12 lessons from Aunty Ayado that helped me thrive while in Jo’burg

Today is the special birthday of a very special woman in my life! Without her I would not miss Johannesburg as much as I do. In celebration, I would like to share some precious life lessons she taught me. These lessons were mostly learnt from watching the way she lived her life as well as the habits and ways of thinking she encouraged in me. They aren’t statements that she explicitly said. Regardless, she is one of the main reasons I not only survived my university life in Johannesburg but also thrived! 

  1. Seek ye first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33) .

Y’all! If the above verse was a person it would be Aunty Ayado! I admire the seriousness with which she works out her Christianity. The love and honour with which she regarded God was evident. It was in the little and big things like the way her Sundays were sacred days of rest; how she would not miss church;  the prayers that accompanied every meal; the way she would observe lent; the way she brought up her son; the way she devoted time to study her bible study and apply those Biblical principles to every sphere of her life; and many more. In fact, she was the person who introduced me to Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), the practice that continues to grow my relationship with Christ. Any time I was about to make a decision she would check in with a “Is that what God is saying?”. Her life is a living example of how God takes care of you and enables you to thrive when you trust and take care of his business.

2. Lead with compassion.

I saw Aunty Ayado lead by creating trust and forming relationships with the people she served. I grew up with a brand of leadership that needed fear and lack of vulnerability to survive. I have been unlearning this and she was a great example of how the kind of leadership that has its basis on less conventional values like love, sisterhood and friendship works. She inspires me to really listen to and love the people I am called to serve.

3. Confidently know, define and communicate your worth in the corporate world.

I struggle with massive imposter syndrome and anxiety on a daily basis but especially when in corporate spaces. My heart literally palpitates every time I want to write or reply to an official email. The antidote to this seems to be learning how to confidently know, define and communicate my worth even as a recent graduate. Aunty Ayado helped me to practically do so. She would help me write and respond to emails. Moreover, she would give me very advice on how to manage relationships with my employer. There is also just something about how she coached me that let me know that it was okay to show up authentically in the work place. Now hol’ up, I still needs sufficient notice ( like 3 to 5 working weeks) to show up to a networking event 😂. However, this is changing as I unlearn all the unnecessary self-doubt and low self-esteem and learn confident courage, thanks to Aunty Ayado. 

4. It is okay to swim against the tide

The first time Aunty Ayado and I met was when she was on a tour of ALA. I introduced myself with my chocolate factory dream and throughout our five year or so friendship she would remind me of how that stood out for her. I also remember talking to her through my decision to attend university in Johannesburg when I felt that I was going to be missing out by not studying outside of the continent like many of my colleagues then. She encouraged me (and still does) through those hard decisions. From her I have learnt that it is okay to take the alternate career path. It is okay to stick to what I think is right for me at the time even if it is not the “recommended” route. 

5. How to mother like a boss. 

I had the privilege of house sitting for her whenever she would travel and through that her son and I developed a wonderful relationship. Her son,  my lil’ bro, is a charming, well-behaved and smart young man. Seeing their beautiful mother-son relationship completely shifted the way I viewed parenting. She showed me that mothering and thriving in your career is difficult but possible. She also showed me the fine balance between being your child’s best friend and their parent. They dance and cook together. They talk through everything. But he also knows not to cross the boundaries that have been set.  I only realised that I had learnt so much from her as I home-schooled my sisters. A lot of the lessons I shared on this post are a direct result of spending time with her son and seeing how she parents.

6. There is enough time. 

Adulting aka keeping yourself alive is work. The number of times I have said I am too busy to do this or that have definitely peaked. However, the way Aunty Ayado managed her responsibilities taught me that you can make time for you and the things or people you love. The how lies in prioritising, having effective habits, being organised, self-control and God’s grace. Yaani! That this mama could still work (and that work ethic y’all 🙌🏿) , parent, sister, exercise, cook and check on me plus attend all my birthday dinners. I don’t know! Also, we would swap books (the joys of joys) and  one of the most impactful ones I have read from her library was WHEN by Daniel Pink . She applies many of the principles in this book so well. 

7. The greatest gift you can give the people you love is quality time.

Speaking of time, I am truly inspired by how Aunty Ayado always makes time for her people. Despite having a very demanding career that also made her travel often, she still made time for her people: her son, her sister, her friends and colleagues. I just remembered all the story telling sessions we would have. We would hardly notice the time going and I would always leave her home feeling whole and nourished.

8. Meal prep will nourish your body and save your coins.

My favourite part of house-sitting, apart from spending time with my lil’ bro, was the yummiest most delicious pre-made meals that would be waiting for me in the fridge. Oh my goodness! Wait, I need a moment, I just remembered a most delicious butternut risotto – uuh! heaven☺️. She also introduced me to the world that is Pinterest food recipes and there is a particular lentil pomegranate salad that will always remind me of her. She helped me with making my university meal plan (it wasn’t always followed but it was a good guide). In addition, she also showed me all the spots in Johannesburg where I could buy groceries at  fair prices. Joburgers, Mayfair and that Wholesale Fruit & Veg Market in Randburg is where it is at!If it were not for Aunty Ayado, McDonald’s would have had all my money and my health would show it🙆🏿‍♀️

9. Put your money where you heart is.

I will say that financial management was not on my radar until I subtly observed how Aunty Ayado spent her money. The way she spent her money easily reflected the things she valued most and that really inspired me. She was the reason I started a spreadsheet to track my expenditure in order to think about whether what I am doing with my money is really what I want to be doing with my money. Yet another useful adulting hack!

10. Take your mental health seriously.

Aunty Ayado helped me take my wellness and specifically my mental health more seriously. It was in the way she would check in when I was going through a stressful time or how she would cheer me on to take breaks. She really helped me become aware of the physical manifestations of stress. One WhatsApp that comes to mind is when she reminded me to get a Vitamin B12 shot during  the stressful Honours exam period. Another is the discussions around my taking a gap year. She called to my attention that 22 years of continuous schooling could be draining and validated my feeling to take some time off. I now know that I needed this gap year and this lesson will continue to be a reminder for me to pause and breathe.

11. Trim the fat

Hehe! Wueeeh! Didn’t your people-pleasing naively trusting girl get involved in all kinds of toxic relationships  while in Johannesburg?! Is a whole other blog post but for this one I just want to share this useful tip. Her response to all those things, specially relationships that took more than they gave or were just downright toxic, was that I needed to trim the fat. Of course, I took some time to process and actually do that ( love is blind and other nonsense) but when I finally did, it was like a switch just flipped. Thanks to her I am quicker to cut my losses and move on from situations that do not make me whole! 

12. Tell your story. 

Aunty Ayado is passionate about amplifying the voices of women especially in her world of work. We would have conversations about how representation mattered to women especially dark skinned African women like us. She was a big encouragement that enabled me to tell the story of my last name here. More than that she lives her life and tells her stories in such an uncut and wholesome way that it is simply refreshing!

All these lessons and more (I am sure I have left out many) really helped me thrive in Johannesburg. By thrive I mean got internships, saved my money, kept sane, ate delicious food and had fulfilling relationships with my God, self and people. But more than that there are also lessons I will continue to carry with me on this life journey. I think everyone needs an Aunty Ayado in their life, people who lead their lives with such character and integrity that they inspire you to do the same.

Now, if you have also been highly blessed and favoured (like me😏), what are some of the lessons your Aunty Ayado has taught you?

P.S: Happy Birthday Aunty Ayado! Thank you for all that you are! I love you!