September — feeling empty, pleasing people, and falling apart to come together
August was a blast. During the first part of the month, I was spending time on a movie set with one of my favourite Nollywood movie directors, understudying her and learning more about filmmaking. In the second part of the month, I was in Germany with a bunch of young, creative Europeans learning from them, being inspired by them, and eventually creating my first film ever — a short film. However, September taught me that you could do beautiful, amazing things and achieve a lot, but still feel very empty and unsatisfied.
When I was home in Nigeria, I was able to get a lot of insight into the world of filmmaking. Yes, there’s fame and glamour that comes with doing such work, but I don’t think people really consider the time, effort, energy or stress that actually goes into it. And, so I found myself struggling to keep up when I was exposed to that life. On a lot of days, the call time on set was at 7am (call time is basically the time in which the crew members should arrive on set), and that would mean I would have to wake up at 4.45am — thank you, Lagos traffic — just so I could arrive on time. I would be faced with a lot of traffic on the way back home and arrive home by late evening or late night. I was tired and stressed to the point that sometimes, just the mere thought of eating made me even more tired, so I would just go to bed only to the do the same thing the very next day. It’s important for me to note here that it’s not an experience I would trade for anything, still. I met people I could only have dreamt of meeting and had conversations with them, all while learning from one of the very best (plus, I got to appear in a scene).
I went on to Germany only a few days after I arrived from Nigeria, and everyday was a day to create. Because we were working with time (10 days) with the goal of getting our works ready for exhibition at the 2023 Kulturnacht, we had to wake up early every day just to get work done, and so, I would spend a long time at the lab, go to bed, wake up the next day. Rinse and repeat. Again, not an experience I would trade for anything. Art takes on different forms, and I’ve always wanted to be in a room full of creative people doing what they know how to do best. Create. Whether it’s through writing, visual art, games, films, history, or a performance. Working on something I would eventually be proud of, and exploring the beautiful city of Osnabrück was the perfect way to end the summer.
It was when I got back to Lithuania that I started feeling this emptiness. And this emptiness wasn’t coming from a place of not working or not being productive and doing the things that I enjoy. I didn’t need anyone to tell where this feeling of emptiness was coming from. I knew quite alright, and it was that my connection with God had been heavily severed.
I think God has an interesting sense of humour, though. When I was still in Nigeria, I was inspired to write a new story. Something very sweet, and cute, and swoon-worthy with elements of faith in it, and I got to it immediately when the idea wouldn’t leave my mind. In the story, one of the main characters had spent so much time away from God for too long. He feels like it’s safer to stay far away, but he gets the hunch that the only way for him to get back to the place of fellowship with God is for him to actually go back to God, because staying away doesn’t really do anything. I found it ironic that I wrote that, but that leads me to something I absolutely love about God, and it’s how He uses the things I enjoy to teach me about Himself and my relationship with Him. I knew that just like my character knew to go back to that place of fellowship with God, I had to go back, too.
So I went back.
And now, I can say that there is nothing that can satisfy a man except fellowship with his Maker. Because when God created man, He created a void that can only be filled by Him. Until then, a man will do everything he can do to fill that void, but nothing will truly satisfy.
It reminds me of the woman Jesus met at the well. The one who’d had five husbands and was even living with one who wasn’t her husband at the time. What exactly was she looking for? How had she been with five men? But Jesus knew her needs, just like He knows ours. He knew she was looking for something to fill that void, and that was why He offered her living water that would cause her not to “thirst” again. Her life was changed when she met with Jesus.
The first time I heard the story about the horse, the man, and the son has to be a little over twelve years ago. My dad had this CD of popular evergreen songs that he would listen to in the car, and one day, The Horse, The Man, and The Son by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey was playing. My dad paused the music and asked me and my brother if we understood the content of the song. Of course, we didn’t. Our understanding of Yoruba needed Jesus at the time, and he knew it. However, he went ahead to explain the meaning of the song.
Are we all familiar with the story? For the sake of those who do not know the story, I will tell it to you real quick.
A man and his son were travelling on a journey with a horse. This man was old and a bit frail, so he rode on the horse while his son walked beside him. As they travelled, they came across someone who criticized the man, “Lazy man! How dare you ride on the horse and allow your son walk under this scorching heat?”. The man got down from the horse, and placed his son on it.
They travelled further, the son riding the horse while the father walked beside him, and they came across another person who criticized the son, “Disrespectful boy! How dare you ride the horse while your dad who is older is walking under this scorching heat?”. His father then joined him on the horse so that they both rode it.
They travelled further and rode through a village where a group of people criticized them, “Look at these inconsiderate, heartless riders! They are trying to kill the poor horse with their weight!” The man and his son eventually got off from the horse and decided to walk beside it.
They rode through another village, but they could hear loud whispers from the people criticizing them again, “Look at these fools! They must love a hard life because they are walking beside a strong horse instead of riding on it!”
The man looked at his son and said, “There’s no wisdom you can apply, no moral conduct you can portray, no path you can take that will ever satisfy people of this world”.
I find this story very interesting, and I caught myself thinking about it a lot this month because it did dawn on me that you can never truly satisfy everyone no matter how hard you try, the reason being that people perceive things and make comments based on their own convictions and experiences. So, to my yes-men and people-pleasers, I hope you find freedom in this story and the message behind it.
I don’t necessarily think of myself anymore as the people-pleaser I definitely was years ago, but I still face these kind of issues in another dimension. Times when I move with sincerity of heart and do things believing I’m doing the right thing when it comes to people — just to discover that I haven’t even scratched the surface of doing the right thing and that your actions have left people feeling upset. This has then led me down a path of being super wary with what I do and what I say, but at this point, I’m thinking: how super-conscious can I be? People will still be people. So, what do I do in cases like this? What do you do in cases like this?
Just keep moving with purpose and sincerity of heart, I think. Allow your conscience and the Holy Spirit serve as your compass. Making it your aim to always please people drain you. However, now will be the right time to add that it’s so important to have people around you who actually see and hear you. I believe there’s only one person you should always aim to please, and that is your Heavenly Father. Apostle Paul knew the vibes:
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ- Galatians 1:10 (NIV)
You can’t please everyone, and that’s okay.
This month, I struggled with thoughts of not being enough. A series of events had happened and I soon began to wonder if I could do anything right. Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I do that? If I had that ability, I’d probably be able to. Why can’t I be more of this? If I were like that, maybe they’d like me more. Don’t they see that I’m trying? Maybe if they could actually see all the behind-the-scenes they’d appreciate me more. Why won’t people say this to me, too? Maybe I’m just not there yet. It’s a very challenging position to be in. You know you are powerful, but you feel powerless. But then, the story of the horse, the man, and the son came to mind again. If you can’t satisfy everyone, then you can’t be enough for everyone.
This month, it really felt like I was losing myself, but also somehow, finding myself. Like I was being pulled apart, but also being molded. It’s a very jarring process, but I said to myself so many times this month that I’m looking forward to seeing where all this is going — to seeing where I’m going.
Until then, all that energy with which I try to prove to people that I’m enough and also worthy of love and grace, I’m going to pour it back into myself. Will I be enough for everyone? Probably not. But for the right people, I am, and will be.
I also find delayed reactions very interesting. It’s when you only realize that a person has been unfair to you days after or weeks after. And now there’s nothing you can do about it except let them continue living with wrong facts because wouldn’t it be weird to bring things up weeks later?
Anyone out here like this? How do you handle it?