Tales of a maladjusted adult pt 6

Second quarter.

Sally has graduated (essentially). Sally is employed (conditionally). Sally is still deeply unsatisfied with life.

This whole year I have lived off the kindness of others (being housed and fed by them) and I’ve been confronted with  my own sense of pride, the shame I feel when asking for help and the relief and eternal gratitude that comes once I have accepted it. I’ve been lucky to  be surrounded by friends and family who make it clear that it’s ok to need to depend on others every once in a while. I’m the only one who seems to have a problem with it. I hate having plans that only seem to be coming into fruition in some nebulous future. I hate believing that I am more than what I manifest now. I have faith that everything good I am weaving for myself and others will come to pass (bar madness, severe illness or death), but I want to shine as blindingly as that imagined future me in the present.

Oh well, for now Sally has graduated (essentially), Sally is employed (conditionally), and Sally will be working on her deep dissatisfaction with life.

Countdown

It was almost dawn, that precarious hour when night and day still lived together. The moon, a half disc, still stood bright though filtered by the morning fog. The sun had not yet risen, it was only announcing itself with a pink hue that meshed into the tired blue sky on the horizon. Slowly the world was waking up, a symphony of chirping birds and murmuring engines.

She however had not slept.

Her clothes were neatly folded, books shelved alphabetically, tables dusted, floors swept and moped. She absentmindedly examined her work from her bed. She tended to turn to cleaning when all her other distractions had failed her. Who she was cleaning up for, she could never tell. The last words of her Skype call still echoed in the air till they were like a shattered plate on the floor she was trying to put back together. “It’s all in your mind.” As if that in itself wasn’t a problem. She could not understand this obsession with separating the mind and the body, as if either could survive (or thrive)  without the other. Did thoughts not shape actions and words? Did all that has come to be not begin as a single idea, germinating slowly in the confines of someone’s mind? This divide made no sense to her.

The sun’s early rays pushed through her window. Though  her blinds were always down, light somehow managed to invite itself in like those aunties whose one week visits from the village always seemed to morph into month long stay-cations. Jagged beams slowly bathed her white walls with a pale orange hue. She sat still, her body waiting for a silent command, direction, purpose.

Shower.

Mechanically, she peeled herself off her sheets. “It’s all in your mind.” The words returned with one last whimper before dissolving into the atmosphere. She couldn’t linger on them any longer, her day had only just begun. Her sleep clothes found their way into the laundry basket and she made for the shower. Water streamed down her back as she turned both nobs. She could never get the temperature right. It either scalded her or drenched her in a frozen rain that made her wonder what she had done to deserve such evils. Today she managed a lukewarm flow – it would have to do. She could feel herself coming back to life – at least she’d start the day recharged. After dressing up (the same pair of sweatpants and T-shirt she wore almost everyday despite a full closet) she quickly had breakfast (if it could be called that – a handful of muesli and a gulp of milk) and headed for the streets.

It had already started raining by the time she reached the bus shelter. Looking through the glass she prayed for the bus’ electric blue lights. None were in sight. What a pity she thought as she watched raindrops fall on the glass wall. One would slide down the wall, quickly at first, then, slowly it would lose pace. Sometimes it happened to veer near another droplet, stationary on the glass. They would merge and suddenly travel faster, meeting new droplets till they were racing down the end of the wall and then… She didn’t like to think of where they ended. She just loved to watch them as they fell.

I don’t want to get old.

She quickly pushed the thought to the back of her mind in a crevasse filled with a darkness that had already crystallized under the weight of other such thoughts. One day it would resurface, clad in armour leading the other inhabitants out of the shadows. She would deal with that when the time came she told herself. Today, however, was not that day.

