Americanah Has Levels of Relatability

I did say, in Reflections After My First Semester, that I would re-read this book. And I’ve ky33, but I finally have.

Americanah is probably one of the heaviest, most condensed books I have ever read. And I am not, in my opinion, hero-worshipping Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, though I certainly have a stupendous amount of admiration for her. I am simply stating my opinion, based on my second, more enlightened reading of the novel.

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I first read Americanah near when it came out in 2013, borrowed from a friend’s parent. I was in my second year of high school at the time and had still never lived anywhere outside Ghana. I had visited England, the US, and Canada, but hardly stayed more than two weeks. I liked Chimamanda because I had already read Half of a Yellow Sun, and thought it was interesting, though I don’t think I have a natural affinity for books with events surrounding war. After my first read of Americanah, I was amused and entertained by all the complicated relationships the book held. The thing was, though, it was still all just fiction to me, and after reading it, I didn’t particularly know what to do with it.

Fast forward to the end of college freshman year, when I restart Americanah, get only a little way through, then watch all existing episodes of the Netflix series, Dear White People, after which I return to Americanah and complete it. Interesting (and probably irrelevant) observations: I went through the series much quicker than I intended to; the binge disease caught me – and I took a much longer time than I expected to complete the novel; it is way longer than I remembered.

These two things have at least one theme in common: the experience of being black in American college. I thought Dear White People was an excellent show, which, despite its apparent brevity, managed to condense a lot of key elements into ten episodes. I haven’t watched the movie yet, though I intend to soon. I enjoyed it immensely. There’s just one glaring flaw: Rashid, the Kenyan, the show’s token African. I first began watching DWP with a group of African girls, and legit, aside from that one time Rashid clapped back when some American insulted his English, we were all rather unimpressed by him. HashtagGetAfricansToWriteOnscreenAfricansAndStopYourNonsensePlease. Don’t get me started on his West-African-East-African-Generic-Hollywood-African hybrid of an accent. Anyway, I’m being tangential. Oya, back to the matter (open and close, touch your toes…).

So, that one thing they failed, Chimamanda nailed. I kept thinking how crazy lit the series would have been if Rashid had been replaced with Americanah’s Mwombeki, who, though a minor character, gave every newcomer African student his classic intro speech.

Voici, an excerpt:

“Very soon, you will start to adopt an American accent, because you don’t want customer service people on the phone to keep asking you, ‘What? What?’ You will start to admire Africans who have perfect American accents, like our brother here, Kofi. Kofi’s parents came from Ghana when he was two years old, but do not be fooled by the way he sounds. If you go to their house, they eat kenkey every day. His father slapped him when he got a C in class. There’s no American nonsense in that house. He goes back to Ghana every year. We call people like Kofi American-African, not African-American, which is what we call our brothers and sisters whose ancestors were slaves.” -Mwombeki

Anyway, the question of who the story is for is important: Dear White People, though we (Africans) are able to relate a lot to the content of the series, was not intended for us. Americanah, on the other hand, I believe, was. I am also not postulating the idea that it is every African-in-America’s experience. It’s a fictional story, mostly based on one-and-a-half main characters from Nigeria. (And I’m proud of it for that; attempting to be general and all-encompassing can make a story rather useless.) I have no doubt that a man from Nigeria’s experience would be different, a Tanzanian’s different etc.

So, with all this context – the combination of my experience and the media I had consumed – Americanah took on a whole new level of relatability for me. It’s the second level.

The first level was just the classic West African upbringing: seeing fiercely religious adults who will blindly but willfully attribute society’s kuluulu to God’s blessings, the adults that are too ashamed of their (lack of) education to use anything “inferior” to unnecessarily long words, the secondary school romance, the squad boys of the class etc. etc.

Then I reached the second level: the transition from West Africa to America. The liberal nature of college classes. The race politics, inside the classroom and out. the burden of being frugal when everyone around you seems to be splashing money around. The stress of searching for a job. The onset of depression in college etc. etc.

