Why I Matter
I gave up writing.
If this makes no sense, then let me explain myself.
As a teenager, I wrote a lot. I was into poetry. Then I moved to the US and I started college. My rebellion of choice was to get a BA in Writing. Somewhere between writing the early short draft of an epic novel and graduating, I just stopped writing.
I have been thinking a lot about the craft. The discipline It takes. The dedication to the words. Sometimes I get upset when people use words carelessly. It is the writer within me.
My thoughts about writing have increased since I read an opinion piece in the NYTimes about why young people are bad writers. The author of the piece posits that when we tell young people not to use the word “I” in their work, we tell them that their experiences are not valid. So, young writers start to dissociate themselves from the words they write. Yet, we all know the writing that shakes us the most are the ones where the writer has a strong voice. The presence of the writer in their own work gives it meaning. Reading this post made me consider why I matter? Why does the freedom to use the word ‘I’ matter to the craft of writing?
This struck me because one of the reasons I stopped writing was because I did not feel my experience in life was valid. I guess I was always waiting for real life to begin. Graduating college at 20, I felt like a child. Most of the time, I felt displaced because I was just starting to grapple with what it means to not be at home. What an interesting story that would have been? (By the way, I just discovered this girl, on Twitter as Black Migrant Girl, who is talking about her move from Nigeria to Canada! She is doing something I wish I had done. Follow her here!!) I was told not to use the word “I” and that made me feel like my story did not matter. But, I never felt like I saw, or read or heard, other people talking about my particular experience.
Also, I assumed at the time that in order to be a serious writer, I had to write on serious matters. What value are the thoughts of a 20-year-old migrant who has lived a sheltered life? The parts of my life that were interesting were the parts of my life that filled me with shame. The eating disorder, the anxiety, the depression, the isolation, loss of sexuality and sensuality in my college years were things I dared not speak on. Why bring shame to my family by admitting I was faulty? I chose to be like the random hardware we all get at parties in Lagos. You use the thing, you realize it is faulty and you hide it in a closet. I hid my self, my body and my voice away to be forgotten.
I am almost 32 now and I find myself grappling with the same struggles of my 20-year-old self. What part of my life is valid enough to be shared? In the age of social media and oversharing, I sometimes feel like in order to speak I need to be extraordinary. And yet, I find nothing extraordinary about my life. Okay, I lie. I find the parts of my life that are extraordinary are the very parts of my life that I refuse to make public. I am still struggling with how much of myself to share at the moment.
Another part of this dynamic is that we now live in the age of ‘woke’-ness. Everybody seems to have something intelligent to say about everything. Language is now extremely policed. Thoughts are judged. The mass is judge and jury. You better get it right. The thing is I am not sure I am ‘woke’ enough for the current climate. My language is not always correct. I am not necessarily a smart person when it comes to discussing sociopolitical issues. Saying something wrong scares me enough to silence.
Beyond my privacy, I ask myself constantly, “am I not too old to be playing this blogging game?” Recently, I was looking through a bunch of blogs trying to study the way other bloggers do it. It seems people are hiding their ages. “I am a 30-something blogger” seems to be everybody preferred description. Is this so that they don’t have to edit their profile constantly or is hiding our ages is really a thing? I tell myself that the market is saturated. There are enough experts on the things I want to speak about. Why would anyone read what I write when there is a world filled with so many voices out there?
Then I read posts like the one Valerie Eguavoen of@onacurve wrote the other day about how it is important to harness our perspective. Reading this piece was interesting because I basically took a social media sabbatical. I banned myself from posting original content on Instagram and restricted my activity to commenting. I thought about the work women like are her are doing to create more space for People of Color to be heard by creating movements like You Belong Now. Then asked myself why I would want to silent myself in a moment like this.
Instead of being afraid to speak, it was time to try again. It is time for me think of all the things I am passionate about and speak on them.