When I returned home to Sierra Leone about three years ago, it was not in the manner I’d envisioned when I’d left almost a decade earlier. I had hoped for a hero’s welcome but I was not, in my estimation, a hero. Heroes have spoils from battle but I had nothing, no material wealth to show for my years abroad and I was ashamed. I felt like a failure. But that was not even all. What made it worse were the circumstances surrounding, or rather that prompted my return home.
I got fired, yes sacked from my first professional job post college. After I graduated from college, the first year was literally a gap year. It was the year of zero achievement. Job-hunting in America was (and is still) tough and only the toughest survive. Those months of unemployment literally chipped off my self-esteem and by the time I was able to secure a job almost a year later, the damage had already been done. I was a fragile female who had been sucked into the dark pit of depression. This job was in many respects, the blinding light at the end of tunnel.
My job was far from perfect job. There were a few times when I performed poorly on some task and was admonished with disparaging comments. But all that didn’t really matter because having a job in a twisted way boosted my self-esteem and inevitably meant that I didn’t have to depend on anyone for financial support. But all that changed on Tuesday July 17, 2012 when, ten minutes after I walked through the door, I found out that I was no longer with the company. I was fired. I was shocked. Yes shocked because I had just returned from a three-month secondment in Sierra Leone and in my discussions leading up to that meeting, my employer had actually indicated to me that I would be reassigned to Sierra Leone where I would directly assist with operations. So I had packed my suitcases, two empty suitcases to New York thinking I was going to get the rest of my stuff to move to SL for the work. How was I going to tell my family, especially my dad, about the sudden change in my situation/circumstance? They had such high hopes for me.
My head threatened to explode as I tried to process the events of that morning. I just couldn’t. I am still not sure how I made the trip home from Brooklyn to Spanish Harlem in New York city. Soon after I got home, I asked my housemate for some sleeping pills, popped one and went to bed. I woke up around 2am and that’s when reality hit me. I was back to zero – jobless, broke and broken. The tears flowed effortless. But God how? This was not the deal we had.
I wouldn’t bore you with immigration details in America but let’s say finding another job became an almost impossible task. My self-esteem/confidence was already severely dented so every ‘no’ from a prospective employer only served to deepen the holes. Self-doubt and criticism became my constant companions. I feigned interest in and enthusiasm at every single job advert I saw because I was desperate for a job. I didn’t care about passion, impact or changing the world; I just wanted a 9-5. I was the epitome of one drowning and clutching at any straw. In my desperation, I tried graduate school. It was around November and Simmons had a spring intake which I hope would buy me some time but I couldn’t come up with the balance payment to complement the partial scholarship. I exhausted every possible option except the get hitched to an American option and almost a year later, confused and a bit disillusioned I felt a tug in my heart to come home. Come home? For what? To what? What did I have to show?
When I left 9 years ago, I had planned my return. I wanted to attain the highest level of education possible; pocket some serious cash and then come home…because that’s really how you come home to Sierra Leone. But my return was anything but grand. It was a scorching hot day in May when my sister’s driver picked me up from the water taxi. I remember wishing it was dark already so the neighbors and the traders wouldn’t see me come home. In the few months following, I hid in the safety of my parents’ home. I was too ashamed to go out. To make matters worse, a one-time friend of mine started spreading rumors that I had been deported from the states, as if I didn’t have enough issues to deal with. I was deeply hurt. Of course folks didn’t know my situation and assumed I had changed; that I had become ‘Americanized’. There was no point trying to explain myself.
I had been back for almost six months before I had contact with some folks from my class year. Most of my peers were successful in their fields …engineering, medicine, accounting etc. Although I’d act like I had been back for years. I was constantly bombarded with two questions, what are you doing now? And when are you going back? Me sef no to me country this? I would ask half-jokingly. Deep down inside I was hurting.
Only God knew the depth of my pain then. I crawled my way to Him – humble and broken. I needed desperately to know what He thought about me. I had spent many years of my life defining myself by achievements and accomplishments and in a world where worldly success is a moving target, I had come to realize that He alone is constant. God in His love and wisdom has been chipping away at all those things that once defined me reassuring me through His Word that I am valued, loved, chosen and that I am His. Jeremiah 31:3 became God’s personal word to me. It reads, I have loved you with an everlasting love, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee. Now He alone defines me. I’ve found a sense of worth, a sense of purpose in Him.
And that’s how GLOW was born…. out of a personal struggle. I realize that many women struggle with issues of shame, guilt, doubt, low self-esteem, fear, etc. It should not be. I want every girl/woman to come to full realization of who they are in God and to GOD – to let them know that no matter what they have gone through, what they have done, God still loves and values them.
And GLOW is the celebration of a new beginning, a new chapter in my life. On July 17, 2016 – four years later – things have begun to make sense. God was leading me here all the while. My coming back to Sierra Leone was not a mistake; it was part of a divine plan. And on the contrary, I came back loaded with the gift/talent of writing to serve humanity and bring glory to God. I came back as a voice, a pen on paper that will tell the forgotten stories, the refreshingly-honest stories, the stories that will make you laugh, cry, or think without pretence or thought for self. I came back for such a time as this.
I am not a failure. In fact, I thank God I got fired. Who knows, I probably would be still at a desk-job in New York doing work I don’t like instead of pursuing my dreams if I hadn’t been fired. So yes, I thank God for my mistakes and seeming failures for I have discovered my purpose. I am a writer. I am a speaker. I am a voice in my generation.
I am loved, accepted, chosen and favored.
I give ALL God the glory.
WHAT THE DEVIL MEANT FOR EVIL, GOD HAS TURNED AROUND FOR MY GOOD.
Daughter of the King!