Midnight in Ibadan.
It is midnight in Ibadan. I am sitting straight on my bed. Billie Eillish’s No Time To Die is playing softly from my Havit speakers.
Fool me once, fool me twice. Are you death or paradise? Now you’ll never see me cry. There’s just no time to die.
I cannot decide which of the 007 songs is my favorite. Is it Adele’s Skyfall, Sam Smith’s Writing’s on the Wall or this one I have fallen in love with? What is this acoustic, erotic sound? Every song is on minors. There are skilled instrumentalists in the background. There is powerful singing, melodious processions and enough pauses for these deliciously precise chords to seep into your head. What genre is this? Ballad? When I listen to these songs, I feel calm again. Intentional, profound.
It is my last midnight in Ibadan. Writing this today is convenient, imperative. I have delayed and teased forever. I must write to you today. I must devote the next 90 minutes to telling you this story, however I can. By tomorrow, I will not be in Ibadan. You may consider the following underwhelming. Mostly because I overthought the many different ways to write it. I finally decided to give it one quick go.
It is midnight in Ibadan. But not really. It is 2AM. Yesterday was busy. I wrote a statement of purpose, drafted content, had office meeting, did the dishes and some laundry. I packed my stuff for today’s trip. Then I had a video call. I am back. In between however, I liked comments on Twitter. Everyone is still gushing about AG Baby and Miscellaneous. Awww, is it that great? I wonder. Well, it is good that I wrote it. I almost didn’t. Hell, I was ill at the time.
Speaking about falling ill.
You must have heard already. No? My big 2020 trial. I fell ill in July and stayed ill until… well, this very moment. I often have acid reflux and heartburn. At the moment, my throat is stuffed and my chest is on fire. I am used to it now (it is better now), I do not want medication. Only chewing gum and some sitting straight. In July however, it was a different story.
I was continuously misdiagnosed. At some point, I had an infection. At another, tonsillitis. Then allergies. Then sinusitis. Then an elongated uvula that required surgery. I took doses after doses and simply failed to improve. In between, I did many tests and scans. Oh, many COVID tests. I took trips, saw many doctors and ingested an unholy amount of medication. Shudder. I did not improve until October. Hell, I was properly diagnosed in September.
All this time, I wanted to write to you. But I wanted to be better first. And when I finally was, I was so beaten. I had lost all my bravery. I wrote AG and Miscellaneous at the hospital. So while you sent DMs to salute me, I was clutching at my throat, afraid that I would suddenly die. I could not bask in the moment as well as I was supposed to. Or maybe I did. Maybe I did not get what the fuss was all about. What is this obsession with fame?
Speaking about fame.
Throughout, I wondered, whether you truly believed in my brilliance. Or you reacted to the article because a famous person did. I fear that the latter is the case for some people. Maybe they didn’t even read it. These were the same contacts I sent those promptly disregarded URLs in the past. They did not care about my writing until Adekunle Gold cried. Oh, they cared too much on that day, it made me wonder. Then it afforded some clarity.
I realized how little I cared about fame. I do not care (as much) about famous people and I do not want to be famous. Not really. I write about celebrities because I genuinely appreciate them, not because I want a shoutout. The Miscellaneous series are about appreciating brilliance and intertwined journeys. It suddenly became apparent to me—that other people cared a lot more than I did (about fame). It was amusing to watch.
Famous people are still human. I am a fan boy because my faves are astonishingly skilled, not because they are on TV. And it is usually their art I stan, I am not going to defend everything they say. What’s that? I do not care to be famous. I just always thought I did. I want a few good people to love me and I want to love them too. I want to impact a discipline or art form on an unprecedented scale. But I do not ever want to be famous for famous sake. What is the good in that?
In those final days of July, I realized that I never really cared about my social media. I just thought I did. Anyway, I returned to Twitter in the same month. So what’s up with that?
Speaking about Twitter.
I deleted my Twitter in May 2019. I returned last July because I now work on that app. I left because I was overwhelmed—by hate, volume and dilution. I fear that the more important reason is the avenue Twitter gives me to be impulsive and silly. I fear that it makes me ordinary, regular. I want to be the minimalist, treasured McCoy. I want to write to you once a month. I do not want to tweet “baba is baba’’ every six hours. I do not want that opportunity. But it is mostly a great opportunity, isn’t it? To be young, wild and free. To catch cruise. I need that. I do not know how to be prim all the time. McCoy must be silly once in a while. Even though he is overly conscious of how he does it. Now, follow him on Twitter. He is still sliced bread.
