Serendipity

Mo Isu
7 min readApr 7, 2023

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I arrive too early for weddings and too late for engagements.

Part 1

Tughu got married in Ibadan on a Saturday. We met a few years earlier through work and through a mutual friend. He is tall in the way I am tall and sweet in the way I could only wish to be. He awards the friendship badge even more quickly than I would. We have had a string of conversations, — many in groups — few one on ones, but I am close enough to receive a wedding invite. And when I receive a wedding invite, I show up at that wedding barring unforeseen circumstances.

Between November 17th and January 2nd, I attended 4 weddings, more in that space of time than I had in the previous two years.

Tughu’s wedding took me to Ibadan. Oge’s to Babcock, Ogun state.

Between squeezing in a work day and running errands, I made the 4 pm train to Ibadan with only a minute to spare. The doors closed literally seconds after I stepped in after sprinting across the train station and losing my tripod in the process. On, the train I worked some more.

I booked a hotel for the night and paid too much for it. The next day, I went for the reception service at 12 pm when it was meant to start and left at 2:30 before it did. I had a return train to catch

In the cab back to my hotel, I realised that I hadn’t quite made a solid strategy for this wedding attendance. I should have gone to the church service that was earlier. I hoped my effort in being there counted for something but like the cut tree in the forest, did you really attend a wedding if the married couple did not even see you?

Lesson learnt.

Ebiye’s was the second of the weddings I went to. I have worked with Ebiye for the past year and a half. His wedding did not take me out of town but I did arrive to it early. The calendar invite I had said 2 pm and so I arrived there at 2 pm. I ended up having to pass the time at a nearby coffee shop. I arrived even before the venue was ready.

I did make sure to not leave Ebiye’s wedding without making a personal impression by dancing with him and his wife.

I left at about 7 pm. The wedding ran into the night.

For Oge’s wedding, I arrived a day early. It was slated for Sunday but I had put Saturday on my calendar. Aren’t all weddings a Saturday affair? The security at the Babcock University Gate, a seventh-day adventist school, assured me that it was impossible for a wedding to hold that day. I passed the night in a hotel and had the bonus of spending time with my once-upon-a-time lecturer but now very good friend before she got sucked in by wedding protocol.

I made an appearance at both the church wedding and the reception. I paid personal greetings to the couple. I appeared in wedding pictures. I cracked the recipe for the perfect wedding guest.

I attended Aliyah’s wedding on a day when many things were giving me angst. It all disappeared when I saw her — my friend of 10 years, standing with a man I knew would make her happy. A man I knew would be kind to her and would compliment her better than anyone else could.

I met Aliyah when I had a crush on her in secondary school. I felt a lot of feelings that day. All joyful.

I did not always like weddings, so many people. so many performances, so much attention, noise, and awkward interactions with distant relatives. I like weddings now because I like watching people in love be happy. That’s one reason I make it a point to always attend them no matter what’s happening in my life or where they might be. I will make the trip. The other reason I always show up at weddings — That’s what friends do. They show up.

Part 2

My close friend got engaged last weekend.

We met in 2017/2018 at a book club. I had been attending the book club for months but the day we met was her first. We quickly drew close and spent time in each other’s company. There was one day when I let her curiosity drag me into the uncomfortable situation of knocking on the doors of lecturers.

In 2021, it was my turn to put her in an even more uncomfortable situation. Uncomparably uncomfortable. We spent over an hour talking about her recent breakup. and then we did it a second time because there were some technical issues the first time.

I remember sitting down after the call, watching as another technical issue threatened the integrity of the audio I had just recorded. I knew she would not do another call. I was scared she would not want to talk to me. When the call ended, I could tell she was upset. We barely said bye before she left the link.

I was recently listening to an interview I did last year. Towards the end of the conversation with my guest, I strike on a point that very clearly was not comfortable for her. She brushed over it the first time, giving me almost no detail. But it’s an interview, and I need details. So after some time, I go back and I ask her again. What happened? Who was this person? Tell me more. We make some ground, she says a little more. Nothing substantial in the form of detail but a lot in the form of an expression of how much she is not enjoying this line of questioning. She does not want to talk about it. I like to think I am a kind person to talk to. I listen well, and I communicate gratitude for the space and privilege that the people I talk to afford me. I respect boundaries. But I try. I ask can we talk about this? Is this okay? As we run out of time, as we end the interview, I can tell she’s close to tears. It is not my intention to make her cry and it’s not my questions that do this, it’s the thing they're about. So I stop. There is an episode of my podcast about hijabs where I interview a friend of mine about her relationship with them. There is a point in our interview where there is a long uncomfortable silence before I ask her if she’s crying. She says no. I ask her if she’s lying (I could only ask this with a close friend), and she says no. Then she confesses that she is uncomfortable. The audio itself is uncomfortable to listen to. In the episode, I leave it, unedited, so listeners hear all the discomfort. I sometimes ask myself about these moments. When I lead the people I interview to these difficult moments, moments no one wants to sit in. What good does it serve?

In my essay for We will lead Africa Volume 3, I talk about how I see my job as a directive to lead people to moments of vulnerability because that is where empathy is strongest. In a separate sentence, I say my job is to lead people to moments of conflict because that is where learning is most likely to happen. Neither of these moments is comfortable.

I interviewed my friend’s ex(also a friend of mine) for the podcast episode I was working on as well. He wasn't excited to talk about this uncomfortable topic. It took some convincing from his friends to agree to chat with me. All this for a podcast episode. So many hurt people reliving their hurt.

Like this essay, the episode was made over one night with the help of two cans of energy drinks. Over the course of 8 hours, I reviewed both interviews, transcribed them, wrote a script, recorded the script, edited the episode and uploaded it all before 9 am when our episodes went live. At the time, I was making a narrative podcast often featuring multiple stories around a single concept. It was a lot of work and episodes came out weekly. I was at my wit’s end. I slept minutes after clicking upload.

My friend and her ex met at the book club as well. Her relationship with him went a different path than with me; in that, they ended up dating. Then they broke up and stopped talking to each other till shortly after this episode went out.

I don’t think about this story often but I thought about it when I arrived late for their engagement and said my congratulations to both of them. My friend looked so happy, she could not stop smiling.

She could not stop smiling.

She could not stop smiling.

Just for a moment, I thought back to those conversations and how neither of them wanted to be there. It was nice to see at least one way in which those uncomfortable moments that I lead people to can be worthwhile.

Serendipity: the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not looked for.

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Mo Isu

Writing what I can| Being Vulnerable and confused| Making podcasts