I'm slowly realizing that my desire to write has a lot to do with my shame in my oral voice. I "talk too loud" or "too fast." My input is "too random." My transactions often begin with zeal and end with that familiar orchestra of evening crickets. No one responds to my comments or inquiries. So I huddle, cheeks blushed and freckled, into the smallest ball possible and shut up until my urge to be heard pushes ahead of my capacity for embarrassment. It's a constant struggle. When I'm writing, I am free from that moment of silence and awkward, continued conversation--void of my interjected observations. Free to quietly laugh at my own wit and feel for my own pains.
I use to abuse the privacy of writing, however. I'd wake up at 6 a.m. on school days in the 8th grade and scribbled down my thoughts to skanky music videos on MTV. I would hope to arrive to school early so I could sneak upstairs and continue the chronology of my morning's tribulations. I wrote about my parents. Boys. My friends. And none of it was nice. I used these secret pages as a private sanctuary from a world where I thought I was too nice. But like in the case of Harriet of Harriet the Spy, my childhood idol, my private transcriptions blew up in my face. My parents read my writing, and I turned into a mean girl. I think the realization that my undercover hating was found out prompted me to become outwardly hateful, as many do in their adolescence, in a strange manifestation of squandered pride. I subsequently stopped writing for some time.
Living in Africa, I am again struck by the impulse to write because I am again faced with a slew of indescribable thoughts. Not mean this time, just different. Things contextually meaningless to those back home and emotionally insignificant to the locals. Huge things pass without worry, while the smallest details send me into awful bouts of homesickness as foreign as the country I inhabit.
Leaving Ghana will be another spiral of mixed emotions. Things like cheese, family, relationships and East Village hookah cafes make me crave home so bad I get sad at the sight of passing planes. I dreamed of a Big Mac and cried. Not exactly--but close.
Next to my desire for home is the inevitable despair of leaving this country and its people. Unlike my existence in the United Sates, my mere presence here is exhilarating. The people are welcoming, curious and genuine. And though I wish my skin color didn't make me look like a neon green glow-stick in the dark, I am leaving the realest people I've ever met to live in a world where being broke or helpless is hyperbole.
One day I'll sit at my American family room table, staring through cobwebbed, 1920s window frames onto my mini-bamboo forrest, and reflect on all the details of this experience. I'll find irony in the safety of my midnight strolls down dirt alleys with near strangers and significance in the family bond between our neighbors--a loving, ma, pa and puppies dog gang across the street (who may or may not have rabies).
One day I'll cohesively write these thoughts into something meaningful. Maybe I'll even find a way of throwing my stories into conversations. Until then, I am 20 year-old eighth-grader with a notebook, incapable of making emotional sense of an ever-changing reality.
(Written on bus from Tamale to Accra)