There was a lot of stuff that was more generally relatable – by which I mean not restricted to the college experience – like Ifemelu’s encounter with the too-known white woman in the hair salon.

But then, after level two, for the most part, a lot of the story starts calmly feeling like a fiction novel again, to me; a relevant fiction novel, but still just a novel. There is a knowledge you can only acquire with experience.

For example, if I were to start and end a relationship with a half-woke, half-baffling, doting, rich white boy and I read the book again, I’d have unlocked another level. If I were to start and end a relationship with a high-principled, academic, African-American man and I read the book again, yet another level unlocked. If I were to witness any of my African-but-raised-in-American cousins go through severe, mental-health-affecting identity crises, another level, and so on.

This is why I intend to keep rereading Americanah as my college career and life progress, to see what potential levels I can unlock. It’s a ridiculously heavy book, I swear.

-Akotowaa

So I Have A Problem With Nice People…

I know the title sounds strange, but hopefully, the content makes sense.

Honestly, I write things that I’m afraid of so often, but it always shocks me when I receive the feedback of people who can relate but not articulate. I never know when it will happen, but I post my distins, try to be as genuine as possible, and allow what happens to happen.

So I have a problem with nice people. Several problems, actually. And it makes all the sense in the world to me, how repulsive nice people can be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a sin to be nice or generous or have genuine concern for human beings other than yourself. But you have to admit that there is a point at which a perpetual smile starts to make people wonder how your facial muscles aren’t screaming at you to let them rest for at least five minutes.

There are several people I have gotten tired of lately, because they are just too nice. In my previous blog post, I called some people “too nice and too happy to be real” and I meant exactly what I said. They ask all the nice, polite questions, and give all the nice, polite answers, and you wonder if they are really that simple – if they have a limited range of all the natural human emotions or maybe just an imbalance in favor of the cheerful spectrum – or they are merely pre-programmed robots in humanoid costumes.

When college first started, I was kind of okay with it. It was natural to be nervous around all these new people; it would take a while for folks to ease into being themselves, I assumed. But as I eased back into my comfortably private-to-the-point-of-seeming-rude and moderately savage (at least in my opinion; others seem to think I’m a ruthless beast) self, I realized that a lot of the nice people were still too damn nice. Wozzop?

The thing about being so nice is that I can’t freaking talk to you. It’s not just that I’m not used to it; it’s that I don’t even want to get used to it. And it’s not that I admire deliberately or even unconsciously rude people either; it’s just that I need an actual personality to show before I start feeling comfortable around you. I hate small talk, and I think it is an unnecessary waste of time and energy. However, if you are going to tell me of an interesting, funny or shocking personal experience and I have time and care, I won’t object. But I get exhausted of being asked how my day was, and even in my less depressive moods, “How have you been?” has the power to agitate me. For people who actually know me and are trying to genuinely keep up, the question of what my summer plans are is not burdensome. For everyone else, it feels like you are reaching into a pit that would be perfectly fine if left alone to find something to talk about to someone whom you can’t see might not even want to talk at all.

I am not a nice person. I do not say this as an insult to myself, and the acknowledgement of this fact is separate from the acknowledgement of my obvious flaws which I have to work on. My not-niceness is me being comfortable and relaxed in myself. I throw the question “how are you/how’ve you been?” around extra-sparsely. I don’t ask it of everyone I meet; I only ask when I like you and have time to listen to the answer. Sometimes, I slip and fall into the sinking sand of the pretentious politeness of obligation – but then I feel like crap afterwards because as soon as it slips from my mouth, I know I don’t really care. It’s not really something to feel guilty about; people have friends closer to them who will care more, and I care more about my friends than other people will etc. But forcing social intimacy where it doesn’t exist really no dey hia. This thing that I do where I hold off from asking generic questions is not what I consider rudeness; I consider it treating others how I want to be treated, and isn’t that the golden rule?

