Tosin Adebola: What the Blue Bus Taught Me

Disclaimer: (This was an article i wrote for Bella Naija, hence appeared there first)

Something interesting happened yesterday night, and though I’m having the busiest day, I love that I’ve found the zeal to somehow write this down in its freshest state.
You see, one of the many reasons I loathe the blue Coventry buses apart from the fact that they are the farthest from where I live, is the exact bus fare, “no change, no refunds policy”.
As the payment goes straight into a locked safe, the implication is this: sometimes you have to forfeit a 5 or 10-pound note for a 1.90pounds trip simply because you don’t have the exact coin fare.
On this particular night, I had so hurriedly gotten on the bus to realize that I only had a 10pound note, and a few coins. That for me was a defining moment, (let’s allow for some hyperbole); giving away my 10pounds note, or rushing to the nearest store, getting some change but waiting 30 minutes for the next bus, which would take another hour to my destination. Need I say, it was a tough decision for a student like me.
What I did without thinking surprised me. I started by depositing the few coins I had, that I knew clearly were not up to 1.90, I started with a pound coin, and gradually exhausted all the pennies I had, from 20p’s, to 10p till I exhausted all the tiny 1p’s. And at 1:45 pounds, I had exhausted my coins.
I then glanced at the driver who through my enthusiasm not to give up had somehow become patient and impressed.
He called out to one of the young boys already seated if he had coins for my note, but as helpful as the boy wanted to be, he had no coins, I mean, he had a bus pass, I don’t blame him.
That boy feeling a bit guilty called out to the next girl in line, who went on to say ”well I don’t have enough coins for your 10-pound note. However I do have the less than half a pound that could complete your journey”
Jackpot! I lit up immediately; I thanked her politely for sparing my 10 pounds the havoc it would have encountered
Now it’s only 10pounds, but it got me thinking about more serious issues in life. I was brave enough to start by depositing the first pound, then all of my tiny little coins. Very often, we are afraid to start out anything because of the fear that we don’t have enough to start – enough skills, expertise, experience, support or even finance, whatever your arguments are include them here, as the list is endless.
We make light of what we have but forget that most great people are great because they started out relatively small.
We need to forget sentiments and urge ourselves to start with the little we have now, let’s start by depositing all those little pennies, the little experience here and there, skills, the little finance you think can’t go anywhere, all the little family & friends support/network.
No one has it all together when they first begin; they just build and keep building. This is not undermining the importance of counting your costs before laying a foundation; but it is more of starting out regardless, and keep building a stone at a time.
Just like the God-sent lady that added the extra 45pence I needed, you’d be surprised at how many people God can position to assist you once you first begin. Let’s start out and stop despising the days of small beginnings. And when we see people starting out in small ways, let’s learn to be supportive.
Please share some of your experiences below. What have you started out regardless of how small you consider it and the excuses you had to let go of? And if for any reason you’re still struggling with one excuse for not starting out, leave a comment below, I will try to reply with as many possible opportunities available to you as possible.

Walking Away

Disclaimer: (This was an article i wrote for Bella Naija, hence appeared there first)

