I am a firm believer that when we hold artists with expectations that are too high to the point of limiting their language of expression, we lead them to become nuisances to themselves; useful and entertaining for everyone else but nuisances to their own minds.
Leaving Nigeria a few years ago, I honestly felt a heaping sense of morality lifted off me – not in a way that is damaging to anyone else or the society but in a way that liberated me. I remember the first time I said the f-word aloud; it was at work. Two of my male co-workers had said it too often that I couldn’t resist the taste of it on my tongue. In the previous times, when the word, Fuck had occurred to me, I apologized profusely in my mind and felt an urgency to be remorse “for I had sinned!” Fast forward to now, I know the word in multiple languages, courtesy to those male co-workers for the beginner classes.
Late last year, I was in a poetry workshop with a very radical author who wrote poems such as one titled “porn without sex” and another, with a line about his mother calling his house phone at night to remind him to sleep warmly during one of his self-fucking escapades. The most striking thing about this author was not his idealism of eros but something he said that refuses to leave me. He said, and I paraphrase; we expect artists to be good, holy, and clean people as though they owe it to us. We expect them to be our example when we haven’t even been so meaningful to them, and it is draining. We expect their works to understand, forgive, and ease our filth and the world’s but make their flaws, even if it were a speck of dust to feel so undeserving of second chances. To balance off how poorly I have painted this author, let me say – he is also a renowned architect.
Unlike some people whose double-life is with a side chick, or with an addiction they are suffering, my double life is with my WhatsApp status, and I am religious about it. I have managed to keep a good appearance outside, and I thank God for the good looks he has provided to complement my pretentiously perfect outlook to others. In the absence and expense of therapy, my WhatsApp status has become the place where I could be true. It is the place where I am quadrilingual – speaking honesty, sarcasm, mad rude, and fuck shit in fluent English.
Just as you have guessed, yes, I have blocked all necessary personnel – my pastor, my parents, my younger siblings, the potential nosy people that will expose me, and hypothetically, my guardian angel, and conscience – the mother of all Judginas. It is no news that if God and everyone who only knew me as this perfect little being read my WhatsApp status and used it as a judge of my character, my guardian angel would have been fired a long time ago.
The inside life of my WhatsApp status is where I can breathe in peace; it is also where I can huff and puff without causing World War Three. It is where I can bear the genes of David Chappelle, Elnathan John, and The Rihanna that refused to drop album (not the one doing make-up). It is where I can revolt against even myself; and be alright. It is where I can talk to people and feel as though God is hearing me too – where I am a little assured that God is not angry at my honesty – because the people who expect me to be perfect are not there to judge and play God.
As I write this, one part of me wants to do the typical thing – the moral version of a congregation chorusing “Some people have died today, but here you are.” One part of me wants to say that “At least I have not gone to the extent of doing or being like this or that person…” But over the years, with the experience of knowing myself fully – allowing my bad traits non-judgmentally, I have stopped feeling the need for self-righteousness at the expense of someone else’s condemnation. Other people’s downfall or full circle has stopped being a measure of my grace and righteousness.
I do not see this inside life as a place where I can in-quote, “be myself,” like you’d think “clichéically” – instead, I see it as something that completes my human nature – like a circle. A place, where I am there with myself for good and bad, and with people who wouldn’t think less of the good I have been, I am or have the potential to become by judging me narrow-mindedly. It is the address of personal nuisance that provides sanity to face the expected perfection and high expectations of the people and world that surrounds me.
This is my own inside life and solitude. What is yours?
Oyindamola Shoola: Author of Now, I want to remember (http://www.shoolaoyin.com/)
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