You might wonder why I am so confident about my work. Every new day as a freelance writer comes with its own sets of doubts. Talking to prospects, meeting deadlines, missing some, taking new jobs. It’s like running a company all on your own. Let me tell you a story.
It happened in Warri, Delta State, Nigeria, a few years back, that I had gotten a job as a real estate agent.
The company provided staff some sort of housing relief. So I lived in Orhuworun, a tough neighbourhood where we say migwo and vrendo to everybody that passes us by.
You don’t want to offend the wrong person by not greeting properly.
Even the shanky looking boys on the street could make you piss your pants on a day of anger.
Plus, it was always raining. Anyone that lives through all that rain deserves to be greeted every day for the sheer effort.
If you ever get posted to work in Delta state, buy industrial boots, forget your fancy work shoes, get you a raincoat or buy a car. You will be drenched most of the time.
I had a ritual I started to practice because I was a broke entry-level staff. Orhuworun had a lot of development at the time so I walked every day through the rain, the sand in my shoes, the prayer that I don’t get soaked to my underwear.
As I walked, I would dash into construction sites and start to tell them about my company’s services.
Someone once told me how landlords and business people don’t listen to you when you don’t have shiny clothes and drive a Porsche. This is one of the most absurd things after companies that ask for 30 years of experience for entry-level jobs. The system has made it such that broke people cannot even succeed in their jobs.
You get a job so that you can stop being broke and then customers are checking your cloth and shoes to decide if they should work with you.
This hit me hard in my psych and I realized I was in a warfare, not a job.
I had a quick pitch recorded in my head and a pack of business cards.
Sometimes I would stop by the Tantalizers eatery at the junction to catch my breath and count the number of phone numbers I had collected. Landlords, construction managers, engineers who weren’t really engineers, labourers, and anyone that could help me land a job for my company.
One day, I happened to meet the landlady of one of the biggest construction sites I had been eyeing.
There were a lot of other people swarming her and taking orders so I waited for my turn. When she finally gave me the time of day, suddenly my brain froze, my tongue lost got tied up on a vacation, and I just couldn’t say anything coherent.
It felt like toasting a girl that thinks you ain’t worth nothing. Her eyes were cold and the more I tried to talk, the smaller I felt.
It was like staring into the eyes of a god before whom you were nothing but a pencil.
I stared at my shoes and they weren’t helping me, with all the black faded out, the Tikki polish washed off by rain, I felt just like my shoes. Drenched and disoriented.
For days, that experience haunted me. I had always hoped to meet the decision-maker on every project. I finally met one and I couldn’t close the deal. It was like dribbling a whole soccer pitch and then missing the final shot at an empty post, only that this goal post was guarded by a wolverine.
The long and short of this story is that, the next day, I got dressed again, cleaned my face, wore my peeling office shoes, trudged through the drizzling rain and went to face the next demon without any assurance that it was going to be any easier or better or that I wouldn’t be made to feel like a total idiot for wanting to make something of my life.
I decided that I was not too broke to be whoever I wanted to be. To talk to whoever I wanted to talk to or make an effort to stop being broke.
Life happened and here you are reading my words. I have grown, stories have become my stock-in-trade.
One minute I am in Orhuworun living at the mercy of a shitty salary, broke as a church mouse, marching onto people’s construction sites out of desperation and the next minute, I am doing what I love to do, I am happy most times, and satisfied, life is not as hard as it was.
I needed those moments to realize how much I could do with my life if I could have a little more faith in myself and the skills I was not telling anybody about. Pardon me if I seem proud sometimes, the journey deserves some bragging.
I wrote a book titled “Not too Broke to Be” and this Piece is dedicated to everyone who is scared of trying something because they have no money to do it.
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