transnational chronicles: a series of “poems” on the negotiation of identity when home means more than one place.
and while you break your teeth
to keep your tongue
and you seek healing
by stitching the gaps
they will spit you out
from the mouth
because you taste
don’t be nervous
you won’t even notice
you won’t notice the transition
from being ghanaian
to being african
to being black
to being person of color
don’t be nervous
you won’t even have to decide which you want to be
the choice isn’t yours
perhaps in this there is a freedom
and when you call your grandmother on the phone
and she asks when you’ll be coming to see her
you must lie and say sometime this year
even though you know
that has been your response
for the past
do it for her heart
-gofundme back home
i’ve always hated math
i’ve become a mathematician
calculating the number of hours between us
plotting how many oceanic galaxies it will take to get to
dividing the ventricles of my heart
and dedicating each one to a different
he had tattoos all over his body, long grey hair and piercings, and spoke like someone who has seen it all. i squinted to read the words on his shirt correctly from the very last row because i’d walked in late. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” i simply couldn’t resist writing this quote down. it seemed to set the tone for what this class is going to be like. critical philosophical theory. should be interesting. i’ll be sure to keep you posted on the impending existential crisis.
this first week of classes has been something. from almost slipping from ice that had yet to melt from the random snow storm, to panicking because two important classes i need are both at 11am on tuesday and thursday. to an argument that ended up reshaping how i think about things. i learned my emotions are not unique to me, and that whatever i’m feeling towards someone, they’ve 99.9 percent experienced that emotion at some point too. i learned that no one actually means to hurt you with their words most of the time, no matter how hostile they come across. most importantly, it dawned on me that people just want to feel supported and to be told that they make sense. in fact, most conflict is born from feeling like we don’t make sense to the other person, rather than feeling they aren’t making sense.
a friend told me recently they feel like my life is perfect. i was shocked because it is far from it actually. i never really share my struggles mainly because i prefer to sweep them under the rug and pretend they’re not there or i rather talk about it with God. in a society that broadcasts only smiling faces on social media, it’s easy to assume the status of someone’s life. having the label of perfection projected onto me made me realize that i probably also place that label on others based on how their life looks from my perspective.
for some reason perfect has a negative connotation to me. i want to embrace my cracks and imperfections because they allow for the light to get in. in fact, without them the light cannot get in. i hope this resonates in your heart the next time you’re feeling like your cracks are overwhelmingly big. you are not broken. you’re simply making room for the light.
when my dad called G and i this morning to get ready for church, our first response was to groan because we were still tired from last night’s New Year’s Eve party which we got home from around 3am. we washed our crusty eyes and dressed lazily in contrast to how we usually like to slay to church. Continue reading →
two years ago i abandoned resolutions and decided to choose a single word that i would be my mantra for the entire year instead. it took the pressure off setting myself up for disappointment when my human tendencies kicked in and i didn’t meet a set goal. the word would inform my decisions and reactions in both happy and tough situations. it would be the theme of how i live my life. it would be daily a reminder of my values and priorities. in 2016, my mantra was “seek”. i declared i was going to
seek spaces of love and healing
seek God’s presence
seek opportunities to make my future self proud
seek challenge because there hasn’t been a challenge that hasn’t lead to growth
seek spaces that i and my ideas can create valuable change.
as i sit here on the eve of the last day of the year, in my sweatpants and hoodie, contemplating whether walking downstairs to get tea is worth losing the comfortable position i’m in, i am amazed that this year has gone by so quickly. actually, just kidding.. 2016 was lowkey really long. however i amazed that i was able to actually implement seeking into my life this year without even doing it on purpose because honestly i forgot i was suppose to be living by a word.
i did seek clarity when i didn’t understand. i have a friend with whom i don’t always get along with because our personalities clash. i simply don’t understand where she’s coming from sometimes because i think very differently than she does. so when we would disagree, i sought clarity of what she meant and why. going through this process was of course not easy, and i had to come to terms with the fact that i was perpetuating the strife in the friendship by making assumptions. this reminded me to seek clarity even when i feel i already understand.
i did seek God’s presence through spaces of love and healing which ended up inducting me into a community that was before my eyes all along. i just never made time. i barely attended church this year but i found the peace i needed in attending a campus ministry meeting once a week. i missed a meeting occasionally here and there, but used that time to seek other ways of surrounding myself with that same feeling by listening to Hillsong Worship music in my room and writing out my prayers. i’ve found that writing them out helps me say all i want to say in the most raw honest way without trying to sound perfect. i plan on continuing this in the new year.
i did seek an opportunity to make my future self proud. i made the bold move of sending my resume and a letter to a company i wanted to work for in Ghana over the summer. i knew i wanted to spend the whole summer returning home to Ghana since i hadn’t been back in over 8 years. i created that opportunity even though it didn’t exist and it worked splendidly. i had the best summer of my life and got to see family i hadn’t seen in ages. my future self will be proud that i didn’t go another year asking when i’ll be able to go to Ghana again, yet rather created an avenue that would take me there.
i didn’t seek all the time though, and honestly i spent most of my time at school in my dorm room. this meant i didn’t seek opportunities to meet new people or get involved on campus. 2016 was the year i was antisocial. i wish i could say i was using that time wisely but i mostly napped and enjoyed my solitude. this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but i know that too much solitude won’t feed my soul new food.