I realize that some people might have differing opinions on all of this, which is fine. I still feel that a lot of us are too locked in the expectations and obligations of culture, but I would love it if people prioritized being real over being nice. Ironically, maybe, I think it would make the world a better place. So I start with myself. Once again: this does not encourage people turning into vile human beings because Akotowaa said nice people are whatever. All I am trying to do is push forward the idea of relaxing into being yourself, not to try to act like you have to be extra-super-smiley-nice to everyone as if, if you don’t do it, you’re going to hell or something.

Speaking of which, the Christians are a problem. [Disclaimer: this is not to state that a belief in Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and personal Savior automatically makes one a problematic human being in Akotowaa’s eyes. Akotowaa herself is a Christian, so…] I have realized that the whole niceness thing is an aspect of the Christian college community, at least where I am, that acts as a repulsive force on me, which seems rather counter-intuitive. Isn’t niceness supposed to attract? In this matter, at least, I know I am not alone in my discomfort amidst all the niceness. I know of others (believers included) who have been driven away – and it’s such a weird problem that it’s nearly impossible to know how to approach it.

I met a senior in the Christian fellowship (whom I suspect will read this eventually – if she does, congratulations once more on your graduation!) who, in a conversation with me, called my year-mates in the fellowship nice, and she said it almost with a grimace, like it was an uncomfortable quality to have. LOL, I tell you, I felt like I’d never related more with anyone in college until that point. She also gave me hope, though, by being a senior who was both real enough to talk to, and still Christian and part of the community. Talking to her gave me hope because she was evidence that it can be done at all.

A week after this conversation, I really felt like I’d had it with all the niceness. It was a Friday night and the worship team was rehearsing, and I was sitting outside in a pretty bad mood for some reason I now cannot remember. Beside me was a woman who was interning with the fellowship’s parent organization, slightly older, who had graduated university elsewhere already. I think she asked me what was up or something, and I must have given vague reply like, “I’m not in the best of moods today.” And she said something like, “Tell me more about you not being in the best of moods today” or some other request that began with “tell me more” and I legit got so mad I surprised even myself by my internal reaction. In hindsight, it seems very silly that a mere phrase could send me off. But I know it was a cumulative reaction.

“Why do you do that?” I asked, frustrated. “Why can’t you just ask me “why” and be straightforward?” I was irritated because “tell me more” sounded like a rehearsed phrase, like something an interviewer would say to a potential employee or client, maybe even a psychotherapist to a patient, but in my mind, that was not how ordinary conversation worked. I felt like I could sense it in the nature of her response, too, how measured and carefully the sentence had been processed before it came out. It was not a heartbeat reaction, and that annoyed me.

She told me “why” sounded confrontational, and I think she had taken, like, a leadership or team building seminar or training session that had involved teaching people to phrase questions this way instead. Or something. (Lots of “or”s, I’m sorry, but I don’t want to say something with certianty and be wrong.) I was having none of it. I had been exhausted of all of everyone’s freaking carefulness since college started. Atmospheres tended to feel overly fragile in certain rooms with certain people in certain contexts – as if a wrong word from anyone would shatter something invisible but precious. The whole “tell me more” thing was just one more drop in the cup of j’ai en marre. I wanted to talk to people in ways that didn’t make everything feel like fine china.

Now it appears to me that several people who self-identify as introverts do not seem to agree on what exactly an introvert is. I don’t know who it was that gave me the statistics at the beginning of the academic year, but someone told me something like “about 70% of the Christian fellowship members are introverts.” I’m like, oh, okay, cool, maybe I can be comfortable here. But when, after the actual fellowships, nearly everyone hung around snacking and chatting about nothing in particular for about an hour, I started getting confused. I can barely last ten minutes before I start getting overwhelming urges to run away and be alone. And the culture is such that I hardly ever feel safe to just get up and go – not without having to explain myself or being asked to do so, or coming up with an excuse to leave; a better one than “I don’t like people,” which I have said often enough anyway. I’m just not sure if people actually believe me. Maybe I’m just introverted and antisocial, although I don’t think this is true.

