It is 1:22 AM.
I am awake clearly because I am writing this.
My mind is running a million miles an hour thinking about all things. Read more
It is 1:22 AM.
I am awake clearly because I am writing this.
My mind is running a million miles an hour thinking about all things. Read more
My love of Simi’s music goes way back a few years. I remember posting up one of her songs on one of my old blogs. There is just something about her voice that I have always found rather refreshing. I am a bit of a late comer to her album. Don’t blame me! I am just discovering how to listen to Naija music while living in Boston. I don’t have a lot of Nigerians around me so I actively have to find ways to stay engaged.
Anyway, this album is amazing. I was in Nigeria and everywhere I went, Simi’s Joromi was on play. That song is pretty cool. But my fave at the moment is Aimasiko. It is almost a gospel song but it just speaks to having hope and faith in God. The whole album is highly listenable (if that is a word). There is something about songs like HipHopHurray that sticks with you once you have listened once.
If you are looking to discovering more of Simi’s music, can I recommend that you listen to her collaborations with Falz. Those songs straddle a fine line between comedy and romance. I find that Simi has a way of picking her work that I love. I have yet to find a bad song from her.
Death is not something I engage with on the regular. I have been lucky in my lifetime not to have had too many traumatic losses. The only nod to my mortality has been my choice to live my life fully and strive for happiness.
I guess 2017 did not get the memo on my life motto. This second half of 2017 has made me think of my mortality in ways that are real. At this point, I am grateful to still be living. Still, I find myself not thinking about death but thinking about life, despite my recent forced acknowledgment of my own mortality. I find that as I start to regain my health, I am more interested in ways to live fully. How do I recover from what has been a traumatic health scare and affirm my life with my choices? How do I live with grace?
I have been laying low for over a week now. I am not allowed to do anything major at the moment. In some of my low moments being an invalid, I questioned how I could be strong in one moment and unable to lift my bags in the next. I have cried at the vulnerability required to say I need help.
The one thing that has been amazing about this trauma has been discovering how much love have in my life. It is in the moments when I am talking to my parents and they are both concerned but so gentle. In that moment, I am no longer 31. I am their child. It is negotiating with my older sister if I can go out for an hour or two. My independence be damned, I am her little sister. It is in my friends creating a cozy corner in their home so that I can nap while visiting. It is in my best friend being emotional the first day I sounded like myself in a long time.
Things have been scary for me. Things will be scary for me. But none of that matters because I recognize that if I can keep my life filled with love, joy and laughter, it will get better. I’ll always have my family and friends to carry me through, near or far.
As I get through this moment, I have come to understand that I needed this trauma. I needed it to remind me to live. To not take time for granted. To do the things that I am scared of. It was a reminder that I am not alive forever. I need to not regret the things I haven’t done. I need to do more. I need to be fearless. I need to truly chase the impossible.
I woke up this morning…Actually, it is more like I barely slept into the morning. I was a jumble of nerves. I was feeling anxious. I knew that I had to listen carefully to my body in that moment because it could be the difference between being anxious for a day and being depressed for months.
My body said, “I need yoga.”
So I cued up Yoga With Adrienne on Youtube and got on the mat. We started slowly in a seated pose. Then we did the breathing exercise that opened up my world. I felt calm. Then we moved into cat pose…then we moved. And as we moved into each pose and I got to connect with my body, I understood what was happening. My body was demanding attention. I cried a bit on the mat but I felt better for that moment with myself in a dark room.
I texted my friend and said, “I have abandoned my body. I don’t look at it in the mirror. I struggle to feed it. Even clothing it is a struggle. I need to make peace with my body.”
This epiphany reminds of reading Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle. A major theme is reuniting the self. The self is divided into the mind, body, and soul. She feeds her mind and her soul. She is disconnected from her body. In a lot of ways, I connect to this idea/situation. I have always been an avid reader. I take great pride in developing my mind. I am invested in my soul. My faith is a big part of my identity. My body and I though are not connected. I never felt like I looked how I felt. I often don’t feel like I look smart or accomplished or presentable. I often want to hide in public because I just like my body does not belong.
I have lived most of life at this point with a disordered eating behavior. I love the idea of cooking food more than the idea of eating it. When I do, I have to battle the shame I feel about feeding myself. It has gotten easier over the years because even when I don’t love eating, I focus on the functional aspects of it. I just do it.
I go through cycles of taking care of myself. There are times when I exercise consistently. In those moments, I usually feel connected to my body. I look at my body more. I understand how it works. I take pride in beautifying myself. I feel a sense of grounding by engaging with my physical self.
At the moment, I am a year into a very sedentary phase. I have ignored my physicality. It is not just in the working out. It is in the way I refuse to care for my hair or my skin. It is in the lack of exercise. It is the lack of attention to what I eat. In many ways, I let my body go because I needed to focus on my mental health. Now that I am at a place where my mental health is stronger and I can say that happiness is a regular state of mind, I need to focus on my body.
I don’t need to diet like I have been tempted to in the last month or so. I know after 18 years in this battle of disordered eating that I do not do well with structure around my eating. I need to go back to creating nutrituous food and celebrating the art of eating.
