Memkoh Testifies: A Name you should know Part III

June

Let’s zoom in on June a bit more here. I got into an accident. I won’t go into details because it is still being investigated.

The drive home was plain gloomy as I finished the tears I had begun in fetal position in my driver's seat, moments after the impact. During the impact, as my car was making its way to the other lane, I got lost. What I had seen in movies or heard of had become my reality. Or perhaps, I was in the making of a sci-fi movie and completely unaware.

Looking out of my window at my car in disbelief the morning after the accident.

I'm still not sure how my car came to a complete halt, yet I'm grateful that no other car was in the oncoming lane. I declined the offer from the cops to have my car towed since it was after hours and my insurance was unable to send anyone over. Regardless, I made sure to document that accident scene as well as I could.

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To the glory of God, I got out uninjured. My almost brand new car on the other hand suffered a bit; you know things like these arise when you have absolutely no money. That was an issue. The drive home was very “dark and slippery” as I would call it. I cried and refused to be consoled by my friend who I'd called to ask how to go about everything. In my lonesome, I said “God, I have been crying since the beginning of this year and now you let this happen? You really let this happen to me?”. Later, I'll share a little picture of me the morning after the accident as I stared out my window in disbelief. Depressed is a kind way to put my feelings in a word. Oh and throughout this period, I subconsciously refrained from sharing articles on my blog. I had lost the ability to write. And each time I thought of something, I couldn’t bring myself to write it for fear that I would lace it with hints of my predicament. There was also that feeling of inadequacy because my articles make my audience think/reflect, but who was I to make anyone reflect on their life at this point when mine was nothing to write home about. Instagram on the other hand was a bit easier for me. I would sometimes share the words God gave me to help me pull through but I never said much or tied it back to what was really going on. I knew I was going to have every cause to testify and from my testimony, I wanted people to know that everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing of, so you should be compassionate to everyone you come across despite the fact that their story is not inscribed on their head. 2 days before my breakthrough, still troubled but hopeful, I took to Instagram to ask "If we walked around looking like our pain..." and people responded. Truly, you can have what seems like the world on your shoulders but with God, you will pull through, seem normal to everyone and keep that smile on your face. I bought a journal and tried to document my feelings daily because people always tell us the story of their tribulation after the tribulation but I thought it would be better to have evidence of how I felt “during” the tribulation. It became too sad and when I ran out of the willpower to do anything, I stopped. I did not do as good a job as I envisioned, but I hope these pictures are something. See the bottom of this page for my "cryptic" Instagram posts and what they meant.

July/August

My car was back, I was well, but as you can already tell, by now, I was tired. I was tired of everything – of running, of worrying, of crying. So I just lived. I hung out with my friends, did some photo shoots, styled a few clients, reached out to fellow creatives I wanted to partner with and so much more. Those business classes I took at Houston Community College really came in handy. School-wise, I followed up on the petition I had submitted for the Biotechnology program at UH. I called the College of Technology advisor I was in contact with earlier in the year and she started assembling my documents for the committee. It took a while, as they needed to request the engineering school to send over some of my documents but remember, I had become a secretary so in no time, those calls and emails flew out to the concerned parties till my file was complete and my petition was set to be reviewed. I had also applied to Houston Baptist University for an MBA program which I was pretty ecstatic for. I did not care if it was a top tier university for that program or not, because the late response from Rice University already put me in a bad position. My friend had also told me that since I was looking for MBA programs, Johns Hopkins had something. I can’t fully recall if the MBA deadline had passed which is why I kept looking, or if at that point, I was searching for programs with a combined MBA/Masters in Biomedical Engineering program but I found an MBA / Masters in Biotechnology program on their website which interested me. I loved the possibility of completing both degrees at once and to be honest, I told myself that I was really just dreaming by applying with the same low scores I got kicked out for. I also found another program, Masters in Bioethics which was even more exciting to me at the time because I longed for the opportunity to further my knowledge of Biomedical Ethics and obviously, the Certificate in Medical Humanities program I did in my undergrad was going to come in handy. I applied. So I had 4 programs in all.

Still tired, I took my mind off everything school-related for a good number of weeks. I was ready to move home to Nigeria. My lease was ending soon so I started hunting for a new apartment. After moving, I realized the passport office had gotten back to me with an interview date earlier but I had missed the email. I saw this email on a Friday and my interview was on Monday so with short notice, I flew into DC to renew my passport and did a mini "East Coast tour" to say hi to a few friends; very few though, because I was short on time and I wasn’t ready to tell anyone my life story or break down in tears in front of anyone. So I slipped in and out.