A general culture of niceness tends to start feeling claustrophobic because it doesn’t give people enough space. I want to be able to miss an event or not sign up for an activity, for instance, without a bunch of people blowing up my texts or Facebook messages with niceness or even at all. Of course, it doesn’t feel like “blowing up” to those on the sending end. But if, for example, ten people each independently send one text, at the end of the day, you’ve still received ten text messages, and that can feel overwhelming. I mean, it’s nice to know that people care. But I don’t have a lot of friends, so chances are, if you care (or feel obliged to care), but I’m not close to you, opening up or even responding sometimes feels like a burden I don’t want to have to deal with. I don’t even know how much of this makes sense. All I know is that somewhere along the semester, I turned off all my phone notifications, except those that require my Ghanaian phone number, which most people who didn’t know me in Ghana do not have. And that was pretty liberating. I think I’ll turn them back on again soon, now that school is over.

Anyway, I would like to conclude by mentioning that I have actually heard testimonies from people of how the niceness of the very same communities that I have tension with has created loving and welcoming new social and spiritual environments for them to dwell in. I acknowledge that my sentiments, although valid, are personal, and that different things work for different people.

Now, after publishing this, the part that I am not looking forward to: people wondering, after reading, if they are part of the “nice” population that I’m so apparently agitated about. Sigh. It’s like whenever I post on my blog or on Facebook, at least one person will come and apologize for something they didn’t do. Chill, please. Please chill.

-Akotowaa

The Initial Illusion of Being in the Pictures

It is a lot easier to feel a sense of belonging in the pictures when one barely knows anyone they are taking the pictures with.

So it happens, you allow yourself to be carried along with the wave of excitement – an uncertain amount of which is genuine – and you wordlessly acquiesce to the suggestions to stand, to pose, with this assigned group, then that one, then another. Straight face. Silly face. Cover-of-a-magazine face. You are not yet sure if you belong, but you are not yet strongly feeling the sense that you don’t. You stand there as the shutters go off and the phone screen buttons are clicked. You are tagged in Facebook photos. You don’t look bad in them.

You answer several of the same questions for a few days, then a few weeks, then a few months. Nearly all of them are shallow, but people seem so politely entertained by the answers, and they press onward with the obviously pointless and boring conversation more often than you wish. When, you wonder, will people finally get past asking you of your nationality and your accent? But it is okay, you conclude. It is early, and most relationships haven’t fully formed yet, you tell yourself. When it happens, it will happen – and it will happen soon. You take more pictures and don’t think too much about them.

Relationships have formed now. Just not with you. You are partly too private, but also partly uninterested. The people you took pictures with have weekly dinners. They get along with each other more than you do with them, or so it appears. If that is not the case, then they must be superb actors. But then, who wastes all that acting power on hours of conversation past midnight that you can hear outside your door when you are trying to sleep? Or going to amusement parks and restaurants and festivals together? You always know where they’ve been because they always take pictures. This cannot be acting.

You attend the weekly dinners, but are always disengaged. The same superficial questions are asked to you, and they are always asking out of politeness – but politeness stopped making sense to you long ago; you are looking for meaning. However, you already know that meaningful conversations cannot easily be had between yourself and these people. Despite all the pictures, something between you has not clicked, and it probably never will. It isn’t sad. It’s an easily acceptable fact.

***

There is a boy that everybody loves. He is Asian. He is sweet. You started to love him too because he smiled so innocently and happily at you, and that smile captured your heart. His friends, at some point, start to consider you his friend, for reasons you are unsure of. You notice a few things that are strange about his friends, though:

  1. They are all Asian.
  2. They are too nice and too happy (at least, this is how you see them) to be real.
  3. They all seem to orbit around him like they are planetary satellites and he is a humble sun. He certainly smiles like the sun.

