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IF I CAN, SO CAN YOU! BY TAIWO ADELEYE

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When people ask me questions like ‘how do you have this much passion?’, ‘why do you think it will work out even when you can’t see it?’… Well, my answer many times is, “I just do”.

Looking back at my childhood, many lessons and experiences made me become who I am today and will make me become what I want to be tomorrow.

When people say ‘ghetto boy’, I reply with, ‘where you came from doesn’t define what you are becoming’.

I was born on the 3rd of April 1985 with my twin brother, to, I would say my mother, grandmothers, grandfather, aunts and uncles. This is not by any means a way of denting my father (notice that I left him out) but to begin with a highlight that the unavailability of a father should not be an excuse for you not to be ambitious.

Every member of my family played a major role in what I am and who I am becoming. From my uneducated maternal grandma who taught me how to cook, tidy up the room, lay her bed properly, and I can still hear her correcting me in her own words, “e lebu“, meaning it is not leveled; to my educated paternal grandma, who took us in, supported our education and the evenings of endless spelling lessons and dictations; to my maternal grandpa, who took care of our baby needs and even more; to uncles and aunties who always gave us pocket money, supported our mother with rents and our upkeep money.

I remember getting back home from school with my twin brother, eating lunch, and filling up buckets with ice-cold water bags called ‘Omi Olora’ , then heading to Oode Oolo Bridge to sell our wares. Our mother being the world’s best mother, would be leaving Wema Bank after a whole day of selling zobo drink, orange juice, and kunnu drink at the time. Every member of the family was pulling strings to earn money, to provide food and rent as each bill came approaching. In the midst of all these activities, one thing I do remember is always telling my mum, “It’ll get better tomorrow”.

During the cold season, it was always a slow business for ‘Omi Olora’ , or even sachet water, which was the upgraded version of pure water ( DIL pure water and Rainbow pure water) or zobo drink, so we would resolve to “Check your Weight”, which was a sales chant we sang whenever we took our weight scale around the neighborhood , asking strangers to check their weight and give us Nigerian Kobo.

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Some days, the idea of breakfast was eba, egusi and egun boko (brisket bone), because it fills you up more than ‘ogi’ (a semi watery meal made from ground fermented corn) and stay filled for a longer period of the day. We never complained, but always ate it with utmost joy, believing that the following day would be better, even it didn’t seem like it. But we were always somehow driven with hope for tomorrow.

The purpose-driven attitude of simply moving and pushing got us through primary school to high school. I have always known that Nigerian schools do not have what I would love to learn, or rather, offer the higher education needed for my purpose in life.

I had my years of distraction, but I’m thankful to God for redirecting my path.

My breakthrough actually came after many years of dancing in my local church, and watching Mr Dayo Liadi, popularly known as Olo ri oko. The dance was so inspiring that I reached out to an older dance friend, who gave me a contact for the Society for the Performing Arts in Nigeria (SPAN). I auditioned and was given a scholarship to study dance.

The 3-4 years of study weren’t a bed of roses, despite financial supports from an Uncle, SPAN boss and dance colleagues , I still had it quite tough as I had months of sleeping in the dance studio; days of staying with friends because I lived in Ibadan which is two hours away from Lagos; days of sleeping on empty stomach; days of walking from Obalende to Banana Island to attend classes. These were moments I could have given up, but I didn’t. You have to keep going when you know you have no other option but to achieve your goal.

After I graduated from SPAN, I received a part scholarship to study in the USA. Like other times, I kept in mind that nothing great comes easy. I overcame numerous challenges to achieve my goal. I had loads of hurdles but eventually traveled to America to study Human Movements. It took me five years to complete a program that could have taken me one year. In the end, I became West Africa’s 1st Certified Movement Analyst.

As I continue on my journey, the past journeys have taught me not to sit down waiting for tomorrow, but to go and work towards it. One might not see the end of the tunnel, but one has to believe that each experience is a means to reach the end of the tunnel that then leads to another.

A lesson I have learnt about family is that, there are no bad families; there are only people around to give you the life’s experiences needed to become who you are meant to be.

Be persistent, be ready to re-focus when you lose your way, and most importantly, trust God above all.

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