The harsh reality came back in a rush once my family came to visit. One week before school started, we fasted and prayed for 3 days, breaking each fast a bit longer than the previous day. I started calling all the schools I had applied to.

Houston Baptist University told me that I could not be issued an admission decision because my passport was expired. “No, it’s not expired” I said repeatedly. “I renewed it and I’m just waiting for it to come in the mail”. “Sorry ma’am but…”. My words clearly fell on deaf ears. I asked them why my international documents were required for admission, anyways. It was not done like that anywhere. The previous Friday, I had called in and finally got in touch with the advisor whose calls I had missed and vice versa. She told me to resend the documents I had already sent in July and pay the $100 processing fee for international students and she would see what she can do about my case. That Tuesday on the phone, the advisor tried to go over the emails they had sent me but denied ever sending one crucial email to me. With my computer in front of me, I read out verbatim the email I received in July where I was asked to send my visa documents and I complied. Actually, this lady started out by telling me that I had missed the application deadline for international students which was before June 30th. So I asked her "If I had missed this deadline and applications were truly closed, why did I receive an email from your school on July 1 asking for documents? Why?" She denied trails of any such email or receiving my documents, stating that I had only just sent them in the previous Friday. My goodness! I was still staring at this email and decided to give her the name of the person who emailed me and she still blatantly denied seeing such an email. I was tempted to go in there with a print out of the email but I told myself “Wait for your passport to arrive, so all your facts will be complete and you can fight with reason”. I got off the phone angry. No school I know of asks international applicants for documents before issuing a decision. An admission decision should not be based on those documents but on the strength of the candidate.

I was tired! How many times have I said this now?

The next school to check on (this was all in a day) was Johns Hopkins Bioethics program. I was flat-out denied. I took that bullet in. For this one, I had called and spoken with one of the program coordinators in June who told me it was a new program so the admissions were rolling. That was another reason I applied to this program. I was excited. My chances of getting in were high, right?

University of Houston, the great, had obviously started playing games with me again. Before I traveled, I had emailed the COT advisor to ask the status of my petition. No response. I figured I’d just go in person later in the week.

I called Johns Hopkins for the MBA / MBiotech program. Turns out they had not received one of my documents. Can you see all the temptations that rose up left, right and center?

For this particular application, I made an error on my statement of purpose. Instead of referencing this MBA / Master of Biotechnology program throughout my statement, I put the Master of Biotechnology Enterprise and Entrepreneurship in one sentence and the admissions committee was confused. I had mixed them up in my head, and clearly in my application. But for the fact that they called me in June/July to ask what program I was applying to and to tell me to correct my essay and resend it, am I not serving a living God?

I corrected my essay the day I received that call and resent it to the department in less than 10 minutes! But for whatever reason, they had not received my email or someone over there had not seen the email. It was an oversight that they took responsibility for. Now as I type, I realize my problem with HBU was very similar – an email oversight / lag in communication and they punished me for their mistake instead of taking responsibility. Johns Hopkins on the other hand took responsibility and I was asked to resend the email which I did. I was told my file will then be forwarded to the admissions committee. It was August, folks!

On Thursday, I went to the College of Technology at UH. As I waited, I saw the advisor I had been in touch with. I think she pretended like she didn’t see me, but I greeted her. The response I got was a little stand-offish. Let’s say at this time, she pretended like she didn’t know me or why I was there. I clearly remember her walking to the back of the receptionist’s desk, for a reason I still don’t know. I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks as you read on.

Some minutes later, another advisor, a guy this time, came and called my name. I followed him to his office, where he told me my petition had been denied. I asked “on what grounds?” and his response was “You were not supposed to submit a petition but a brand new application”. I don’t know how many neurons fired in my brain but I almost lost it upstairs. My reaction was the opposite though. I sat there, calm, in disbelief. A million things were running through my head “How? How?? Howw?? But????”. It was then I finally mustered the words to speak up. “So when was this decision made?” I asked. And his response was August 4th. It was August 19th. I continued “So why didn't anyone think to email or call me to notify me of this decision?”. Then I continued “Dr. YY told me to submit this petition and I did exactly what she told me to do. Why am I just hearing of this? Why didn’t anyone send me an email? School starts next week”. He was a really calm guy and for the sake of his calmness, I couldn’t allow myself to explode. The Spirit of God kept me calm as I fought back tears. That advisor I had been meeting, Dr. YY with was in the next office and I am 100% certain she heard everything but chose not to come in and take responsibility. Since he knew little about my case - that I had been terminated from my program - he got up and went to her office. On returning from that advisor’s office, he said a lot of things but this one thing just… pierced me. He said, “Are you still enrolled at HCC?”. Whattttt? Oh! So this advisor, Dr. YY pretty much told the man to tell me to enroll at HCC again for the Fall? I was so shocked! Did she really think I had all the money to throw around and keep enrolling at a community college when I should ideally be beginning my final year of Masters level classes? Did she really think I was happy to have “wasted” a year of my academic program? But I’m not sure she thought of anything.

