Visions and Versions: The Evolution of Self

I make things like 10X deeper than anyone else. I know this. I’m melodramatic. Get used to it.

I started blogging when I was fourteen years old. By that time, I’d had my first few months’ taste of depression and self-loathing. The blog was called “The Mind of Fourteen.” It was my first major employment of a pun (that I can remember). I wrote on that blog with the intention of being the voice of my “silenced” (disclaimer: based on my own perception) age group/generation of Ghanaians. The Mind of “our teen”. (Geddit?) I did not know that the catalyst (depression) and its result (mad, feverish, emotion-fuelled writing) would only grow (fortunately and/or unfortunately) to take me to places I wasn’t able to imagine.

Halfway through age 13, I became depressed. I didn’t know what depression was then. All I knew was that things weren’t find at home, things weren’t fine at school, things were especially not fine with the preparations to go to another school… but what I was surest of was that I was not myself. I couldn’t be. That person was too sad to be me. That person who cried each morning, each night, uncontrollably in the bathroom between classes – I couldn’t identify with her. So I decided to give this new person a name.

Names are things that I consider to have immense power. Not just in their linguistic meaning, but also in the symbolism intended by the giver of the name. Now that I recognize my different parts and egos, not every name feels comfortable at any time, and I wish people would respect that more.

The name I gave to this perpetually sad character was John. John is the Hebrew root translation of my first name, Ivana. Here’s a brief illustration of versions and translations, so you can get an understandable-ish idea of how language evolution worked on it: John à Jovahn à Giovanni à Ivan (And yes, it’s pronounced ee-vahn; like the first part of Ivanovich. See?) And Ivan’s female form is Ivana. But etymology is not my focus here.

Once I’d renamed this new person, something changed. I no longer felt the terror of having completely lost the original me. I’d just concluded, with my 13-year-old brain that could take all these ridiculous things as though they were perfectly ordinary, that John had just come to visit in my body for a while, and when she left, Ivana would come back. (Don’t get confused by pronouns and name sexes. If it would make it easier for you, just consider me gender fluid. The concept of “gender” and I are fighting, anyway.)

I made classmates and teachers call me John, with that unbreakable force of will I had, until everyone got used to it. Day after day. Month after month. John didn’t go away; I didn’t give up the name.

When John wasn’t going away, I decided I’d make her leave. I’d bring back Ivana 2.0, a kickass version better than the last. I set a milestone ahead of me for the release date: my 14th birthday. I grew obsessed with 14; it became my favourite number. After all, it was the symbol of my rebirth.

May 22nd of 2012 came, and I forcefully peeled John off me like a spandex suit that had been on for so long it was nearly merging with my skin. After that period of 13, after my first taste of repression, there was a lion roaring in my chest, begging me to let it do one thing: EXPRESS. I had a vision of what I was going to do with 14; every other extension of me had to correspond.

That year, I deleted and recreated my Facebook. I changed my Twitter handle to @VisionXIV. My Instagram too. And when I created The Mind of Fourteen, I regularly signed off as -VisionXIV. (That year, there were classmates that started to call me Vision.)

All this rebranding made my life. It gave me a new freedom. Confidence. The year that I was 14 still stands as the best year of my life. Then what happened? I turned fifteen.

Everything started feeling wrong, just as everything started going wrong. When my autobiography comes out, maybe you’ll know the many intricate details. But, long story short, Depression came back. All at once, I wasn’t VisionXIV anymore. But I also never wanted to see the likes of John again. So what did I do? I decided to embrace one of those things that was plaguing me – making me feel like no matter where I was, I didn’t fit; my singularity. This process hasn’t been straightforward. In fact, it’s been so complex that it’s taken three years to come into shape. Age 15. Age 16. Age 17. Me, now.

