Like most Africans who practice christianity, I always end the year in church welcoming in the new year. However, at the end of 2019, I decided to stay home and not go to church like I usually do. Sacrilege! I know, very out of character from how I have been conditioned to behave and act. But I had several unanswered questions swirling in my mind that had led me to this decision and the most prevalent of these questions was this sense of numbness in everything I did. I was not consciously living and my life had become a series of routine and I a casualty of my choices and circumstances of living unconsciously.
Then came the chaos of covid-19, which forced me to look at the many issues that I had refused to confront leading up to the new year – I finally had the time. Living alone and working from home stripped me of my ability to mask over issues with busyness and I finally came face to face with my self; on looking closely I realised that I was not truly happy. Then came the realisation that the smile I wore was not genuine and that I was wearing an invisible mask before covid-19 forced us all to wear masks.
Like many women, I have had ideas of where my life should have been at every stage of my life and what I should have accomplished. The reality was that life had happened and I had not achieved the many goals on my checklist. And while I dealt with these mental checklists, society also had certain expectations of me which I had not lived up to. I felt I no longer belonged because I had not achieved all of these goals and I was not quite sure how I fit in my own life and in my social circles.
In a conversation with a friend, I realised that I was not alone in feeling this way and as I asked myself some hard questions and looked closely at how I felt, I happened on a quote by Heath Ledger – “Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married, or own a house as if like was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks you if you are happy.”
“Everyone you meet always asks if you have a career, are married, or own a house as if like was some kind of grocery list. But no one ever asks you if you are happy.”Heath Ledger
You may say that we should not live our lives to please others – but how many of us have unconsciously internalised these expectations without a second thought for what we really want? How many times have you heard a parent, a friend or someone close to you make a statement about how happy you would be when you meet the one, bought a home, got that job or achieved a certain goal? And while achieving any of these things is not bad – should they be the basis of putting our possibility of being happy today on hold until we have hit our goals?
If you grew up in a typical African household, then you are familiar with saving the good table ware and meals for when guests came to visit or special occassions. We seem to always save the best for when something special happens – but is being alive not special in itself? I have had to watch someone I love dearly die and come to the hard realisation that she had put so much on hold for when things got better – the sad reality is at almost every turn, life will have an unpleasant suprise waiting anyway. So why wait for things to get better to enjoy life?
I was unhappy and weary from the many masks I was wearing; I simply did not have the strength to continue with these masks – it was exhausting! A dear friend suggested I talk to a psychologist (in my culture, any form of mental illness carries a stigma and I will write about these in future posts), however, I was privy to her journey and progress so I agreed with her that it was time to stop being ‘strong’ and talk to someone.
So while in lockdown, I started speaking to a psychologist and it was then that I realised that in my effort to look normal and in control of my life, I had been in survival mode for over 5 years. Life is hard and throws several punches at us, sometimes continuously – and to take these punches and all the while pretend that all is ok is absolute madness. The jig was up and I had to face the reality that I was not in control of anything and it was time to choose me and not what people thought my happiness should be.
These are challenging times that we all find ourselves in – however, as we encourage everyone to wear a mask to prevent the spread of covid-19, I want to ask; when you get into your safe place and take your mask off, when you look in the mirror – is that the face you would present to the world or are you hiding behind an invisible mask to cover the real you?
There is a young Ghanaian girl who is quite popular on social media – she is quite provocative in her actions and mannerism. Her behaviour is a big No No for the seemingly conservative Ghanaian society and because of her lifestyle, she has met several backlash. There is not much known of her background or how she came to be where she is. In a recent interview she gave a glimpse into her background and her’s was a story of rejection and loneliness. As I listened to her, I saw a glimpse of the girl behind her mask and was intrigued to know who she really was – but we may never know.
How many times have we said we are fine when really we are not? The countless times we have smiled or laughed when it had not been from a genuine place – because there were people around us and we needed to keep up appearances.
I challenge you to take a moment to look at yourself closely and honestly assess yourself if you are truly happy. If you are truly happy then that is great – look out for the next person and be there for them if they are struggling or point them in the direction of finding true happiness.
If like me, you have not been yourself for a while, it is okay to stop and ask for help. Seek for help and accept the help. Take care of you and don’t worry about maintaining the image you have spent all your energy trying to build. You don’t have to check all the boxes on life’s to do list including the one society has presented. No one is the same person in a lifetime – we become several versions of ourselves and there will always be a checklist whatever version we become. So choose what makes you happy!
Take the mask off(not the covid-19 mask though), be vulnerable, face yourself, allow yourself to heal and say no to the demands you and everyone have placed on your list and just be you!
I would love to hear from you – let me know your thoughts on this topic, share your story or feedback.
No one is the same person in a lifetime – we become several versions of ourselves and there will always be a checklist whatever version we become. So choose what makes you happy!Tweet