This topic came to me when I was sleeping. I am not in the least bit clairvoyant, I simply find it hard to sleep through the night. This situation has always been and thanks to my five year stint in the Middle East, it got worst.
Contentment is defined as having ease of mind. Now that said are you content? I will speak for myself only. Contentment is something I had to grow into and I am still growing into. What are the things you have that you know you cant live without? What are your aspirations, and are they born out of a lack of contentment?
The world isn’t perfect, neither is any of us. I got to America at age 16 to start college, and a blue passport afforded me many things including credit cards by the time I was 18. I had student loans and credit cards and would always take out the max I could get. I spent money because my friends were going to the mall, I bought things not because I wanted or needed them, I saw them on tv etc. I ended up with quite a bit of debt – I couldn’t pay a $1,000 hospital bill so my University has a policy that when you owe any arm of the system, you don’t get your diploma. The joke was on me, I had to work two months post graduation to pay that bill to get my diploma. I always had jobs through college, but I guess you never think you will get older and should probably save.
That was one of my first lessons. My second was about $10,000 in credit card debt by age 21, I also had my student loans coming due six months post graduation. I was swimming in the potential misery of debt. At that point I went and read one of Suze Orman’s books on financial literacy – wants vs needs etc. I slowly started training myself. I stopped buying lunch outside, stopped the erratic shopping. By the time I got my first “armed robber” salary I already had some fiscal discipline.
The armed robber salary came from a war contract, I worked for one of the biggest contractors in the middle east by 23, I left New York and I had the opportunity to live the 5 star life on company time and money. During this time oddly enough I wasn’t attached to the lifestyle per say, but it was good having it. When I left I never tried to replicate the life. I realized that I liked the feeling of being able to walk past a store, knowing I could afford whatever they were selling and I still didn’t want it. Money is a tool, however I see too many people become the tool of money. I noticed when I had the most, my clothes were the cheapest – I always knew when American Eagle had a sale on polos for $10, and I limited myself to a new handbag every 6 months as a reward for hard work. I was able to invest 80% of my income, obviously some investments crashed and a few grew.
I will give a story from March 2006. I think as human beings we under estimate ourselves. My first job with the company at 23 was as an accountant, so I had to ferry cash into a site in Iraq by helicopter. Now when you fly Helo, you cant have a ton of luggage, so you gotta pack smart. I had to carry $1 million from USMI Baghdad to USMI Basra (so the vendors would keep supplying water and fuel to the soldiers). Problem with Basra was you had to go by Military Air. So I had to fly commercial (propeller jet to Kuwait – Arifijan) and from Arifjan back to Basra – Iraq. I made sure I manifested and went to check in at my hotel. Next morning got a ride, picked the cash back up and got on the helo. Now I did this with my clothes in one small bag, and my Army backpack with the money. I also had to put on my bullet proof vest and helmet. Before the flight, I noticed a guy with about 4 other guys in 5/11’s usually a sign the person is a high level official in the food chain for the Department of State. Anyways I said hi to all of them and we all boarded one of the chinooks. The US Military never flies one craft alone, they move in twos at a minimum. As we got on, awesome cooperation – US airforce pilot, 1 navy shooter – Marine, and 3 army gunners.
We were loaded up and ready to go. One of the private security guards was on my right and another civilian contractor was on my left. I was waiting for them to close the back of the helo, it was wide open oh, that’s how a gunner mounted his gun and sat on the ledge and clipped himself down. I was like hmm, this one is risky. We began the journey, a one hour journey – 20 mins in, they shot at the helos from down below, the gunners all went into action. I said God I am going to die today, I just know, forgive me for all my bad and redeem me by my good deeds. After 10 minutes the shooting stopped. I was like aah I am still alive, I will do better with my life. Funny how we are repentant when we think death is near. Lol.
