The morning my aunt called me about a publishing internship, I spent the half hour that followed concentrating, as I never have before, on washing the dishes in the sink. I don’t like washing dishes. I don’t like domestic work. Her call came in the middle of Alan Walker and Sia’s “Unbreakable”, a recent obsession of mine. I stared at my phone for about five seconds wondering if I should pick up as I knew what she was calling about. Even before I picked up, I knew it would be a destabilizing call emotionally.
Spoiler alert guys: I am not unbreakable. And now I feel cheated that I still cried even after I gave everything I had to washing dishes. Because what was the point? What good are distractions if they don’t assuage your emotions?
Let me back up.
I have this recurring dream.
A couple of friends and I are at a restaurant with good music but really bad service having an okay time. Would I rather be in bed, yes? The answer to that question will always be a yes. But my friend is holding my hand for some weird reason and he’s telling a stupid joke and I’m laughing, partly to humour him and partly because my sense of humour needs prayers. And then everything goes dark and I’m sitting with snakes (literally) yapping (hissing?) on about my plans professionally. A lot of the snakes, which are very friendly looking I might add, are of the opinion that I should go back to school and every time the word school is mentioned, venom is sprayed on my skin. My skin slowly cracks and peels away until my true self is revealed and she is just a little girl shaking at a corner, crying for help, begging the snakes to leave her be.
This dream worries me. It is an accurate, albeit bizarre, representation of how I feel about school.
Whenever I tell people I hate school, I get the classic response, “who doesn’t?” And maybe I don’t hate school entirely. School gave me a first taste of pride, and largely, a sense of purpose. We were learning standard six trigonometry and nerdy me just knew all the answers. I was answering the teacher’s questions as fast as he could get them out and after the fifth question, he made a declaration, “this is why she defeats all of you.” Other than the few hateful glances I got, the class was intensely silent. I said nothing for the rest of that lesson but for the very first time in my life, I wasn’t backing down because of shame or guilt, I did it to give others space and a false sense of achievement. I was thinking, “I’m going to own these people!”
But lately, I just hate school. For the place that built me, it sure did break me. I often joke that the only things school ever gave me were mental health problems and righteous anger.
As early as my youngest sister could understand me, I’ve been teasing her about school. At first, it was about how Jesus would come back even before she starts school and now that she’s in class eight, I keep joking that she should quit school because Kenya is too messed up for her education to do her any real good. My mother missed the memo about this being a joke and she gets so frustrated when she catches me saying this. One time it escalated and she ended up berating me about my unwillingness to do a master’s degree. Somewhere between her not understanding how I became so anti-school and trying to reconcile it with her parenting style, I remember mumbling, “school gives me anxiety and until I’m in a mental space where the very thought of school doesn’t make me want to slit my wrists, I won’t go back.” She of course didn’t hear me, and I left her “soul searching” because I needed to scream into a pillow as getting those words out of my mouth had left me feeling utterly spent and exhausted.
My aunt’s call made we want to scream into a pillow. I had to go to go back to school to get some documentation. I had to go back to the buildings that I was bullied and traumatized in.
School; a physical representation of my inadequacies. It’s been about eight months since I was in a class room and I still can’t get over how small and stupid the gates of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology make me feel.
Just the thought of going to school and I’m already spiraling out.
It’s the reason after I read Tolu Daniel’s essay here, I sat slumped in a chair for five minutes wondering what right I have to call myself a writer.
It’s the reason after a meeting with my friends yesterday where I mostly cackled and had a good time, I crawled into bed last night, sadness and disappointment wrapped around my throat, wondering why in the hell they would believe in me.
It’s the reason I’m sitting in my bed, writing this blog post that I’m convinced is subpar, hoping one of my friends will call so I can talk it out and get some emotional validation. What in the fuck?
It’s the reason I took it way too hard when I couldn’t find inspiration for a blog post. Because it stops being about having nothing to write about and becomes statement on my failure as a writer.
It’s the reason I couldn’t answer a simple question my sister asked me in the morning because it felt like an attack on my spirit which needed nothing more than to fly away to a safe, quiet corner.
But I’m writing anyway. Because, as far as I remember, it’s been my way of saying,”Screw you universe.” I mean I could actually more vulgar variations of that phrase, but you guys know what I’m saying.