I lost my voice. But I haven’t lost my thoughts, and that’s what’s frustrating me the most about having to be silent.
At the time I am writing this, I have been under the curse of a flue for about a week now. It began with a sore throat, and that quickly progressed into a total loss of the ability to speak. Today is the first day I have been able to speak at all for quite a few days – and even now, my speech is woefully interspersed with coughing. I’m still trying to keep the talking to a minimum.
On the same day last week that I got sick, I stopped tweeting. It wasn’t quite intentional; I just found that I was inexplicably unable to. It was not that I did not have the desire to, or that I had nothing to say (quite the contrary, actually), but I simply have not been able to, and there is no other way I know how to explain it.
In my opinion, I talk a lot. Unfortunately, I frequently regret having said anything at all. I don’t believe I am able to eloquently articulate why this is so. One thing I can do is tell you what the reason is not: it is not because I do not believe what I said. If I didn’t believe what I said, I really wouldn’t have said it in the first place. But let me circumvent this issue a bit.
This season, mainly the summer of 2017, I have felt a nearly overwhelming sense of suffocation, or constriction, being trapped, simply not being free. Often, I am unable to locate a trigger, but there’s definitely a prime suspect: haters.
2016 was the year I discovered I had a lot of admirers and several fans. 2017 is the year I am discovering so many people that hate, or strongly dislike me. I think, perhaps, the best summary of my particular kind of experience is encapsulated in the song “Chaskele” by Worlasi featuring Poetra.
As true as it is that fame, popularity or just having a known name, comes with all these things – as true as it is that anything you do that has the capacity to get you fans probably has equal capacity to get you haters – I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this. It is difficult to experience hate directed at you when you already struggle with hating yourself.
I hate the way I am made; not only do I talk too much, but I think too much. I think about a lot of things that people around me don’t seem to be thinking about. At the same time, there are occasions when I talk about the things I’m thinking – and then people come out of the shadows and agree. In silent actions. Maybe a private message, or a one-on-one conversation. maybe a blog post comment, maybe a “like.” While I appreciate the concurrence, I can hardly help but wonder, “If we have always been thinking so similarly, how come you have never said anything?” Perhaps if you (which here is plural) had been vocal and open about these things we both apparently are on the same page about, I wouldn’t have had to feel like an alien in my own head thinking them, and wouldn’t have had to feel like Public Enemy #1 for vocalizing them.
Maybe 5 years ago, I had delusions of being a sort of “voice of the people.” Now, at nineteen, after the minutest – because TBH, virtually nobody knows who I am – taste of celebrity, I have no such desires. Every trace of that childish nonsense is gone. I was not made for fame. I was not designed for the responsibility of representing anyone. I find it hard to embrace influence. I am most comfortable doing things, or speaking, or being myself, when I can convince myself no one is watching me. As soon as I begin to get reactions, I begin to get overwhelmed. I have realized, curiously enough, that I have the same reaction to praise as I have to slander, and that reaction is: run and hide. I was not made for spotlights.
I am not in favor of the actions of the kids in the class that hear the teacher say wack stuff, and all turn their heads to the proverbial Akotowaa because they expect her to deliver the clapback. I lost my voice. Where is yours?
I want to shut up. Yet I cannot. Look at me now, writing this. Explaining plenty. It is as if sharing my thoughts in private and in public, using some sort of voice, is something I am unable to quit, no matter how hard I try. And believe me, I have tried several times. It never ever works. One thing I have learnt about the words is that they will always come out – if not on Twitter, on Snapchat, or on Instagram, or Facebook, or WordPress, or I may just vocally explode in a rant in person. I hate this about myself, and I hate it intensely.
I don’t think I’m an artist, at least not all the time. Perhaps if I was, it would be better for me. I wish the poetry was enough. I wish the fiction was enough. I wish I did not feel the need to speak words uncoated and unhidden behind literally devices, words that are my raw, personal truth. I wish I did not feel the need to rant when angry, lament when sad, vocalize my struggles as they are happening. Moreover, I wish I did not feel the anger, the sadness or the pain of the struggles in the first place. I wish I did not think the way I do. I wish I had the kind of personality, and maybe the quality of life that would have me satisfied with posting almost solely selfies or food, or monuments of the places I’ve travelled to. I wish I were satisfied with posting pictures of fancy coffee or heels or Bible verses whose context is not immediately apparent. I wish my primary focus on social media, or the way I portray myself, was centered on aesthetics. But it is not. I can’t seem to help being a mess in public, or raw to the point of self-detriment and exhaustion. Why was I made like this?
I have learnt, in practice rather than in theory, that I am far from fearless. Silence is safe. Silence is where I feel “they” have less opportunity to lambast me. But I wish I did not want to be safe. Because the reality of the matter is that I love the transparency, I love the people who will simply be themselves in public, without apology. I love the artist that becomes a person inside, behind and aside the art. It is ironic that in all my words, all my social media, and even sometimes my physical presence, I am creating the kind of content I want to see – or at the very least, a shadow of it. But I too want to be that kid in the classroom that looks at another whenever she wants something to be said. I want to be safe; I do not want to say it myself.
And now that I can talk – barely, though – I still don’t have a damn clue how to go about finding my voice again, or re-creating it, if it must be constructed again.
“This is present tense
None of this “already I’ve been delivered” mess
None of that pseudo-righteousness
I’mma let you guess the rest”
– Propaganda, “Crooked Ways”
P.S. It’s been like three weeks since I first fell sick, and I’m still not healthy. Still coughing, still with a fuzzy head, and my voice doesn’t seem to want to go past baritone. Satan is busy. Pray for me.