At the end of the year, before Christmas, you take group pictures, like a family. Your smile in those photos is fake. You are bored and uncomfortable, and you know, though you refuse to bring this to the forefront of your mind, that you don’t belong in these pictures. They release the photos on Facebook the night they were taken. A few days later, a friend – an African, a person who looks like you – tells you that those photos were awkward, it looks as if someone cut and pasted you there. You don’t need to look at the photo again to know you agree. And it is not just because you are the only brown spot in the Asian ocean; it is also because of the social dynamics that are not represented by the camera, but which the camera has come to know anyway.

After those photos, you resolve not to be in any more of their pictures, any group chats, or attend any more events. No one really knows you, and there is none among them that you deeply like or know anyway. Let the planets revolve around their sun. You are going off to be your own sun in your solitary system. You begin to take more selfies.

***

Invisibility comes upon you suddenly, like when you are in a friend’s room. She is a friend because she smiles at you in the bathrooms and the hallways, and you were one of the first people to whom she introduced herself in this new, unfamiliar place. Does that not count for something? You are in her room maybe because you are lonely and idle, but you can’t quite recall how you got there. Did your legs carry you or did she invite you in? Did she feel obligated to?

Invisibility comes upon you suddenly as your friends’ friends – all of whom are very close to your friend’s ethnicity – show up and they start talking about what they did last night and what they’ll do tomorrow. But then it occurs to them: why even wait? They start discussing options for tonight. No one looks at you. No one speaks to you. No one throws you an invite, not just because you will certainly decline, but because you are not even in the room. When you say an abrupt goodbye, your “friend” says goodbye back, without a hint of shame or consciousness of what is happening.

You remember all the pictures you are in together. You were never there to her. Which is fine, because she is still partly two-dimensional in your own mind, frozen in the frame of an Android phone screen.

***

You have realized by now that people easily fall into cliques of ethnicity. You know, yourself, that you are most comfortable around Africans or other Ghanaians. But you are aware also that when you and others of your kind are gathered, and you suddenly become the most animated you ever are in conversation, there is usually someone outside the ethniclique who is in the pictures by virtue of their presence, but is a ghost to the photographer by virtue of their social exclusion. You never know how to handle these situations because:

  1. That is how you feel every day. You have begun to think of it as unfortunately normal.
  2. You hate exclusion, especially of this kind, and want to make a world where it is not experienced by people who can’t help it.
  3. You are never, ever prepared to be less of yourself for anybody’s sake, particularly because there are very few opportunities to be as much of yourself as you are in these moments.

Someone once told you that you seem to come more alive, sometimes even glow, whenever you are around other Africans. You do not need to see the pictures of yourself with them to know that this is true. In any case, you are always far too engaged in being natural to take pictures. There are no photos. The only photos you belong in, ironically, do not exist.

***

You are wise enough to know exactly which photos you do not belong in lately. You are satisfied and liberated by this knowledge. You have begun to learn how to decline offers to take pictures and not be racked with guilt as you do so. There is no need to create near-permanent memories of things that are not worth remembering; of things that exist solely for the purpose of the camera. I am proud of you, though. You used to wish, in the past, that you could have been bolder. Removing yourself from pictures you do not want to be in is one of the boldest things you could possibly do.

-Akotowaa

 

Reflections After My First Semester

One of my least favorite questions is “How was/is school?” But I do have some thoughts on what I’ve experienced this semester in college and so I decided to pen these down and share, as popular/unpopular as that might make me. I’m not going to try summing up in everything in a word or phrase, so if that’s what you want to hear, sorry bro.

[Note: the first point is the longest, so feel free to skip past the racial stuff in the next 4 paragraphs.]

