A girl has gone around the sun again.

…I’m a year older

Keyukemi Ubi
10 min readAug 7, 2023

Anyone who knows me personally knows how I get excited about my birthday. It’s my favorite day of the year. On most days, I do not care for or crave attention. No, to be accurate, I actively avoid it. I like to be seen/heard only when I want to be. If I feel like I have become too visible, I will immediately shrink and disappear into the void.

But my birthday is different. On that day, I shine, glow, and want the whole world to see. I want to be the center of attention, admiration, and well-wishes. I enjoy it; I revel in it.

A picture of Keyukemi Ubi
A picture of me

As my birthday drew closer this year, I decided to do something different. I asked my parents if they ever imagined the kind person I would be when I grew up—the life I would choose and lead. I didn’t ask because I am suddenly interested in becoming their picture-perfect daughter; that ship has long sailed, Lol. I asked them because I was partially curious as to the journey of my existence. And so, like all stories told from multiple sources, they sound different. Sure, there are similarities, but there are still differences in both their stories. I guess it is because everyone views the world through individual lenses.

My mom mentioned that they both really wanted to have a girl, my dad says they didn’t know my gender before I was born, but my Mum argues that they did. My dad claims to have named me Keyukemi without knowing my gender because to him having me was all the blessing he needed. My name is not a moniker or a nickname it is a name in my Nigerian Native language and a very rare one that means My wealth.

My mom talked about how while growing up, I was a delicate balance of paradoxes- frugal yet generous, kind yet emotionally cold and distant, responsible and mature yet playful. However, she said she never really worried about me growing up because, because somehow, I always knew the right thing to do, and with that, she knew I would be successful (Gosh, I hope she is right because this life of SAPA don tire me).

I really want to tell you guys all they said, but I will keep the rest to myself.
You like aproko (gossip), there’s nothing for you here, now move it.

A lot has happened in the last year. I am going to talk about them in mainly three categories. Let’s talk about my journey around the sun, shall we?

Health is wealth

Exactly one week after my birthday last year, I had surgery. I thought the surgery would be the worst part, but recovery showed me shege (it was gruesome). It took almost six months to recover fully, and I am all the better for it. The surgery was a necessity to reduce my pain and improve my quality of life. This is the healthiest I have been in nearly five years.

My physical health is considerably better. Occasionally, I still end up at the hospital at odd hours, but trust me, it’s way better than previous years. I am stronger and love my body more every day (not that I hated it before).

My mental health is better too. Depression and anxiety still kick my ass, but I have found healthier coping mechanisms.

One of my coping mechanisms has been my writing. Sharing my experiences and discovering that I am not alone has been comforting. Writing has given me a place to vent, an opportunity to scream into the void, hoping that the echoes reach someone else in the same chasm. And somehow, there is always at least one person whose voice echoes back, giving me all the serotonin I need. And when I feel like what I want to write is too much for the world, I use my journal.

A picture of Keyukemi Ubi and other panelists speaking at Lagos Startup Week 2023.
A picture of me and other panelists speaking at Lagos Startup Week 2023.

My Daily 2k

Boy, o Boy, I worked my ass off. Through sickness, heartbreak, disappointment, failure, and fear, I WORKED my butt off. And after 18 months, it paid off.

I am finally where I want to be. Not in the exact spot, but I love where I am. As humans, work takes up at least 1/3 of the 24 hours we have daily. It is an essential part of my life. It is not everything, but I derive a great sense of fulfillment from the work I do. I talk about my work without many details because that is how I prefer it to be. However, I recognize that I am privileged enough to do work I enjoy with and for some of the best people I have known.

Did I mention that I got to speak on a panel at a tech conference in Lagos? I was quaking in my boots, but thankfully, no one saw that.

So, career-wise? I intend to keep working my butt off. My siblings say I am a workaholic (I’m not so sure about that). This is just the beginning. Most of all, I look forward to the professional I become next year. Maybe in the next year, I will get more vocal about what I do. I don’t know, but let's see how it goes.

Encumbrances and Connections

Now Playing:
Alone pt. ii cover by Color music choir originally by Alan Walker & Ava Max

A picture of Keyukemi with some of her friends at her birthday hangout this year.
A picture with some of my friends at my birthday hangout this year.

As I began to write this section, I had an epiphany. This is my first birthday in 10 years when I am unencumbered by any romantic interests. Yikes !?! I didn’t realize that aspect of my life was so colorful till I started writing this.

I feel somewhat insouciant. A teeny-weeny bit lonely but more exhilarating than lonely. You see, I was in a long-term relationship this time last year, but I didn’t realize how much I was alone in it. So this feels heavenly compared to how I felt then.

I can’t speak for others, but I know that for me, the space I have to give to the things/people I love is finite. So these days, without encumbrances, I have a lot more time and space in my head to explore different interests and curiosities, taking on new adventures. But let’s keep the details about adventures for my year-in-review post.