Summer has gone by so quickly, but not without so many lessons, I’m eager to share. You see, I had imagined my summer on the shores of Montego Bay, and somehow finding the one who would melt my heart away, I know, I know; fairytales are for kids, adults face reality.
My reality this summer was I being confined on the shores of Nigeria, having make-up, cooking, amidst many other classes. Whilst, this was nothing fantastic in comparison to how surreal the previous year’s summer had been, when I was touring the world, I am more grateful now for how it played out this year.
Like any other obviously bored Nigerian girl, I had somehow attracted all the very wrong boys, at the very same time, this holiday. Least I say, when I had to make a choice, it was the seemingly best out of the bunch. You know how we see all those red flags, but play dumb and would rather easily admit to paranoia than the truth. I conveniently walked those shoes too. It went on so long, I justified everything he did, “it’s fine, no one is perfect after all”, “so what if our core values don’t align, there’s a reason compromise is an essential part of every relationship” and the “so what’s” continued. Even if he had said he doesn’t use the toilet, I would have thought “maybe toilets aren’t for everyone after-all”.
The texting, visits, phone calls, long walks, gaming, were all amazing, even if I knew then what I know now, I’m not sure I would have had it differently.
Now fast forward to 4 months down the line, the deal breaker which made me oh-so graciously walk out of the relationship. I’m still very impressed I was able to make that firm decision without looking back, regardless of what my feelings were at the time. Emotional detachment was hard but it wasn’t impossible.
Regardless of my initial reservations, I’ve decided to put myself out there, because this lesson is vital. We all, at different stages in life, either unconsciously or plain old ignoring the signs, get entangled in the wrong friendships, relationships, job, but lack the courage to walk out. It’s unbelievable the things we put up with because of the fear of ending up alone or having to miss the seemingly familiar. Now the truth is this, if you don’t walk out graciously now, it will eventually walk all over you shamelessly. Ask victims of domestic violence how it started.
The longer it takes, the more tendency to make all the unreasonable excuses for inexcusable actions, and the harder your decision to leave would be.
Relationship dynamics can be complex and it is not always black or white, plus this is no call to becoming a quitter and disregarding the need to put in that extra effort. But in the words of Bob Marley, “you’ll need to find the ones worth fighting for”. It is important to know when to fight but more important, when to respect yourself enough to walk out of people, situations, jobs and relationships that are going nowhere. Leave the unnecessary deceit, and need to have it all together, make some genuine evaluation, pray about it, and bid farewell where necessary.
I’m not your average superhero, I cant even pretend to be, if I did it, trust me you can too.
There you go, I want you to share with me some of your experiences/instances where you’ve had to let go? How easy was it?

Dealing with Criticisms
Disclaimer: (This was an article i wrote for Bella Naija, hence appeared there first)
With the astronomical rise in the advent of technology, social media, and the undeniable easy access to people’s lives more easily than ever, the Importance of effectively dealing with the varying levels of criticisms that we constantly face from co-workers, family, friends and even many at times, our critical mind, cannot be over-emphasized. You see, it’s no exaggeration that the discourse of our life and primarily our happiness and self-confidence is largely dependent on our ability to effectively manage how we react to criticisms.
It honestly saddens me when I hear of people giving up their life long dreams, aspirations and even happiness on the altar of someone else’s criticism(s).
With no intention of being cynical, I still can’t decide which is more exasperating, whether it is the fact that these critics are usually people who do so little or nothing at all for the subject, and their opinions are purely malicious and hypocritical; or the fact that they are usually people who have very little to show for their often “critical minds”.
Without further ado, there are 4 things to always keep in mind when facing criticisms.
Firstly, and most importantly, criticisms are subjective to the speaker’s perceptions & considerations, and are in no way an indication of the absolute truth. You see, regardless of how far up you esteem the speaker, you are still in a position to either accept their criticisms as your truth, or refute it. Richard Branson, as a result of dyslexia, was told at an early age that he would either end up in prison or as a millionaire. Being ultimately one of the most successful business moguls of this age, I need not tell you that regardless of the opinions expressed about him, he chose his destiny himself.
It takes both the sun & rain to grow a flower. There’s no better leverage to toughen and push you to success than the painful echoes of criticisms. I let you into a secret; people are unconsciously motivated & propelled by pain, the soreness of inadequacy and criticisms.
When next you’re criticised in an area you’re truly struggling in, let it not be unto you a stumbling block, but a stepping-stone to your desired result. Let it push you to do better.
You see, what people fail to realize is that success is not a day’s job neither is it earned in a year. It often takes years and years of practice, working, learning, reading and perfecting. The criticisms on your journey to success are just conclusions come too early and your revenge is best served cold, when you’re able to look past the criticisms, and glow when you achieve success.
Third and probably most unpopular, is this golden truth; God does not require the opinions of men in deciding who needs to be blessed. If there’s anything to learn from Toke, it’s that negative criticisms have never been the determinant of how far one could go.  Understand this, people will very often and quickly misunderstand you, criticize you on habits and features you have no control over, judge you on your past and call your bluff.
Regardless of all this clamoring for your attention, make your priority before God a clean heart, and being at peace and in-tune with him. Believe this, as far as you’re right with your creator and struggling up the ladder of success with clean hands, you’d end up glowing to the bewilderment of your critics.  You would look back and not find them.
Fourth: you’re getting some attention. There is nothing worse than being unnoticed or being considered unworthy of attention. No one will criticize a person or issues, they’re not in someway affected by.  Now work on turning the attention/criticisms around by displaying your positives/what you could do.
Finally, as there is no poll that correlates and equates your criticisms to how far you would go, whether it is constructive or purely malicious criticisms, stop letting these trivial & nugatory comments take a toil on you. Instead channel your strength to constant improvement.
Now your turn, share some of your experiences of times you were either constructively or maliciously criticised, and how you got through it.

