Letter to Self VII

Dear Emmanuel,

It is my absolute pleasure to write what is my last letter to you, at least in the Letters to Self series. I think it is most appropriate, firstly, to acknowledge the significance of these letters to self. Why have I been writing letters to myself since 2014? The main reason is to mark the present point in time. Time passes and so many things happen. There is an abundance of meaning that is left unrecognised when we ignore or fail to note what is happening around us, what reoccurring thoughts we are having, what lessons we are learning. Time is always in motion and is not waiting for those slow to respond. Through these letters, I have documented my reoccurring thoughts and lessons. These documentations are invaluable for future reflection, though I will not be able to remember all that was once lived or relive the emotions of the moment, I will have these letters to read again. In this letter, I address the 19-year-old Emmanuel from the first letter to self.

(Photograph of 19-year-old Emmanuel in May 2014)

I ponder on what you said in your first letter in 2014, to persevere and never give up on your dreams and aspirations because they are attainable. How right you were! I wish to hug and tell you 19-year-old Emmanuel from May 2014 that you persevered and achieved those dreams you imagined. You also very touchingly urged me to be proud of my identity and never to give up on it. These are words I intend to hold dear to my heart always. I intend to always be proud of my identity, of where I have come from and never to give up on my identity.

The remainder of your letters to self have focused on your higher educational journey, as you discuss choosing media production as an area of specialism, encountering research and seeing it change your outlook on life, embracing research wholeheartedly via the decision to undertake a PhD, making To Grow a Tree as part of your research journey, and experiencing feelings of crisis in your PhD experience because of political events in Nigeria. With this letter, I conclude this journey and tell you the journey was worthwhile. You achieved what you wanted!

You went into higher education wanting to study Media because you saw in it an opportunity to express yourself. You saw its potential to reach people with meaning, in a heartfelt, personal and creative way. You wanted to explore something ultimately meaningful and share it with a wide audience of people who would engage irrespective of where they come from. So, though your PhD was in education, you made a documentary-film as part of it, to remain true to your reason for going to university. You did that PhD and completed it and made that film and screened it!

The screening was a fulfilment of the dreams and aspirations you talk about in your first letter. The ideas of identity and belonging that you realised, developed into the focus of your PhD. Being so far from home at a young age, it felt like a struggle to understand who you were and where you belonged, and what you were to do with the fact that you were in a very different society to where you came from, at 19 years old at the time of your letter! But I wish to hug you again and tell you it finally made sense. The experience of being far from home is very deep and heavy to bear. You were also not alone with this feeling. Through your work, you have made sense of this far from home experience and helped people process similar feelings. You have made a difference! Your walk has not been in vain.

Well, I guess this is it. It is providential that my last letter to self is also the seventh in the series. Seven is the biblical number of fullness or completeness. There is a future ahead and in response, I look to God for sustenance. Because God knows the future, I am confident, content and at peace trusting him.



What is Belonging?

The idea of belonging is discussed in this episode, and several hidden interrelated themes are identified and discussed.

This discussion features contributions from Dr Arinola Adefila, David Adeola, Mabel Alkali, Farhana Lunat, Emmanuel Johnson and Andi Rusyaidi.

See links below to listen/download.

Part one



Part two



Being a PhD Student – My Experience 5 Months In

I’m a PhD student at Coventry University Centre for Global Learning: Education and Attainment, exploring Identity and Belonging, and the role of Faith in International Students’ Study. My experience at the start entailed developing better time-management, and familiarising myself with a higher standard of writing and knowledge expected at PhD level.

From a social viewpoint, the journey has been quite isolating. Socially, the University campus no longer looks like it did in the past. I find this experience new because, although I’m on a campus I am very familiar with, my focus has shifted onto a phase much higher than ever. For the first time academically, I have no ‘classmates’. This of course typifies the nature and essence of independent study. I have often compared my PhD to the idea of a marriage, and I would say to myself: ‘I’m married to my PhD and I’m more than willing to make it work!’. This, unexpectedly has boosted my motivation and drive to push on with a stronger sense of fervency and urgency.