She lit a cigarette, a beacon for the bus, and was happy she was alone. She didn’t have time for an over sabi Aunty’s unwarranted concern for the health of her lungs and marriageability. A sense of shame always crept over her every time she encountered them when smoking. She kept puffing it in quiet defiance though, knowing full well that if said Aunty knew her and her family, her cigarette would find the bottom of her shoe before the woman took her next step. She found ways to cover her indiscretions (or so she thought), always fully loaded with gum and scented lotion and oh so frequent bathroom trips to wash off the evidence. The looming spectre of the older woman always plays tug of war with her freshly lit cigarette. The latter was still winning for now. The bus finally arrived in the middle of her reverie. She put out the half cigarette (the beacon had yet to fail her) and took up a seat at the back of the bus.

The Nils Frahm soundtracking her journey through her earphones added an ethereal quality to the day’s air. Circling. The song was apt. It was as if she’d reliving the same day for weeks. Nothing seemed to change but the weather which was getting fouler by the day. These public transport trips were the only highlights. She could be alone with others, a favourite paradox of hers. She’d pick a random number and find her way to the bus that carried it, looking for nothing in particular, just a break from the ordinary. Movement without responsibility, no direction in mind, a pointless change. On today’s agenda: 132. Her bus pulled into the subway station and she made her way to her platform.

She stared at the overhead screen. Your train arrives in two minutes. Somewhere in the depths of her mind a timer began to count down. The ridged separations on the platform were meant to serve as a warning but today they seemed like her very own yellow brick road. She slowly etched closer, careful not to raise any alarm. This wasn’t a spectacle. The whole station vibrated as she heard the train coming in. Soon enough she saw the lights. Her countdown was coming to a close. Five. Four. Three. Two. As she stepped over the yellow line she thought, perhaps this too is all in my mind.

One.

Every now and then the internet amazes me, not what is on it necessary (although a big factor) but what it represents. We the plebs are recording history and our everyday in an unprecedented way and it is glorious.

As long as these records are preserved leaders won’t be able to lie (as easily) about our times and whitewash events to suit their narratives like their pre-web predecessors. Digital archeologists of the future will have a field day with the troves of data we’ll leave for them to sift through.

People studying our time won’t have to speculate on how the common folk responded to events, how we lived our lives. We’ve aired it all, good and bad. We have more control over our truths and our lies. It’ll definitely make for interesting history classes in 2198.

 

 

Tales of a maladjusted adult pt 5

I haven’t been able to put anything down on paper for a good minute. Some people suffer from writer’s block – I wish that was my issue. I have acute writer’s schizophrenia. Spare sentences and loose thoughts have been running amok in the mind. I’m permanently tuned in to every station and quite frankly it’s been overwhelming. 

I’ve spent the last few months in the throws of deep self restructuring. Neither the first or last time this has or will happen, but the nature of this crisis was particular. It wasn’t the standard “you can do better” affair. I spend so much time criticizing myself I forget that there are things I’m good at. I focus on one flaw with such intensity the rest of me melts away. I have isolated myself, forbidden myself any close ties and all for what? To stay safe, to not have to deal with the reflections of the parts of me I think are ugly.

Alone.

I don’t fear my own company, I quite like it actually but in the midst of life and all it entails I had forgotten how to live with me. I didn’t take care of me. I’ve finally forced myself to look at all of it. To admit that I secretly resent my abilities, my thoughts, constantly preoccupy myself with how what I am will be received. My own success terrifies me. I’m afraid of responsibility even though I keep finding myself in positions that require just that, afraid that someone will actually listen to me, think I have “the answers” and turn to me for direction – I don’t know where the hell I’m going. This is all unchartered territory.

I was unable to fully open up to those closest to me as if I was impossible to love, unworthy of it really. I was too ashamed to ask for help from those I fully knew would draw blood for me. I refused to admit that I was in pain. I might get to a point where I am as strong as I want to be but I’ve let myself ebb and flow so aimlessly through the currents of life that I’m grabbing on to this raft for dear life. It’s like shedding old skin, cleansed through fire and baptized by water. I have accepted what I refused to look at and turns out I’m in love with it, with what it isn’t, with what it can be. I welcome the struggle, the occasion existential loneliness, but I will not dwell on the downsides of truly allowing myself to live, feeling like I have a right to exist in my entirety, a right to take up space, to shine. Because why not me?