And then the worst part of the trip started. The guy on my left said he was going to be sick. Skip this part if you are easily irritated. If you are curious read on. Oh my days why did this oyinbo guy vomit all over my left leg? Who did I offend? Now keep in mind we are still mid flight with about 30 minutes to go, with the back of the helicopter open, if I let go of my bag, it might slide out, I don’t have $1million to repay anybody. So the high level Diplomat starts yelling at me to hold the guy up because he might choke on his own vomit. Taah oh boy has vomited on me, the sh*t is still on my $150 seven jeans, I just almost got killed, and I gotta hold on to this guy from the collar of his bullet proof vest? What choice did I have? I held him oh and used my other hand to hold that money very well. We landed, a medic came to the base of the helo to get the guy, when they were questioning him, the idiot ate pizza from pizza hut at Arifjan, that’s why he puked. Anyways the diplomat told his guys to find me wipes, they were all hustling to help me wipe my leg, either perversion or sympathy. Then they offered me a ride on base, but my ride was already waiting.
I was supposed to drop off the money and be out of that place in 1 week, back to the life of the Green Zone aka USMI Baghdad where they served lobster on Sunday nights. I had manifested for the Helo going out, for where? They rocketed the daylights out of that camp, no helicopter could land for a month. I was stuck with 3 t-shirts and 5 underwear. It got to a point I stopped washing the t-shirts daily and I would wear them for 2 or 3 days before hand washing. It was at this point that I realized honestly I didn’t have attachments to any material items. Even food wasn’t easy to get, the American dining facility couldn’t get food convoys in, so we had to eat on the British side, I saw Bangers and mash for the first time. Oh boy after that I was happy to eat cereal bars, British people need seasoning in their food.
After I finally got out of Basra, I was never happier to be alive, but my disposition changed significantly. I started focusing more on the holistic me, improving my mind, and distinguishing more between my needs and wants, and the ocassional frivolity without justification. I also got a few commendations, I got 2 spectacular job offers, but they weren’t along the lines of what I wanted. The Diplomat offered for me to head a region in Iraq under the US Embassy from a business development standpoint, but I had and still have zero interest in working for the Department of state. I don’t want an average job where I will coast all through my life and be comfortable. I need excitement as my attention span is very short.
I learnt at this point that things only have the value that we as human beings give to them. I also learnt that materialism and consumption only filled emotional voids temporarily. Some days I look at my closet and ask why I have so much clothes, other days I am like I need to be more fabulous. Lol. I am human. I however never compare myself or my lot to anyone else’s. I have tunnel vision when it comes to what everyone else is doing, and I am just happy to exist in my own corner. I live in my head a lot also. I Joined instagram, I thought I would be moved, not quite, the one person that impressed me is Solange sha, I want a white jumpsuit. Lol.
My dad said something about contentment the other day. Contentment ensures that you are happy irrespective of your position. However the presence of contentment shouldn’t eliminate ambition. Success is measured differently for many people, how do you measure yours? Is it by money or by the lives touched? In this present world, I believe you must have resources to effect change, money is a resource. I still try to see how much money I can make and use to effect change. He who pays the piper dictates the tune. I want wealth not because of the things I can buy or do for me, but the things I can do to leave a lasting legacy. I see the ocassional YSL bag and I might aah, but I realize that even when I had the opportunity to purchase the said items, I was never really interested. I will write about my first time in business class maybe tomorrow, it was funny as hell sha.
So on a side note, my husband and I have been officially married (registry) for five months today. The wedding pictures from October were the “parties and solemnization before God”. We opted to celebrate our registry date as it is also my birthday. So happy five month of dynamic marriageness. I say dynamic because my husband doesn’t quarrel, he also doesn’t argue – when I offend him; he simply calms down and 2 days later he gives a lecture. Lol. He has chronic migraines he cant afford a fight. I ordered him a small cake to surprise him. One deadly chocolate cake like that.
Thursday is ladies night at four points by Sheraton, in collaboration with ciroc, ladies get three free mixed drinks. Where else in Lagos can you get free drinks from 7pm on a Thursday? Nowhere. I will be out there tonight sucking through some drinks and consuming some H’odeurves with two friends. After the wedding, my friendship pool is limited right about now. I don’t have the energy for nonsense. Now don’t say I ever told you about free stuff. Lol.
Tansi won the cupcakes yesterday, she said she has never won anything, but now she has. Congrats. The two N500 airtime credit is still up for grabs – rule is one person cant win both and please leave your email address and network of choice in the comments section.