I am currently writing my literature review. Sometimes I feel completely blank mentally; falter in will and struggle to maintain focus or generate ideas. At those times, I step out of my office and head to Holy Trinity Church which is nearby. As I’m a religious man, I sit down to pray, meditate and contemplate on matters close to my heart. Or, I take a walk around the University campus, take a seat; observe and pay close attention to my surroundings. This helps me greatly and refreshes my mind for the work ahead!

I try to achieve balance. I have discovered the need for it, whilst going through tons of readings very frequently. I participate in non-academic activities like social hangouts with friends, walks to the park, film watching and consumption, and involvement in social events.

I am glad to be here and cannot imagine doing anything else. That’s it for now, I have to get back to my literature review!

Madness or the surreal grandeur of love

I finally made it out the madness outside; 
with a hot cup of tea in my hand,
I take a seat, I get comfortable.
I look away from my book,
what do I see?
A man and woman in love.
He contemplates, then says to her: 
when you think of me,
I wish that
you shall see me
for all I tried and failed to be.
She says to him:
on these streets cemented
with memories of us
shall I walk with you day by day.
I take a sip and say to myself:
I finally made it to the madness inside.

By Emmanuel Johnson

When the lights fade

You are the best thing to ever happen to me. 
The springs of my life shoot
with everlasting meaning
and encouragement for whatever
tomorrow shall bring. 
Today, tomorrow, 
now, forever, 
happiness, sadness, 
wisdom, folly
are all meaningless without you.
My life was incomplete without you, 
before you came by.
You complete my life, thank you for that. 
I rejoice,
I bless the day,
I felt your touch.
The day I was reunited with your love. 
The day I was reunited with your love.

By Emmanuel Johnson

Closing nights

As long as you are with me, 
I am happy
I am safe
I am complete.
Take me with you.
Wherever you go I go.
Wherever you dwell I dwell.
Whatever you hate I hate.
Whatever you are,
I shall be.
As the performers get ready to perform, 
and the watchers get ready to watch;
in this grand hall filled with many colours, 
right here shall I sit,
writing on the ground,
uttering words unlawful to be heard.

By Emmanuel Johnson

Dying Daily

Those who came before us 
lived and made choices which 
eventually led us where we are. 
Some of them were good,
but others bad.
Without them, we wouldn't be 
who or where we are,
and that is a bitter truth
of life.
Therefore, banish
anxiety from your heart
and humbly accept this truth, 
and strive, with all your might, 
to live out
the best of everything
that has gone into you,
for the sake of
those who shall come after us.

By Emmanuel Johnson

Lost but found

Where lies your glory? 
What makes you shine? 
You and me
exploring youth and vigor, 
while we still got it.
We gotta make the most of it.
I say to you and you say to me. 
You and me.
The most exquisite of delights, 
eyes narrow open, wide shut. 
Wandering wanders, only, 
until we find the light
to lead us somewhere safe, 
you and me,
in this together.

By Emmanuel Johnson

Dreamy Cinema

There is a buddy in cinema
that gives a pass to other worlds 
which do not really exist.

They exist to bring to life things which do not exist. 
The feelings are the same but not the same;
Same but extended, intensified.
Everyday is laid bare on screen;
most times taunted, other times flaunted. 
The flaunting of the everyday,
coming to bear with life as we know it,
or maybe not.

I know a buddy
who situates the self,
and draws it nearer to the world. 
The world that it lives in.

By Emmanuel Johnson

Reach you to reach me

Where are you?
I wish to get to you.
My friend from the days.
The days our paths were straight. 
Friend but not friends,
you but not you;
me but not me.
Sometimes I wonder,
I ought to care more?
Other times I ponder,
I have my life to live,
and so do you.
But the truth remains the truth, 
and a lie remains a lie,
and no matter what we do,
the day will speak for you and I.

By Emmanuel Johnson