These are just a bunch of the scattered thoughts I’ve been having today the 10th of May, 2017, a day before my 26th birthday. Was thinking so much for some reason, so I had to write. Sorry in advance for the length, you should know I’m a long person by now, and maybe also for the discomfort some of you might feel about some parts of the content.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m not really big on birthdays. I never really celebrate mine. It took me awhile to get what the fuss was about with people and their birthdays. I hardly ever remembered them, which of course came with its own complications (a pretty good friend of mine refrained from speaking to me for about a year because I consistently forgot her birthday. She’d had enough chale). The only birthdays I ALWAYS remember are the obvious ones: my mother’s, my siblings’ (helps that they are twins, two birds with one stone lol), Awusi’s (one of my very best friends, a constant in my life since I was 15) and well, a special someone I had not too long ago. My late father’s too, for some strange reason.
It’s not that I don’t care about people, that’s not it at all. I just could not get why there had to be such a fuss about getting older, or having come another year in this life, especially in such a shitty world as the one we live. What exactly was there to celebrate? With all the crap that is going on, and just how much more complex life becomes the older you get? Silly I know, but that’s how I felt, and I particularly did not get why forgetting it should be such a big deal. People are busy – yes it’s nice if they remember – but if they don’t it’s not the end of the world is it? Was remembering a birthday (gift-getting, the whole nine yards) the litmus test for ascertaining how much of a priority one was in another’s life? I found that preposterous. I love you every day! The proof of it cannot all of a sudden rest on one day, can it? Of course some friends took this to mean I very intentionally did not commit their birthdays to memory or note them somewhere. It didn’t help that I was a social media recluse either, so Facebook very often couldn’t save me. Suffice it to say, I’ve had problems because of this.
A lot of us remember things by ages, maybe all of us. At least it would appear so, and it seems to be the case for me. It’s very often the age, or the school year I think, which a lot of us then associate with how old we were then. I know I had to wait 21 years to see anything remotely close to the threatenings of a moustache or any noteworthy facial hair for that matter. Nana Kyeremanten had a full blown beard by JSS 2, when we were 13. What I had done to deserve looking like a kid when I was into my 20’s I did not get. It was cute to be called cute when you were 14, not when you were 21. I still look like a kid though, even with the hair. Forken.
I had my first experience with my own semen (I know, sounds disgusting hehe) in Class 5 when I was 10, reading one of the many adult novels belonging to my late father that had been left on the bookshelf/divider in the hall. It always surprised me how those books were just left there, knowing how voracious a reader I was. I was done with the Children’s Classics way before I was supposed to be; wasn’t that warning enough? I can still remember the lesbian scene in that novel, and the heightened sense of wonder and achievement I felt as I watched that strange fluid trickle down little Dick Whittington. I felt like a man! Hilarious.
I went for my first altar call right before I was about to enter JSS at 12. I had smuggled myself into Teens Camp because it was the cool thing to do at the time, and went forward after movie night. I forget what movie was shown, but I remember feeling so terrified of going to hell, and feeling like the ‘there’s one more person who knows they should be here’ call was for me, and that the teacher/pastor (Pastor Appyah if I recall correctly) could see my sin so glaringly through all the people ahead of me. I’ve gone for a few more altar calls and re-dedications since, as I’m sure many reading this also have.
I remember the various but specific times at 8, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 20 when I felt that ‘heavy sadness’ droop over me. I refused to call it depression. How could I be depressed? Nkwasiasem nkoaa.
We often connect memories with the ages we were when we experienced what formed them, we form these strong bonds with people and places and things, and age is important to us because of the marker this serves us. A marker of our fondest memories, of our most significant moments. And memories, I’ve discovered, can save your life.
Humans are so busy doing this complex life thing that we need these types of markers, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and the like, so we can pause a little to reflect, to take stock, to cry, to celebrate with loved ones, and perhaps capture some special sprinkles of a different kind of happiness than we may encounter on the regular. Make intentional memories if you like. As humans we have realized how necessary it is to create our own moments of joy as we live, with the people we love, and celebrating birthdays are some of these deliberately crafted opportunities. It may seem a small thing, but we need these things to help us carry on in this life, and to be happy doing so. Took me a bit, but I understand this now.
I have undergone quite a change since 2012, when I was 21. I lost my virginity that year, in quite interesting circumstances, at the peak of my ‘spiritual prowess.’ I was Prayer Secretary for the campus ministry, and it was quite obvious I was being prepped to be the next President once the Level 400s were done. I was already Vice President back at headquarters. I was one of the shining lights of that batch of church leaders, very respected. Some of you reading know what I’m talking about. You probably also understand the constant pressure to live up to the image I felt people had of me. And then I went and had sex. And continued to have sex. Well well well.
