There was a time I was in Class Six and as the class-cum-social studies teacher was explaining a concept, my eyes ravaged his face and body. He had revolting brown and bloodshot eyes (he was an alcoholic) and his discoloured crooked teeth were begging never to be exposed to the world; he picked the wrong career.
I felt nauseated remembering the rotten smell his mouth exuded every time I had to ask him for permission to relieve myself. His oblong head, supported by his baby giraffe neck, sat on his broad shoulders. He was tall and walked with a peculiar swagger that drew colour from everything around, transforming the world into grayscale, leaving him as the only colorful one, the only Supreme Being (up until he was sacked right after the headmistress got wind of the miraa he stashed in his cupboard in the back-right corner of the class).
I looked around the class and noted how different people looked; round heads, short/non-existent necks, obese, braided hair, pearl white eyes, protruding cheekbones, light-skinned, Herculean muscles, jiggly bottoms, mohawks and bald heads. What did I look like? What did people see when they looked at me? I tried to remember my face but came up with movie stars and celebrities I had watched on TV: Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel, John Cena.
Seriously, what do I look like? I started sweating, feeling like an imposter in a body I did not deserve.
As a child, I had no idea what I looked like. I remember going months without ever looking at my face or the few pictures I ever allowed anyone to take of me. When brushing my teeth, I would only look at my teeth in the mirror, or when combing my hair, I would only concentrate on my hair then leave as soon as it was passable for the public eye. It was painful to look at myself, I would anticipate my reflection piercing into my soul and seeing my brokenness. I never stayed long enough to find out.
When I came to ALA, I could boast that I knew my face so well, I mean it was my phone background picture plus I also spent so much time in the mirror now; looking after my self-image although I have to admit that it only started in junior high school when people started noting how handsome I was growing. But did I really know myself now or just my face and body?
At ALA I still fought this feeling of being a fraudster; I feared that people would find out that I wasn’t being my genuine self and would start laughing at me. I was so insecure and more so, confused because I didn’t even know who my genuine self was. I mean, all my life I had been described as intelligent, Obama, Malcolm X, well-behaved, loving, independent and beautiful (this was donned on me by my mother and Aunt Sylvia). But I had no idea what I called myself apart from repeating what everyone had said to and about me.
I changed masks with everyone I met, searching for approval and affirmation of anything positive about me and seeking to be likable. I couldn’t stand it when anyone showed some level of indifference or dislike towards me. It then became apparent that “not knowing myself” had taken root to be more internal. I couldn’t stand this fraudulent silhouette that shadowed me everywhere I went, even in my dreams, I had no reprieve! As we did the identity series in the first term of year one, I was intoxicated with stirring apprehension to discover myself.
Enough was enough. I acknowledged fears I had never confronted, relived traumatic childhood experiences and embarked on a journey to know myself. Throughout my ALA experience, my greatest expedition has been and is myself. I decided to face myself, look at my personality, my flaws, my strengths, my fears, my allergies, my preference of friends, my accomplishments: my identity. I asked myself a key question: W ho am I mimicking when I am not being myself?
In immersing myself in my passions like hosting events, writing in class and on my blog, and singing in ALApella; taking up leadership positions I was interested in such as being Student Wellness Representative and ALA Church leadership;and even addressing a need within the community through# theLOVEproject, I started glimpsing upon my purpose. Through penning down my core values I identified toxic relationships I had invested too many resources in, and discovered beautiful budding friendships I had dismissed. The greatest person I have gotten to know is myself. It has been and remains painful; that solitary spine-chilling and blood-curdling encounter with myself; alone, in front of a mirror, God showing me my reflection and the areas He alone can heal. I am committed to only initiating and staying in relationships, and taking up opportunities that allow me to be my true self, unapologetically.