I love not lying about who I am, what I love, the weight I shoulder. I can’t pretend not to be who I am whether I think I deserve to be or not. I can only accept all that will inevitably come from developing this self. If there is something to be said why not through my mouth? If there is something to be done why not by my hands? I’ve finally re-allowed myself to be in the company of others, reconnected myself with the intensity of feeling I once feared. I do want to give but people take too much. I had to insulate myself and find me, recenter my own desires, my own wants, my own goals, completely separate from any expectation. Let my cup overflow.

It’s frustrating to wear a mask. I wore it for so long I never bothered to find out who was behind it. As long as everything looked fine on the outside I just kept on moving. Sporadic achievements, loving friends and family, all of whom I kept at arm’s length selectively revealing parts of myself under duress. Never too much, always enough to keep up appearances. I lost myself in years of ‘I’m OK’ and ‘everything is alright’. It wasn’t. I wasn’t. I was always afraid. Of saying the wrong thing, of pushing the wrong buttons, of being rejected. I’m not as carefree as I would love to pretend I am. I can hide from the world but I can’t hide from me. I broke the mask and I can’t put it back together and frankly I don’t care to. For better or for worse I’m stuck in this meat suit and I do love it, all that it entails. I’m a mess and I’m proud. I take risks, I push myself to the extreme, I fall on my ass, but I do good.

I do good.

Hair Freedom: The evolution of the Natural Hair Revolution, A Black British Perspective.

4C or 3B. Co-washing or the LOC method. These terms may sound like technobabble but have made their way into black women’s zeitgeist around the world following what has been coined as the ‘Natural Hair Revolution.’ Political for some, personal for others – and both for many more – around the world, more and more women of African descent are beginning to find ways to appreciate, celebrate and educate themselves further on their natural hair textures, or, at the very least, are becoming more and more aware of their styling choices and the motivations – conscious or subconscious – behind them.

Hair Freedom, a 10-minute documentary by English filmmaker Zindzi Rocque Drayton joins a growing family of films that explore the dynamics of this movement.

It was interesting to see the black British perspective as North Americans have been dominating this discussion so far. The movement seems to be gaining more traction in our diasporic communities than on our continent ironically; I hope in the future we get more in depth analysis of the various socio-economic and geo-political factors that account for this disparity.

Solidly nuanced, the documentary takes the form of candid Q&A sessions amongst various individuals, to address issues ranging from terminology to identity politics. It showcases different black women of all shades with various hair textures, styles and lengths, an effective choice in my opinion considering the diversity we have in our community.

A recurring thread in the documentary was the evolution of this revolution. As it is somewhat a resurgence of the Black Power movement in the 70s, it is interesting to see the discussion moving past the reactionary stage into normalization. This does not mean that the celebration of our blackness is ill placed – our cultures have been denigrated then co-opted hence the necessity for us to reaffirm ourselves not out of superiority but to regain the humanity and dignity that has been denied to us for so long. I for one cannot wait till our hair is just hair, unqualified and not an extension of some mystical negro womaness.

Originally published on Dynamic Africa

On moving back: a few things to consider as a returnee

We are finally getting to the age where we have more control over where we decide to root ourselves. I am personally part of those who can see no better option for me but to move back to my continent. This was always going to be the case but I really had to decide for myself why I wanted to move back and what role I would or could have in the society I’d be reintegrating myself into. Returnee dynamics have already been covered on this blog, consider this my own pinch of salt. Recently I’ve gotten myself acquainted with two francophone intellectuals, Fatou Diome and Jean-Paul Pougala, both of whom have raised interesting questions on our function as part of the african diaspora and as returnees. Here’s a brief overview of what I have digested:

Get over returnee superiority

Let’s get one thing straight: our “sophistication” and degrees from abroad don’t make us better than those left behind for lack of a better expression. This is something that the african bourgeoisie really needs to start working on. Can’t be feeling like hot shit because massah has allowed you to play in his court now. We should also remember that we in the diaspora make up a stark minority of our populations. We may have had the chance to be exposed to more but a degree is just certification(by western standards might I add). In all honesty it’s not proof that I’m intelligent, skilled or anything – why are we acting as if people don’t pay or sleep their way to degrees? All I’m saying is that those of us who come from abroad have been “given” the chance to step out of our usual subaltern position – we can now operate within the dominant hegemonic system (I do believe our long term goal should be to eradicate said hegemony but that’s a conversation for another day) and we have the opportunity to speak on the behalf of our own, but if we too have been indoctrinated into believing that West is best, we won’t be able to. We should value the wealth of knowledge that is back home and not look down on our own like our western counterparts.

Killing the image of the El Dorado “abroad”

There’s this pervasive narrative of abroad as the land of opportunity. The media and television won’t show the whole story. Some of us have the benefit of coming from families of means so being sent abroad is a relatively simple process. The communities that we are being accepted into look upon us more favourably because our parents’ bank statements say we’ll “contribute” to that society. Now no one tells those at home how hard it is to set up with no certification (even the one you have they will make you upgrade –and that’s another insulting issue on its own), no money, with barely any chance at upwards mobility. Yet somehow boats and planes are filling up and people are risking their lives and pooling obscene amounts of money for a pipe dream (I’m only referring to economic migrants here – war refugees, though migrants, aren’t exactly choosing to leave*little amendment: 2016 me recognizes how short-sighted this statement is*). How will someone whose population is aging and whose birthrate is falling tell you that you’re leaving one struggle for air-conditioned struggle when they need you and your children to sustain their economy? Instead we sell this dream of A Land of Milk and Honey. Kill that shit ASAP. I’m not deluding myself that our countries are perfect but if I’m going to hustle, let it not be somewhere where I’ll be paying for my own oppression.

Formalizing remittance & co-operative investments

Nigeria’s $21bn remmitance may sound impressive but when you consider that the bulk of that money is sent to the uncle Bonifaces’ of the continent to be building half a house in the village for 10 years there’s a problem. Just like GDP, that big number means nothing if it’s not used to create infrastructure. If you don’t move back at least try to ensure that the money you’re sending back is actually making difference. Consider this scenario (forgive the oversimplification): there’s a strong river that goes across your village. Alone you can’t do much, but bring together a group of like-minded individuals, work with the local government (who hopefully will be able to finance projects with the help of a pooled remittance fund) to build a dam that will not only supply the village’s electrical needs but where you can sell extra power you generate. Now this isn’t the easiest project to undertake but when you at least table the first 2 issues raised here, you can start to lay the ground work for such endeavours.

If you’re planning on moving back, make sure that at the back of your mind you intend to translate everything you learn and can apply into the African context vs copy and pasting something you saw in the country in which you furthered your education. Different environments require different theory application – the knowledge you gain from your education is not one size fits all. If you come barging in like you have all the answers be sure to meet antagonism. No one is calling your abroad knowledge useless but your advance grasp of precipitation in the northern hemisphere doesn’t mean jack shit for someone who has to deal with harmattan.

On a final side note, our value can’t be limited to the commercialization of our culture, how palatable we can make it for others – we can’t be reducing our rich heritage to Ankara flavoured everything. The main consumer of African goods and services is going to be the African, let’s make sure that whatever we bring to the table reflects that.

Originally published on The Naked Convos.

I have had to call many places home over the years. As a result I have thought a lot about what that word means. Home: a place where you feel welcomed. All that I am, I want to be able to be freely in the places that I call home. They are scattered around the world but I am ever so grateful that I have them.