And it was exhilarating to watch, wasn’t it? The activism we pulled off in September/October. We were powerful. We demanded change, accountability, transparency. We did great. For once, internet bullying was beautiful to watch. How we compelled people and brands to soro soke? Tears. It all came to a grim end. But we will never forget.
Some still say “you are not real activists, the real activists are on the streets”. But they are clearly stupid, aren’t they? It is 2021. Twitter is an integral part of the streets. The government addressed us there! If Nina Simone and Rosa Parks had it, they would eagerly type away. So, Brother Gbenga from Mile 12, stop this nonsense you are saying. Just say that you don’t want to see feminist content, stop telling us how to be feminist. We are not here to make you feel good.
Speaking about feminism.
I see now that when it comes to understanding gender issues, intelligence is not enough. Young men especially, need humility and patience. In the past months, I have seen otherwise intelligent men say the most unreasonable things, with wondrous confidence. Patience is important because most of us were raised to be misogynistic. Many will immediately disagree with this assertion but it is true. If your sister got special chores because “she be woman oh”, if a girl coming first in your class was a topic, then your worldview was rigged early. Worse, if you had a patriarchal father, one who dominated your mother, feminism would be hard to grasp. Even when you pretend, there is something in you that wants to see women tamed, under. You want to maintain the status quo. And you will say so much nonsense to mask your misogyny. One that may not become apparent to you, without thorough introspection.
You will not become right by littering the place with your strong opinions. And exchanging pats with fellow ignorant bros. You are wrong. Because you were not raised right. You have always been wrong. Repeating yourself will not make you right. Attentive listening, however, might work. Intelligence is not enough. And we are often less rational than we think. Our biases rig our thought process all the time. Again, equality will not occur to you because your IQ is high. You will gradually learn to appreciate it if you listen, if you patiently re-educate yourself.
Speaking about re-education.
I am privileged to have been raised in a not-that-patriarchal home. And I have always been blessed with incredible female friends. For me, equality is relatively easy to grasp. But even I have misogyny in me. When I wrote No one says “I hate women!”, I was speaking against everyone. Even myself. Clearly, I have improved. I realized the issues in 2017, after I watched We Should All Be Feminists by our mother in the Lord. It became clear—that the world was unfair to women.
But it wasn’t clear enough. So here is what I did. I immediately volunteered to discuss patriarchy on a panel. I was forced to research patriarchy and monolith beauty standards. Days after, I began a trend on Instagram called #McCoyTheEffeminate. I would make researched posts about patriarchy, historical inequality, opportunity, affirmative action and so on. Most importantly, I would invite comments. Intelligent women flooded my comment sections with their useful opinions and things became clearer.
In 2018, I bought all CNA’s books and read them. Later, I began another trend called #NotAHardGuy, which challenged rigid masculinity. Even more opinions. Much later, I wrote my own theory of feminism. At the time, I did a Twitter thread. Then an IG post. Eventually, a LinkedIn post. Every time I wrote, my conception improved a little. The entire time, I had conversations with women. I listen to women. Till date, most of my punchlines on gender issues are not original. Women, who know better, point them out to me.
The entire period of my re-education, I often blundered. I once said some of the nonsense I now read on the internet. The misogyny in us is hard to defeat. We must constantly improve. But what do I know? I am not here to inspire.
Speaking about inspiration.
2020 broke me. I do not know how to inspire anymore. At the start of the year, my favorite word was “clarity”. At the end, it was “exhale” or “vibes”. By October, I was running on vibes. I no longer theorized. My focus broke. So did my discipline, control, bravery, commitment. So did my sense of purpose.
Another reason why it has taken this long to write to you is because I lack conviction. About myself. I do not know as much as I thought. I have done things I thought I could never do. Now, I read some old Medium posts and just laugh. Why was I so sure about these things? Who be this guy? I do not know how to type inspiration without pausing at some point to laugh. Who am I to be taken so seriously? What is this nonsense? What is the point?
I do not know what we live for, why we are committed to this endless cycle of struggle. We are born. Then we school. Then we work. Then we raise families. Then we die. Where is the fun? And the entire time, there is injustice, hate and death around us. There is no nemesis. There is no balance. Just vibes.
I have also become cynical. Well, I never want to give absolute advice. Before I say something, I consider the exceptions, limitations, rebuttals. And the place of fortune and privilege. If you wish to trend on Twitter however, you have to speak absolutely. If you add caveats or categories to your advice, engagement no go dey. Just declare, brashly.
But I have always been a cynic, haven’t I? Yes, especially with my love life.
Speaking about love.
