Release me

Intelligent.Genius.’You’re gonna be something someday’ I’d hear. ‘You’re gonna be what this world lacks and needs’. Beautiful.Kind.’ You’ve changed my life’.  

These words that seem like compliments tossed me around like a crumpled up paper in the October wind. Or a tornado; whichever is more forceful and devastating.

I saw desperation in people’s eyes; parents, teachers, strangers. I saw the kind of hope one has when one has given up on everything and lay down in the field, awaiting death. I saw broken dreams rising from the ashes, and I was expected to ignite them, breathe into them my gift. I saw homeless souls knocking on my door, wanting to be housed in a space I hadn’t explored yet…

I came to hate my ‘gifts’. I suppressed them, hid them, did away with them. I could not stand disappointing people, and I was bound to disappoint because I wasn’t cut for this. I wasn’t able. I was useless. I’d never amount to anything. I was weak.

I took to the shadows of myself and every time someone caught wind of who I was trying to hide, I’d shut that person out of my life. I never had an active goal I aimed for; anything I achieved was a by-product of my curiosity.

I taught myself English because my 15-year-old self was infatuated with an English-speaking boy and wanted to pen elaborate love poems to. I learnt Swahili in three weeks because I asked my tutor this one Swahili word I heard someone say, and one thing led to another… I learnt Arabic within months because I really wanted, no, needed to read this book I found, and I’d open up random pages to read each week to see how if I my comprehension had increased from previous weeks. 


That’s why I don’t feel I can ‘own’ anything I’ve done that people find impressive. I try to explain it away but people seem to think that I’m somehow responsible for my achievements. Maybe I am. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to think about that because it’s a Pandora’s box; a box I was stuffed into by well-meaning people. They pigeonholed me when all they could see in me were my gifts, my intelligence. I could not afford to jeopardize that, because if I took so much as one misstep, I ran the risk of eroding the only worth I held…

The paragraph in maroon is the most difficult paragraph I’ve put in this blog. More difficult than writing about my mental illness and rocky relationship with mum. I feel like throwing up. I feel so disgusting and filthy writing that. I feel naked. I’m deeply ashamed of the fact that I speak 5 languages. Which is why I’m taking this first step in feeling the disgust and doing it anyway.

I’ve belonged to others for way too long. I’m reclaiming myself.


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