I first started to write seriously when I was about ten years old. I wasn’t particularly sure what I was doing but I knew that it was important, and that I wanted to be doing it, in some way, shape or form for the rest of my life.
In my teenage years, writing has been the way I’ve expelled the angst, shame, and loneliness that comes with growing up. Loneliness because I am discovering that I am a person, a real one, alone in my body with secrets, memories and longings at depths that could never be reached by another person. My writing has therefore been largely melancholic; my sources of inspiration, consistent.
A major one: when I was nine years old, my family’s 2–week vacation from Nigeria turned into an indefinite move.
In a journal entry : I reflect, how was home taken, so unceremoniously, away from me?
In an autobiographical essay : home is a bird that flew out of the window while I was sound asleep. Will it ever come back? Will I ever find another home that feels as true? Will I? Who knows? Who ever knows anything in this life?
In several poems: I’m sinking into nostalgia. The past is an ever-expanding balloon behind me, the waves of the ocean crawling in and taking, taking, taking as I move further from my (now exceptionally idealized) home country. What is this tightening in my chest? How much longer will it last?
Why doesn’t moving also mean moving on?
And so on, and so forth.
So yes. I have now come to expect that if I’m ever to find myself at a sore, painful place in life, that if I ever am to pause and find my feet too blistered for the journey ahead, that I would sit, pull out my journal and write anything.
In reality, have I stopped? Yes. Have I pulled out journals, notepads, the unjudgmental notes application on my phone? Yes, yes, yes.
And yet I have found that I have no words for the most emotionally tasking moments of my life.
The truth is, I haven’t had words for the happiest moments either, but this has been a conscious decision that I have made not to whittle down with my words, the things and people that make me giddy. I don’t want to touch happiness, feel it for lumps and metaphors. I merely want to notice that I’ve grown lighter, and laugh, leap, untie my bun so that my afro sits awkwardly on my head. It’s the same way I don’t write about the bowl of chipotle in front of me, in case it grows stale by the time I’m done. I dig in.
Since January last year, I’ve been experiencing the hardest several months of my life. I’ve battled with depression, anxiety, despair and the unique strain of thoughts and ideations that come with. I took months off all social media because I couldn’t stand the noise and the burden of being even in a virtual crowd.
Therapy, remembering the love of Christ for me, taking time off and resting have put me in a much healthier place now, but I still feel bruised.
I’ve tried to write about all this. About taking a break from the world only to realize that you’re craving a break from yourself too, about the constiction of fear, about feeling like everything is falling apart at once; but I’ve hit a hard wall every time.
Pain leaves me bare, without even the covering of words to ease the ache.
In a lesson removed from my personal distresses, one of my college professors offered that trauma happens in a place before words. It is inchoate, unhinged and unhinging. Language, she asserted, can only “vaguely gesture toward trauma.”
When you are at the rim of yourself, full of some dense thing that audaciously takes you, do you sit to write?
The answer for me, is no. No I don’t.
And yet, not writing is like that nightmare where you open your mouth to scream and no words come out. It’s like the dream where you’re sure you’re awake but you can’t will any muscle to move.
All this to say that I am angry at the words. The way they fail me. You are there for nostalgia but not this?
In her poetry book, “Bone”, Yrsa Daley-Ward writes “you will come away bruised/ but this will give you poetry”. Maybe. Maybe someday.
But I am, for now, angry.
Angry at the cowardice of words in leaving me at my weakest, leaving my wounds to fester.
Angry because the only thing worse than bruising, is having no words to heal with.