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

sankofa bird

“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.

lion king - the past

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Written by Patrice

9 Comments

Patrice

Thanks Kelly! Writing is such an important part of my life, as I’m sure it is yours. Also, I think that’s why I still love letter writing even with all the technology I have.

Reply
CL Mannarino

“I must allow myself to not be afraid of going after my desires. Now. Age does not define my ability. I may not be “there” yet but I’m not too young to begin my journey (for the journey is equally as, if not more, important than the destination). None of us are.”

I agree with you so much. We spend so long telling ourselves that we can’t go back for things because we’ve left them so far behind, but where does that rule come from? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly detrimental.

I love this post. It’s funny, I read an interview with Lily Collins in Seventeen magazine where it talks about how she didn’t wait until she got out of high school before pursuing her goals. It discusses the same things you talk about here–age, ability, expectations, etc.–but it was inspiring because it asks the same question you do: “why not?”

Thank you for posting this because I think it’s something that needs to be talked about more.

Reply
Patrice

Haha, exactly. It’s definitely a mindset passed down, in my opinion, by those who are afraid of what the past might hold. I don’t mind the past, I prefer not to dwell in it but otherwise it’s a part of who I am.

That sounds like a good interview! I’ve never understood the whole wait till you’re older aspect. People should do things when they are ready, if that’s now that’s now, if not, that’s okay. I do think having fun is important, you should never been consumed by your work, but being a writer is a part of who I am. I can’t just stop.

I’m glad it spoke to you. I often just write these posts as a sort of freewrite and release of whatever is on my head at the time. It’s a nice way of making peace with myself.

Reply
Laura W.

🙂 Thanks for this message. It’s an issue I struggle with myself…especially when it comes to explaining to others, or feeling like I have to validate my choices by the standards of others. I no longer seek others’ confirmation and validation of my love of writing, but it annoys me to no end when they act like they’re entitled to ask the often-offensive question, “Writing? Why the h*ell would you do that?” and all its variations. If they’re genuinely interested, it’s one thing; if they just want to tell me how to run my life; that’s another. I guess the worst would have to be one member of my family, who are fond of asking, “So when are you going to publish your book and make a fortune??” because one, she asks it in a mocking tone & follows up with a conversation about, “Well, why haven’t you made money at it yet? Aren’t you successful? Maybe you should consider a more lucrative choice. I don’t understand why you put all that time and effort in for something that doesn’t even pay off, when you could be focusing on more worthwhile things.” And two, I just want to say, I would certainly LOVE to make a fortune, but that’s not really what drives me to write! 🙂

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Patrice

Hi Laura, you’re welcome! So many struggles that I understand completely. I think it’s so courageous you told you family though. I mean I’ve told a few members but I haven’t even told my mom because of not wanting to disappoint her/have her think that I’m going to be poor and a failure. My family is important to me but I don’t want their fears to affect my success. Haha, the money thing is a big one. I think that’s what really scares people that we’re diving headfirst into a career field that has NO guarantees about the money we’ll make.

When I started this blog I told myself this: It is time for us to stop waiting for the world to validate us and go ahead and validate ourselves. It was like my call to action. Like you said, I no longer seek confirmation from others. At least, I try hard to make sure I’m not.

Reply
Catherine Stine

Inspiring message, Patrice. You don’t need to justify your actions to anyone. Except maybe yourself. :). I like personal icons as well. Certain images fill me with inspiration and joy just to look at them.

Reply

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