Every now and then I reflect on how my life was as I was growing up. I think knowing what I know now and going through some phases in life, there are things If I could I would go back and undo. Also, there are moments I would go back to relive. It is often said that it is never too late to rewrite history. I think my history will always remain as it was and what I can do is live this minute better than the last. Write it differently for the generation after me.
The other day I had an intensive conversation with a friend who grew up under very different circumstances and environment as compared to me. We talked more about our school days back when we were kids. The talk unraveled so many childhood memories I had. Some memories left me dumbfounded. That is when after a long time of procrastinating I decided to finally write this.
My friend couldn’t comprehend some of my childhood stories. Of course that is expected. How I went to boarding school when I was only nine years old. Back then, going to a boarding school was the It thing. It came with some prestigious admiration. Many parents were very proud to have their kids in boarding schools for different reasons. Be it just the association to big school names, or having a certain status in the society, or having the notion that their children would perform better than in a day school or whatsoever reason.
Sadly, what some parents did (and still do) is leave it all to the teachers. They forget how much their children need them most at that time. They forget how to really talk to their kids. Eventually a child conforms to being something incomprehensible. Some of these parents silently wonder where they went wrong.
Personally I always wished to go to a boarding school someday. Mainly to avoid having to wash dishes at home. My dad I guess wanted me to emerge the best in the country with shooting grades, and that is probably one of the reasons why he changed me schools. He definitely had my best interests in his heart.
Well, academically I was not badly off taking into account I was a broken little naive girl. My Primary school leaving certificate stated that I was above average. I shake my head remembering all those little girls in my village who so much wanted to be me and be associated with me. Showering me with unending compliments. What they did not know is the smile that I gave them, that they so much loved and interpreted to be happiness is anyway what got me through hard times and hid my fears and brokenness.
As a child I could not define what a used, broken, lost and scattered soul was. I just lived it in silence. As some of you might already know I lost my mum when I was nine (may her soul continue resting in peace) She was very young. She had not reached 35 years when her body succumbed to cervical cancer (this I came to know when I was teenager). She left behind 4 little boys and myself the only girl then before my step mom blessed us with two beautiful sisters.
So shortly after my moms burial, my elder brother and I were taken to a boarding school in another county far away from home. One year we spent together in one school then got separated and went to different schools in the same county. We only got to go home 3 times a year for long holidays (ca. 3 -4 weeks) and 3 times for midterms (ca. 1 week). My siblings and I rarely saw each other.
My siblings and I were literally separated. It was like after my moms passing we all went different ways. Relatives intervened and each took one of us to their homes. We were too young to have a say and even decide on our future. Anyway what baffles me is no one gave us a chance or time to mourn the loss of our mom. Life just moved on. Death was like a taboo topic to hop on. Dad was such a believer to a point that before mom’s burial he asked us to pray to God to give us our mom back. He said she was only sleeping. He unintentionally gave us false hope. He was definitely in shock and did not know how to cope.
There I was, in a boarding school surrounded by so many other little girls who also carried their own loads. I had not yet come into terms with my reality. I had absolutely no one to guide me. No one to share with. I cried myself to sleep almost every night. Literally praying to at least see the ghost of my mother in my dreams. I kept to myself. I became distrustful. I did not trust myself either. I went through a rough childhood. Ugly things happened to me, things that I would never dare tell anyone because I felt that there was no one by my side to listen.
I have carried a lot of baggage and sickening pain all my life. At some point in my youth I contemplated committing suicide. At that moment I felt so unworthy and had no purpose for my life. I went through hard traumatic events and since I never talked about it or tried to get help just because I was scared, afraid and felt fragile, it just keep piling up and poisoning me. I love my family dearly but not enough to sit down and pour my heart out and share all the baggage. My trusting skills were not nurtured at the right time.
I went abroad and thought I would start all over afresh. Which I somehow did. At times I feel very lonely. There comes in a strain in relationships that were. Distance plays a big roll in this. Friendships are ruined. The monster of expectations grows large on both sides. People back home expect the people in the diaspora to fulfill certain things, and we the diaspora expect people back home to fulfill certain simple things. Our expectations crash and we misunderstand each other. I have a lot to deal with and after a class my lecturer gave, I find myself in a corner crying wishing I could change the past. Wishing I talked more and louder about my problems to someone.
I go back to feeling unworthy and misunderstood. Luckily I have one friend who listens and is there to see me through rough times. I get the courage to talk about my pain and this encourages me to even talk more to my closer friends. My therapist said I should not suppress anything I want to let out inside. Because if I keep doing it, it might get out of hand one day. In simple terms it will be too late to deal with. Learn to work on problems earlier than later. Sometimes we think we are strong to walk about with our problems and we don’t realize how much harm we are doing ourselves. People are committing suicide because of depression, which a great percentage of people don’t know they have. Some of those who know they have it are afraid to be laughed at or branded names or seen differently. If you can not talk about it, write it, sing it, play it, art it, draw it…cry it! Make it conscious and you will see progress like I have seen in myself. Do whatever feels right to alight that boat of pain and sorrow. Ignore social conventions and prejudices. For example, boys should also be given space to show and release their pain. Don’t tell your little boys not to cry because they are men. That is so wrong in so many aspects.
My honest urge to parents and guardians out there is to keep your eyes closer to your children. Form a good healthy relationship with them and talk talk talk to them and listen closely to their needs and problems. Do not break or destroy their trust in you. Mostly how we all turn out to be starts from home.
Also, generally people die everyday. It is inevitable that death will rob us loving and close people around us. Death is part of life and therefor not a taboo. If children are involved in the loss, please don’t say they don’t understand. It is your responsibility to make them understand and help them cope with the loss in a healthy manner. Be there to openly talk about it and answer their questions. If you have no strength to do it please get a close person to help you. I suppose you want your children to be great, so don’t toss them around as if they will always remain kids.