The past 4 months, I have felt more African than I have ever felt before. I don’t know how many people are familiar with my identity complex. Sometimes, I have a hard time feeling African. All the time, I have a hard time feeling like anything else. These sentiments are better expressed in an article I wrote for Clapback Magazine called “Local Third Culture Kids”. I knew this would happen to me, though. It makes perfect sense to me how leaving the country would make me feel more connected to it. When suddenly thrust into an environment you do not fit organically into, where you were raised begins to feel even more like home. And as tired as many people are of African immigrant fiction, those stories are relevant. The one I’m thinking about now is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. The longer I stayed in America, the more I felt like I could finally understand what I’d read about the characters a couple of years ago. I had a strong desire to re-read the book, feeling that it would make more sense to me now. I actually bought it off amazon. Unfortunately, I didn’t re-read it this semester, though. I’ll try returning to it next semester.

Part of the reason I felt more African than ever is because I felt very separate from the African-Americans. The rest of the world sees us the same way; black skin is black skin – but I don’t think Africans feel like we are the same. (Which is not to say that this leads to a lack of solidarity as Black People.) If I’m being honest, I have to say that many times, it feels like African-Americans don’t understand, or forget to consider, that we are not from the same backgrounds and simply haven’t experienced the same things, and don’t necessarily act and think the same way they do. This is not to undermine either party’s experiences. Sometimes it feels like they are incapable of comprehending. I daresay it’s not malicious on their part. Perhaps it’s just difficult to imagine lifestyles you’ve never known and easier to be led by what your eyes tell you. Perhaps it’s difficult to understand that “wokeness” is different depending on where you come from because the most dominant issues in our environments are not identical. I’ve found myself being occasionally jealous of those Africans that moved to the USA at a fairly young age because it seems they have the best of both worlds and can relate to everyone at once.

The relations between me and them are almost funny. During orientation week, I remember being asked by an African-American a couple of times how come I not only spoke so well, but “understood all of the American slang”. I’m not offended. It wasn’t malicious. It just showed me how unaware Americans are of how much everything about how their “culture” has infiltrated all the rest of the world while the realities of our worlds hardly ever permeate through to them back. I feel like I make some African-Americans uncomfortable. They don’t know what to make of me, so ignoring me seems like the best option. I’ve experienced eyes unwilling to settle on me while an AA speaks to a person standing right next to me and doesn’t even bother to acknowledge my presence.

I’m worried about some of them. I think they have identity complexes. Spoken word is one of the areas where I see it. I do not intend to undermine the history and present of trials and stigma faced by People of Color in America, but I can’t help but be tired of too much poetry sounding the same. I feel like some people use these themes and poetic styles to try validating themselves. Forgive me if this sentiment is insensitive, but it’s like, “If I write like this about that then I’m a legit POC and everyone will be able to see it.” People can go straight to overkill. True story: near the end of the sem, I went to go get some late night snacks with my Filipino friend and there, we met an AA who was my friend’s friend but also seemed to want to pretend like my presence was ignorable. Me, I just wanted my Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. But when I heard what she was saying, I legit wanted to laugh out loud. Going on about how there are so many spicy snacks and POC are supposed to love spicy snacks/food. But she could barely stand spicy snacks. “I’m such a bad POC.” Those exact words. That sentence was said at least 3 times in her slightly artificial-sounding rant. “I’m such a bad POC.” I just…I can’t…Oh, come on, Ghanaians, please tell me you understand why I find this strange. It really sounded partially like a theatrical show put on for the sake of my (ignorable) presence, with a touch of desire for affirmation (from self?) and identity complex. But ah, well.

This semester, I have felt like I am recovering the leadership qualities and the boldness that I think my high school environment and experiences broke within me. In high school, there was a very disturbing “leadership” culture that made it such that it was always the exact same people being chosen for absolutely any opportunities all the time, both to the point of neglect of the rest of the student population and staff effectively brainwashing students about who a leader is, so that everyone would be on the same (wrong, IMO) page. [By the way, read my novella, Puppets, because I kind of satirized the state of the school in there.] Obviously, I wasn’t one of the automatic options for leader candidates and I think I eventually gave up on my ability to be any sort of leader in an institution. At least in that context. But now, I’ve started finding my voice again. I’m no longer quenching the instincts to suggest new ideas and solutions, to be the gel that allows people to work together. I feel like I’m growing back into my real self within the context of school.