I wouldn’t have been so let down if this woman had at least come out to say something to me. I was assigned to meet with this other advisor, so I couldn’t just barge into her office although it was next door’s. I gave her that respect.

Back in COT Advisor 2’s office, I told him “I need to talk to someone higher. This is not okay". I fought tears. I had become a pro in doing so in the previous months. I returned home and before my meeting the next day, I took my secretarial capabilities a notch by writing an email "to the top". That Thursday, I also called Johns Hopkins to see if my MBA / MBiotech application had been sent for review to which the lady responded in the affirmative. She asked for my last name, started talking, paused and told me to check my email the following day for an admission decision. In my head, I was like “why bother?” Her reaction definitely suggested I was denied.

So left with no options, I pursued University of Houston even more. On Friday, very early, we woke up and my family prayed. The prayers went something like this “Lord, let this be a lesson to her so she can listen to her parents…”. Yes, indeed, it was a lesson, but I also had no idea that I needed any more pressure than I had already been going through. I knocked my head three times on the ground in true Brotherhood fashion, then I got up to pray. I have said many prayers before, but this one I cannot forget. “Dear Father please give mummy and daddy the ability to trust in You more and have more faith in You. Let them know that many parents are wishing for what they have and many other people are in worse predicaments. Let them just thank you more”. The “Amen” that came from them was very …delayed? Is delayed the word? But they never expected it (Nigerian slang: they never hesperred it). I also went on to thank God for my friends and how He had made them all to do so well in their respective jobs and schools, tapped into that blessing and ended my prayer with “Father I know you have already done it all…”. Then I jumped in the shower and alighted in a blazer, a pair of jeans, a top, my hand bag. As I grabbed my car keys, I couldn't miss the shock on my parents' faces. “Where are you going?” I mumbled under my breath “a meeting”. “Where?”, they asked again, as true Nigerian parents.  “University of Houston”, I responded. I had made no mention of having a meeting the next day. I had not shared much that happened the previous day with them. I just wanted to handle everything myself, with the sense of mega urgency that had come upon me. I had wanted to return to Nigeria as far back as May when things were intensifying but my family won’t let me. To me, this was my final attempt of trying, before packing my bags. I missed home and I knew very well in my heart that it did not have to be America. I had once told my dad that I had accomplished what I told the consular officer I was going to America for – my undergrad degree. It was my way of begging to just go home…and sleep.

I got to the College of Technology. It was a rainy day so things seemed slow. I waited for a while before the lady I was scheduled to meet with came out and told me she was in fact the wrong person to speak to, because she handles undergraduate admissions. I was so confused. Why would the Advisor 2 schedule me to meet with the wrong person? What was really going on? Thankfully, the woman told me she would work to locate the other person who would be able to assist me. It took about 2 hours, which was understandable because as I was told, the Graduate Dean was really busy and in and out of meetings that day. When they eventually found her, I was called into this first lady’s office and together with Advisor 2, they told me that my petition had actually been accepted but The Graduate School (an entirely different body from the department’s graduate admissions) denied my request because of my situation and that my only option was to apply and wait for Spring semester. I stood by my initial points of confusion “Why didn’t I receive an email when the decision was out? Why didn’t Advisor 1 tell me this when I sent her an email (that was in July but she could have responded in August when the decision came out)? Why am I now being punished for the wrong information she gave me?” This Dean and Advisor 2 were so calm, and they obviously took some responsibility for what had happened. They told me my situation was one they had never dealt with before and that the advisors had no idea The Graduate School would require a brand new application from me. I had a bucket of tears backed up so I spoke little (only at the end) and just listened with my eyes on the floor. She advised me to enroll at HCC again so I don’t fall out of status while they work on something so that I can hopefully transfer back into UH during the Fall semester. Now, do you see how this approach was different? She told me the same thing I had heard the previous day but this time, it was said with reason and an intention to help, not dismissal. I thanked them both and headed home.

