The Reason for My Silence: Recalling Memories Is Not an Easy Task

Memories scatter around me

Pictures and picture frames that carry moments of joy

Moments with a lover, a dear friend

My new family of choice

Reminding me of the life I’ve built

In this here land of the free and brave

Cards that wish me well

Give hope in times of some heavy situation

Tell me how wonderful I am

Remind me turning 30 is not the end of the world

I smile; the tears roll down unprovoked

Memories scatter around me

As I decide which of these are worth holding on to

Which are worth paying the extra-pounds fee for

Which ones I will cry over if I never see again

My collection of journals since I was 16

My collection of art pieces from around the world

My collection of tea sets

My academician turned writer impressive library

Memories scatter around me

Tears streaming down my face

4 days straight

They start; They stop; They start again

It’s not like this trip is sudden

But this trip feels real and more of a sure stay

Like Ghana will stick to my bones this time

Unlike my mother and her brother I will not

Let “over the hill” catch me on this side

But is that what I really want

Me, my people’s hope

Me, the immigrant child abandoning

What they have worked hard for

Memories scatter around me

I try to decipher which articles

Women and gender

Sex and sexuality

Theology and activism

Character and first person narrative

Are important to mail to myself

Will I ever use these articles again

That which these professors

Have bequeathed me

In this tradition of academia

Ten years of schooling that has made

Me into the woman I am today

Articles they thought important and necessary to impart to me

Articles and readings and excerpts they thought I should

Imbibe

Assimilate into my life

Regurgitate in arguments

Defend in intellectual musings

Espouse in high brow academic company

Will I really be using them later

Will there be need for them in my new life

Do I want to impart these Western ideals to eager students

Do these ideals stretch across continents

Memories scatter around me

I read old papers

Past professors’ encouraging comments

Past professors’ obvious discomfort with some of the subject matter

I chose to discuss in final papers

Past professors’ questioning some of the arguments

I thought I had carefully crafted

Past professors’ challenging me to “tell-the-real-story”

I read old papers that assure me that I used to be

That I am and will continue to be

Fucking brilliant

That the magnas and summas cum laudes were not just to placate

The minority in the class

That somewhere inside I have all this knowledge

Now a part of my DNA

Now what to do with it

Is the million dollar question

Memories scatter around me

Seems I’ve lived a thousand lives

Well really just 4,

Each of my degrees

Seemed to take me in a different direction each time

But in reality; in hindsight

They were all/ are all

Just my hybridities coming together

My interstitiality laid bare

That which makes me a complex human

Who cannot be placed in a box

Who cannot be labeled

Perhaps if there was a place for each our many selves

To be all of who we are

Some might not feel so freakish

Some might feel empowered

Memories scatter around me

As I sit in the middle of the piles of old essays

And intelligently crafted articles

Having a conversation with an ex

Who has watched this all happen

Almost right from the beginning

Albeit at times from the shadows

In part of the conversation I heard:

But you didn’t really get any practical degrees

I jumped to defend my degrees

But then it felt futile

She was right

They were mere pleasure for pleasure sake

I loved learning/love learning

Why wasn’t that enough of career

Everyone thinks when you get degrees like mine

You automatically want to teach

Well dammit

I don’t want to teach

There are callings for each of us

Teaching is not one of mine

But then when pushed against the rock and asked to pick

A box

Take the MBTI or the Enneagram

To “figure” out where I fit

I pick one

One that I think sums up everything I’ve enjoyed so far

I pick Pastoral Care of Students and Fostering Community Life

I hear:

What does that mean

Memories scatter around me

I find dreams for that women’s retreat center I wanted to build

I find plans for that wholeness center for women dealing with trauma

I find applications to UN and Fulbright and Rhodes

I even find plans for that orphanage I was going to run in Ayiti

After I made my first mind-blowing trip there ten years ago

I find ideas I used to dream big about

Tears roll down rapidly again

I find that I have let lack of money block the way

I let feeding myself, living on my own, being an independent woman

Surviving racism and homophobia and other isms

Block my way to

To accessing my dreams

Those things I once held high and didn’t regard as lofty

Now are just that

I hit the reality-check wall and let the bump that formed on my forehead

Cloud that spirit that fearlessly boarded that flight to Columbus, Ohio

In the middle of the worst winter they had had in ten years

Getting off that plane that 10th day of January in the brand new year of 1996

America held so much promise

It gave me what I desired most

An education in which women were encouraged

To see themselves as equal to men

A sense of self-worth not defined by a man

A definition

A label to hang my hat on

To explain the complexities of who I was/becoming

The freedom to be different

To choose a path like none before me

What it didn’t do was caution me

That carving this road less traveled

Would mean

I would sometimes get lost in the woods

Lose my cutlass and walking stick

That no one would be able to rescue me

Because only I knew where I was going

That even I would sometimes not know where I was going

What it didn’t give me was an intense desire to

Return to where I came from

To make a difference there

It didn’t give me a renewed appreciation for where I came from

It left me frustrated at my people

At the place I was first named

It left me wanting a mini America in Ghana

Scared to return there because I couldn’t possibly

Navigate a place I hadn’t been an adult in

I watched my friends

Some White people

Go there

Live there

Love it there

Move there

Marry my men

Have clear skinned babies

All the while wishing I was them

Wishing I could do what they had done

In reality I had done what they had done

Just in reverse

I had moved here

Lived here

Called it my home

Almost married their men

Discovered I loved their women

So if I had done it before

Why couldn’t I do it again

Only this time in reverse

Memories scatter around me

My envy showing through my poetry

My essays

I was angry

How dare they move to my country

Begin schools

Make change

With my new found lenses

I critiqued their motives

I tore down their reasons for moving to a developing country

I saw the privilege they enjoyed there

Knew most of them didn’t enjoy that in their own country

Knew I’d never enjoy that in their country

So why did I stay

To get more degrees

To go back to prove to them

That I too could survive another country

That I too was smart enough

Pretty enough for their men and women to want me

To prove to my own people that

The past seventeen years hasn’t been wasted

They still think it is wasted because I have no

Husband and three kids and one-on-the-way, to show for it

I have no career that could be labeled

Dentist, Lawyer, Doctor, Banker…Teacher

Just a bunch of papers, unframed

A lot of ideas and fragments of dreams deferred

They want to know

How will you pay your bills

Who will hold you when you are lonely

Who will take care of you when you are dying

I have no answers

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5 comments

  1. Kuukua, so beautifully you write of the pain and the hope! This came to me, perhaps you will hear it too. Patricia

    that which is calling you
    has not ceased
    from your tears rises the song
    of your heart
    from your feet flows
    the drum
    of your heart
    that which is calling you

  2. For once, I’m “writeless,” or should I say “wordless.” Bravo for sharing this Kuukua. It’s very revealing.

  3. KK, your writing is intense, deep, full of pain, despair, self analyses. KK, I felt deeply moved by your words and so sad at the seeming futility beneath the words, but I smell and sense hope in your coming home, for home sweet home and with your own people, among your own people you just might find some hope and peace. Take heart my friend, all is well. I really hope to meet you one fine day.

    • Thanks Celestine. We will meet. Don’t worry I have a dream of meeting all my FB and Blog friends in person one day. So long as we are in the same country di3, no fears 🙂

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