My first resolution for 2020 was to become a sweet boy. I wanted to be kinder, empathetic. I fear that I have become too empathetic. I lose my mind a little when bad things happen to people I know. These days, I shut bad news out and breathe.
I also wanted to improve my boyfriend potential. Over the years, I have committed myself to a checklist. I have learnt to call more, listen more, give more, etc. 2020 was supposed to be that year, you see. I had a serious plan for how my relationship would graduate into a mutually beneficial partnership. I can improve anyone, I thought. It wasn’t my fault that it did not work out that time. I am honest and unafraid of commitment so let’s do this. LOL, even the memory of my mindset amuses me now.
I know nothing. Because when I was presented with opportunity, I chickened out. I do not know what I want. I do not know why I am not dating anyone, why I haven’t in a long time. I do not know if I ever dated anyone, or if I have dated more than one person. I do not know what being in love is. I do not think I have ever been in love. The thought breaks my heart. I do not want to die this way. These people on the internet are feeling something I have never felt. Am I alive?
Yet, I am David McCoy. I am all yours. But there is almost no one I will declare to, absolutely no one I would like to call everyday. Oh I am a sweet, sweet boy. Addictive too. You will love the validation, attention, communication, inspiration, fornication. Until you want more. And I go quiet. And oh, you will want that. But I do not know a lot about this love you speak of. I just don’t know. Have no faith in me.
Mahbed. My mama. I’m sorry.
Speaking about family.
2020 forced us to spend time with family, didn’t it? For seven months, I sat in that living room and watched my mother. I fear that until 2020, I did not know who she was. She was my mother—that was how I saw her. Last year, she became a person. One who had her own aspirations and tastes (those independent of motherhood). I began to understand her, how she was shaped by her own background. We fight all the time, but I swear it—it is my mission to spoil this woman, aloud.
I see that my sister does not want to be me. She wants to do business, she is all about selling beauty and receiving credit alerts. And that is okay. I love my family. I left Akure in September because I was tired of exhausting their resources. I was tired of how sad I made them every time my throat was clogged. They did their best for me. My sister and mother are all I have in this country. I have not seen my brother in 2 years, I have not seen my father in 5.
Nigeria breaks your heart, doesn’t it? There is a lot we consider normal that really isn’t. Our character traits and priorities are awfully Nigerian. Our belief in scarcity. Our understanding of hardship. Our sense of purpose. Our materialistic romance. Even our prayer points are peculiarly Nigerian. It has now become a shared life goal to leave this country. It shouldn’t be. But, young, talented people deserve better.
It breaks my heart anyway—the fact that I will not grow up with all my friends. Most of them are already away. The others will leave eventually. In a few hours, Zainab will touch down in Heathrow Airport, London. Yes, Zainab dropped out of Law School. Fuck Law School. I know that Tolu might leave in a year. And I might leave in two. We will be spread across the world. Maybe we will catch two-hour dinners once a year. Maybe we will attend weddings. But these might just be the last days of a great friendship. We can’t stay here together. Because Nigeria ain’t shit.
But I am grateful for these four months I spent with my closest friends. We lived together, ate, talked, studied, watched TV and played footy together. How cool is that? I am unhappy to see everyone leave. I do not want this house to echo again. Korie is my guy. I believe in Malo. I wish Solomon the best. I hope we play football again. On Thursday evenings, after work.
Speaking about work.
Oh, after Law School comes work. At some pretentious law firm in Lagos. You know the vibes. I too will wear suits that cost 15% of my salary, call myself a ‘solicitor’ (or whatever posh variant in vogue) and give you life advice. I too will tell myself that it is all worth it. All those hours, staring at a laptop, arriving early and leaving late. In a toxic, loud, unnecessary city. Aware that I am underpaid and overworked. Aware that I will not make partner until kingdom come. This career path is a fucking abattoir.
I no be lawyer abeg, I be content creator. And it saved my 2020. Oh, I lost many things. But I did not lose jobs. Throughout my illness, I stuck with Google Docs. I drafted, emailed and counted. Nothing was going right except my work to-do. I wasn’t writing on LinkedIn or Medium, but on websites, blogs and social media. For a while, I have sold my voice to others. My articles are on the internet with other names in them. I do not mind, I am being paid. I am that mercenary.
However, content creation has robbed me off joy—that one I feel when I write these genuine, heartfelt things. This is another reason why I have not written to you. You do not pay for my writing. Sometimes, I wonder why I write these things. 3000 words. For claps? But this thought is unreasonable, dishonest. I love writing to you. Yet, I do not only write for you. Sometimes, I do not write for you at all. I write these things because my mind paces. I want to say something. I have to. I have to express myself. And oh, this mind. Look how badly it has been fucking me. Look. Fucking anxiety.
