The day before had me so stressed out that I wondered how I functioned on little sleep and a 24 hour continuous brain activity. Days like this usually had me antsy and short-tempered so I try to hide in my office. Today, however, it was not going to be possible as I had a major presentation before the higher-ups in the organization. Being selected was nothing short of a miracle to me who never lobbied for the slot. Infact, I was to help set up the slides and fix the final details when I was called and given the opportunity. I think I screamed in my head and in the restroom and from the Tuesday to today being Monday, I slept a total of 8 hours. I am presenting one of the biggest proposals for the organization making lack of good sleep a tiny sacrifice.
I must have stood still for hours because Tunde shook me a little to loosen my tongue. There was no way I could present such big proposal with barely a year experience on the job. Yes, I was just going to celebrate my ninth month in the organization while barely learning the ropes. With my tongue loose, I said the first word that came out of my mouth which was “I can not”. If it was a set-up to evict me from the organization barely three months after my probation, I was going to avoid that pitfall. I must have argued with my Team lead for about thirty minutes before giving up and walking back to my office. I was doomed to fail even before I started. Infact, immediately I got to my office, began packing my books and stuff. This was not how I envisioned things but I had better move on and move quickly. Ofcourse, my Team lead, our go-getter, did not leave me. He barged in and told me to calm down. He claimed everyone started from somewhere and it was okay to fidget but I would present. I nodded calmly to get him leave before calling Ray.
Raymond, Ray, is my boyfriend and the only one that could tell me what to do presently. As usual, my calm-in-the-storm listened attentively and told me to go ahead. His trust in me must have settled my nerves which Naomi scattered again by barging in and talking at the top of her voice. I could send her out but did not have the mind to do so. Her excitement did nothing save make me nervous once again. She saw the need to give me a break down of proposal presentations of the past, those that were the best and the worst of them all. I got an history I did not bargain for. I just slumped on my chair and stared at her for the whole twenty minutes and wished her to disappear but Naomi stayed and even got herself a seat. It was all beginning to look like a set-up once again. Her sharp change of storyline to Valentine’s day had my ears perked once again. I was planning a nice cool even with Ray and had already planned his gift, a wristwatch. Naomi saw an avenue to mourn her singlehood which was funny because we all knew the Head of Audit department had a thing for her which would blossom if she looked at him just once. I turned the table on her and began teasing her which had in turn, calmed my nerves once again. Our back and forth lasted for about thirty minutes and Naomi finally left me when it was time for lunch.
Forgive my lack of manners, my nerves were getting hold of me again. I am Atinuke Morgan and I work for Transverse Group and this is my proposal story. Now, most people would think I meant proposal presentation but I actually meant the “would you marry me” proposal. I was as confused as you are right now because I had not imagined it in such a way. What I prepared for was the project proposal of my team of which my colleagues really understood my anxiety and were ready to help me at all times. This was not strange as team work was our strong point. Yet, I should have suspected something more fishy than a mere office set-up when Naomi wanted to help with my hair and dress. It was a proposal presentation and not a runway show, right? Everything to Naomi starts with fashion, even food and coupled with my haywire nerves, she got me to say yes from the first argument. Avoiding Naomi was like avoiding your next breath. That girl could stick to your face till she got what she wanted. I succumbed to making my face up on Monday morning. Actually, she was just a tip of the iceberg as Tunde saw the opportunity to give me facial expression tips. You would think I have never done a presentation before. Our team lead was not left behind in the “encouragement” race as he saw the need to stop at my office every 1 hour simply to say “You can do it, Tinu”, “Congratulations is what I hear already” and “You were born for this”. Ofcourse. By Friday, I was tempted to avoid my office and all the drama simply because “Tinu is presenting”. They all looked more excited than I. You would think I won a jackpot when my boyfriend called as I literally ran out of the office at the close of the day.
Raymond was my calm-in-the-storm as usual, sitting quietly, listening to my rant about the office and wondering why I was reporting everyone to him. Ofcourse he did not know anyone of them save my team lead but he listened like a gentleman he is. He even laughed at Naomi’s mother hen nature. He would nod, sip his drink and give random exclamations. He knew not to provide solution to those rantings. I just wanted a sounding board. After my rants, he quietly asked if I would get a nice gown to wear on the big day. I should have suspected him then but I was too focused on reporting everyone that got on my nerves. Raymond knows I have more than wears for that day. We got the beautiful black gown and I went home, back to my presentation. I must have presented to myself more that 10 times either while working, cooking, bathing and sleeping. Thursday had me presenting in my dream with the higher-ups frowning at me. I broke out in sweats and by the time I woke up, my bed was almost drenched too. The thought of Monday was getting the best of me that by Saturday, my girlfriends once again listened to my presentation by force. It was that or I was not going to step out of the house at all. One of my girls, Sharon, suggested manicure hangout to get my nails done and while I stared at her like she suddenly became Medusa, I agreed. Sharon did not enjoy such. Infact, give her a movie and popcorn and she could stay home all day. My three friends plastered fake smiles which gave me a pause. They were unto something and I was going to find out but at the moment, I had nothing to lose going out with them. I already had a nice gown from Ray, encouragement from Team lead, make up and hair tips from Naomi and facial expressions from Tunde. A nice nails would not hurt.