Virginity is everything when you’re crif. Like really crif. Your people try to pretend it is not, but in very crif circles it really truly is. Their reactions alone show. It’s crazy how a person’s intrinsic value in very crif circles is so closely tied to whether or not they’ve had sex. Woe betides you if you’re a woman. And for you the individual, who may not have had the right understanding or spiritual upbringing, you think certain things and certain people beneath you. Inferior to you. Impossible for you. Ridiculous. This was the beginning of my not-going-to-church phase. I had not lived up to my own lofty standards, and the guilt was killing me. Some of you go bab. Later that year I did something pretty terrible and this changed me. Maybe another time for that one. Neither of them is the reason I actually finally decided to stop going to church though, even though they are what kept me out initially.
In 2013 I did a semester abroad in Germany that opened me up to so many experiences. I traveled around the country, visited many important places, and even took a trip to neighbouring Austria, where I fulfilled a dream of attending a classical music concert. It was in Germany that I had to come face to face with things I hadn’t really thought of for myself, like colonialism, my Africanness, homosexuality, race, feminism. I had my first drink there, went to my first pub, then my first club, and for the first time found myself in the company of people who had a completely different worldview to what I’d been brought up with and exposed to. Don’t get me wrong, I thank God for how my mother brought me up and all, thankful for my Christian upbringing. It has served me well in many ways in trying to navigate this life. But there were things that were off limits, certain things I had to just accept, and there’s a certain way this training can condition you to think that is also not healthy. In Germany, I started to question a lot of the things I had previously just accepted as true about life. A lot of the questions would invariably shake up my faith.
When I came back home that year, having turned 22, I was deemed ready to be told something I already sort of knew, or at least suspected, but always denied because of the image I chose to have of him: that my father, who has been dead since 1998, did indeed have other children. Turns out they were with two different women. I resented him deeply for that – I have been my mother’s son and been there for her as far as my walled up emotions will allow, and I could not understand how he could have been so wicked to this woman, who really is the sweetest soul. I resented my father even more when I met one of my newly discovered brothers, and saw how differently his life had turned out from the life my siblings and I had lived. Here I was, newly returned from a semester abroad by virtue of being one of the top students in my department in uni, and here was my brother, 3 years or so younger, who had never gone past Class 3. I hated the man so much for this. I began to hear stories about him, and how he behaved while he was married. They broke me. The image I had of him had been shattered. I resolved never to be like him.
In 2014, ironically, I began what many people describe as a hoe phase. It had become increasingly apparent that the person I loved and I could not be together, and that broke my heart and belief in love. A young man thinking these things and feeling these things can seem funny and so over the top can’t it? But these are all valid feelings, valid experiences. I made the decision after that to just be and just do. After a life of rectitude, of inhibitions, of living up to an image, what was left but to do the cliché thing and rebel against who I’d known myself to be so far? Cliché, but not invalid. I had always been a relationship type guy. Idealistic. A stickler for the ‘proper thing,’ and cockily so. Now here I was. Life can be beans.
In 2014 I got someone pregnant. She lost it. Throughout the whole ordeal, I died. I would die again in the future. I think I started to die proper in 2014. I don’t want to go into this today.
In 2014, I started a YouTube channel and produced and hosted a show, both things I had never done before. I never imagined myself a host, and not just any host, but one who would actually fool around on camera, more because of how people view me and the box in which they’ve placed me than anything else. That experience of doing something I didn’t believe I could do because of what people thought of me did something tremendous to me too. A little life. I’m grateful.
In 2015, VI Music was born. I met Reynolds, met Akotowaa, Adomaa was forming nicely, and dreams took off. More life. Blem! (I don’t know why I put that there lol). In 2015 also, I was dying, for other reasons. Good things were happening, very bad things were happening also, and most of them internally. I cannot write about these yet.
2016 saw the end to the most dysfunctional ‘relationship’/situationship I’ve had. I denied to myself how attached I’d become to this person, and how much this affected me, for many months. 2016 also saw the final confirmation that the person I loved and I were well and truly over. We’d been over since ending of 2013/beginning of 2014, but at various times since then there’d been attempts to see if things could work. 5 years together on and off, 10 years in total as best friends, that leaves a mark. In 2016, the final nail was hammered into a coffin that was already in the ground. That hurt.
In 2016, and pretty soon after turning 25 I decided I needed to grow. I decided to get my act together. I failed. I screwed up again. I died. Not writing about that either. Sucks that the screwing up carried on into 2017. I’m sorry to the people I hurt. Don’t try to start shit with people when you’re so far in your mess. What you need is help, not another relationship. You’ll only hurt them. I hurt these people. I’m truly very sorry, whether it was my intention or not. It’s never my intention anyway, but see all the hurt I’ve caused since I was 15? Intention doesn’t matter as much in these cases.
