Perhaps, this story would have been written ages ago, or maybe not. The writer was a coward. Her ink was in the color-white, too faint and many struggled to see the lines of poetry she jotted on plain paper. But behind closed doors were the famous whispers that she was an ordinary quitter, yet they led her to complacence and mediocrity with their too frequent ‘you don’t even have an audience’, ‘try it like Biko’ and ‘you are oversharing’. Well, the former is true because no one is born with an audience…they carve it out for themselves as they grow. I am yet to know Biko well, but I am sure as an infant, he grew to create what he liked in the way he liked it. So yes, they were right, I was probably addressing myself through my work and yet we writers want to feel heard, seen and validated. What if you were a beginner like me and you had all that to do for yourself hoping that someday maybe your art would inspire people? Would you quit on yourself? (Most likely, no) Why then would you want me to quit on myself? You are dead crazy…find consolation in that in our own ways, we all are.
Whenever I feel like I cannot stand up to speak, I remind myself of how proficiently I spoke (and maybe I still do) in the language of fear. My mastery in this language is beyond even my own comprehension sometimes. I am going with a friend to a Chinese restaurant in town and the waiter asks for my order half an hour after taking my friend’s order and without the blink of an eye, I tell him I want a duplicate of my friend’s order so that I do not have to mispronounce those Chinese names (as if he would have cared). I am deeply satisfied of a smart response I have formulated to answer my lecturer’s question in class, and he poses it to me (as if he already knows I have it in store) and literally answered, ‘’I don’t know’’. As if not enough, I have been appointed to a great internship position because of my writing prowess and days in, shuddered at the thought of actualizing my dream. The language I am speaking herein is called FEAR.
I have learnt French for years now and yet I speak it like a half-baked intermediate but this new language I learnt the other day called fear, I speak it as if it were coded in my genetics. It was not always like that. My voice used to echo through the eerie silence in church every other Sunday as I performed my very own poetry. I was 12. 10 years later, I even have the guts of mocking that intelligent kid that knew her voice and inspired the masses. Officially, by age 19, I declared myself too grownup to be doing recitals (pausing here to ask, can you imagine?) 3years is so short a period to have watered down all that courage and purpose, you might think, but take a seat and allow me to take you through the detours in my deadbeat journey: It all began with a 2-hour sit-down with a fearful friend navigating through her fears and that was just it.
Fear is the language you learn when you are on Instagram catching up with your favorite celebrities who are ‘making it’ by every visible standard and you think they woke up slaying on the streets of social media. It is also the language that they teach women and girls in their youth to embody submission to their male counterparts in their future deadbeat marriages. Have I also added that this language is easy-to-learn, quite monotonous, if you ask me and kills faster than the elephant in the room? I mean, it is so simple to learn this thing; you just need to be alive.
Now to learn it is not the problem, but to reconceptualize it and make it the entrance and exit of your precious life and more so, your worth in between. It is to take it for breakfast, lunch and supper as if it were some sumptuous meal. Again, it is to live on it as if it paid your bills and breathe it through your nose through to your brain. My friend, when you smell fear from afar, grab your handkerchief and sneeze it out! Do not breathe it in, no. After all, what business do you have with an oxygen machine when you have a solid 100 percent oxygen saturation level? You have all it takes to author that best-selling book and design that beautiful wall art you have always wanted. Now if you do not, the courageous ones will bombard the market with spam while you keep your valuable authentic self till you meet your grave. If that does not scare you, then you are not battling fear, you are probably having some other vice like laziness, maybe? Or a concoction of distraction and indoctrination? I do not know. But here is my rebirth journey. Taking the bull by its horns for me after the wreck of a creative writer I had become meant re-motivating myself through podcasts and other online materials. It meant confronting those false ideologies I had embraced and healing the parts of my brain that had succumbed to social conventionalism. It also meant that I stop seeking validation from anyone in the world and focus on my craft. I will tell you a little secret that I only learnt when I unlearnt the language of fear: they all want you to fear so that you do not taste freedom before they confront their own fears. I am not trying to blame anybody for your fear, no… you should have asked me who ‘they’ are because in fact, ‘they’ are the voices in your head telling you someone is watching. No, no one is watching, we are all busy with our lives. We look as if we are watching but we are all looking for someone to inspire us to keep us going. So, when you think we are watching and you decide to hide, we start scorning you. We are just as mediocre as you are. It is not too late, think again and do what sets your soul on fire without fear. You heard me, now off you go to work!