I deleted The Mind of Fourteen, which had already begun to give me more recognition and respect from people I didn’t know, than I was used to. I also deleted a side poetry-blog that I used to post on. I don’t regret either of these things. I created a new blog called “Not Genius; Just Nonconformist”. (It was inspired by a book I read.) After that, it went through so many names I can’t even remember. Eventually, it landed at “Akotowaa”. (And depending on who you are, this is the platform you are now reading this on.) For those who have been asking: yes, of course it’s my real name. Likewise, my Twitter went from VisionXV (Vision Fifteen just couldn’t cut it, mehn) through other things, and landed at @_Akotowaa. (The handle without the underscore is taken.) And even with my Twitter account, I got so sick of myself that I deleted and remade my account with the same handle, last year, 2015. My Facebook name also went through a few changes before landing on what it currently is: what I now know feels most comfortable.

If I could describe in one word what depression makes me want to do, that word would be “DELETE”.

I am Akotowaa. I have been becoming Akotowaa for years.

I am not John. I’m not [the other ego whose name I don’t feel like revealing]. But most surprisingly, I’m not Ivana either. I’m Akotowaa.

Have you ever felt so sick of yourself

that you’d run a million miles

just to get away from you?

And look back to make sure you didn’t follow,

like even your own name sickens you?

Would you describe your life as a masterpiece of discarded pieces

a homeless artist picked up from the trash

on a canvas that took the brunt of a hit because no one wanted it?

Would you consider it torture

to be chained to a chair to watch the playback of your past?

Like you made a series of stupid mistakes

like the kind of character in a series you’d yell at?

Well that’s me.

-Akotowaa [“Erase”]

You know this business of when it’s your birthday or a new year, you do the whole “I’m about to find myself” or “New Year, New Me” thing? Well sometimes it doesn’t work like that. Sometimes, you spend your new years alone, or getting disillusioned about people you thought you loved. Sometimes you spend your 15th birthday losing the fantasy identity you thought you’d keep forever; your 16th birthday depressed, in the middle of exams, with about 5 people remembering it’s your birthday that morning – which doesn’t include your roommates because they also forgot; your 17th birthday in the emotional counsellor’s office, the worst and lowest you have ever felt in your life, while your principal, parents and other school staff deliberate about finding you a psychiatrist and dropping you out of school. Sometimes it’s an unbearable, continuous breakage that pays no heed to memorable/important calendar dates.

I hate Ivana. I really do. I like a lot of the foundation she built for me. Perhaps I like a lot of the person she once was. But I hate what she became, and I hate how she became it. This is not the time to go into why, either. But just know that she, just like her name, has turned into another skintight suit that I no longer feel comfortable in. Ivana and I may once have been the same person, but now we’re not.

So no, in spite of people’s hypotheses, my forceful reclamation of my Ghanaian name is not an attempt to “reconnect myself with my roots”, or “the African in me” or whatever “woke” distins floating around on the interwebs these days. Of course I won’t deny the beauty of my name’s meaning and lyricism, its cultural and family history and especially the almost long-lost Ghanaian myths that it’s preserving. But what it is, is my current identity; the skin that feels the least like a sheddable suit; the identity that I recognize; the name that my Being, now, answers to.

This is by no means the end of the identity formation (shout-out to Lemonade) process; no one’s identity, I believe, truly quits changing form somehow, until one’s death. In fact, I am becoming. I am constantly becoming. And by the grace of God, in whom my identity lies, I am “becoming” in a very good way, despite…everything. You must learn to deal with it.

Look

Post-script: To all the people who insist on calling me Ivana in public, just to try and prove you know me more intimately than my “celebrity-status” allows me to be known: y’all gotta know that you’re calling, and talking to a dead person. Stop. Thanks.

-Akotowaa

Advertisements

I made another word: “Loquivore”

And once again, I feel like its meaning is very obvious from its nature. Just like my previously-made words, it’s a fusion. Lexivist (lexical activist), ecfiosexual (ecfio- Latin word associated with creation, and sexual), and now loquivore: loqui + vore.

Definition: One who is partially dependent on intelligent conversation for stimulation. (Or something along those lines.) A trait that may be characteristic of some sapiosexuals.

Roots: “loqui” as in “talk”. i.e. loquacious, interlocutor, somniloquy (I swear this is a word, but as I write it, there’s a red squiggly line under it), soliloquy. “Vore” as in, omnivore, herbivore etc.

