The Girl Called Vanessa Who Needs Lexivism

You don’t know what lexivism is? Get up to speed, la!

Lexivism: Activism/advocacy for the recognized significance of words, literature, or things related to them. Also, a general love for these things. (At least until I find a more eloquent and adequate way to define it.)

Last week, the school received a visit from Akosombo International School, for no sensible reason other than that they wanted to see how our “good” school operates and implement what they liked back in theirs. More staff members came for the visit than students, evidence of their (unhidden) agenda. They were probably taking notes attentively, too. All I hope is that they were able to see, at least partially, through the façade that this institution knows so well how to put up.

Anyway, as I was enjoying my Saturday sleep, continued from early Friday night, broken only briefly for the sake of breakfast, I received a visit in my room. I bet the AIS girl was wondering what I was doing in my pyjamas at 3pm, but was too polite to say anything.

She was there to speak to me for a very specific reason, sent by a classmate of mine, with whom she was boarding, Sophia. Sophia sent her to me because this girl had an interest in writing. To a certain degree, this was really cool, because I seem finally to have reached that point where people around me think, “Oh, it’s about writing? Refer to Akotowaa.” Yay for recognition. Although I know that this will start to cause a lot of typecasting problems.

So this sweet girl came in and introduced herself as Vanessa, and said, “Sophia sent me to talk to you because she said you are a writer, and I also like writing. And I’ve written a drama.”

Vanessa was one of those people that I immediately liked. This is an infrequent occurrence, because I don’t immediately like a lot of people I just met.

So we entered a brief discussion about the production of literature, and Vanessa revealed to me that her play wasn’t actually completely finished and it would be done by June (?) and that after that, she had plans to begin a novel. I was in love, and so, so proud of her. I asked her what she planned to do with her finished play, and she said, “Publish it.” Which is cool – even though I was looking for more of an answer concerning where and when it would be staged – but I don’t think she had thought that far.

I encouraged her, if she could, to one day go and see an Ebo Whyte play, and stay behind to talk to him afterwards, because he’s amazingly friendly and responsive.

It was nearing the end of our short and fast-paced exchange that she began to (unintentionally) break my heart. She had been so enthusiastically caught up in declaring her literary ambitions to me, when suddenly, she paused and said almost penitently that she was intending, however, on studying law after high school, and that the writing thing was just “on the side”. Do you, or do you not understand why that made me want to cry?

  1. Why, oh God, why did she sound so freaking apologetic all of a sudden, as if her literary ambitions were not enough, and had to be compensated for, as if having these dreams as main goals was sinful, but acceptable as side-things? Who taught her to be sorry for liking what she liked? It’s a mere guess on my part, but I highly suspect she was told the same things, very early on, that I was. This is Africa, where that’s not a proper career, you won’t earn money, et cetera.
  2. Was she lying? What if she was lying? What if she wasn’t even lying to me, but was lying to herself about what she really wanted? I suspect my own bias comes into play here, because I want so badly for her to want what I want. And I saw some fire in her. Some light, when she talked about literary ambitions nearly as fervently as…me. Pardon me if I’m wrong (and I probably am), but people don’t have ambitions as large as hers for what they regard as “side things”. “Side things” don’t require that much passion, do they?

Sigh. I wanted to go deeper into the conversation, into questions like, “Who indoctrinated you?” But she was already getting ready to leave. There was not enough space, time, depth to get her to unlearn her miseducation. Anyway, we exchanged emails, and I’m going to hit her up as soon as her WASSCE is over. (By the way, I’d just like to say that I love that she’s writing right in the middle of her freaking final exams. That’s exactly the kind of dumb stuff that I do, when everyone else is seriously stroffing!)

Whether her dreams are professional-sized or side-thing-sized, Vanessa needs support. Vanessa needs lexivism. And I want her to get at least some of it from me.

-Akotowaa

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