We want to know how young people become adults. The question we ask is “What’s your coming of age story?” Every Thursday, we’ll bring you the story one young Nigerian’s journey to adulthood and how it shaped them.
The young woman in this story admits she isn’t exactly an adult. She’s 20 and only a few weeks from her convocation ceremony – not like you need to be a full-blown adult to know what it means when your allowance gets cut off. There’s only one way to pay the bills. Money.
When I was in junior school, JSS3 precisely, two classmates and I started a small business selling sweets in school. This was in Seolad College, the secondary school I attended in Mowe, Ogun State. We had clocked that the cafeteria didn’t sell sweets and that some of our other classmates liked to keep their jaws busy in the middle of classes, so we came up with a brilliant idea to start selling sweets.
We bought packs of lollipops to sell every day and every day, before school closed, we sold out. When the school authorities found out, they beat us. Even worse, it was in front of the class. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because we were making money. The profit was really good. It was a very lucrative business. I was sad to stop, but the experience was great for me, it was one of the experiences that made me realise that money made the world go round.
My parents raised my siblings and I – two boys and me – like a gang moving through three neighbourhoods in two states. First in Lagos, between Mile 12 and Ketu, and later in Mowe. We were tight-knit. Snitching was and is still a sin. When one of my brothers learned something, we all knew about it within hours. We did all sorts of fun things. One of our favourite hacks was making cookies by compressing a mix of milk biscuits and powdered milk and putting Robo chips on top. My oldest brother once made a magazine; he wrote an entire book full of stories, cut-outs and collages. He took it to school and his classmates happily paid to read it. We did these mostly for fun; although looking back now, I can see how we were always trying to create new things that kids our age would be interested in.
As a child, I thought all adults were ballers. I don’t know why, but I assumed people in their early 20s got some sort of stipend to help them figure their shit out. I didn’t think about it deeply. If I did, I would have wondered why some people’s slay was low-budget.
Our family was relatively comfortable. My dad started a chain of small businesses when I was 5. My mum was a teacher. My brothers got into university early – simple and straight-forward. I never worried about money (although I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like extra cash.) All my cash came from my dad.
So when I began to understand how life worked, my chest began to hurt. I think it happened when we moved to Mowe. I was 12. We’d been living in this nice three-bedroom in a good neighbourhood in Ketu; then the landlord woke up one day and decided to double the rent. Two months later, we were standing at the gate to my father’s uncompleted house in Mowe, with no running water, no electricity and lots of work to do. I was so worried. Why were we moving to the bush? I wondered why he couldn’t just finish the house; so I asked and he broke it down. He taught me about cash flow, savings and expenses in detail. He had money coming in, but he had expenses so he never had enough to finish his house on short notice.
From that point, nothing scared me like the knowledge that people run out of money, or worse, that my dad would stop giving me an allowance at some point. Man, I switched up once I realised how important money was.
Everything about this life is money. You need money to navigate anything and everything else. I cannot wait to have a lot of it. The only other thing I’m looking forward to is independence and living alone – going out with the girls and having my friends over for intelligent conversations.
When I say these things, my brothers often ask how I plan to get there. I’ve never known. In all the schools I went to, I was constantly told to pick a mentor and follow their example. That’s not for me. I could like something about you, but not enough to follow every step you take. There are people I like but they don’t rank as role models.
I’m also lucky to have siblings that help me manage the pressure. One of their favourite things to say is how they’re doing all the suffering so I won’t have to. It’s helped me a lot, because, unlike a lot of my friends, I might actually have the luxury of deciding when I want to take on full-blown adult responsibilities.
Right now, I think I’ll be ready for adulting when I turn 24 or 25. I plan to start a baked goods business after school that should be profitable by that time. I don’t want to work for anybody. I don’t think I can do any of that exactly as I plan though. My dad is somewhat overprotective and I’m sure he won’t let me start adulting when I want. My brothers had to run away from home when it was their time. I’m the last child and a girl. Serious azzdent. My parents are fairly conservative and there’s a role I’m supposed to fill. Plus women typically have it harder starting out.
I hear women talk about how they have to do demeaning things to get or hold on to their jobs. They also tend to get disrespected often by their male colleagues. I remember reading an article once about how hard it is for single women to rent apartments. I laughed because my dad has a few apartments and he never rents to single women. I can’t imagine myself trying to navigate that world.
It’s still 50/50 sha.
For all the pressure, the real reason I’m reluctant to sign up for adulthood is simple: Bills. Those guys show up at random. You can never plan your finances well enough. Gas runs out at the worst times. If you have a car, you need to get fuel every morning. And if the car has a small issue, you have to get a mechanic. If he has your time or he’s just plain incompetent, he’ll spoil something else. Then you’ll have to call another mechanic. More expenses. You want to turn on the generator and something cracks. Expenses. Imagine paying for your cable subscription every month.
I hang out with a lot of older people. I hear them talk about finances and obligations. I won’t lie, it scares me sometimes. The biggest thing I’ve learned from them is to save money. Life is super unpredictable. You can wake up in the morning and something hits you so hard in the face like my family when we moved away from civilisation, it could be your reserve fund that saves you. That’s why 25 is where it’s at for me. I hope I’ll be ready then. For now, chasing that goal is what keeps me busy.
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