So, a loquivore is one who “feeds on conversations”.

The History and Necessity of its Creation

I have discovered that I am a creature who needs nourishment in at least two ways: one of these ways is physically. The other is intellectually. To understand it, try to transfer the same concept of physical hunger to intellectual hunger; you need food periodically. When you do, your body starts giving you signs. Rumbling tummy? Feelings of emptiness? And you can choose to ignore these signs, but it does get uncomfortable after a while.

In the same way, my mind can feel seriously undernourished. This results in restlessness and agitation, which have, on many occasions, frustratedly led me outside of my room to just…go and stare at the moon or walk around for a bit, when there’s no one close to talk to – as if these things can sufficiently distract me from what I truly need.

My mind feeds on (what I deem as intelligent) conversation. I suppose we can also transfer the ideas of diets and preferences to the intellect? I need it so often that sometimes I can barely function without it. And sometimes too, I just need to release – like, throw my thoughts into a pensive or something. It’s like indigestion. Or congestion.

I lie alone sometimes just…craving conversation. Oftentimes, this is when some of my fiercest Stockholm Solomania battles happen. It’s difficult to explain the relationship between my desire for solitude and my desire for interaction.

Why can’t the internet satisfy me, depending on who’s online? I don’t know. Face-to-face conversations are like heavy food. And online conversations are like snacks that take quite a while, if ever, to truly fill you up.

For something that exists, there must be a word – even if no one but me experiences this sensation. So here I am: a self-proclaimed loquivore.

-Akotowaa

Is It Real Attraction, Tho’?

They were
thrown together by circumstance
and told themselves
they were in love

 

For how could it
have been by chance
that both of them
were so alone?

 

All their friends,
they walked in pairs
and left the two
at the tail ends

 

So they locked eyes
and it made sense:
Why don’t we be
more than just friends?

 

They joined themselves
right at the hip
Adam’s leash, and
Eva’s whip.

 

They seem happy
but to me,
it looks like a forced
relationship.
-Akotowaa

Dark Heart & Mind #8 (Bonus Track: I Failed Mocks Et Cetera)

Dark Heart & Mind [This is a bonus track because it’s not from between August-December 2015; it’s far more recent – from March]: Releasing the hatred and depression of the last year, raw and beautiful. Don’t you dare tell me to edit or delete. Stifle me any more than I’ve stifled myself, and I’ll pronounce curses on you with my Ewe side.

I failed mocks…

…and I never want to write another examination again in my life. Don’t even try to fight me. And besides, y’all better get used to these post-exam rants, because until I stop writing exams, the rants won’t stop coming.

 

LOW EXPECTATIONS ARE IMPORTANT

By far, the results I have received this semester have been the worst I have received throughout my academic life. And somehow, I have not shed a single tear over them.

I walked into each examination session fully knowing that I was entirely unprepared and damn tired, and there was nothing I could do about it. I walked out of each session also fully knowing that it had gone terribly. So when it was time to collect papers, it came as absolutely no surprise to me to see certain spectacular failures.

Low expectations are the reason I was not severely disappointed and have not broken down. I knew I was going to fail, and I failed. Why should I cry?

 

WHY DID YOU FAIL?

There are so many reasons why I failed. But giving explanations is like, the most arduous work ever. Partially because you have to keep explaining, over and over again, to lots of different people. Partially because a lot of the time, people don’t truly want the explanations; they’re just shocked and offended, for reasons I know not. Partially because, a lot of the time, people refuse to understand my explanations.

Like, can we just skip past all the explanations and get on to your “encouraging,” “motivational” advice that will have no bearing on my life whatsoever? I mean, it won’t affect me, but if giving me advice I didn’t ask for makes you happy, LOL, why not?

