Musings of a private practicing therapist at 5 am

Does waking up at 5 am to sit at your desk to write make you a better writer? Angel Yinkore’s determination to write an article each day and her comment about learning to trust her own words in our private group chat left me inspired and motivated to discard my overthinking and bare my soul.

Writing on Medium remained hard even though I resolved to write more and be more honest with my words at the beginning of the year. I spent days, weeks, and months trying to understand why and a few days ago, while in a state of misery, I remembered that the description of this page read “musings of a psychotherapist”. If the original purpose of this Medium page was to share my reflections then I shall do so freely.

Dido’s See you when you are 40 is playing and the world does feel a lot more peaceful at 5:30 am even though I can hear the sound of buses and cars moving on the main road right outside my window.

I have been practicing psychotherapy privately since 2017 and each day, as the business gets older, I begin to understand why it is said that about 50% of small businesses fail at their 5th year and why the title of “CEO/Founder” is not one to be thrown around so easily.

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My role description has changed from doing the daily activities to keep the practice running to spending more time thinking and making decisions. It was easier to make the wrong decision in 2017/2018 and sometimes, I find myself yearning for that freedom and space. These days, wrong decisions are more expensive. With an accountant keeping me on my toes with monthly accounting reports and helpful comments and reminders about reaching my financial goals, my sleepless nights have increased. It does not help that I live and work in a country with an unstable economy and political climate which sometimes makes running a business feel like a triathlon.

Blending the roles of practicing as a psychotherapist and businesswoman can become overwhelming. Somedays, I look at my colleagues abroad and how much they are able to accomplish in their academic careers and I feel quite sad and inadequate. I would love to spend time doing research, studying, and completing the training I have paid for but it becomes a challenge when you have sessions for about three hours, and the remaining hours are spent dealing with business concerns. Yes, yes, time management is key here but e get where time management no fit reach. There are some responsibilities that I still have to take on because I cannot hire for those roles and be able to pay my current staff and myself fairly enough to survive in Nigeria. One may suggest that I go get investments to grow but I have seen, studied, and worked with small businesses here in Nigeria and I have seen how quickly investors desire for profit corrupts the core values of a business. I have seen how speedy growth without a strong foundation has caused businesses that had the capacity to be profitable change-makers to fall apart. I am in no hurry to grow. I want to build a company that outlives me and continues to be a beacon of hope, knowledge, and honesty for my people.

It has not been all bad because learning the skills required to run a business has created a path for me to dream more. Understanding how to run a business makes me feel like a god capable of creating things that I set my mind to while making people’s lives better in the process. It is during these times that I celebrate the gifts of free-market capitalism. Not just the making money part but the freedom and power to create ideas and solutions that can positively impact my environment.

I want to do so much more with NDỊDỊ. I want to have a space for research within the practice. I want to create an initiative that carries out acts of kindness in the country, maybe throw in a few journals on psychotherapy with the added spice of public lectures. I want to write a book, start a podcast and begin conversations that show the beautiful intersection of mental health with everything.

I want to teach people that it is possible to build and run a successful business from being a good, respectable person, that you do not have to treat your staff like rags just to get the best out of them, and I want to teach these things by doing them. It will be nice, you know, for NDỊDỊ to be a place where people are eager to work after graduation because of the good and fair pay, our mentally and physically healthy work culture, and how much space it allows and creates for you to be yourself while you work.

I am, as described in Maria Popova’s book Figuring,

To my fellow small business owners in their 1st or 3rd year, here are some things I will share with you:

  • Understand finances. Track your income, expenses and have a yearly budget.
  • Nigerians are starved of good, respectable, and trustworthy service providers. Capitalize on it by offering your clients the best service.
  • Don’t disrespect your staff for a customer. It will affect their morale and then your business. Cherish your staff, protect them and respect them. The customer is not always right.
  • Hire slow and fire quick.
  • Take breaks to be a human being.
  • After the first year, your business stops being about you and has a life of its own. Recognize it and detach from it. Do not center your identity, self-worth, and meaning on your business, its growth, success, and failures. It is more than you and you are more than it.
  • Read about business and always remember your core business values.

As I grow, some of the thoughts that occupy my mind remain these — Will I remain a small business forever? Will we reach the 10-year mark or will I become exhausted and give up by the 7th year? What about when I go to study for my Ph.D.? Will the company survive without me? What if Nigeria sinks into a civil war? Is it wise to spread within Nigeria or do we begin to look at other African countries to root ourselves?

It is 6:53 am and I have moved from Dido’s Life For Rent Album to her Girl Who Got Away Album. Right now, The Day Before The Day from her Safe Trip Home Album plays. I will proceed to go out for a smoke and drink a glass of water to convince my liver that my lungs are not suffering so much and return to bed but this time, instead of sleeping alone, I will go to my lover’s room for early morning cuddles and kisses while I wait for my 8:30 am waking time.

Writing at 5 am does not make you the best writer but the silence and darkness help with channeling honesty to paper.

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musings of a 29 year old woman living and working in Lagos, Nigeria.