An Overdue Update on “Excellent, 2017”

I know people usually post their reflections upon the year like a month earlier than I’m doing mine, but you are reading the words of a someone who might as well be a professional procrastinator.

A year ago, I published a blog post about how my theme for 2017 was excellence, and how tied my perspective was to the lyrics of Sho Baraka’s “Excellent, 2017.” And then I went silent on the updates, as people who make yearly resolutions tend to do.

By mid-year, I felt like the intended strife for excellence had completely failed and was without hope of salvation. By November, though, that sentiment had changed yet again.

Surprisingly enough, I would consider 2017 a success. I have both “flown” excellently and “fallen” excellently. All things considered, including the crippling depression right after the first third of the year, 2017 was good, in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, “good” is not always quite equal to “pleasant.” I suspect I have learnt a lot, in everything from the maturity of my physical (re)presentation, to increasing discipline in my actions and character.

The latter half, particularly the last quarter of the year, made me develop scales on my skin. There are so many things I no longer feel as deeply as I did at the beginning of the year. Things like the sting of illegitimate criticism, the lack of inclusion in groups, and the dysfunctionality of my interpersonal relationships, to name a few.  In general, I would say a lot of my (positive) character development was tied to the embodiment of the persona of “Akotz the Spider Kid.” There is something about having an overarching theme that makes all the aspects of my life coherent, that improves my quality of life. There’s a certain thrill when I walk into my room and see an illustration of Kuukua Annan on the wall, or when I hold my journal, notebook and planner at once and see the different colored stickers of the Ananse Ntontan adinkra symbol on their convers, or when I leave my room for the day adorned with my spider necklace and spiderweb earrings. There is power in personal, creative identity.

The process of being lifted from incapacitating depression (for the millionth time, and almost certainly not even the last) has involved locating and generating creativity again. I don’t know about you, but depression is bad – no, awful, destructive, an ultimate enemy – for my art. It does this thing to me where I barely have desire to create, and every time I do create, the subject matter is nearly always the same thing: depression itself. Old news. All it does is make me tired of myself as an existing entity, and of my art in particular. That’s not healthy for a person who wants to spend her life being able to call herself an artist.

For two-thirds of the year, the Spider Kid did something incredibly fun, in spite of how difficult it was to keep it up: she started a lighthearted, spidery short-story series called On the Ceiling. And she actually finished it. Saw it through from beginning to end. I can’t think of anything more excellent that I have done this year. That series was such a ride, in terms of developing consistency, creativity, work ethic et cetera – but I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say it kept me sane, especially in the midst of school’s BS and having to deal with the longest separation from Accra I have ever experienced (11 months). But I started and finished this one, long-ish-term thing. And even if I look back in a few months and think, “Man, my plot/writing was so wack here,” it won’t change the fact that I did the damn thing, so hallelujah.

At some point, I felt like I had temporarily fallen out of love with poetry. It became very difficult for it to move me emotionally – both my own poetry, and a lot of work from other people. There were a few exceptions: Rhetoric 2017, the PIA Tour 2017, and Propaganda’s Crooked album, for instance. But for so long, I couldn’t feel the fire that comes with making or consuming poetry, the fire that I so frequently felt in 2015 and 2016. This is something I still don’t think I have recovered from. (Pay close attention, and it might be obvious.) Nevertheless, even this crazy complicated relationship with poetry is part of and producing excellence, although I don’t quite yet have the words to explain why I think so.

The deepening of my expression, reception and understanding of love in 2017 has been excellent. It has involved and continues to involve a lot of pain. Details of this too are complicated, but a lot of it is inextricably tied to my relationship with my best friend. This story is terrifying, deep, and nowhere close to finished.

There is a lot about being let down by human beings close to you that makes you learn by force how to grasp your own reins and make sure the things you want to happen, happen. I have learnt not to waste too much time putting my creative life on hold, waiting for responses from people who aren’t sufficiently invested. I already sabotage myself too much, to be able to afford suffering sabotage at the hands of another. I am still a believer in the magical power of artistic collaboration, so what I am absolutely not saying is that I’ve adopted the mentality of “nobody’s there for me, I have to do everything myself and exclude the whole world from my creative endeavors.” That’s idiotic. But what’s even more idiotic is insisting on keeping around enemies of progress whose interference with your psycho-emotional wellbeing is counter-productive. That’s far from excellent.

Several of my lessons have been centered around what it means to be a writer. In particular, I have been forced to face the issue of what is in my control and what I must leave alone. Things that are in my control are of such a nature as the decision of who gets to do my cover art (or that I want cover art at all) and what my creative rollout looks like. Things I cannot control are of such a nature as people who say they love you (as a writer) never actually finishing your stories, and the pre-release hype often surpassing the post-release reception (that is, in terms of magnitude, not quality). The excellent thing is that the Spider Kid is very aware that the world turns how it does, so how she deals with that is to shoot a spider web, call it mad lit, and move on like a G.

To be frank, I have spent most of December (and a significant amount of January) burning with emotions threatening to be ridiculously destructive. However, more and more, I have been coming to realize that all things – even the things that get me burning with negative, potentially destructive emotion – work together for the good of those who love Him. It’s bloody unpleasant, but the “all things work together” phrase is nearly constantly at the back of my mind. So much so that I think it accidentally became my 2018 theme: #ATWT.

-Akotowaa

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