In 2017 I have decided to be open about my experiences, to be open to myself, to put more stuff out there in every meaning of the word possible, to begin my catharsis. Because I have been dying inside. I have not been living. I’ve been trudging along with a boulder of baggage, of guilt, of pain, regret, anger, of repressed emotion, of questions, of frustration, of confusion, of everything. I have discovered that writing about these things and sending them out there, releasing them, truly heals, if not completely, at least in part. Healing, in its various forms, and to its various degrees, is necessary. A great man once said, ‘None of us is completely broken, none of us is completely healed.’ It’s a pretty ‘there’ kind of statement, not really saying anything at first glance, seemingly only describing a state and not offering much else in terms of moving forward. It’s one of those statements that can be very annoying when you first read it. Like, what koraaa have you said? But if looked at another way it can change SO MUCH. I take solace from the first part, and I’m working on getting my healing.
At 18 I was naïve, had only kissed one girl (and broken up with her because of the guilt of it. Yup, you bab the kind of guy I was), was the epitome of spiritual fervency and a proper example of ‘zeal without knowledge,’ and was your resident childlike dreamer, with visions of doing everything, ready to change the world. Very green, very cheerful, very hopeful. At 26, I have certainly kissed more than one girl, gone through a lot of stuff I never in a million years thought I would, and my perspective on the world is not as naïve. My dreams still exist, but my approach to them has changed. I have changed. A LOT.
One thing I’m certainly not now is as Christian as I was at 18, and I use that in reference to the origins of the word, not my standing with God. Contrary to what my mother believes, I think this has been for me – at least in part – a good thing. There’s almost always a negative to everything, and this is no different. I know that, and I understand her, but there were good parts to me stepping away from that life for as long as I have. It was a life that had gradually become more about what I looked and sounded like to people and if they’d approve, if I could please them, be the man of God I thought they wanted. It was a very flat, not genuine life (and I mostly blame myself for how I construed things). I couldn’t live that life any longer. I really and truly needed to understand why I was doing what I was doing, and who I was doing it for. I needed to properly understand what I had come to believe, and to bravely, without fear or shame, question the things I could not reconcile with some of what I still believed, as well as some of the new things I had come to discover that would ordinarily be off limits.
I think all this is necessary, because in the end, one or the other is true, of there being a God (gods, a spiritual realm, whatever you call it) or not, and if I’m going to believe the former (which I do, the alternative doesn’t work for me), then I need much more than what I’ve been fed for years.
26 years on this planet, living with other humans. Creepy.
I’ve learnt, and am still learning to say “fuck you” to what people think (hyperbolic of course). Especially certain types of people belonging to the kind of background I came from, as well as another type of people who do not belong to this group, and who do not believe what the people from this background believe. Both (speaking broadly still) judge one another venomously, and look down on each other in ways both often deny, placing more importance on how right or how much more sensible their positions are than on loving each other regardless of these positions. I’ve done same, I know what it’s like, and it’s toxic. Now I’m just trying to find my answers to this life little by little, and to be happy. I’m learning not to let what anyone thinks affect me on this journey.
I’ve learnt, and am still learning, what it means to be a man (in general as well as one with the type of life I’ve had), in this very trash world, and how I want none of that. I’ve learnt to not lash out at the generalizations (I detest generalizations in general, I have always thought they do more harm than good) because I’ve moved from “can’t you see I’m not part of that school of thinking? I was raised different!” to accepting that I do have privilege, whether I resent it or not, and rather focus on finding alternative ways of making this world a fairer, better, equal place. I have privilege because of the strata of society into which I was born, I have privilege because I’m Christian/was raised Christian, I have privilege because I’m straight, I have privilege because I’m a man. And once you begin to accept these as the reality on the ground, and not take offence at every single action or reaction from those who are oppressed because of the systems that facilitate these types of privilege you practically by default enjoy, no matter how deeply you oppose them, then you can begin to figure out how you can contribute more effectively to making your world a better, fairer place. I’m still learning how to steer my way through this.
I’ve learnt, and am still learning, to respect people’s pain, and not belittle it because I either did not feel the same in similar circumstances, or have learnt to deal with mine. I’ve discovered in the past year that I actually never learnt to deal with it at all, actually. Look at me now. People’s pain is valid, it’s their pain, not yours, and it takes quite a bit of conceitedness to not acknowledge that. I am ashamed of my old self for being like that. I may not have shown it to people, so not many would know, and a number would think me a ‘good friend’ in their time of need, but I know what was in my head then, and I’m terribly sorry I thought that way.
