Reflections on turning 40

It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright…She moves in mysterious ways”

….“Mysterious Ways”, U2

Those closest to me know I’ve been looking forward to turning 40 for quite some time.

Not as a way of escaping the fact that I was sort of straddling two generations, but as another transition in life that feels more wholesome than the last. Starting a new decade with a lot more wisdom. And for me, the more experiences we accrue over the years, the more wholesome our life becomes.

Forty is not the new twenty in my view.

So, to mark this major milestone, I did the most Nigerian of things and booked a celebratory photo shoot by fashion photographer Tobias Björkgren with makeup by Zuzy Pretty here in Stockholm.

This tradition was one I once laughed at and classed as cheesy over the years, but the older I got, the more I fully realized why we Nigerians do these shoots. I come from a culture that’s very sensory and which celebrates every single day with vigor, family, random festivities, and the fact that we’re still alive with lots of noise and merriment.

I now realize that those photo shoots are a physical manifestation of gratitude. Of taking stock of our blessings and trials in life and sharing with the world that we’re still standing tall through God’s grace.

These shoots help us see and embrace our transformations as well. I love seeing my new curves, the body of a woman who has birthed life, and the way it moves in new ways. I love seeing those white strands of hair weaving themselves through the rest, reminding me of passing time. I love seeing how my face has changed over the years while my smile remains the same.

Against all odds with various societies trying to fit me into pre-defined boxes, I have remained who I fundamentally am.

So, what am I grateful for?

Besides the fact that I’m still breathing, have my good health, and a great supportive network, I’m grateful for a merciful God who has always been there for me and who continues to catch me when I fall (and I fall often), whisper words of encouragement through His spirit, and elevates me in ways only His grace, not the world, can.

We often say we can’t have it all. But looking at my lovely family God has blessed me with, I am continually in awe. To say I am grateful for my healthy and supportive family is an understatement. They have shown me what boundless love feels like and it is such a privileged feeling to be enveloped in.

I could list all my accomplishments and accolades over the years including two books in a single year, but these pale in comparison to the fact that I have carved out a career I love as a Black African woman in a tough industry without changing my personality, my values, or my beliefs to remain relevant, appeal, or appease.

That is why this poignant quote by E.E. Cummings will forever remain my favorite:

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; NEVER stop fighting.”…E.E. Cummings

I am the same Lola.

Photo credit: The Urb

What my twenties taught me

When I was in my twenties, I thought I knew everything and acted like it too. A coy smile emerges whenever I reminisce  about how little I knew back then. Yet in my twenties, I quickly learned that my core strengths are being a strong problem solver, creative soul, dedicated team player, quick study, and versatile being.

One thing I did realize very early on was that people were subconsciously projecting what they wanted me to be for them. They wanted me to react a certain way, talk a certain way, and carry myself a certain way, while disregarding my own upbringing, cultural background, and life experiences.

In my mid-twenties was when I found the quote above by E.E. Cummings and began to follow it as a life mantra for close to two decades.

What my thirties taught me

Since I technically knew everything and had no faults during my twenties (sarcasm), I learned all my faults and weaknesses in my thirties.

Read up on the Virgo sign and you might find some of my nuances in there.

I am loyal to a fault. Because I’m a natural problem solver, I am accessible to a fault too. Always trying to help people who have then turned around and taken me and my time for granted. I get bored very easily with routine. And I mean within two days, not weeks. Delegation isn’t my strongest suit, and you better not drag me into an argument on a subject I’m emotional about. We will go at it all night yet mysteriously remain friends in the morning.

I am overtly passionate about people, projects, and causes that intrigue me. Which also means I’m so glad I wasn’t an adult during the 70s… just saying.

Towards the end of my thirties, I began to re-calibrate my weaknesses through my yearly focus words.

My thirties taught me balance and rejuvenation. They taught me to dig my heels deeper into my core values as the world ebbed and flowed around me, to remain kind even when kindness and civility seemed to be going out of style, and I also became a better listener, fully acknowledging people as best as I can. This virtue comes through in my environmental portrait photography as well.

My thirties spat me out a better listener who fully embraces all her vulnerabilities.

What I hope the next decade brings

To thrive means to flourish, prosper, and blossom, and I pray the next decade will bring excellent health for me and my family. Prosperity and being able to continue doing what I love will be icing on an already rich and sweet life. Above all, my faith will remain my anchor because God has shown His faithfulness in more ways than I deserve (truly) time and time again.

And dare I say it, in mysterious ways.

If I could choose a song that played whenever I walked into a room, it would be “Mysterious Ways” by U2.

Besides the fact that they are my favourite band and I consider myself a rabid fan, the main lyric of that song is the very definition of my full name.

Onoaralolaoluwa –> “God moves in mysterious ways.”

Photo credit: The Urb