Oluwatominsin loosely means “God has given me a reason to praise him.” Oyinlola means “honey is wealth.”
Tomi Falegan’s full name is Oluwatominsin Oyinlola Falegan. And if you get the chance to talk to her, she exudes such depth, celebration and sweet generosity that it’s almost magical how her name was spoken so prophetically over her path.
Tomi currently works with City Hope Community, an organization that works with refugee families. “It’s not what I thought I would be doing,” she says. “But I love the kids so much. At this stage of my life, I don’t really know what I’m doing. A lot of things I had been sure about for a long time, I’m not sure about now, that includes things like people groups I’ve been committed to.”
How has that been, being unsure?
“I think the worst of it was at the end of summer (2016), I had just gone through two months of mission trips and volunteer things that I did and coming back, we had a bunch of events with family and City Hope. And I just felt directionless at that point. I didn’t know how to move forward, what I should be looking for, things like that. I had also just resigned at my job, so everything felt up in the air. That was weird.
I think I’m sort of a mess anyway as a person, so a lot of things are just go with the flow but this felt like something different. It’s not that anything’s changed a lot, if anything, going through that made me look at things that I had never considered before… like a brunch place, that was something that was at the far back of my mind. I just want to grow. I want to learn.”
Do you feel like the ways you’re navigating this time have been more intentional or coming out of nowhere?
“I think it’s both. With the whole brunch popup thing I’m going to do, looking into how to build that. Keeping myself busy, not really trying to figure out the answer is another thing.
I just take each day as it is or each hour if that’s what it takes that day.”
So tell me about the brunch thing.
“I’m really excited about it. I’m really scared too. It all grew out of just trying to make different things. I really like the food that I make, so maybe other people will like the food that I make. It’s food that I haven’t really seen anywhere before, so I want to try it out.
I also just want to create a certain type of space for people where people feel like they can live life, take things slow, whether that’s talking with a friend or getting work done or just sleeping or whatever.
I have this three stage plan with the first stage being just figuring out the recipes, if people actually like them, holding fundraising brunches to test them out and doing market research… finding out what market research even is. It’s been an interesting process, but I really like it though because even though this is something I want to pursue right now, I don’t see it being the end of what I’m doing.”
What do you dream for this spot?
“It would be called Lulu.
When I think of a person named Lulu, it’s someone you’ve heard of, you’ve never really interacted with her, and she seems kind of weird, but your friends are like no she’s cool, so you guys hang out and at first you’re apprehensive about hanging out with her but then you get to know her and she’s just as weird as you would imagine but it’s not off-putting.
It makes you feel really comfortable, like you can be yourself. That’s what I want this space to be like. A type of place that they’ve never tried before, or it’s completely new to them, or they didn’t think they would be comfortable with it.”
What do you dream for yourself?
I want to be amazing.
I want to be really good at something. Do it really well, with excellence. And for that to be used for something bigger than me. ”
What do you dream for the world?
“I think about the Acts church and how people were giving of what they had for anyone who had need and it wasn’t forced on anyone, it was just, I see that you need this and I want to give this to you. Everyone was taken care of.
I feel like that’s missing a lot, because people, we, I, feel like I have to look out for myself , because no one else will look out for me but I guess, just selflessness to the point where everyone is still cared for.
It’s not just one person giving one-hundred percent and no one else is taking care of them. Everyone is cared for.”
Mutual generosity, what a dream.
It’s funny that you said earlier that you’re always a mess, because I feel like that about myself, even if people think differently. You say it very endearingly, what do you mean by it?
“The way I think isn’t very linear, it’s all over the place. The connections make sense in my head, but when I say them out loud, they don’t translate the same way. And in my life, it’s kind of of messy. I’m not nasty. laughs. Everything is clean, there’s just stuff everywhere. I leave things where they are. Organized chaos. And a lot of the things that I do and the decisions I make don’t make sense to the people around me.
To me, it’s like Beyonce versus Solange. It’s not that one is better, they’re just really different. Their view of the world, their view of success and how to attain success. One is not bad one is not good, just really different and look really different. That’s how I sometimes feel, a Solange in a Beyonce world.”
How have you found community in all of that? In a Beyonce world?
“I tend to feel lonely a lot of the times, because I’m different from my friend groups in a lot of ways. But I think it goes both ways because I’m really closed off because I automatically assume that people won’t get where I’m coming from and then I don’t give people the chance to do that. Or people assume things about me, then it doesn’t go any further but I think one part of it has been putting that aside and just going for it, regardless of how they might accept me. Or not being afraid to be offended.”
What have you been struggling with lately?
“I’ve struggled with some decisions that I’ve made. When things happen, when I struggle with rent or go travel, that’s when I question turning down certain jobs or taking certain jobs.
Another thing lately has been, I get that God has this plan for humanity, for me, I get that and I know it’s good. I go through seasons where I don’t feel like more than just a pawn in this big plan that He has, like loving someone but not being sure it they actually like you as a person. I struggle with that as well.
That leads to not being sure if I can trust myself, then not being sure if I can trust others. Also, feeling like I don’t know as much as I should know. Feeling really ignorant, in terms of skills or knowledge of what’s going on in the world or even how to interact with people that are different from me. I feel like I lack a lot of those skills, and I want to build them up.
It’s both where, I’m excited to learn and grow from that but at the same time, I feel like I should’ve known all this by now.”
A letter, from Tomi to Tomi:
Hey— I know, you know how much I’m writing and rewriting this in my, your, head. Remember that one time a couple months or weeks ago when you felt the weight of the fact that you are the only you that will ever exist? I was thinking about that a couple days ago and wanted you to remember the importance of that—how freeing it felt, in a weird heavy way.
You are the only you, the only Oluwatominsin Oyinlola Falegan with this family, living in this time/era, with these experiences and talents. Who you are will never, ever be replicated. I felt my heart drop a little reminding you of that…but I don’t want this fact to scare you. I want this to spur you on and remind you that you have purpose: you are black for a reason, Nigerian for a reason, your hair curls the way it does for a reason, you love Clarkston and Cincinnati for a reason——the people that you work, live, play and worship with are so different from you for a reason——even if that reason is just for the beauty of it.
I know you’re trying to balance what it means to love being Tomi and being a follower of Christ without being a robot lol and to be honest I don’t have any real insight of how that looks like, but I think I…I’m pretty sure…somewhere deep inside believe it that He is trustworthy. He says to seek truth and you’ll find it, so keep doing that. I like that you are you…mostly, and I like that I can say that and mean it.
sn: you can’t be everything to everybody, it’s impossible. you’re doing it right now, lol but just stop.
Tomi, you’re full of easy lightness and weighty gravity, both at once. Reality, humanity, and hope. Thank you for all that you are.
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