I recently read a quote by Emily Mcdowell, it says: ““Finding yourself” is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a kid that became your beliefs about who you are.”
First thing I thought, I love this. Second thing was this is exactly what my feminist journey has felt like so far. Thirdly, it can be quite exhausting to do this every minute of everyday in every circumstance, how can one manage this growth on the daily? The answer to this question is both easy and at the same time difficult. At the end of 2019, I find myself slowly taking stock, trying to learn lessons, and preparing for the new year. What has really worked on this feminist journey over the last year, and what has failed, epically?
I’m grateful that I’ve finally stopped thinking about it as a journey from a point A to point B. I must say this is something I learned on walks with my toddler. Whilst I tend to walk from one point to the next, trying to get her to come along with me so we can get to the end of the road, she stops every minute to look at a plant or a bug or some dirt someone has left there and asks 20 million questions.
It’s taught me to learn to take time to stop and enjoy the journey, smell the roses and the dirt and also appreciate all the bugs on the way while asking all the questions I need to ask before feeling comfortable enough to move on to the next step. Accepting that this feminist journey is a lifelong one and I will never arrive at the point where it “ends” and I can say “mama I’ve made it” helps. Is it easy to do? Definitely not.
As adults we’re conditioned to move, often hurriedly, from one point to the next because we have things to do and we have to get there. Is it worth it though? I would say an unequivocal yes, but it cannot be done alone.
Another thing that I’ve been grateful for this year are fellow feminists and allies, a.k.a the feminist sisterhood. What has become even clearer to me is that one will face an enormous amount of social pressure and backlash for breaking out of the patriarchal mode and pointing out how present patriarchy is, in personal and professional spaces. This does not endear one to certain colleagues, close friends and/or family and one might even notice some distance themselves.
As you grieve broken bonds, remember this is not a bad thing because it will give you the space to forge new friendships and relationships with fellow feminists.
These feminist friends are truly the fuel for the engine you need to engage and try to partake some of your learnings with those in your circle who don’t agree or don’t get it. It doesn’t mean you need to stop trying, but you should take all the breaks you need and recharge with your fellow feminist circle before getting in there again.
I could go on, but following on broken bonds and grieving, the last thing I think is essential, and at which I have failed badly, is to remember is that you have to take the time to say goodbye to the old you. You’re likely going to grieve deeply and miss those times where life was easier and you didn’t notice how insidious patriarchy is and that it exists through everything. You might even catch glimpses of who you were from time to time, but unless you’re a ghost you’ve got to let the old you go so that you can fully embrace being this new fabulous version of yourself. A self, let’s face it, once you discover will profoundly change you…for the better. This is the goal I’m setting myself for 2020.
Remembering, as put by Nayyirah Waheed “You will be lost and unlost over and over again. Relax love. You were meant to be this epic. Glorious. story.” If anything, I hope this stays with you on your feminist journey.
Nadia Ahidjo-Iya is a feminist, currently living in Senegal. Find her on Twitter @Asmaaouu