My journey in the United States began over 20 years ago, following the footsteps of my father, Lawrence Baraebibai Ekpebu, the first Black and African recipient of the Harvard Francis H. Burr ’09 1960 Scholarship and the first black athlete in Harvard League history to be voted first-team by the Ivy coaches (1958 and 1959), after the official formation of the Harvard Soccer League. Some of his soccer escapades from the late ’50s are captured on the Harvard Crimson blogs. LBE, as I often refer to him in writing, would go on to complete a B.A. from Harvard, an M.A. from Princeton University and return for a Ph.D. from Harvard before heading back to Nigeria as an inspirational leader at the age of 35.
My childhood memories are filled with stories of his experiences and accomplishments which inspired and fueled the need to do and be more. In 1996 I dropped everything. Sold my red Nissan Sentra mini sports car, bought a plane ticket and made my way from Nigeria to New York City with about $200 left. It was a huge risk but there was complete trust in my abilities, creativity, resourcefulness, resilience and the promise of the American Dream.
Like so many expats and immigrants, it became easy to lose touch with my heritage over the years while striving to survive and adapt to a new culture. Except for brief encounters with fellow Nigerians; sharing Nigerian meals at parties and the occasional social media exchanges that brought back memories, growing up in Nigeria seemed like a long lost past. There were the years committed to pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at CUNY and a Master’s degree at Teacher’s College Columbia University. Raising my children would follow. There seemed to be no time to stop, breathe and reflect.
What happened in 2018 to change what had become the norm? In less complicated form, I took took some time off work to rest, breathe and to recharge.
What does a reset mean to you? Have you ever had a reset?
My version of a reset required a complete mind shift and reformat of both thinking and attitude. It involved removing life clutters like some social media, superficial friendships and even losing a few family members. Resetting was the necessity to reconnect with the unique fabric of my existence and to appreciate the impact of my father’s legacy which meant reverting to that ambitious traveler from over 20 years ago while recognizing and gaining the power and inspiration to forge on to a new chapter. Discovering personal Growth and then a lift-off.
“Everything that is sleeping in you. Wake it up” — Nayyirah Waheed.
2018 was the year of awakening – finding my voice and my words. It was also a year of change – hitting rock bottom in that reset and regaining life. I am grateful to all who supported me; friends, family, mentors and unsung heroes. 2018 is a ROARING win for accomplishments too. Started a teaching assignment, sending this piece out to the universe and welcoming 2019 with goals that finally include publishing my story. I hope you follow my journey.
What inspirational change did you experience in 2018?