I have told anyone who would listen that my new year began on the 1st of February, 2023. Not a day earlier… I am now ready for all the sweet goodness that the year is bringing my way.


Last year took me down a peg or two…I am sometimes a sucker for pain, so I might just be grateful for that. And despite multiple lacklustre attempts over four months, I have finally gotten my thoughts down.


I sat down at the end of 2022, and I couldn’t remember any good thing that happened. I thought hard and every memory that popped into my head was either something that made me sad, a hard lesson or something I wanted to forget. “How is that possible?!” I mentally screamed at myself. Nothing good for 12 months? 


Despite the gloom that surrounded me on 31st December, I was human and that meant all 365 days couldn’t be bad. I tore up a piece of paper and started to crack my head about the good things that seemed to elude me. Bit by bit, good memories began falling into place like long-lost pieces of puzzles onto paper.


I felt dumbstruck. Was it a case of ingratitude? Or was I so clouded by the things that went wrong? As I began to recollect, I quickly realised it was the latter. The last six months of the year had just been chaotic enough to block a part of me that has always shone through – excited Iretomiwa.


The first half of the year was good. A little too good. I kept wondering when the other shoe would drop. And then it did – it was spectacular, at least for me it was! 


Sigh… I have told God that nothing in His sometimes-gorgeous green earth would allow me to drag myself to such depths again. In November, I sat down to write a scathing letter that proved that I was capable of resentment, deep-seated anger and despair. (Maybe I would release it in my memoir, or maybe I’m much too embarrassed to let the world know that I was capable of such thoughts… either way, there is a note in my phone along with other incriminating evidence).


I will tell you two of the lessons I learnt. I will not give anyone or anything the power to make me feel less about myself or my work. Nothing should have that much power over you. Because, if you begin to believe that nonsense, it will seep into your soul. It is that simple. Protect yourself and the things you love very jealously.


The second is for me to treat my body and soul very well. Because I have a demanding job, it was very easy for me to get sucked in and forget that I was human, which meant that the concepts of rest, exercise, tender loving care, and the likes are not alien to me after all. I kept falling ill and felt betrayed by my body. I should have just stopped and listened to my body. Life may have been much simpler if I did.


But you see, it’s not all darkness and anger. That is what I am hell-bent on immortalising in words. 


That year was a gorgeous one. I expanded at work – somewhat; I travelled to East and West Africa. My first trip to Ghana was to speak and attend the eighth edition of the Women in PR Ghana. I had never seen so many women in one place – it was a beautiful experience. And the warmth with which they welcomed me floored me. The cherry on top was speaking about an aspect of my job that I need to also focus more effort on – building your social currency. And listening to feedback about my session got me emotional. To see women across Ghana share their thoughts on my takes brought everything home. We may be in different zip codes, many of our experiences and challenges were consistent. 


About a month earlier, I spoke to final-year students of the School of Communications at the Pan Atlantic University, about the practice of public relations. The questions they fired at me made me nostalgic about how hungry I was five years earlier. I would take the experience in that classroom with me everywhere.


Oh, I got to see Rwanda’s hills! For now, that’s my self-appointed spiritual home. The very relaxed way of life nudged me that not everything ‘must’ be fast-paced. It also stressed something I already knew – I like fast-paced. If my heart doesn’t race every once in a while, what’s the essence?! I walked into the Genocide Memorial in Kigali and I did not return the same way. The day I have the strength to revisit my thoughts from the museum you will hear about my perspective. Otherwise, it will remain a deeply personal experience. 


I had one of my best moments of the year traipsing across Kigali with a group of interesting young women. I climbed Napoleon’s hill in a pair of slippers and a strappy dress. And I got the surreal experience of patting the royal Inyambo cows! Their massive horns had me questioning my sanity. But to see the reverence on my tour guide’s face was all the encouragement I needed. I bravely brushed the coats of the impressive cows, gingerly backed up, and ran. I went to that country to soak in the culture and that is exactly what I did in spots across the city. I enjoyed myself so much that I fell ill on the last night. 


I believe I grew more as a person. I made some mistakes, and I lost a bit of confidence in what I do and I’m actually happy that happened. Why? I think a small fall is better than a mad-ass crash. 


In just six days, I would have practised public relations for five years! When did the years go by?! From a green-eyed associate who didn’t know what a press pack was and was running around for her first campaign to leading three teams working in tech, finance, investment, and entertainment for two years, and counting. I’m leading one of the most important projects for the industry in Africa (the gist is for another day). 


Fam, I have so much to be thankful for. Too much!


So, I have started keeping a gratitude jar as of 1st of February, 2023 – every piece of good news will be placed in this jar. There’s absolutely no way my mind can play tricks on me at the end of the year. She can’t even try it.


One last thing, it is very easy for life to make you forget a bit about yourself. Just a bit every day can go unnoticed. Fight against it with all you have – your future will thank you later.


Have a truly stunning 2023, whenever it starts for you!


I dedicate this piece to the memory of my friend, Oyinlola Abudu, who passed on in August. Our time was too brief but I now know that it was important to meet you no matter how short our time together was. Thank you for being a bright light, for loving life and for reminding me to enjoy the moments. You live on in all our hearts. Enjoy the heavens and give your brother a massive hug from me.

  • Iretomiwa Akintunde-Johnson, Lawyer and Lead Adviser at ID Africa