5 Things I Learnt From Having Things Taken Away From Me

Adaku Nwakanma
7 min readFeb 12, 2018


With the dawn of the new year came the reflections, promises, and the offerings of resolutions. I could almost see the prayers and requests go up in a billowing smoke towards the clouds, enticing whatever god you believed and worshipped. I could only pray for a sense of direction. A knowing. A differentiation of gut from noise and for more quiet moments to listen to my soul and gain clarity.

I restarted my workout routines a few weeks towards the end of December to give myself the momentum I needed for January. It was going to be a tasking year and I wanted to be ready. Having relocated from the city of my birth, Port Harcourt to Lagos, the city that never sleeps, two months ago, I was getting used to the idea that this period of celebration was a family gathering of some sort to send me off to chase my dreams and build my future.

I came back to Lagos refreshed from what had been the most intense two months of my life.

First of all, I needed a house on a budget. I was privileged to get a head-start by taking over the house my mum rented just before she was transferred to Abuja. I had less than two months to look for another house that suited my needs and budget. Easy peasy right? Wrong. After a lot of pressure to either stop wasting money or live with an extended family member, countless warnings from my mum about Lagos agents and my snappy replies that I didn’t want to stay with anyone and I could handle it, I ended up losing money on a house I didn’t really want because I had caved in to pressure. So there I was with a house I didn’t want, without the money and a lot of explanation to do.

Growing up, our family wasn’t the most expressive. We were mostly quiet, obedient, good children, and except moments when my father’s fits of rage reverberated, you could almost take us for the perfect family. As many Nigerians can relate, keeping the peace is very important to a lot of our parents, and when the time came to discuss heavy issues with differing points of view, you either agree or risk being a bad influence. Over time, I had learned to shut up about most things if I could help it, or look for other ways to go about an issue without involving the “Oputa panel” but today, standing at the Maryland mall thinking about my life, exhausting all other options I could find, I sat back humbly and called my mum.

This call, and many other conversations which result in you being flung brutally into the world of adulting, bring the realisation that your parents, and especially your mother, is human just like you, with fears, heartache, vulnerabilities, emotions of anger, joy and sadness. It is easy to deify mothers after all they most times single handedly come up with solutions and seemed to have the answer to every question. Even your father knew this that’s why he always told you to go ask your mother.

They say you haven’t fully arrived until it happens — you know, the moment the real owners of your phone come to collect their property. And so it was that I found myself in Abule Egba, one of the less affluent towns in Lagos, on an okada ploughing through black sands and red sands, dragging my boyfriend along trying to track down my phone to where Google’s “Find my device” had pointed. My phone wasn’t an expensive flagship phone. I has gotten it in 2015 for N20,000 and I thought, what would anyone want with that kind of phone?

There’s this saying that there will always be somebody lower or higher than you, in life, in career, whatever. Walking through that part of town and finally to the particular house where it had been, I realised that my phone would mean something to whoever took it. I was conscious of my phone, but I wasn’t protective of it because I needed a better phone. A faster device that takes better pictures. And I lost sight of the value of the one in my hand. Three weeks without a phone showed me just why we had phones and how my now stolen device was actually doing a pretty great job. And it wasn’t just for Twitter or Instagram. I only prayed that it was beneficial to whoever had it now.

When you have a lot of extra change, you don’t make a big deal out of a lot of things. A product is N4200 instead of N4000? Pshhhhh.. what is 200 naira? Well, I got to find out exactly what N200 was once the inflow of cash became some what restricted.

You can use 200 naira to go from Obalende all the way somewhere close to your house on the mainland.

You can use 200naira to buy larger quantities of tomatoes from the market instead of the tiny plate that is sold in retail closer to your house.

You can use 200 naira to recharge your phone that lasts for awhile and switch to a less expensive call tariff, while using WhatsApp calls to supplement where you can.

You see, little things and choices like this add up over time. And you learn how to plan better so the overall outcome is a lifestyle that isn’t an afterthought.

Even if it’s ten naira, you, or someone worked hard to earn it, and nobody should feel entitled to your ten naira. If you bought goods of N490 and you don’t want to buy sweets. Collect. Your. Ten. Naira. Or make it a point to pay with a card. That is unless you want to get those sweets or you really don’t mind. You will know the value when you enter a Keke and they won’t accept N40 for your transport fare.

Anyway, The value of money was something I had to learn and it goes beyond making sure you don’t lose your wallet to actually making sure you don’t exchange hard earned money for unnecessary items. You have to vet yourself. You have to vet your needs. You have to vet the person that is selling to you, especially if you live in Nigeria.

With the handsoff of the parents and my sojourn, I was having withdrawal symptoms. Nobody to send on errands, no car to drive, shit, the generator pull rope just cut.

Every problem, and unwashed dishes, stare at you until you and only you do something about it.

Sometimes you’re tempted to bang on all your neighbours’ doors until someone comes to bail you out of your misery but then, they didn’t keep them anyone at a particular place for you. Every one has their problems too. They are protective of their spaces. You should be of yours too. It may be difficult in the moment, but trust me, it’s all part of the process that moulds a stronger, better you.

This isn’t to say you cannot or should not ask for help, don’t just use it as a loop hole or an out each time a situation comes up that you think you can’t handle. By all means, ask, but don’t sink into a depressed state if who you thought will be there wasn’t. You’ve got this anyway it turns.

When I started driving, I thought it was bad enough that drivers on the road were nothing short of mannerless. Part of one’s driving skills in Nigeria must include learning when to anticipate someone cutting in front of you, navigating close quarters without backing down, and disregarding traffic caused by any issues you may have on the road, or just buying something from a hawker.

And then I no longer had a car and life changed all over again. Before I started driving, I was oblivious to how the drivers of the buses I entered drove. When I started driving I became extremely irritated by how these drivers drove. When I switched cities and resumed the public transport life, I came upon the realisation that granted, there are assholes on the road, but if I had a bus or a Keke or an okada like that with the conditions of road, poor urban planning and population, I would probably drive the way that they did.

Finally, it’s all nice and dandy reading these points and many others like it on the internet while nodding your head and making written or mental notes. It’s good to know. It’s good to know that someone else has the same experience and that you aren’t alone in this.

And that’s all there really is. Always remember you’re not alone in whatever it is that you have to overcome to unlock next level you. Because when shit happens, it’s hard to imagine what fresh air feels like. No matter how many listicles like this one you read, it will not be a breeze. You will cry, get angry, get depressed, grieve but you will be aware. You will be aware of all that is happening and why it is happening and in that lies the power to make the outcome even more powerful than you think.

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Adaku Nwakanma

Digital product designer and amateur cyclist living in Abuja, Nigeria.