarding their relationships. The man is leader and the woman must follow his lead. This was exactly my way of thinking too. Even though I was born in England, I was still raised in a Nigerian household, so my parent’s marriage was what I used as a template for my own relationships.
Some women like this set up especially if the man is very capable and she’s naturally submissive. However, with women now working and earning, such a structure might not work in the times we live in. I know many African men who still want their wife to cook, clean the house, look after the child and still bring home the coin. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect women to carry all those responsibilities and the man does nothing apart from go to work and come home to a cooked meal. England isn’t Nigeria (and things are even changing over there).
African men, from my observations, can be too reliant on woman to clean up their lives. I was like this as well. I am not arguing against a woman doing domestic chores, but men should be helping in equal measure. We should know how to cook our own food. Iron our own clothes. Wash the dishes. Which brings me to my next point.
Building self-reliance as a man
A man, especially by the time he gets to his mid-20s (If not earlier) should be fully self-reliant. If you can’t even operate a cooker by the age of 25, then I fear for you. If anything, most of a man’s twenties should be him learning how to take care of himself. Know how to pay bills. Keep a steady job. Try to keep your credit rating decent. These skills are critical for a man to become a fully mature adult but gaining these abilities requires a man to be a lone wolf for a period of life which means no girlfriend living with you who is basically doing all these things for you. Let’s be real, a quality woman wants to date a man who can handle himself not a baby boy she has to handle herself.
Get your money up first
Whether you like it or not, women are attracted to a man who has accomplished something. This does not mean you have to be rolling in it (although some women do have their ridiculously high standards) but in a time where women are making their coin, they will expect their man to also be making a decent living. Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you are owed a wife. You must earn a wife.
Hence why it’s important for a man to get his money up first. Spend a significant part of your 20s just working tirelessly on your career, your side hustle or whatever it is you’re doing to make paper (as long as it’s not illegal of course). It makes no sense to be spending most of your time chasing girls when you’re broke, or you’ve just started your career. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t have fun with women but that’s all it should be – fun. Spend the majority of your 20s and even your 30s, if you have to, working on yourself and you will attract high quality women down the line.
"Let’s be real, a quality woman wants to date a man who can handle himself not a baby boy she has to handle herself."
Learning to be happy first before having a girlfriend or wife
This is the most important point in this whole piece. You must be happy first before you get into a relationship. In recent times, women have started to understand this concept but I think a lot of men haven’t quite understood it. There still a lot of African men who can only be happy if they have a woman by their side to start a family.
Now I am not saying having a wife and a family shouldn’t make you happy but you’re happiness should not only come from that. Men become very needy because they place so much emotional responsibility on a woman to make them happy. Instead, a man should spend a period of his life being single so he can learn to find happiness within himself first before finding a woman to add to that happiness, instead of being his happiness.
All men are created differently. Some men reach a level of independence and self-sufficiency at 24 and some men at 34. But what is important is that a man gives himself some time to be single so he can grow as a man without a woman having to carry him. It is not a woman’s job to mother a man like a child. Instead it’s a man’s job to grow himself so he feels and looks like someone who carries himself like a king.
A Prophet Who Loved Her, Leke Apena’s first novel, will be published in 2020. Find out more here.