I rediscovered my love for dancing. Of all the classes I took this semester, hip-hop was my favorite. It wasn’t a theory class, it was a dance class. It was the one thing I looked forward to going to twice a week. I used to dance. Aside doing ballet for 10 years, I also did hip-hop for about 3. I stopped when I went to boarding school/high school, unfortunately. There are several reasons, but suffice it to say the social and human environments were not conducive for the continuous practice of this love of mine. And no, I’m not a fantastic dancer, but I still had mad, mad fun with it.

I fell in love with African history! I took an African History to 1800 class and was absolutely fascinated by a lot of what I learned. You see, previously, I had known barely anything beyond Ghanaian history, and even that, with a major focus on colonialism, which sometimes felt more like study of the White People in Ghana than Ghanaians in Ghana. I mean, thankfully, I wasn’t required to learn dumb stuff about the actual history of the British or the French or any of that previously-compulsory colonial syllabus type stuff. The fact that we stopped at 1800 means we never really got deep into the slavery stuff, though. I’m absolutely enthralled by Songhay, Soninke and Malinke traditions. I love ancient African societies’ mythology more than anything else. If you know how I am about things like fairytales and Egyptian and Grec0-Roman ancient mythology this isn’t surprising at all. I’m pleased to say I have enough material now (or I know where to look for them) for a couple of novels I wanted to write, and one of them was begun nearly immediately after the class ended for the semester. It’s being written. Learn about medieval African history (especially West African history) if you ever can.

Unfortunately, the schooling part of school was impossible to ignore. Many times, I was frustrated out of my mind about having to be there and actually complete assignments. I wasted so much time staring at the walls, wondering what was the bloody point of all this. I called my friends and ranted instead of doing my homework many times. And honestly, I wasn’t overwhelmed by the size of the workload for the most part. I was irritated by the work’s existence. Everyone who told me that school would finally start to be less cumbersome once I got to college is a liar. Instead, what I felt was exaggerated pointlessness. The things I was already learning on surface level and found pointless (to me) before now had to be studied in more detail at college level. And going in-depth into something you already find pointless doesn’t suddenly make it look full of meaning. It just becomes extra annoying. I hate school. So much so that I need people to stop asking me “How are studies?” because I don’t give a damn about them and it’s painful to lie – but I can’t tell them the truth if I value my time and emotions. I made the mistake of confessing the truth to one uncle over the phone mid-way through the semester. He responded in the typical Ghanaian adult way, with a semi-lecture and lack of empathy, and I began to cry. I wasn’t crying so much at his words but rather my extreme exhaustion of hearing them over and over again. That’s how I came to write the poem So You Stopped Speaking.

Oh, but how can I talk about my experience in college and leave out the biggest theme of my life? Solitude. Loneliness. (Oh, BTW, listen to Solitaire EP. Also, to better understand my relationship with Solitude, read My Relationship with Solitude: Stockholm Solomania. Warning, though: it’s long. Perhaps as long as this post.) So, at the beginning of the semester, we had orientation adventures (OA). There were about 12 different OAs and I’d say an average of 30 people on each. You can read about my very interesting experience at mine at “Evacuation OA”.

So many people made their friends for the rest of the semester at their OA. It was the same at mine, though not exactly for me, and that made me sad. People who had never known each other before OA met there and clicked so well that they became best friends and formed their own squads and cliques. I couldn’t help but feel jealous when I saw them around. But I was mostly solitary during the semester. Near the end, I realized I was making one or two real friends, though, so I’m grateful for that. And I think my roommate might be something of a social butterfly so the contrast there is real. But yeah. #TeamSolitaire.

All in all, I’m not miserable. Which is not to say that I truly think I’ll last out all 4 years. But I’ll take the shots as they come and face the hills when I meet them.

-Akotowaa