I haven’t had the ability (mostly the will, if we are keeping things a buck) to love anyone in a while. I have channeled all that love and attention that has nowhere to go to myself and some to my friends. I think love is like energy; it can’t be destroyed; it can only be transformed from one form to another. Sometimes it turns to hate; other times, it turns into the worst of the triplets- Indifference.

People seem to think the worst metamorphosis of love is hate. In my opinion, it’s not, it’s indifference. With hate, you still care somewhat, you pay attention, you want to know. With indifference, they cease to exist in your mind. And we all have it or at least have the capacity for it—all of it, love, hate, indifference.

Thankfully, somewhere within the last year's emotional chaos, I have been loved back to wholeness. At different points, people came into my life at the right time, and they saved me. My friends have been a rock.

I have no interest in changing my romantic status quo for a while. This isn’t about freedom. This is not a case of a formerly caged bird exploring its newly found freedom. Au contraire, it is about “solitary” and enjoying the solace that being unencumbered brings. I am not ashamed (this is a shame-free zone, yes?) to admit that my thoughts are much more entangled and complicated when I have a romantic partner because that is what it means to love. My decision-making is much easier now that I don’t have to account for anyone most affected by my decisions.

By nature, I do not know how to amplify “self” unless I am alone. This doesn’t mean I lose my sense of self, although it is very easy to lose your individualism if you are invested enough in someone else. It requires a conscious effort to maintain individualism. In relationships, I am super mindful of my partner’s existence and effect on my life, so it permeates my thought processes, no matter how little.

Someone once said to me, “I love how you love. It’s considerate and kind. It is only selfish when you can bask in it being reciprocated freely without constraints. You only start to emphasize what makes you happy when the other person can love you back without nuance or constraints like religion or distance. But by default, your love is kind and soft. Kind people in love are extremely hard to come by.

I am not saying I want to spend the rest of my life alone with two cats and three dogs (not that I think anything is wrong with that, cats and dogs make for excellent company). But for now, I am okay with myself being the only thought that consumes my mind. I am satisfied with simply wallowing in “self.”

Crap! I have spent too much time talking about my love life or the lack of it thereof. Oh well, you really didn’t think I would write a post without going on that rant, did you?

A screenshot of my Youtube music player playing the Song- Joy Unspeakable by Voices of Fire featuring Pharell Williams
I really love choir music; I didn’t suddenly find Jesus again. Xry, not Xry 🤭

What shall we do to spark joy today?

I have had different phases for my birthdays over the years. I remember being over the moon about it as a child. But somewhere between my teenage years and early 20s, I hated my birthday. I got depressed whenever my birthday drew closer. Most of those years, I spent my birthday crying myself to sleep.

People talk a lot about birthday blues- some anxiety or depression. I get it, but I am happy I no longer experience that. I think those feelings disappeared when I decided to stop attributing my failures and successes to my age. You see, there’s a thing we do where we compare ourselves to the outliers, You know, the people making millions of dollars at 18, and we sit and stew wondering what we are doing with our lives.

Comparison is the thief of joy, eh?

There is nothing wrong with ambition. Ambition is great; ambition gives one a raison d’etre, and having a reference point for your ambition is helpful. But I have found that benchmarking the timing of your ambition against the outliers is a recipe for disaster. The day I understood that there are principles that work, some method to the madness that is Success, I calmed my titties and started to enjoy the petite beauties and the little graces.

I know it doesn’t sound helpful, but in my experience, I have found that everything good comes eventually. As long you keep to the principles of consistency, hard work, discipline, and teachability, it comes.

Honestly, life doesn’t readily offer us things to be joyous about. I read this quote somewhere (I think it's Liz Fair), and I really loved it, “…and if the only reward for racing through life is death, then may I forever savour the long way around, languidly stretching myself across every detour and backroad. For if the destination is all the same, at least may the journey be a slow and scenic one.”

I have since learned that if I am going to be at peace or happy, I will have to create my joy. It does sound counterintuitive that joy isn’t something that just happens. It is one that you have to plan, create and actively curate. Learning this has helped me to relish the days when I can and consistently find ways to spark joy, no matter how small.

Sometimes, it is a sleepover with my girls; other times, it’s a long ass video call with my parents where they gossip about our neighbours and family members. Sometimes, it is putting off my devices and spending the day painting; other times, it is binging anime or K-drama. These things are scheduled in my calendar because even joy requires intentionality.

This has been my biggest lesson this year — “Joy doesn’t just come; it has to be created. So what shall we do to spark joy today?

A screenshot of Keyukemi’s Calendar
A snippet of my calendar

I am not where I want to be or doing everything I want to do, but I acknowledge that my life is good. However, I am human, so my needs and desires are insatiable. I always want better; I always want more. Every year, I adjust my ambition and refocus my lens. The vision is still the same, but the picture is more extensive, brighter, and more beautiful, and I choose to enjoy every step of it.

Find attached, My birthday playlist. It consists of songs that carried me through the times on my journey around the sun. Good times, bad times, sad times, joyous times, all times. Also, You can write me a birthday email at almostvintagebykeyu@gmail.com