This piece was originally published on September 16, 2013. While I’m redesigning my blog, I’ll be re-publishing popular posts and those that speak to me now. -P
“Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi,” or “It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten.”
For the longest time the Sankofa Bird has spoken to me. It is the bird which flies forward while looking backward with an egg, symbolizing the future, in its mouth. To me Sankofa means more than a second chance, it is the empowerment of oneself, of a people, to reclaim that which has been lost and use it to move forward. It is also the surname name my father chose for himself, not wanting to carry the last name Caldwell with roots that most likely led back to some slave master.
I love the idea of reclaiming things, ideas, words that were used to oppress a people or that have been forgotten. The act of reclaiming is such a powerful tool. But it takes courage to reclaim things and sometimes you can’t always share what you have begun to reclaim with anyone.
For me, I use the Sankofa bird and the saying so often associated with it, to empower myself to reclaim writing. When I was younger I used to write all the time. When I wasn’t reading, I was writing. A letter to my parents, a journal entry, a story. Anything was up for grabs to be told using the written word. Then one day, I think around late middle school, early high school, I realized that to “be cool” you were expected to be an “active” member of society, to act like you were different but really just conform. To sit in your room and read and write, that wasn’t cool. Then I got to college and after a year of adventures (for lack of a better word), that could’ve cost me my life and led me to lose a lot of love for and faith in myself, I reclaimed writing.
I wish I could say I’m a writer and proud. That this is what I do, what I am, my everything. But the thing is that it’s hard. Like Tim Burton once said, “…it seems that if you’re passionate about something, it freaks people out. You’re considered bizarre or eccentric.” It’s true. People get scared. They wonder why “at such a young age” you know what you like doing, they tell you to have a backup because (they think) you’ll probably fail. This is especially true if you want to do something creative, innovative, different, people just don’t understand why, for instance, you would devote yourself to writing which may never be a “lucrative” life decision. And though I shouldn’t let their words matter, it’s scary, it gets to me. So instead of calling myself a writer, I’ve always just said I like to write. Not a huge difference but still, it’s those slight differences that can really tell you about a person.
However the thing is, I am a writer. I like to write, and I’m good at it. By saying that it’s important to note that I’m not taking away from any other writer. I can support the creative work of others while still being creative myself. Writing is what makes me happy. Yes, I’m good at a lot of things. Can I plan events for 500+ people? Yes, been there done that (and I love doing it!). Writing isn’t the only thing I see myself doing. However, without writing I wouldn’t be as happy. There’s nothing that compares to the release and high I get from sitting at my computer and letting my creative energy flow. Writing will always enable and empower me to hone into a creative core that so many people don’t allow their selves to reach (possibly because they’re afraid they’ll like it too much and then have a “mid life crisis,” ha).
I don’t blame myself for stopping writing, for playing sports, for joining theater, for partying every weekend… those have all been experiences that contributed to who I am today. In fact, I would say that without those experiences I would’ve never looked back into my past, back to see what really made me happy. I would’ve never discovered that happiness that is not measured by how close I am to my home but rather that I can create a home for me within myself.
Se wo were fi na wosankofa a yenkyi. It’s not wrong and it’s NEVER too late to get what you have lost, what you think you have forgotten. That’s the amazing thing about us humans. We have this magical ability to adapt to survive. Sometimes we get so good at it that we push aside parts of ourself so much so that they seem gone forever. It’s equally important to think about how you really want to live, to survive. I may be 20 but I’m already tired of the world’s mess. I don’t want years to go by only to look in the mirror one day and see a person I don’t even recognize, a me I don’t know.
I want to live creatively, to live free, whatever that means, I not only want but need it. I must allow myself to not be afraid of going after my desires.
Age does not define my ability.
It never has and never will.
I may not be “there” yet but I’m not too young to begin my journey (for the journey is equally as important (if not more) as the destination). None of us are. And if there’s ever a day you realize you’re on a path you don’t want to be on just remember that, to some extent, it’s within you to change your circumstances.
It definitely won’t be easy but nothing is impossible.