Black, White, and Specks of Colors

Keyukemi Ubi
9 min readJan 2, 2023


It’s 5:25 am, on a cold Monday morning, in Lagos, Nigeria. I have always struggled with sleep, but in the past weeks, my insomnia has worsened. Deciding to write this was such a mental war. Mainly because I am in a world of pain as I write this. I struggle to see the world without the lens of pain clouding my judgment, and I am afraid to let that pain seep into my writing. Maybe one day, I will find the courage to talk about that pain, but today we will talk about everything but that.

Coming out of darkness and doing new things

I started 2022 quite dark. How dark, you ask? Basically, I had lost any will to live. Life, living, had lost all meaning and importance. I felt like I just merely existed against my will. I tried filling that void by getting a pet in the previous year. Safe to say it didn’t work. I just felt more burdened and sad.

A picture of Osayuki, the cat, sleeping on Keyu’s feet
Osayuki, the cat I gave out. I can finally admit that I miss him.

By the way, having a pet made me realize that I am not in any way ready to take responsibility for another living being. I feel a teeny-weeny bit sad for my Mum. She is really looking forward to becoming a grandma soon, and I have no intention of making that wish come true anytime soon.

I made three significant decisions in 2022, and this was the first one. In February, I gave out my pet and started to give out my belongings. I decided to go on a long trip. I didn’t know how long I would be away or if I would come back, but I just knew I had to leave.

I bought a large magenta box and packed it full of everything I couldn’t live without. I decided to travel alone to the three nearest African countries. Between April to July, I traveled to Benin Republic, Lome, and Ghana by road.

I was suicidal with poor physical health and a new job I was still adjusting to. I had never left Nigeria before then, and my french was abysmal at best. But I decided that it was what I needed to survive, so I did it.

I had planned to vlog and create as much content as I could around my trip, but I barely got through making a few TikTok videos. The trip did a hard reset on my life and my choices. I gained clarity, peace, and emotional stability.

People have always used the words brave, audacious, daring, and crazy to describe me. I have never seen myself as any of those things because my actions that led to these descriptions were purely an act of desperation. I did those things because I wanted to survive. Nothing more, nothing less. But to others, I was going against the tide, and for that, people called me strong. Lol, STRONG?!?! we will talk about that later.

A collage of my favorite pictures throughout the trip

But in the end, I earned a new nickname amongst my colleagues- AJALA ( a Yoruba name for someone who travels a lot). I think I will do this every year, especially because I need it for my sanity. Lagos is a crazy place; I need a break from time to time.

Family but not by blood

My 25th birthday dinner was a really profound day for me. This was the second important decision I made. I generally shy away from parties because I find them rather exhausting. But I decided to have a birthday dinner in 2022.

While for others, it may have just been another day and another party. It was a reminder, a call to the reality that I wasn’t alone. You see, I have always felt alone (another topic for another day). I always told people I didn’t have friends. That day, it hit me, I did have friends. The most exciting part was that not everyone I invited showed up, yet the venue was filled (and overflowing) with people who cared about me.

I was in a great deal of physical pain that day. I had swallowed a lot of painkillers, and even that didn’t dampen my pain. But the joy of seeing all my friends from secondary school, undergraduate school, and postgraduate school, and work was inexplicable.

A collage of pictures from my 25th Birthday dinner

I think I finally know what it feels like to be brimming with joy. It is a fleeting feeling, but everyone should get a dose of it once in a while. One of my friends managed to capture that feeling in a video. From time to time, when I need that high, I watch the Instagram reel over and over.

In summary, good people surround me. Their actions may not always be correct or even generally acceptable. But I know that the things they do for me, they do because they love me and care about me. I could not for the life of me start listing names. But if you are important to me, you know it, and you know that I love you too.

I am tired of being strong.

My health took a turn for the worse in 2019. I can’t even begin to describe how bad or gruesome it has been. If you are curious, I talked about it briefly here. But my struggles with my health were the main reasons I had lost the will to live.

The third most significant decision I made was to have surgery. A week after my birthday, on the 12th of August, 2022, I was admitted to the Hospital. On the 14th of August, 2022, I had a hemorrhoidectomy. Maybe one day, I will be able to share my experience to help someone scared of going through with it.

A collage of pictures from Keyu’s time in the hospital
A collage of pictures from my time in the Hospital

I know I didn’t want to write names, but I am especially grateful to Focus “Abeke mi” Adegbami for my time in the hospital (yes, she gets an honorable mention). I don’t know how I would have gone through it without her. She stayed day and night with me almost every day I was at the Hospital. I mentioned earlier that I had been blessed with the best of friends, right?

