I can't say I remember my suckling or cooing days. Neither can I claim to know for sure if I was a terrible toddler or not. However, I can vouch for the marks tattooed on my legs and forehead. Mama tells me they are monuments of the numerous falls sustained during my tender years. She has recounted, to my horror, my audacious attempts at clambering the tall mango tree in our backyard at the age of three. And how I slapped other children across their cheeks and watched them wail, unfazed, devoid of emotion. I suppose it is true what they say - kids can be cruel. I am also reliably informed that I once chortled and tried to reach for the slithery viper that crept into our living room. Thank God Mama was always there to save me from 'me'.
There is a phase my memory has not deceived me. The time the upbeat, patriotic songs blared on the street corners and lyrics of Michael Jackson and Grace Jones thumped through open windows and muffled gramophones. I remember reciting every verse of Nothing is Gonna Stop Us Now and painting my diary pages with every word. My interests were innocuous at first. But as the music took on a new meaning, I was no longer just chanting, scribbling and dancing to the rhythm. First, to the boy who sent my pulses racing, I professed I Will Always Love You. Then, when he shattered my heart into a thousand pieces, I begged him to Come Back to Me. After that, I was just another Broken-Hearted Girl. Each melody beat and the phrase became poignant, sacred and meaningful—an allegory for my life. Those in the know say I was just a teenager with raging hormones.
But I swear the world was conspiring against me. How else could I explain other girls having superior coiffures? Or that my bulging thighs were an eyesore even in steeply-priced habiliments father bought with his hard-earned cash? By now, I had sassed what calls for flattery and roused the opposite sex, and it was nothing I possessed. Nothing I could pin down. Is it any wonder jealousy, self-doubt, and paranoia consumed me?
Then I took a stab at engineering my transformation. Skin lightening creams, hot combs and Palazzos came to the rescue. I am thankful there was no Snapchat and Instagram to increase the torture. Looking back now, I cringe at the things I did. What was I thinking? It was inevitable, I suppose, that gradually, I would embrace who I was. It turns out, that being me is okay. My looks do not define me. There is more to me than my hoarse voice and knobbly knees. My intelligence matters. I could shift my focus towards greater heights. Reach for the stars. Become the so-called woman of substance. I wish I had and want to have things like yesterday, but I try not to dwell on what I cannot change or control. I am learning to trust the process. Friends and the need to belong are essential to me. But I am also at peace in my own company. When I experience defeat, my mantra is to try, try, try again. I pride myself on my resilience. My ability to bounce back. How can I grow if I do not fall?
Somewhere within me lies a passion for igniting. I have something to offer, not only to my family or my immediate surroundings but to the world. It's funny how an appetite develops into insatiable hunger. The realisation that there is an entire world to explore. Something else. I derive satisfaction from motherhood, wifehood, occupation, and all that which makes me a grounded being, I suppose, but should I suffer for wanting more? Striving for more? Geography and responsibilities do not a hindrance make. Personal expansion is mine for the taking. But first, I must know - what is my purpose? How Time Has Changed Me
Each season, I become my philosopher, pondering, searching and demanding answers to life's tough questions. I know little, but I have heard and read the success stories. The great men and women inventors. The DaVincis of our time. Writers and performers, and those whose names are not visible among the stars but have changed the world all the same. Who am I to stand in my way? I could write the world's most celebrated novel or find a cure for cancer. This fire in my belly is past kindling. Perhaps one day, like the cleansing furnace, it will rid me of the disquieting voice. That constant nudge towards my greatness. My fullest potential. Oh, how the quiet voice prompts me to find a reason for my being here. My purpose in life. Meaning. Something beyond what I already am and know.
God knows I've been running this race. And what gives it all the more meaning and makes it more fulfilling is that 'it is my own race'.
Inevitably, I will enter my twilight years. Without a shred of doubt, I know that when the time comes, it will be the cacophony of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren's whines and feet that will afford me the most pleasure. I will treasure the feel of their tiny hands, exploring the contours of my wrinkled face. I will attend to their questions, showing as much zeal as the desire I have to make sense of it all now. I shall drown in their stunned, twinkly eyes when they listen to my tales. I will chuckle when they gasp at my ancient words. For it matters not if they get it or not. Because in the years to come, they will.
When the time comes for me to slow down, and cross over to the other side, I want to reflect, inhale and exhale, knowing I did all I could that I swum with the sharks and survived. That I swung for the fence, reached my full potential and fulfilled my destiny. Or at least gave it a whirl.