I need to physically challenge my body. At the moment, I am inclined to focus on walking and yoga as means to do that.
I need to look at my face and body. I have been wearing more make-up of late. I have also been taking selfies. There is a part of me that feels narcissistic for taking pictures of myself. However, I recognize that in looking at myself and not cowering away from my own image, I am accepting that I am worthy and beautiful just as I am.
I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I do know that today, I started a new journey in understanding my relationship to my body.
And the psychic said to me, “would you like me to do a reading?”
And I said, “no, thank you. I’ll take my chances with life, come what may.”
And the thing is, I meant. I meant it because there is a certain level of grace that resides within me this day. I have come to accept that I am strong enough for what is coming. I can do the good days and the not so good days. I know I can because I have done it, I am doing it, and I can do it.
Faith is a big part of my story. I am not a vocal Muslim, nor am I the best Muslim. I struggle with my prayers. I wrestle with the contradiction between my faith and my personal beliefs. I ask for forgiveness, as often as I can. The thing though is that even with all of the questions, my faith is my solace.
I use to wear an inscription of Suratul Kursi on my neck. It was a gift from my mother. I wore it until the chain got tangled and I lost it. That pendant was one of my most treasured possessions for a while. In a pinch, I would clutch it like a Catholic clutches their rosaries. And the presence of Allah gave me calmness.
Sometimes it is hard to talk about my faith. Being a Muslim in America is like suffering from whiplash regularly. There are days when you can talk about your faith because society is generally accepting. There are times of high sensitivity when I personally fear to talk about Islam and how that guides my life. One of the things I miss about living in Nigeria is the sense of community that comes with going to the mosques and going to for Jummah prayers on Friday. When I used to live in Manchester in the UK, this wasn’t a struggle.
The Manchester, especially the Rusholme area where I lived, has a vibrant Southeast Asia and Muslim community. During the months of Ramadan, it was like a month long festival. Stores would stay open late so the Iftar would be a grand affair. The streets would be alive with young adults coming alive with energy after a long day of fasting. Walking down the street felt safe because I saw kindred spirits. I even had a Muslim society that I attended on Sunday, without parental prompting, for a sense of belonging.
I miss that feeling of belonging very often. One of my hopes that as I live longer in Boston, I’ll be able to find a community built on Islam that I feel comfortable within.
I saw you walking down the streets. At first, I saw just you. You walked with the gait of a man’s man. One leg askew as the other bent. You had on that tan cargo pants with the long sleeves black sweater. And in your right hand, you clutched a bunch of stems. From my position behind you, all I saw where the rough stems. All different shades of green and sizes. They look like they had been cut from the someone’s garden. Those certainly did not have the mark of a florist’s blade.
The traffic moved enough for me to be able to look back on you. You took my breathe away. For in your hands were the most beautiful collection of wildflowers. They were haphazard in a way that my words can’t capture. You had flowers with fluffy green clusters and some with purple tips. There was that deep purple foliage that added a touch of color. And there were yellow blooms. All in your hand that looked like it hard been textured by hard physical work. I looked at you again. Then, I thought your gait was actually the springiness of a man hurrying to a lover. I could see you smiling at people who you knew but never stopping. You sloppily tucked in the hem of your pants at some point.
Eventually, I lost you in my rearview mirror. I lost you and the picture perfection of a man holding wildflowers. You are what I imagine my love would be one day. A man hurrying home to me with flowers.
Dear 20-year-old Sinmi,
This is the 30-year-old Sinmi writing to you. I just wanted to say thank you for the life you set in motion for us.
Today makes it ten years since you graduated from UCSD. I remember how excited you were to be done. The emotional call to mom as you walked out of the literary philosophy finals and realized you were done. I still remember the ceremony. You were sitting between mom and dad in the sweltering San Diego summer heat excited. Dad spotted a friend that he had seen in years. Mom kept telling you to listen to the commencement speech delivered by James Avery. I remember dad bending over so that you write out your name on the announcement slip on his back. The dinner at PF Chang’s, the extended stay with mom and Damola as well as the limo that picked aunty up. The excitement of having an apartment for the first time.
When all of that excitement was over, I also remember how much fear you had about going into the world without a grown up job. I think what I am most proud of are the many leaps of fate you took. Do you remember quitting your library job because you believed something would come through? Could you have imagined how working in Macy’s would change your life?
Thank you for setting the tone of my current life. Thank you for fighting for a life filled with meaning and passion. Thank you for not settling. You could have gone to law school. Instead, you realized that wasn’t you, and you chose England. You chose a life filled with adventure and uncertainty. You chose excitement. You chose risk. There are days when I wonder what life would have been if you actually went for the LSAT exam. Ten years later though, I realize that the one small act of defiance still gives me the courage to make the tough choices.
I should also let you know that life gets better when you get older. I am not as lonely as you used to be. I have gotten better at I discovered I was an introvert and I no longer question why I feel strange around people. I have friends that I hold dear. I live in Boston now and deal with the snow every year.
