On Being Different

The Other Colours

“They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot,

with a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot”

– Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi


As always, I have a crisis of consciousness, but this time it’s about privacy. I like to tell myself that I have learned from experience and that some things should be sacred. So I deleted all personal posts from Facebook, deleted pictures too. I have tried to sensor very personal experience out of my tweets and pictures, so basically, if you don’t know me, you don’t know me.


However, my blog is largely a personal journal. Between hiding behind words and leaving people to figure out if the subject is me or someone else, or if it’s “happening now” or happened in the past, I feel that the only thing that has driven is the need to tell my own story and share the experiences of others. There’s always the confusion between staying authentic and maintaining the dignity that privacy brings.


I also know that many other people experience this crisis of consciousness. We live in a world where for most part we are taught to fit in. So we live life like everyone else- wear the same clothes, love the same things, live out the same dream. What happens is that we start to mirror other people’s lives and forget that we should live out our own personal dreams and experiences.


Because society has expectations of us, we are taught to shrink our dreams, to please people, to satisfy our parents and above all, to be loved. We also start to view people under the same spotlight in which we have been viewed. We have a sense of good and bad and anyone who doesn’t fit into good is bad. While we owe it to the ones we love to point out good from evil, we sometimes enforce our own beliefs on them and create a fear of being judged in them. We rob people of the right to live life on their own terms and own their experiences. We smother the best in them, by concluding that what is not good is bad.


Life has taught me lately that there’s much more to life than my sense of good and bad. Lately, I realise that I am now guilty of everything I previously judged people of. As a Christian, there’s a thin line between standing for what is right and judging what is wrong. While the Bible says we should flee all appearances of evil, it also clearly tells us that we will be judged in the same measure we mete out. One minute you’re high up there with your nose turned up looking at sinners down below, the next minute you’re wading through the mud with them, arms stretched out looking for Jesus to pick you and clean you again. In the end all that we have been given is mercy, and that’s what we should give.


The beauty of life is in the unique experiences, the many colours in between white and black. There are many other beautiful colours and just because they are too loud or too dull for us doesn’t make them any less beautiful. Just because we don’t understand someone else’s journey doesn’t invalidate their experiences.


Finally, in the words of Amy Poehler, “let’s peek behind the curtains and hail others like us. The open-faced sandwiches who take risks and live big and smile with all of their teeth. These are the people I want to be around. This is the way I want to live and love and life.” I want to look back and say I lived out my truth, unashamedly, unapologetically and on my own terms.

Love and Light!



Random Thoughts on Being Other

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” – Frida Kahlo


I first heard of the concept of “otherness” in my second year in the University. While studying Literature of the Commonwealth, I’d come to learn terms like the empire, the center, the other, the hegemony and many other terms that would make me try to understand where I fit in in the grand scheme of things. In my third year, I’d go on to major in Literature. I found myself more drawn to Literature of the Other, everything but the West, save for Shakespeare’s plays and Sonnet 116 and Robert Burns’ “A Red Red Rose” (Understandably, I’m a hopeless romantic). I got lost in R.K Narayan, V. S Naipaul and Derek Walcott. I loved some American literature, but only African-American literature. I knew a handful of Negro spirituals and I loved “Sister Becky’s Pickaninny”. Richard Wright’s Black Boy was too sad for me but I loved Maya Angelou’s poems. Of course I loved African Literature. I loved the worlds and the struggles captured. I loved the otherness of New Nigerian writers, especially those who lived in the diaspora. They were “Other” too. 


In my own defense, I had never seen snow, so there was no way I could relate to Western Literature, it didn’t matter that I had seen Home Alone a zillion times. But I guess my love for other was really deep-rooted. To start with, I had never been able to fit in. In school I could never quite fit in, even though I had friends. For most part, I was always the youngest or the oldest (yeah, catechism). Even when I had friends I could never keep them. At first I had a mild form of persecution complex and “Everybody Hates Gbemi” days but I soon realized that I would never be mainstream enough to fit into anyone’s ideas of who or what I should be. 


And that’s okay.


The fear of the freedom of choice to chart our own paths and make our own choices is the reason we all hide under societal norms and religious practices. They take the burden of choice away from us by defining what we should do and who we should be. So in the end, we are all homogeneous – same hair, same choices, same careers, and same partners and so on. It’s easier that way – when we all walk on the same street it’s hard to miss your way. Or that’s what it seems like.


But some paths are crooked and beautiful, and that’s how God made them. Not all of us should be mainstream- some of us were made to walk the side lines and maybe even backroads. But as long as we know where we’re headed and why, we can learn to trust our intuition. The beauty and genius of being different is in the fact that there are over 7 billion of us here. If God wanted us all to be the same thing, He wouldn’t even have made Esau and Jacob to be totally different people. Trust your path. Embrace your Otherness.