By Ogunniyi Abayomi
Loneliness is a sin in the city of Lagos. As an introvert, you are not accepted by friends, families and associates. John is antisocial, they say. Oh you are insensitive and awkward. These are the opinions they hold about you without caring to find out your personality, your skills, abilities and potentials. They simply believe you are odd and strange.
I was born in Lagos, the only male child among two female children in the family. I knew of rejection early in life, and of the damage which inferiority complex can do to one’s personality. Vulnerability, naivety, anxiety and timidity are infused in the soul. Negative opinions become the determinant of one’s perception and self-image, thereby creating boundaries and limitation. You neglect your inner voice and depend on the voice of an unknown man to decide your ambition and direction.
While I was growing up, loneliness was seen as pride, arrogance, ignorance and negligence. The complaint was abnormal – you are weird, you talk without reason and you are not human. And suddenly you become the alien and, you lose your esteem. You then become the victim of their intimidation and attacks.
I was defined by these attributes and characteristics, conferred with an unseemly name with which they poked fun at me. My childhood was marred by criticism similar to the scourge of racism – my skinny stature, dark skin, and my usual unresponsiveness to unnecessary questions prompted them to intrude my privacy.
I presumed this was my personality. No inward search. No clue. I simply moved and did what I was told without a question. In Nigeria you are termed ‘’mumu’’ when you do things without thinking. Fela Anikulapo Kuti described this category of human beings as zombies. A classic song by the Afro beat legend reminds me of the freedom of expression that was not allowed the world, the ability I was not displaying in exposing the ignorance I thought was knowledge, the belief I imbibed and the attention I gave to false claims and premonitions.
How do we define our lives through a notion rejected by the world, the notion of being a sad person disconnected from family, friends and associates? The thought of being a psychotic, mental instability, depression and anxiety are traps and shadows that prevent our body and soul from attaining the potential in us.
‘He needs help, please send him to a psychiatric home.’ They professed that I was a bit sick and abnormal. Can one imagine the stigma and hate created!
Loneliness is the story shared in silence, endurance…the pain that cannot heal and the conversation between your thought and imagination. It is the moment we are absent-minded – the suicidal thought and the anxiety over your fate as you continue to breathe – the energy and motivation that are absent.
This moment, your emotional strength is sapped, esteem is low and no one is available to save you when you are about to take yourself away from the world.
I discovered who I was during the turbulent moment of doubt. I was neither mad nor crazy as the society expect. A lonely moment for a studious engagement is misinterpreted as a moment with the ghosts, ghouls and aliens.
The potential I saw in myself – the ability to know the right or wrong situation was discarded with the mere “Mr. Olu, you are not realistic, please think of something else.” That moment you become a wanderer. You are confused, dehydrated and weakened. It’s then you think of weed and Marlboro red to calm your nerve.
Can I overcome? What is the solution to this problem?
I met Daniel at the pedestrian walkway smoking on the couch. Observing his good trait and friendly nature, I approached him and inquired about the situation that led to the sad scene. He was open-minded with me, conversed with me about the torture and anxiety over being queer. He said, “I was thrown out of my father’s house with a warning to keep off the rest of the family, otherwise I would be killed.”
Daniel, son of a wealthy politician resides with destitute people, orphans and street urchins across the community. “I observe you are tortured and oppressed. I was having the same issue and I thought life threw me off balance,” said Daniel.
“I became a street boy despite the affluence of my dad. My dad hates me because I am queer, considering me the most miserable,” confessed Daniel. “I can’t go to any family member for help. I can’t talk to anybody, and sometimes they define who I am, I oppose it and tell them what I am destined to become,” he continued.
Daniel is a street artist. He does well as an artist so I was prompted to ask: “how did you overcome the anxiety and depression?” “I moved on with life” was his only answer and this left me pondering on the conversation we had. The healing process began. This was what I realized in my moment of solitude.
Loneliness is a journey. There are traps and ditches you avoid, moving on, considering not the pain inflicted by angry men and scavengers. The ability to read the society, that avenue to learn and unlearn from every encounter define who we are and what we tend to achieve.
Ogunniyi Abayomi was born July 11, 1991 in the city of Lagos, where he resides. A poet and essayist whose works have been published in various journals.