Speaking about anxiety.
I am not sure when my anxiety began. Already, I was having my regular “uncertainty shocks”. Those I suffer when I have no idea what the future holds, how to proceed, how to control it. Because until 2020, I was the bastard who thought I could schedule everything. I know that I suffered palpitations in July. I did chest scans and they found nothing.
Then my physical illness began to take its toll. I was often alone, sad, exhausted and hopeless. It was 2020. People were sick, dying. I was mostly terrified. Terrified of everything. Mostly dying. I was always certain of imminent, painful death. I was always running out of air.
My palpitations returned on 20/10/2020. It was my birthday. I wasn’t looking forward to much but I certainly did not expect the shootings. Palpitations are distorted, painful heart beats. They would occur every fortnight for three consecutive days.
When I spoke with a friend in December, I explained how I didn’t think anxiety could happen to me. A lot of us are like that, aren’t we? We hear about mental illness but we do not seriously consider it. We think it is distant, mythical. When we hear about a suicide, we say “suicide is not an option”. As if it really isn’t. As if people who kill themselves would if they saw other options. Ultimately, we think we are untouchable. I am the David McCoy. What the fuck. My mind is a fortress.
But as I eventually discovered, it is often those with powerful minds who suffer great illnesses. Not in spite of their minds, but because of it. If you live in your head, it will control you. If it is ill, you will be very ill. Stimuli and external voices will fail to reach you. To drown the volume of your own thoughts. Anxiety feeds itself. It feeds on select triggers. You become afraid. Then, you become afraid of your own fear. Then you have pangs, palpitations, panic attacks. Then you become afraid of those too. Cycle continues, effect deepens.
In October, I would sit still. To sieve out the thoughts that were genuinely mine. Do I really believe this or is it anxiety? Do I really want to do this or am I afraid? I would lie down and place a cold towel over my head. I would play music and place my palm over my chest. As if I could coordinate my own heartbeats. I would practice stillness for hours. Because my limbs had forgotten how to stay still. And it all failed.
Then came the bad decisions. Decisions I could not properly process because thinking was painful. I did not want to theorize. I just wanted to do shit.
Then came the nostalgia. I daydream about easier times. My mind convinces me that I used to live a better life. I think about my childhood, my zero responsibilities. I think about Preston and those adorable people I spent those years with. I think about OAU, I want to run back to it sometimes. I want that routine, that safe, organized environment. I do not want to determine my schedule, to feel responsible for all my failures.
I do not want to go any further. Biko, log me out of adulthood, I no do again. Every time I said “exhale”, something was wrong. Often, I was sighing at another bullshit adult life threw at me.
I should return to Law School tomorrow. Aluta continua. I have been at this tertiary level for 8 years now. But here we go again! Soon, I will be swamped with schoolwork. There is a lot of uncertainty ahead but even that is my friend now. Na just vibes. I do not know the next time I will write to you. I do not wish to motivate you. But the singular word I should repeat is “exhale”. Dear believer, now and then, stop to breathe.
Has it been 100 days since the Lekki shootings? Young, brave people like you were murdered on the road. Lights, camera, action! By an army that has now pulled out of panel inquiries? Exhale.
Is this country stressing you? Nothing seems to work. There is so much mediocrity and impunity. So much wickedness and injustice. Justin Trudeau dey for you. Biden likes immigrants. Exhale.
Has a fiduciary failed? Is your pastor’s gist on these streets? Mr. man of God has been abusing female members? He changed the name of the church, waited for steam to subside and has now returned to the altar? Exhale.
Do you want a view? No, really. Are you tired of how badly your love life is going? Does it bother you that Valentine’s is in 15 days? The world will not run out of Saturdays. Exhale.
Do you feel weak? Afraid? Alone? Hopeless? Alaye, no be only you kill Jesus, we plenty for there. Mafo.
Do you question essence? Where are we going? What is this endless struggle? When will we feel enough? Remember that happiness is not a destination. You can feel all you want today. Exhale.
We are young, wild and free. There is a lot we do not know but we also have time to figure it out. Better days will come. Maybe I cannot promise that. But I know that beautiful moments will grace our lives, however fleeting. We must be conscious, we must stop to bask in them. We will do great. I do not know this to be guaranteed but I know that the belief matters.
Our youth has been crazy recently. Yet, in all these things, we are more than conquerors.
It is still midnight. I am still singing to the monsters in my head.
Whether you are death or paradise, you will never see me cry. Never again. There is just no time to die.