…but I dey try pass am!
On the 19th of March, I was sitting in my office working per usual, hungry per standard, daydreaming per expected, whilst completing tasks per regular (Yes. I googled ‘synonyms of usual’). My phone beeped and I grabbed it as an excuse to pause on work. I causally swiped down and immediately saw a mail with a dramatic subject that read: Congrats! You have been chosen to participate in the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship
There was a moment of silence for the resurrection of all my confusion and surprise, after which I morphed into an athlete, jogging around my office and saying ‘What? What? What? What? What?’
I settled and called all the people I considered important in my life, but no one picked (perhaps because I’m literally the worst person to have a phone (or real life) conversation with). After being disappointed by men, I spoke to my God who never fails and I was like, ‘God Daddy! Thank you! A lot of people might try to convince me that this wasn’t you but it so was!’ And God was like ‘ *wink wink* I gatchu boo. You’re welcome’
Seems like a healthy conversation, yeah?
But as time went on, I shared the news with a bunch of people and they kept saying ‘Wow! I’m so proud of you Boro. You are doing great stuff! You deserve it. Are you even shocked that you got in?’ I kept replying and thinking ‘But yes, I’m shocked because I don’t deserve this. I have done nothing close to deserving this. This is a miracle’ But then I kept hearing, ‘you’ve done so well’, ‘you’re doing so well’, ‘you will do so well’, and it made me so uncomfortable. My discomfort soon grew into paranoia and I soon became convinced that the US Embassy was going to send a mail saying ‘UGH! You sooooo did NOT make it in! And it was not even an error on our part. We just wanted you to know how it feels to be in this awesome league for a bit, because you never will be. Muahahahah!’
Disgusting thinking. I know.
Let’s be clear, I do not have low self-esteem. (Stop rolling your eyes. I don’t!) In fact, I have caught some overconfident and superiority complex thinking in my mind more than once, and thrown them to trash. I also think I have a largely healthy esteem and perception of myself. I can take credit and compliments and I acknowledge my talents and skills. E.g. I’m one of the best writers you’ll ever meet. Argue with your Eleganza Biro.
BUT, it also turns out that sometimes I can be so hard on myself that I get super surprised when the whole world isn’t hard on me too. Am I doing great stuff? Maybe. But can I do better? Of course! Do I want to do better? Of course! In fact, in light of how much better I CAN and WANT to do, what I’m doing right now in my life is so pale, so drab, so skreppy, so irritating. And so when the US Government says, ‘Hey Boro. You shine so brightly. We want to be affiliated with your light.’ When they say this, I think they are joking. I think they surely must be joking, because ‘have they seen what I CAN do?’
I have the weirdest relationship with imposter syndrome. When it comes, it reallllly comes. Like, it stays and has the time of its life.
Let me tell you what happened two days ago. Two days ago, I was at the US Ambassador’s house. Me and the other 55 selected Fellows from all around Nigeria. Earlier in the day, they had pumped us up and told us, ‘Nothing was handed to you guys. The 56 of you earned your spots here. We had over 11,000 applications from Nigeria but we chose you guys after several stages of selection.’ I was nodding my head and thinking, ‘ Awesome. Awesome. Surely there must be some truth in that’. I felt good. But imposter syndrome was not thinking what I was thinking. In fact, it had gone ahead to wait for me by the gate of the Ambassador’s house for later that evening. So, that evening, I arrived at his house, and right there in front of me was one of my interview panellists. I. FROZE. Y’ALL! I froze because something in my heart told me these words, ‘She will recognize you because your interview was so horrible that your face stood out. And she’ll ask what you’re doing here. And you’ll answer that you were selected. And she would revolt. She would lose it. Are you ready for her to lose it?’
LMAO! So I avoided her. I tried to sneak past her but she looked directly at me and asked what my name was. I told her quietly but her expression barely changed. She ticked me off the list and told me to go into the house. *whew* But just as I was catching my breath, I saw the two other people on my interview panel in the house. MILD. PANIC. ATTACK. Y’ALL! We were going to be in that (relatively) small enclosed space for the next 2-3 hours networking, so I needed a solid plan to avoid them (then and forever). It was funny. In fact, it was funny enough for me to share it with some of the other Fellows but real enough to simultaneously dodge the Interview people.
It’s still funny now. Interestingly, at a point during the reception, one of the men on my Interview panel called for everyone’s attention and said he had something to say. I thought to myself, ‘Yes, love. This is it. Stand close enough to the door so your exit won’t be so shameful’. I was ready to be exposed. So, I looked directly at him this time, not hiding behind any of the tall Fellows. If I would receive rejection, I would take it with my chest. But when the room had quieted down, he said, ‘I just want to say you deserve to be here. This is not a miracle – no one helped you or fixed your name on the list. You are here because you deserve to be here’. And boy, did that seem like he was talking only to me!
But perhaps not. Perhaps all 56 of us felt like we did not deserve to be there. Or perhaps not. But after that night, here’s one thing I know: I am going for this fellowship. I will be representing Nigeria. And I will do it with confidence. It’s already too late to be scared about being selected. I already was selected. And as far as I know, I’m the youngest selected Fellow from Nigeria this year. I am younger than the official age requirement for the Fellowship. The US Government says it only selects applicants between the ages of 25-35 but would select people below 25 if they are exceptional. I am 23. I will be 24 somewhere at the ending of the Fellowship. Am I exceptional? I don’t know. But it seems too late to disagree. So I agree. I am also grateful to God. Because there is no glory in my life that belongs to me. He owns it all.
Thanks for reading!
I shall now proceed to spend a little over 6 weeks in the University of Delaware learning more on how to be a leader in civic engagement and eating pepperless food! Wish me all the best!