My Nigerian Experience
Disclaimer: (This was an article i wrote for bella naija, which means it appeared there first)
Despite schooling in a different part of the world, I’ve never been one to leave Nigeria for more than 3months. It’s safe to assume that all the attributes that people identify about the stereotypical Nigerian, I really never noticed. The reason shuffles between either not paying enough close attention or I’d never been away for long enough to notice. I recently went back after a full year of absence and boy! I did notice a lot, I even took notes.
From the trolley-pusher who randomly sat beside me to start a conversation on how stressful his day was, to his asking me questions about what I was doing in the airport upon my arrival. Nigerians are not only the most inquisitive people I know, but adequately, the most friendly. Non-Africans seldom start random conversations with strangers. And I noticed this almost everywhere I went in Nigeria, at some point, I resolved that I must have had a “please talk to me” sticker somewhere on my forehead.
It’s also no exaggeration that Nigerians have the best customer service you’d ever experience. “Fine girl, come now, I have that shoe or dress you’re looking for”; “Beautiful madam, what is it that you want, I can help you get it if we don’t have it in my shop”. The typical Nigerian is always willing to go that extra mile to make sales & ultimately ensure a decent customer base. The customer service in England and in many parts of the world is not comparable. An average sales person is only interested in doing the minimum and getting paid. Once in a while, you do get some friendly ones that do the most, but it’s nothing compared to a Nigerian trader willing to journey 30-45 minutes to an unrelated store down the town to get you the exact fabric that matches your taste. The emphasis here is “unrelated store i.e. not his chain of stores”. I stand to be corrected, but this is seldom the case anywhere else.
Not so fast, you thought it was only the good I noticed? I did notice some of our not-so-decent behaviors too. An average Nigerian can stare and worse even, forget their eyes on you. What I find more appalling is the sizing up, rolling off eyes and rude stares. Sometimes I wonder if what they’re staring at is really more than the person that just walked down the staircase or are there more imaginary objects I can’t see. I had a discussion recently with a couple of my friends about this, and it’s safe to say I’m merely stating the obvious. Some agree it’s an inferiority complex, others point to it as merely a defense mechanism, whatever this case is, I find it very appalling. I wouldn’t want to be pushed to saying “Dear, please have some manners and stop staring intensely. You won’t be writing an exam about her”
I would hate to put it out there, but as much as corruption& dishonesty is everywhere, the level of dishonesty still in my country pains me. I’m no saint myself, and I don’t intend to write like one but from the very first day upon arrival, it couldn’t even hide its ugly head. Let me narrate this experience at the airport. A man selling sim cards asked me if I needed a sim card to call the person/people to pick me from the airport. As much as I wasn’t sure how I’d get to call them (as I found that my sim had expired) I told him I still haven’t made up my mind. Before I could say jack, he brought me a sim and said “Aunty it’s N500″. After thanking him but politely explaining to him that I couldn’t take it even if I wanted, as I needed a micro sim instead.  Then he not only went on about how he had registered the sim for me (First system fail: registering a sim, without any of the user’s details) but how he had already bought it for me and he couldn’t return it.
Long story short, when I got picked up, he went off to my parents that we needed to pay for the sim as he’d already gotten it. As much as I had to raise my voice sharply to insist that I didn’t ask him for it, I was shocked at how he manipulated the story till we had to pay for that sim. I’m not your average quiet girl, but I was even too shocked to argue. It was then reality dawned on me, I was back home, if you can’t fight for your right, you’d be tread upon.
There was also a man that credited my modem with a N2,000 credit as opposed to the N10, 000 he was paid. Wouldn’t it be shallow if I was judging from just 2 experiences? But it’s no exaggeration to say that this was almost the situation all the time.
Not withstanding, I did enjoy my stay, it was refreshing to say the least. I met some amazing people and boy! Nigerians do know how to have a good time. I almost forgot that. More importantly I can now clearly identify some of those areas we’re brilliant at and some that still need some working on. The most important lesson I learnt was that, even though I had individual experiences that made up the story of my stay in Nigeria, each person was able to either assert some of my assumptions, or correct them – consciously or unconsciously by their actions.
I learnt that sometimes and many at times in life, we would be the only board some people have to read to make their stereotypes and believes. We need to make conscious efforts to give people a positive story about us, our schools, country, gender, race, and everything we represent.