I’ve learnt, and keep learning, about this world, and how fundamentally crap it is, and how hard life in general can be. I’ve learnt to not impose my subjective experience on people, and force them to view the world through my lens, as I assumed I had the moral right and obligation to in the past. That ain’t right. Sharing is not imposing. We need to know the difference, we need to be more sensitive to these things. Anyone and everyone. I’m learning to do that.
I’ve learnt that I’m the shit, and that I’ve been shit. The former is not arrogance, the latter is not self-deprecation. They are both co-habiting truths that I’ve learnt. I’ve been both wonderful and crap in romantic relationships. I’ve been an amazing friend, and the most terrible when I was most needed. I’ve been an amazing visionary and executor of ideas, I’ve made poor decisions and harmed the start-ups I’ve run. In all this though, I’ve learnt. And that’s the most important thing. You may never be able to change the minds of the people you’ve hurt in the past because of your assholery, and for someone like me that’s been hard to accept, but you can always make sure you do not do the same to the people you have in your life in the present, and those you will meet in the future. Sometimes it’s just what it is.
The biggest key to this life that I’ve discovered so far is truly to let love lead. This is one thing Christianity taught me from a very early age, though the practice of it within the church and towards those outside of it confused me at times as I grew older. Germany taught me to love and value ALL people, to genuinely do so, simply because they are people. Our differences are secondary to the fact that we exist for each other – and to show love despite your beliefs and what you’ve held to be true for years? That’s priceless. I’m also learning to criticize in love, admonish in love, even have love for the people I despise per moment, lol (sometimes there’s just that person in your life at a particular time you simply cannot stand). Learning to love is quite possibly the most difficult thing to do on this planet. For me, faith has helped with this.
Finally (not because this is all I’ve learnt, but because this can go on forever if I don’t stop myself) I’ve learnt that we are always learning, and not to recognize this especially in others, knowing that at a point we also were in the throes of ignorance on possibly the same issue, is extremely sad. I apologize to anyone I was impatient with in the past in matters like this. I needed to learn this for myself to understand what I was doing. There’s so much to learn, possibly even more to unlearn, and we all need a safe space to do that. We also have to be prepared to learn (and unlearn), which is really tough, because these things we have learnt have become largely who we are. But I’m learning to address this, because more than this personal difficulty, is seeing how much more messed up this world is because of what we have seen and what we have been taught. Everyone was born completely innocent, without a single thought, belief or attitude already formed (except Piers Morgan; that man was born annoying), and I’ve discovered that remembering this in my dealings with people, and also with me when it comes to things I hold on to or reject, has helped an awful lot.
I don’t hate my father anymore. No one is perfect. Cliché, but true. I have personal evidence of that that I can’t as at yet bring myself to write about. And I have good memories of him, which are also valid. Despite all his faults, I’d like to believe he was a good man. And there are many things he was that I hope I will be too. I hear about the good things too. I do suspect this father issue (from his death, to growing up without one, to finding out about my siblings) has had more of an effect on me than I know, much less care to admit, and so we’ll see if at 26 I will consider getting a professional opinion on it. I know it has affected my sister in many ways, and I can only assume it has my brother too. Maybe I’ll lead the way.
I apologize for the incoherence of all this. Writing (like this) really doesn’t have to be perfect or follow a certain structure though right? For if art is Life, and Life follows no structure, where’s the Life in that type of structured, rigid writing? (LOL. See me trying to give excuses by passing faux-deep lanes.)
I used to scoff at things like this, taking stock, reflecting on birthdays and New Year’s, or writing about this sort of stuff. Funny how I need to do them now for my own sanity. Someone I respect more than he’s aware always talks about being vulnerable through your art. Is this art? Lol, I dunno, but I’m being vulnerable anyway, and it is bringing me to life again.
It’s a few minutes after midnight on the 11th of May, 2017. I’ve just turned 26. Cool. Rade beat Akotowaa to it by seconds in being the first to wish me at 00:00. It really is cute that they waited for midnight. Rade has sent me a long message that has me even more in my feels (as if writing this was not enough), Akotowaa has just thanked me for existing. Kennetha just sent a VN and is excited for no reason. Lol. I am not too obstinate to realize this: the way I’m feeling, it’s nothing big, it’s tiny, but these are the little things that help us survive, and to be happy while we do so, and I get that now. I’m sorry I didn’t realize this earlier, Akwasi, Sonia, Princess, and all my other good friends whose birthdays I played down when I forgot. It’s not about me, these moments are precious to you, and rightly so.
I’m getting more messages. It means a lot to know you help people make meaning of their existence because you exist. The phrase ‘I need you to survive’ has a double meaning that’s so significant. God bless you guys.
I’m learning to live, I’m learning to love, I’m learning to laugh. I’m learning to cherish memories, to capture them, because they truly can save your life.
Happy Birthday, Kaf.