Sunday came and I was all ready to quit. I went to church to receive more words of encouragement but it was all relationship and marriage talk. Pastor should have announced that those ready to listen to love talk should move to the left side and others, like me, move to the right. Members were enjoying it though but the more they laughed, the more I pictured the higher-ups laughing at me too. Which reminds me to apologise to Aunty Tami and Big Mummy who saw after service greetings as a time to enquire more about Ray. Those two women are like Predators to every single youth prey. I let my anxiety show a little and they were shocked. I must have said a word or two too much. Monday was in less than 24 hours and all they were concerned about was my love life.
Monday finally appeared albeit slowly and I was sure my blood pressure hadd risen and fallen many times. I called my girlfriends but none picked up. Ray’s number was switched off and even the atmosphere in the office was too calm for a day like this. A day we all have been talking about. Thankfully, this gave me the opportunity to hide myself in my office and calm my raging nerves. Presentation was by 10am and by 8am, I was still stuttering. Suddenly by 9am, I became the subject of focus once again. Everyone made it a point to stop by and congratulate me in advance. I was dressed to tee, had almost mastered my lines and facial expressions and what was left was to ‘wow’ our bosses.
I walked in with mixed feelings. I was a lion, bold and fearless and yet was a lamb, ready to run away at the slightest threat and so with a barely audible voice, I started my presentation which made the only woman among the Heads sit straight. I was already sentencing myself before my trial. My cloth was getting clingy, I was sweating in an Airconditioned room and all the facial expressions I learned disappeared in a flash. I wanted it all to be over and soon, it was. My pensive face must have frozen till I heard the claps which made it break into smile. I did it. My congratulations were coming in already till one of the heads of department raised his hands for a question. His question was so out of scope that I felt the ground should open up. Infact, everyone was looking at me like they expected me to know the answer of which I did not but like I have learned, I gave an answer anyway. I knew for sure that if my presentation was eighty percent, failure to answer correctly would make it drop to forty. I awaited the verdict while my legs melted to wax.
As in previous meetings such as this, each head of department would give his or her verdict and the highest number of either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would be the overall verdict. This time however, they all did not say a word which made me doubt all the claps I heard earlier. The first man barely nodded and raised a placard I never noticed was with him. All it wrote was “Will”. I looked at my colleagues and everyone appeared anxious too. At this time, a gentle breeze could blow me away as I was more confused than ever. My eyes found the next head of department and all he raised was “You”. If this was a dream, I would have sure ran out of the boardroom. By this time, my confusion saw me gripping the edge of the table, trying to shut down the words running through my head. By this time, all the placards were raised and it read “Will you marry me?”. I always knew that one of the heads of department had a thing for Naomi so maybe he took the advantage. I turned to Naomi but she was practically jumping and encouraging me to say “yes”. She was sure out of her mind if she thought I would marry Tunde. I told her times without number and turned to Tunde to cut the joke. He also laughed and pointed at the projector and coupled with the giggles from my colleagues, I turned back to the projector. Nothing prepared me for seeing Raymond on his knees with a ring pointing towards me. I almost stumbled. Raymond had all these planned out in my office during my presentation. He was sure going to employ me if I lose my job. He repeated the question and well, the joy of the marriage proposal was greater at the moment so I gave him my answer. I said my “Yes”, got my ring slipped into my finger and everyone clapped, shouting “congratulations Tinu”.
The most amazing part of the whole story was the inclusion of the heads of departments. Men and women love planning surprises after all. As we took pictures, temporarily forgetting the presentation, my girlfriends came in with extra dose of excitement. The way everyone was talking and taking pictures made me guess this was never done before. As the excitement calmed, Raymond gently turned me back to the projector and I watched a video slide of our three years relationship. I was so teary, I grabbed the nearest tissue handed to me. It was Monday for goodness sake but who cares. With each slide came a reason why he loved me and wanted to marry me. If I had not said ‘yes’, I was ready to say it. I could say it a thousand times. This was so thoughtful of him.
When I thought I had seen it all, my parents came on screen and congratulated me and from there, I saw familiar faces far and near. If I lost my job that day, I would not complain for days. Well, except when I got broke.
I was going to pin this memory forever and ever. He did what I never imagined and got everyone cooperating even the Heads. Raymond proposed to me in the office with the help of my Team lead who got everyone in the office supporting him. The new gown, manicure, make up and Pastor’s message was all making sense right now. I quickly got my iPad to save this memory admist the pictures being taken. I looked at the date and burst out laughing. Raymond proposed on Valentine’s day after all. I never knew he could because I always told him such day is too predictable. He knew the only way to get my mind of it was to get me into preparing for something else. I loved Raymond more for this though I still teased him for proposing without the flowers, wine and soft music playing. He claimed I would have noticed of he got the board room all decorated and perhaps would not have given my best in my presentation. I pardoned him and gave him all of six months to plan such for our wedding. I could not deny that I had the best proposal and on a beautiful day such as this. I did not also forget my evening plans and his gift which ofcourse did not beat this but was merely a return gesture. Lest I forget, my presentation was the best so far as we got the go-ahead to implement it. It was a double win for me.
Osanyinro Oluwaseun, a graduate of Microbiology and currently a master student of Public Health at the University of Ibadan runs a blog on WordPress deejemima.wordpress.com