There’s something creative about setting up a new home. It’s even more emotional when you’re in a new city without family and close friends. The space will “speak to you” and you have to listen to the signs and signals it gives off. You’ll need to deploy administrative skills you haven’t used in a while, bringing back the basics of quiet, simple work.

Every week, you create a list of chores and accomplish them. As you tick off items on your checklist, there’s silent validation that you are capable. There’s also the fact that help can be sourced in interesting ways. After all, there’s no glory in doing things alone if you don’t have to.

There is a rhythm to running a home. Most tasks have a defined beginning and ending, no matter how complicated or how much attention you pay to them. Whether it’s assembling furniture, cooking meals or putting away groceries. Although the value of my time and capacities means I can’t do these things indefinitely, for now I’m enjoying the predictability of daily living. I’m surrounded by new cultures and languages, yet the paucity of values travels across national boundaries. If you find good people, hold them close. They are not as common as you think.

Paying Attention is a Valuable Skill

Recently, my home taught me an important lesson about listening to the signs and paying attention. In the middle of the night, I kept hearing a strange pulsing sound. At first, I thought it was the water treatment plant nearby. I was used to it coming on and off during the day, in response to water use. But it rarely came on at night.

This sound was also different and it was loud enough to wake me up. I chalked it up to a possible malfunction of the water equipment and tried to return to sleep, in spite of it.

It was in the morning that I realized the source of the ruckus – my freezer completely covered in ice and the evaporator glowing red and threatening fire. In my mind, two parallel thoughts flashed – “I really don’t need this today!” and “Why didn’t I get up sooner and pay more attention to the noise?”

A Little DIY Goes a Long Way

Nonetheless, as Nigerians are wont to do, we rarely sit around waiting for someone to save us; we move forward. So, I did what any logical person in my position would do – I Googled the symptoms first, then called emergency maintenance second. Thankfully I got a call back within the hour and a kind gentleman talked me through what I should do to stave off disaster.

I learnt the value of being more curious and never assuming the obvious. I heard a sound I hadn’t encountered before and instead of investigating, I went with what I already knew.

We do this all the time. Rather than doing the hard work of thinking and interrogating, we ignore warning signs and try to fit things into existing frameworks. We use old solutions for new problems.

Until I paid attention to the nature of my freezer, a brand I’d never used, I couldn’t fix the problem. I had to stop panicking, research the issue and then listen to the calm instructions of the expert.

Whether you look for help now or later, you must fix issues the right way. There’s no shortcut. How soon you listen to instruction determines whether the fix will be simple or whether it will be complicated, lengthy and costly. And in some cases, whether you can even salvage the situation at all.

In life, listen to the signs. Heed warnings. Don’t brush them aside and avoid reaching for obvious answers. You will pay dearly if you don’t.

Thank you for reading.

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