My biggest discovery in ten years is that I would never have all the answers. I have learned to live in the moment. I have learned to prioritize happiness. I am learning how to take care of my mental health. I am learning that my passion lies with people, not things. I am making space for my creative life.
I have recently gotten into watching this series by the Nigerian director Kemi Adetiba called “King Woman.” “King Woman” is an interview series that feature prominent Nigerian women talking about their lives. It is fascinating to watch because I am Nigerian. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know how to be a Nigerian woman. It is that conflict that I have in my identity as both Nigerian and American. It has been interesting to realize that there is no such thing as a Nigerian woman. Everybody is making it up as they go along.
I introduced one of my friends to it, and now we talk about each episode in depth. A couple of weeks ago, we started talking about the idea of women owning their stories. One common thread in the interviews has been this idea that a part of the women’s stories was not theirs to tell. It is most evident in that moment when TY Bello, one of the interviewees, pauses before she talks about her sexual assault. She told Ms. Adetiba that she would share the story on the condition that if her husband objects, the footage would not be aired.
I am glad her husband approved because the way she talks about sexual assault as a Nigerian woman is one that is universal, powerful and necessary. Although I don’t agree with the idea that anyone should own any part of a woman’s story, I understand that moment. In watching that moment, I realized that there are parts of my own story that I don’t tell. It is one of the reasons why I have a hard time writing. Blogging, for me, is based a lot on my experiences and my thoughts. My inability to be entirely honest about my life has been a roadblock. I am always afraid of saying too much and embarrassing my family. In many ways, my voice is has been locked down by my shame.
Shame is a central part of my story. It is the weight I carry with me. Shame is also a figure that I am starting to confront head on. I have no reason to be ashamed. There are have been challenges in my life, mostly mental health related, that I am have been nervous to speak about openly. However, I am starting to realize that my power lies in talking about those things that scare me the most. By adding my voice to the chorus speaking about what it means to be a woman, I can help stop some of the stigmas that come with mental health related issues like depression and eating disorders.
So I am taking ownership of my story and promising to talk more honestly about what it means to live with depression and anxiety. I want to talk about my best days and my not-so-good days. I want to be vocal about what makes me happy and be honest about the things that scare me.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I am starting to grasp what it means to be happy. I am finding that happiness, for me, lies in doing things, even imperfectly.
There is the age old question that happens when you put adults in a room. That question is, “What do you do?”
“What do I do? I am a student.”
“Oh really! What are you studying?”
“I am trying to get into nursing.”
“So good of you to be going back to school.”
“Ha, yes, but the thing is…”
Then I explain how even though I am back in school, I have been in school. I have done school, and I have done it well. Sometimes I need to emphasize that because people become condescending.
Nothing makes me more afraid than being read like a stereotypical black woman. You know the black woman of many a racist imagination; young single mother, uneducated, poor and struggling.
The fact is I am none of those things, except single. I am old, not a mother, definitely educated, earning a living and thriving. I am nobody’s cliche. But as you learn when you have lived in America long enough as a Black woman, nobody gives you the chance to define your existence. Your being is defined for you. Sometimes, when you realize that your autonomy is being taken away, you become defensive.
The thing about going back to school for me is that for the first time in a long time, I feel like I am walking a path to somewhere I want to be . I am not doing it for anybody’s acceptance or to prove that I am intelligent. I am doing it to fulfill my own needs. I am finding every day that because I have nothing to lose, I am enjoying being a student.
Back in that room where I am being maligned for being a student, I have learned to relax and let people make a fool out of themselves. If I am feeling particularly mean, I start talking about my background. On the days that I feel kind, I smile. I have nothing to prove.
There is a story I like to tell about my college years. It is the story of me almost failing Latin as a junior in college. It starts with me studying hard and doing everything I can possibly do to rescue my grade. It ends with me getting a C- in Latin. A C- is the lowest possible grade I could have gotten to pass that class. I am convinced that grade was awarded to me at the discretion of the instructor who saw how hard I worked and wanted to spare me the heartache of having to retake the class.
I have never believed that I am academically gifted. Maybe it comes from a childhood when I often felt like I was struggling to grasp concepts. Through Junior Secondary School at Queen’s College to Senior Secondary School at STEE Academy, I felt like I sometimes just could not get things the way others did. The only thing that was different was that I learned early on that I could not depend on learning everything in class, so I learned to study and how to study.
Developing a mastery of my own learning needs has not saved me from the heartache of bad grades. I think sometimes that is what makes getting a bad grade heartbreaking for me. I feel like I do the best I could absolutely do and sometimes it still goes south. As a 30-year-old student, though, I am learning not to let my school life become the center of my life.
When I first returned to school over the summer, I disappeared. Friends told me that I was gone and it was clear that I was stressed out. Maybe I can justify my imbalance with the excuse that accelerated classes have a way of sucking the life out of you. Maybe it is a good thing it happened because now I am staying away from anything that says accelerated.
In this second phase of my academic life, I am learning that the mastery of self is the beginning of happiness. By tapping into what makes me happy, I am able to create a life that balances my academic goals with my social and personal life. Some days when it all comes together, there is a bliss I feel in knowing that I am doing it all and I am doing it as best as I can.