Recovery? It was hell; as I write this, I am still recovering. I haven’t fully healed because the surgery site is quite “special”. But recovery was a special kind of hell. But I got through it, or rather, I am getting through it, and like always, I have been strong.

I am strong because that is what is required of me; I don’t think there is/was another alternative. I couldn’t have chosen to break down, cry, or give up. I don’t think I had a choice.

They say God gives his biggest battles to his strongest warriors. I have long hopped off that religious train, but I still have to be strong. I am no warrior. I am merely surviving because it is what I have to do, even though I don’t know why I am doing it.

Now, I am tired of being strong. I am tired of always having to be strong. I know life is supposed to have ups and downs -challenges, but I can’t seem to catch a fucking break from the pain. I really am tired of being strong.

My health challenges aren’t going anywhere. According to the doctors, I can only manage and modify my lifestyle. But my condition(s) are more or less permanent. However, the surgery was helpful. My physical pain is much more bearable now. At least now I can pretend to live like every other person. So I am happy I went through with it.

How I love being a woman

A little segue from the conversation on strength, but I was afraid to be a woman when I was younger. I don’t know how but at a very tender age, the word woman quickly became associated with weakness in my head. It’s ironic because my mum is one of the strongest people I know. So I don’t know where I ever got that idea.

But the last thing I wanted to be known for was being weak.

I didn’t want to be told that I was beautiful. I wanted to be recognized as more than a pretty face. How paradoxical considering that one’s face is the first thing anyone sees.

I didn’t want people to know I liked pink. Or that I appreciated flowers. Or that I liked big fluffy teddy bears.

I adorned myself in stereotypical male clothing and demeanor. I earned myself the nickname- tomboy, and I was proud of it. I could do almost any non-biologically inclined thing any boy could do and even more.

I don’t know how, why, or when, but in 2022, something changed.

Although I wouldn’t say I like skirts very much, now, I wear them. I wear them now, not from a place of fear but from a place of appreciation. I wear them now because sometimes I want to show off the pretty legs my dad gave me.

Keyukemi wearing an ankara outfit
Wearing a colorful (pinkish) skirt

I am growing into my own. While I still prefer to be dressed in baggy shorts, oversized tees, and sneakers on most days. Some days I want to wear a giant pink ball gown decorated with flowers and cute white glass slippers and put on glittering makeup even though it’s uncomfortable.

I have realized that it isn’t either/or. It’s the totality of who I am. Don’t get me wrong; I have no regrets about living that way. It is what makes me — the ability to see the beauty and comfort in everything. To explore the multiplicity of things I find comfortable and enjoyable without any gender barriers.

I have learned that being a woman doesn’t make me weak. I might have times when my biology weakens me, but on some days, that also gives me great strength.

In 2022, I learned to appreciate the body I was born with. I understand and accept all the peculiarities and desires that come with it, by both nature and nurture. On some days, I rebel against a few of those because that is who I choose to be.

Finding the will to live

It's 2023 now, and I can’t say I am starting the year any better than I did last year. It's like I went through the roller coaster of growth and changes only to end up right where I started.

Ok, to be fair, some things have changed, I see life much differently, and I am more appreciative of the good stuff I have around me- friends, stable employment in a great company, a lovely apartment, and better finances. Also, I have the will to live. I still don’t think life is great, beautiful, or any other flowery word you might think of. I still think it's rather exhausting.

I told you I was in pain at the start, so I don’t think you should have expected much from this ending. But I have promised myself to try again this year. To find joy in the little things.

“Five minutes a day. If you have five minutes of peace, it’s bearable.” — Mi Jeong (My liberation notes)

I don’t have a lot of goals for the year. I still have a career target I have been chasing on and off for three years. Hopefully, I will finally tick off that milestone this year. I want to travel more, maybe another three months tour of 3 different countries. I eventually want to try being a gadget junkie (if my finances permit). You know, fill my life with meaningless toys and material things.

Finally, I want to be at peace. This will be a hard feat but I am going to start small, five minutes a day. If I can get five minutes of peace or joy in a day, I will relish it and hold on to it until another day comes.

Keyukemia and four of her friends at the beach
Capturing a moment when I felt more than five minutes of peace and joy

That is how I plan to go through this year. Five minutes a day.

Ps: I might write more this year. so watch out or don’t