My name is Ivana Akotowaa Ofori, and, according to many people, I may be dead by the time I’m twenty-seven.
Right now, I am seventeen, and my aspiration is to have a full-time literary career. Depending on who you are and where you live, this might be difficult to believe, but the Ghanaian society I live in reacts very negatively to this aspiration. I’ve gotten everything from blatant disbelief to reprimands, to people getting downright offended at my decision.
According to them, it is inconceivable to think that I can make a living out of words. According to them, I will be starving before long. I cannot count how many times however many people have tried to convince me that my passion and career path will lead to me being broke. Money has never been a priority of mine, but their words have frequently made me cry.
Their certainty of my failure made me also start to believe that I will fail. But it has to stop.
People who have never heard me perform, nor read any of my work, are never afraid to jump right into projecting their curses of death and starvation onto me. I have no idea why people are confident enough to judge other people’s prospective success or failure in a vocational career regardless of whether or not they know how skilled the person is at what they do.
A long time ago, I began to convince myself that really and truly, I’ll be dead by age 27 – because I am so determined to produce quality work that I won’t compromise by pushing it all to the side and not giving it the attention it needs. There’s an explanation as to why I want to give it my full attention, but that has its own blog post. And I used to be scared to die at 27, but now, I’m perfectly comfortable with the thought, whether or not it’s going to actually happen.
Why 27? I don’t know. Apparently, a lot of famous people died at 27. The pinpointing of the age was pretty random. Maybe 27 just sounds like a cool number.
On 3rd July 2015, I tweeted these exact words: “I want Ivana Akotowaa Ofori to be the first name they think of when they mention Ghanaian novelists, in the next ten years.” Incidentally, in the next ten years, I will be 27.
As I said, I don’t fear dying at 27 if I can live my calling while I’m at it. In my mind, I’m already dead! There is a Sufi mystic ideology that is put aptly into words by the Turkish author, Elif Shafak. It goes like this: “There is only one way to be born into a new life: to die before death.” So I’m dead. Dead to other people’s discouragement, dead to their threats of failure, dead to their unbelief and lack of support. It can’t touch me anymore.
My personal Dead By 27 project is me letting go of the fear of death. It is being dead to the thoughts of death, dead to everything except obeying my Master’s command to practice my calling. This is a chronicling of my journey: #DeadBy27. And I hope it inspires people besides myself.
DB27 Instagram: @akotowaadeadby27