Winter is here

(This was an article written for Exeter fashion society's blog)

It's no news that winter is finally creeping in, we can all sadly feel the biting chills of it.
For many of us, it only means one thing, it's that time to invest in a quality yet fashionable winter coat. Trust me this can be a hassle, and the expeditious trends don't make it better. But as that's almost my job now (to analyse new trends & styles), i can spare you surfing the net all week or spending a hefty chunk of that student loan on buying a bad coat that you might have to wear up until June. 

So, below are some of the finest winter coat trends

1) Pink Coat- This has to be my favourite. I'm not a big fan of dull, gloomy coloured winter coats, i mean, isn't the weather gloomy enough?! I'm excited the pink coat is trending, as it's a bold & statement piece yet leaves you looking effortlessly chic. It's the easiest way to pull off that "i'm just naturally stunning and i don't need to try too hard" look.

                Ebay, £100                                         
                                                                                                        Zara £79.99

2)Parkers- They're a must have for every winer season. If you're thinking of investing in a long, trend lasting coat, parkers are the way forward. I doubt they will ever be out of trend especially for students. But i should throw in some caution, if you are not petite enough to look cute in them, i suggest you forget them and look up other winter coverings. I'm not even trying to throw shade at plump girls, as i myself i've restrained from buying them.

                 Boohoo, £45                                                      Miss self fridge, £79

3) Trench coats - Either for those perfect romantic evenings or adding a feminine & classy touch to the grunge styled ripped jeans, trench coats are the classics for every winter. 

(I'm sorry i promised to keep this post simply high street, but how can i talk on trench coats without referencing burberry? That would be plain rude) 

4) Leather Jacket - "Leather jackets are the holy grail of the fashion world, and quite frankly, go with literally everything"  I don't even think that quote is a hyperbole. As much as i can't guarantee that they will be able to keep you warm in January, Leather jackets are able to make even the simplest outfits look sophisticated & edgy.

(I love that karen miller leather jacket on Asos, so chic ...effortlessly chic!)

5)Boxy (tartan or checked) coats- Now, don't act like you weren't expecting this. Tartan tops, skirts, scarfs etc have littered our shops literally. It's no surprise that tartan patterned coat is one of the biggest trends this winter.

How gorgeous is this??

I'm glad that we have indeed been spolit with choice this winter :)

When we plan, God laughs

(This was an article written for the Aspiring Sartorialist, hence appeared here first) 

We all regularly make plans for our lives.We often draft out how we expect God to run our lives. E.g by 22, i should have met the right spouse, by 25, be working in a top  law firm, by 30 married with all my kids and made my first million. etc. 
But you see, as we grow older, we find that plans change, situations change, needs and wants become different and we as people don't stay the same. Few years later and we are living a totally different plan from what we drafted.
                The fundamental, yet bitter truth is that there is a much higher calling for our lives,beyond our own plans,desires,wants.And the earlier we discover and start living God's plans, the wiser.
We will not always know what we need/want or even what is right for us, In fact, what we think is good for us might not necessarily be God's best for us. Isaiah 55:9, remember God's ways & thoughts are higher than ours, and he is constantly working the best for us even when we don't see it now. Jeremiah 29:11.
        We more often than not get discouraged when things don't work out as planned, or when things take a completely different turn than expected. But you see, discouragement is the last thing to allow to settle,simply because it is okay for plans to fail. yes, to fail that driving test, to fail that interview, that exam, or even in that relationship. It doesn't not make one an automatic failure in life. Show me a man that has never failed at anything, and i will point out a man that has either never tried anything or a liar. 
What's more important than the tears of failure is picking up the pieces and submitting to God's plan & will. Even when the past calls, let it go to voice mail, believe me when i say it has nothing new to say.
         Most Importantly, in everything let's learn to give thanks, abandon our own written plans, yield to God's will and ultimate plan, even if we fail, we know it's all part of the learning process. Let's give in our best, and not be afraid to thread his path for our lives, who knows? the path seemingly lonely/we're dreading to thread might be God's laid out path to our successes.

Be challenged today, Pray, Take that risk, Dare to trust God, Thread that path. Don't be afraid to fail, And make sure you're not giving up!

God Inspired.

Lot's of Love,

The Aspiring Sartorialist Xx

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