 

THIS IS WHY YOU FAILED

If there is anything that irritates me more than having to explain myself, it is having myself explained to me. It makes no sense whatsoever for you to come and tell me what you concretely believe are the reasons my life is going the way it’s going when

  1. You’re not even close friends with me, so you don’t have the excuse that you know me well enough to diagnose.
  2. You don’t live inside my head so the best you can offer is evidence of what you observe externally, from a distance, with no idea of the background and internal circumstances.
  3. You’ve not even asked me to see whether I know or not, before you’re coming to impose your pharmaceuticals. You can’t jump straight to prescriptions without looking at the diagnosis – form someone who actually knows what s/he’s talking about!

Oh, I read too much? I tweet too much? It’s because I’m making too much poetry, obviously. LOL. No. I assure you that everything is much more complex than that.

In any case, here is the deal. You could lock me in a room with just math and physics textbooks, no internet or electronic devices, no story books, whatever. I’d sleep. Or induce unconsciousness. Because I am so turned off by the idea of these academic subjects that I would rather be comatose than study them. The fact that I have alternatives is not responsible for my disengagement. Things that bore me will bore me.

 

NOT CARING IS PAINFUL

Dear parents, do not ever, ever force, or even “strongly suggest” to your children to take subjects that they have no genuine interest in. Especially when they beg to drop. Do not offer them extra classes or that nonsense motivation of “You can do it.” The issue isn’t always that they can’t but that they don’t want to. In life we can do many things; but that doesn’t mean that we should. We all have potential. But it’s not every day potential energy is equal to kinetic energy. Some processes cause so much heat energy loss that efficiency is negligible, you understand? And if any of your children are made to experience the nonsense I have experienced, I might just send a curse after you.

I’m doing too many subjects I simply do not care about. (And even one is too many.) And having to do anything you don’t care about, for a prolonged time, is so, maddeningly, painful.

It’s interesting, I’ve discovered that not caring isn’t the same as indifference. Indifference is being aloof, unaffected. But being forced to do something you don’t care about elicits repulsive sentiments. And this is the kind of sentiment that makes you want to sleep and sleep, just to escape, and sit down staring at walls because you’d rather do nothing than what you’re “supposed” to be doing.

-I.

Dark Heart & Mind #7

Dark Heart & Mind [Files from between August-December 2015]: Releasing the hatred and depression of the last year, raw and beautiful. Don’t you dare tell me to edit or delete. Stifle me any more than I’ve stifled myself, and I’ll pronounce curses on you with my Ewe side.

There was no way in hell I could have passed that paper. I don’t even know whether I am angry now or not. I can’t accurately say that I am disappointed, if I expected to fail. I spent the whole night last night sleeping and not working. I gave up before the race even started. And I don’t blame or condemn myself in the least for it – and for my hopelessness.

It isn’t more time that I needed. Give me all the time in the world, and I still won’t pass – because there are a million other things I’d rather be doing. I am not foolish enough to degrade myself by calling myself stupid (this is a lie), or believing that I am unable (this one is true). I know the facts that mathematics, while doable, is not my natural aptitude, and that I am simply not putting enough time and effort in it to excel. The issue here is that I am not so bothered by my disinterest that I am willing to do much towards getting myself out of this indifference. And I think this is fine too. People are allowed to be interested in what they are interested in.

Speaking of interest, I find it offensive that out of the IB hexagon (at least in my school), the only optional section is The Arts. Yet mathematics is compulsory for everyone.

I don’t even want a diploma. I don’t want one.

-I.

Dark Heart & Mind #6

Dark Heart & Mind [Files from between August-December 2015]: Releasing the hatred and depression of the last year, raw and beautiful. Don’t you dare tell me to edit or delete. Stifle me any more than I’ve stifled myself, and I’ll pronounce curses on you with my Ewe side.

Do you ever get so bored that it feels like your life force is just withering away unto death? Sometimes my boredom turns into a lethargy so strong that I believe I can feel my heart rate slow down gradually, until, eventually, it will be 0 beats per minute. I feel myself taking far longer to inhale and exhale, as though my body no longer wants nor needs as much air to sustain it as it used to; as if it has no desire to be sustained.

It is not that I have nothing to do, and that is why I am bored; contrarily, I have too much to do, and want to do nothing. This is, in fact, what boredom really is: not having the least desire to do anything, whether or not you have anything to do.

-I.