I had always known I would bake at some point in life with my mother being a baker, but I never took it seriously. It felt like that was just expected, your mother bakes, so would you. It could have been a hobby after all. As a child, I watched her, helped her whip eggs with my little toy egg whisk, and I took classes in Food and Nutrition in high school. As far back as Jss2, I remember getting back from school one day and deciding to bake something on my own that I had learned.
I took my mother’s supplies without her permission, and with the help of my cousins we took turns creaming the batter in the cupboard, we could not risk getting caught. When we were done I filled up a pot with sand, put my mixture in tins and put it in the pot to bake. With enormous pride I got out my cakes and cookies when my mother came home, I could tell she was surprised. She had a taste and offered it to her friend, the only complaint was obvious, sand had gotten into it.
Pictured above, Uzezi
To make my dream of becoming a baker a reality, I had to save up some money, to get the supplies I needed to start the business, so I needed a means to an end. There was one dream that may have been likened to a fantasy, but I had it. I wanted to be an Air hostess. I kicked out plans of becoming a lawyer and embraced plans of working as an Air hostess till I saved up enough money to set up my Bakeshop. The next Valentine’s Day drew closer, and I began to consider Tolu’s advice. It seemed like something I could try out, so I spoke to my mother, and we drew up a price list I printed out with pictures of cakes. Some images were colored printouts while the others were photocopied duplicates.
With the help of my roommate, who was a year ahead of me and overall friendly, we went around the school on some evenings when most people were gathered outside, to advertise. We got in orders as we pushed and I went home a few days before Valentine’s Day to help my mom get these orders rolling. It was my first time decorating cakes that were going out for orders, and I did well. I came up with innovative designs that I believed I knew better since I was a student and my mother well, was of a more mature taste and from a different generation. This Valentine’s Day was the start of something new in my life; now I knew what I wanted was achievable, and I was making moves for it.
Some of Uzezi's master pieces
From that day, I took orders every single Valentine’s Day. I usually went home days leading up to the fourteenth of February, and I decorated cakes with my mother. I was gradually building my skills while learning from her. By this time, they had noticed I was not going to study law anymore so after mentioning it once, we never spoke of it again. I was doing well in Mass communication, and that was fine with them. I graduated with a Second class Upper and was thrown into the real world as they call it. Youth service was the last thing on my mind because I had some unnecessary dislike for it that was stirred from a book we had read in secondary school, “Service of the Fatherland.”
I was not looking forward to my Youth Service Year. Finishing school came with its perks, I was an adult now, and I had a little freedom. A little because as the first child and only daughter, that spells “Guinea Pig” of the family. Every parenting skill is first tested on you to know if it works all in the bid that you turn out right. My friends, on the other hand, felt it was time to explore; now we were out of the restrictive environment of school (I went to a private university). We could not just leave as we wanted without filling forms and getting approval, it was mostly a cumbersome process as if its location in a village was not already an impediment. We set out to attend weddings and to hang out in recreational places. Who knows, we might meet that special someone.
That didn’t work out well for me. I do not enjoy going out so when we went out a couple of times, and we were not meeting anybody, I decided to sit in my house. I was not on a hunt; I never considered myself a hunter, so I was done. I faced my baking squarely, trying out new recipes and designs. The National youth service posting came, and I was posted to Yobe State. I had a good laugh at first, wondering where exactly Yobe was located and if people lived there. By the next day, the reality of the situation hit me, and the tears came running down. Something had to be done.
On the news there was a bombing in Yobe state, the Boko Haram insurgency in the country had made attacks seem like an item that could not be left out of a Menu card if the daily news were a dinner table. Our camp had to be moved to Plateau state. That meant automatic redeployment, but it wasn’t a saving grace because I could be redeployed to just any state the officials wanted. My flight was booked before we realized the camp had been moved again to Kogi state. One thought of Kogi state and I remember teasing a high school mate that lived there if they even had a Mr. Biggs outlet. Now that was going to be my reality.