I sat in my car, ready to cry. It was then I heard the Holy Father’s voice telling me “So why are you crying?” I wasn’t even crying out physically but anyone who could see my soul would have seen that I was wailing. In my heart I said “God, please don’t let me go back to HCC. That was a test and I know I passed it”. I had my phone in my hands so on impulse, I scanned my email for a mail from Johns Hopkins. The first email I saw though was a response from the University of Houston President’s office. I had emailed her the day before. I read her response but I knew I needed time and composure to respond. So I went back to look for the Hopkins’ admission decision email. My login attempt failed so I knew I had to go home and keep trying.

On my way home, a friend from Nigeria called. We talked at length and when he asked when school starts, I said “next week…hopefully”. He sensed something and prodded a bit so I told him “I’m having some issues with school. I just got out of a meeting”. He encouraged me. His words were “Remember what I was going through? Well, things are getting better now so just trust God. It will all work out”. I held on to that. The previous day after I relayed my first meeting with UH to my friend, she said “I don’t think Houston is for you”. And I told her “Even if Johns Hopkins admits me, I’m not going. I don’t want to move”. Another friend had told me earlier in the year that she felt like God was trying to take me out of Houston. To all those suggestions, I always told my friends “God did not bring me here to just cry and leave. I must achieve something here”.

I eventually got home, nervous. My parents were watching a Nigerian movie and my laptop was hooked to the tv. With their permission, I unplugged my laptop and logged in to view my admission decision from Johns Hopkins. I didn’t want it to be displayed on the TV screen, in case I was denied. I also turned around till my laptop was facing only me, so the snooping eyes of Nigerian parents would not pry into my business. I scanned the letter for those first words. You know, the usual “Unfortunately, the whole world applied to our program but we could only accept 5 people” email. Wait. Was that...CONGRATULATIONS beaming at me? Then because I guess I was really thinking of seeing an “unfortunately”, there it was, swiftly accompanying the congratulatory message. I was accepted into the Masters in Biotechnology but denied admission to the MBA program. It was 2 days after our fasting had ended. Good Lord! I screeaaammeeddddd and my family rushed to see what was on my screen. I can’t even describe the moment accurately, no matter how much I try. The tension and anger that had musked us all for weeks suddenly vanished! I was thankful, I was relieved and I finally saw that God himself had spoken through one of my friends concerning my situation. She had told me the previous week “When God does it, you will know His response. It will be so clear”. Earlier on, she told me “Emem, I can’t wait for your testimony. Your testimony will be so huge”. I had held on to those words but questioned what exactly was going to be huge about getting back into University of Houston or enrolling at Houston Baptist University. Little did I know that that petition I held on to for the College of Technology would not even work out, neither did HBU. It was the program I was least expecting that I got into. And beloved brethren of God, do you know what was really huge? That I had not just gotten into Johns Hopkins, but into an the Advanced Academic Program at Johns Hopkins. My Lord, my God!!!

In the few moments I thought Hopkins would accept me, I had a plan: defer for a year and complete the MBA program at Houston Baptist University or Masters in Biotech at UH. I really did not want to move!

So beloved brethren, in a twinkling, at the last minute when all hopes were lost (which is usually when you hear God shows up) my story did a complete 360°. In trying times like these, you will lose hope, but don't lose all of it. God used the little bit of hope I had left to bring about my testimony. Remember when I said the Holy Spirit had made me realize my first UH advisor was a Pharaoh in my story? That realization was everything because just like the children of Israel had a Pharaoh then a promised land, at that moment, I realized who my Pharaoh was and used it as an anticipation for the promised land which I had not seen. Yes, I was tired severally, yes, I had even gotten lazy, yes I was ready to pack my bags and go home but God showed up. Till today, I secretly think my family came to help me move home in a less shameful fashion. You know they won’t tell me that.

University of Houston called me the following week. Stay tuned for Part 4. :)

Cryptic Instagram Posts Revealed: -The morning after my accident  When I had accepted and knew everything was for good, but was still conflicted - Despite the hurdles, I had a lot to be grateful for. My life for example? - A word to remind people that the strong and supportive people in their lives also need support. - 2 days before my admission decision came in. That same day August 19, the Holy Spirit had encouraged me with these words "The last 5 seconds to the finish line are the hardest. Power through anyways" - When my testimony came pouring on me, unexpectedly.