They say environment matters when it comes to raising kids. Watching Anthony Bourdain’s reporting on Lagos, Nigeria on his show, Parts Unknown, earlier this week, I couldn’t be more proud of the environment that I was raised in. Where an untrained eye might only see the dust and grime of busy bustling Lagos, I was reminded of the grit and stubborn optimism that characterizes the Nigerian spirit. In Lagos, where there is a will there is a way indeed and everything around you sets that hope ablaze.
Bourdain summarizes his experience this way: “The government ain’t going to do it for you. Nobody is going to do it for you. It’s very much do-it-yourself place that inspires a real innovative spirit that’s quite extraordinary particularly in the tech sector. You know, you see kids from the countryside who never finished high school. Who with their own tools in the street will pull apart your iPhone and put it back together. It’s an extraordinary thing.”
Of course this way of life is not without it’s flaws. Sometimes it gives birth to strong individuals that think about their wellbeing over the communal one as it is largely the case with Nigeria.
However, the positives are undeniable and I found myself thinking and hoping I can pass on the joys of the Nigerian spirit to my kids who are growing up many miles away from those brutal, exuberant, dusty, hopeful Lagos streets.
In trying to deconstruct my experience, I am reminded of the independence I enjoyed as early as 5yrs old to explore and contribute to my household in meaningful ways; The rigor of my education and the heavy expectations my parents placed on me to be engaged and successful in my learning; The love and pride with which my community celebrated every bit of success I had while simultaneously reminding me not to be complacent; Lastly, the magic was in the way every adult in my community took their role in co-raising me seriously. They did not let me off the hook when my parents weren’t watching and they took the time to tell me stories and teach me life lessons that only come with experience.
It was a wonderful way to grow up and the person I am because of it, is a wonderful way to be. It will be my joy to share to extend these gifts to my girls.