Yeah, fam, so life is beans. You don’t need to be told. But, as a whole, there are a few things that make it a bit more bearable for me. They aren’t actions per se, more like lifestyle adoptions. They may not be dramatic, but they have been life-changing in their own ways. So, I decided to just share a few of the things that have helped and are helping my life be slightly less beans.
- My name.
I like it a lot. I let go of my first name, Ivana, fully in 2016, and that was very refreshing. Sometimes names are associated with too many unhealthy things. I still cringe when I’m called Ivana. When someone does it, I either have to admit myself that they aren’t very close to me, or have to convince myself to be patient and forgive them. My middle name, its meaning, the story behind it and cultural relevance it holds are far more significant to me as a human being and as a Ghanaian storyteller, than my Slavic name. I mean, there are trade-offs in life. I’ve traded “Ivana…like Ivana Trump?” for “Ah-ka-two-ah?” But I’ll survive. It feels nice to wear the name Akotowaa. It feels like clothes that fit in a wardrobe of mostly inappropriately sized things.
- My filtered social media.
Honestly? I’ve learnt to do what I must to recover. I remember during high school, feeling incredibly outcast whenever school went on break (and even sometimes when it wasn’t on break) and I would open my Snapchat, and see about 50% of my classmates at some social event, all posting at once, so that it was as if I was getting different pieces of a full mosaic scene. The sense of exclusion was a bit of a paradox, and an unnecessary one, since most times, I did not want to be at the event in the first place, and would have felt even more outcast if I had been present than in my absence. But it was taking a major toll on me, and since it made no sense, I deleted my Snapchat and started a new one. I didn’t tell anyone except my ex-roommate. My psychological state improved a lot when I was simply not receiving the information that would have stressed me out. Out of sight, out of mind, heart at rest. I know it takes me a long while to follow some of the people I know in real life on social media, and I know it gives me a horrible reputation. I have no doubt a lot of people think I’m a stuck-up girl who thinks she’s better than her former classmates since she got signed on a record label or whatever, but to be honest, their lives are probably way litter than mine, and I’m just trying to be sane in the knowledge that they are comfortable in a social world I have never belonged in. (Which might be difficult for them to understand, since they, of course, belong – or I assume they do.) And I swear, the filtration of my social media has eased me much more than a lot of things ever could have. My tolerance fluctuates. Some things take time, and it is important to give yourself time and grace, especially if nobody else will give them to you.
- My hair.
I really love locs. They are my favorite category of hairstyle ever. (On black people, of course.) The decision to get dreadlocks is one of the best I ever made. These are things that actually get me to look into the mirror and smile because wow, I have locs, and they’re nice. Perhaps it is vanity – but it is the healthy kind. I feel like it might be useful for everyone to have at least one part of their body that they can smile at when they look into the mirror. My hair makes me very happy. It feels good to catch myself in envy, for instance, when I look at pictures of people with gorgeous locs online and go, “Wow, I wish I had dreads.” And then I brighten all the way up because guess what – I do! I suspect that once you start liking a part of you more, you begin to like all of yourself more, even if just marginally.
(Can we just take a moment to marvel over the growth between my 2015 twists and my 2017 dreads? It’s lit. 🙂 )
- My projects.
I am very much familiar with the experience of feeling like a wasteman. A lot of the time, I am. But a lot of the time, I’m also not. The ability to at least temporarily separate emotional sensation from substantial evidence is a useful one. I may feel like a wasteman sometimes, but then I’ll remember that I went and wrote a whole novella in 2015. It might not have been a great or even good novella, but it’s something I started, finished, and was bold enough to share. So, apply the same thought process to every piece of work I’ve ever put on the internet, and keep putting on the internet, and it’s a bit of a marvel. I may be a wasteman now, but I have not always been a wasteman. And it is very likely that I will not always continue to be a wasteman.
- My best friend.
Having a best friend that loves you a lot can help you learn to love yourself. I know I talk about Tronomie a lot. I can’t help it. He’s currently the best thing about my life. He makes me very happy. He also makes me sad a lot, and he’s really awful, as like, a human being. And I think we’re both as messed up as each other. We have very little in common, and our friendship, frankly, doesn’t make a whit of sense to me. But it’s blessed. Immensely, incomprehensibly blessed. He’s my spiritual twin. And he shows me my reflection when I forget what it looks like and reminds me that it is worth loving (…on the days that he’s not simply tired of saying things to me over and over again that fall on deaf ears). I hope I do at least half of what he does for me, for him. I probably don’t. I love him though. To crazy high levels. And when I finish fumbling around and figuring out what the best way he can benefit from my existence is, I’m putting 110% of myself into it.
- Understanding where my worth comes from.
The world is a salesman. It’s a top advertiser, selling a lot of things that won’t give me what they promise. My worth is in my Creator and Him alone – and God gives no grades, nor project ratings, nor reviews. I understand this, even when I forget it. Whichever scale says I can’t or haven’t, is irrelevant in comparison. My worth is unchangeable because its source is. And if I link my worth to performance or achievement, I’m always going to be in serious trouble.
“Sometimes it takes years to learn how to be comfortable in your own skin…”
Likewise, sometimes it takes a while for your own words to become your own reality. They are written in the state of discomfort, for a future self whom, when becoming comfortable, will find that her past self has already provided the equipment to facilitate the process. To Be is almost prophetic – or an act of faith – as a description of a facet of self-love. And I cannot say I have in any way reached “there” yet. Some days I’m there. Some days I’m not. And that’s how life is. To Be is never fantasy; at any point, it is either prophecy or reality.
What helps you? 😊
P.S. my Snapchat username is akotowaa.