I went to Kogi State in anxiety and with a closed off mind. I met some schoolmates I did not even know when we were back in the university and they made settling in very easy for me. I cannot recall most of the events in camp, because I sent an automatic block to my mind. Although I made some friends, that was about it. Redeployment was a severe issue, I prayed and fasted, I wanted to be in Lagos and nowhere else. How else was I going to attend Aviation school? What of my dreams of becoming a baker? I needed to be near home to achieve that. I got redeployed to Osun state in the end.
As soon as I opened the letter on the campground, I cried. This was not what I wanted. Two days after my posting letter was handed to me in the camp, I got another posting letter sent to my phone, and it was to Lagos. I jumped up that morning and hurried as fast as I could to the secretariat before it became an error message. It was a miracle, an unmerited favor and I was ecstatic. Youth service in Lagos was the best thing. I was progressing rapidly in my baking skills, and gradually I was the one taking all the orders my mother got. I had my phone to keep up with new trends, and I was trying my best to replicate them with just my mother’s experience to guide me. I was taking on new designs that she had never explored so in a way we were both learning.
Towards the end of the service year, I got admitted into Aviation school for a cabin crew course for two months. My dreams had finally been set on course. The first day of aviation school and the myths of Air hostesses just being beauty queens fizzled out of my head. It was quite tasking. There were a lot of technical things to learn, and I began to wonder if I was training to be an aeronautic engineer. It was not what I expected, but I needed to make it work if I wanted to achieve my dreams. And needless to say that I could not waste my mother’s money. My mother was my biggest supporter to follow this dream; she had wanted to follow the same path when she was younger but never acted on it.
That first day, we were asked why we decided to take the course. I never really thought so much about this, for me it was a means to an end, I did not like the idea of sitting behind a desk, and this seemed more interesting. I will get to wear those pretty uniforms, strutting around the airport with an air of importance knowing I played a significant role on a plane. My colleagues stood up speaking about how they loved traveling and attending to the needs of people. One thing was evident, and it was the passion with which they spoke. I got back home that day wondering if I possessed this passion. It began to seem like I was passionate about two things or was it one, with the other just being only a means. I was torn between these feelings throughout my cabin crew course.
I finished Aviation school successfully and even got called for an interview in the school, but I never do well in aptitude tests. I got my license in no time, and I started applying for jobs, all the while struggling with my conflicting passions. If I got a job as an air hostess, then I may be giving up baking for at least five years. I did not know if I was willing to do that. I wanted to grow as a baker, I wanted to keep practicing to get perfect but with five years off, how was I going to be consistent in training?
How was I going to build a customer base? When was I going to make mistakes that I would learn from? I ignored these thoughts and still applied just in case it was the fear of the unknown speaking — the fear that I may get carried away with just being an air hostess, but that was not the dream. I kept telling people I was searching for a job at any airline just in case they could help out.
It took a rejection to make me critically question my decision and my priorities. I spent a week taking walks in the morning while I prayed concerning the conflicting feelings I was battling with. If I was hoping to get a clear answer telling me what to do, I never got it. I had to choose between two passions, two dreams. I had already envisioned myself as an air hostess and also as a baker, but it was becoming clear now that I wanted to be one.
I kept avoiding my parents’ questions about the job search, and it was becoming clear to my mother that I had chosen to bake. My father never understood my choice, and my mother always wished I would work a little before settling down to face my baking career. But in all, I felt at peace with my decision. I kept harnessing my talent with the support of my mother and my constant search for the latest cake trends. It felt so good to be doing what I loved.
Small Girl, Big Dreams, Large City, is a personal story told by Uzezi, who became a baker, after chasing after various dreams. Stick with us, as her story is broken down into three parts, which would be released every week. Do you have a similar experience as Uzezi? Would you like to share your experience with us? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below. Remember to like, share and subscribe, never to miss an update.
About The Author: Uzezi is a 25 year old baker, caterer and writer. She is a young lady of many talents. Her creativity spans across different aspects in life. Whatever she sets her heart to do, she accomplishes it. Her dream is to work with TLC’s Cake Boss one day, and she is well on her way, as she keeps honing her baking skills. Uzezi is also the Creative Director at Let’s Talk Nation for Short Stories, as she is talented in fiction writing. Look out for her stories, as they make their debut on LTN. To learn more about Uzezi, visit her Instagram pages on @uzaizie and @FlawlessFlour.