as i think about what next year’s word should be, i am am humbled because i know that with whichever word i go with will come growth.
for the first time, my family stayed in and we spent the day resting. we ate breakfast for dinner and did our annual screening of the Polar Express, except this time we managed to drag my dad into watching with us even though he’s not a movie type of guy. i knew this time would be a different experience because my parents love to make commentary throughout movies. and it was hilarious. it had only been about 3 minutes when my dad asked “what kind of animation is this? It looks like a hybrid with real people.” we laughed and hushed him and told him to pay attention.
halfway through the movie, my mom asked us why we like this movie so much and i didn’t know how to answer other than that it’s tradition and it wouldn’t be Christmas if we didn’t watch it. this was about the 5th year my siblings and i were watching this movie as part of our tradition, yet this time we decided to pay close attention to try to catch things we may not have noticed before. and boy were we catching them. maybe it’s because i’ve become more of a critical thinker since being in college, but while watching it dawned on me that there has to be a deeper meaning behind this movie because it’s lowkey a little bland and it’s appeal for me comes mostly from the beautiful visual art and the smell of the hot chocolate we always drink while watching.
so we decided to put on our fakedeep thinking caps and tried to decipher what each character and scene symbolized. by the end of the movie, we’d come up with a masterpiece analysis. we concluded that the Polar Express train represents a spiritual journey on which you discover more about yourself and the journey on the way to believing. the conductor could be Jesus because he recruited the passengers on board through giving them the power to choose whether they wanted to join or not. at the destination, which is where the main character finally believes, the other passengers receive tickets on which there is a single word which represents their true gift — we took this to resemble the spiritual gifts you receive as a believer. it took us longer to figure out what was going on with the weird ghost on the roof of the train, but G thought he was suppose to be the holy spirit since he saved them every time someone was about to fall off the train. but i personally think it wasn’t executed well if that is true. maybe i’ll figure it out next Christmas lol.
while we did the dishes, my mom asked us whether we still planned to continue with our tradition now that we have deciphered the movie. and we looked at her like she was crazy and responded “but of course!”
dear lord it’s 3:46 am and i miss you. i know i haven’t talked to you in a while and i feel like that fake friend that only waves at you sometimes but is quick to ask for something when i need it. earlier this week in class i know you were watching when my professor asked the class to make a list of 10 descriptions of our identity all beginning with “i am” and i wonder if you were as astonished as i was that i did not mention that i am your child. i wonder if you sighed a little that that wasn’t the first thing on my list and that that wasn’t the first thing on any of the people around me’s lists. the topic of the day was whether who we are is mostly shaped by our culture or whether we are simply who we are even if we were taken out of the context of this culture. my response was that i am naturally made up of the culture in which i am a part of. in hindsight i realize that my response is equivalent to saying that i am of the world. dear lord i know that you did not call on me to be of this world and that as your chilld i am not suppose to be living by the standards of this world but by your standard of love and fellowship. i don’t know where to start in getting to know you again. i wasn’t even aware that i had allowed my surroundings and busy environment to drown out your voice. teach me to hear your voice again and to know the difference between your voice and my voice. teach me to trust in you. immerse me in your presence and anchor me to your word even when everything around me tells me you’re a concept rather than an ever present force. dear lord it’s 3:46 am and i miss you but i know you’ve been here the whole time.
i write this from the comfort of my yellow walled room, on my bed at the window, with a bowl of fresh strawberries between my legs as the sounds of sweet sax and soft piano solos are filling my space with vibes. i feel my presence. is this what it means to be relaxed? the feeling of calm feels almost unnatural. a little unsettling after a year of nonstop thinking. after my brain has been marinated in words and formulas and code.
the season of unpacking. unpacking my thoughts. unpacking my experiences and the lessons they taught me. unpacking the weight of my self and sorting out the peaces to keep and the pieces to throw away.
a time of reflection and honesty. a time of unlearning stress and being comfortable in simply being.
perhaps that is why i postponed this long overdue post. to declutter and come to you from a clear mind. a position of reflection because mirrors don’t only show you what’s before you but also what’s behind.
i write this from between mirror and background, as i am right smack in the middle of my college career. two years behind me, two years ahead. i stand in a position of gratitude. grateful for the struggle. grateful for the hands that held mine as i weathered the storms and the hands i let go because our seasons did not align. grateful for my lowest points because in those moments God came through in the most unexpected ways and poured a peace that surpasses all understanding all over my life. God came through and talked to me through people. talked to me through repetition of words from people who are unaffiliated. talked to me through music and poetry and wind, carrying the same message: “trust in me”.
a friend asked me what i want from this summer. i didn’t know how to answer because i never expected a season to owe me anything. she rephrased and asked me what do i need from this summer. and i said peace and clarity. i’m starting to realize those come with the package of trusting God, trusting my self, and the journey.
in a couple of weeks, i will be returning home to Ghana for the rest of the summer. words cannot describe the feeling in my stomach. nine years later, i am going to reconnect with old friends and family who have experienced life while i’ve been gone without me knowing all the little details i love to know. that’s another thing to add to my requests from this summer: re-connection. with heaps of laughter and embraces and adventure.