A Letter To My Other Self

A Letter To My Other Self

I may not understand, but Afamefuna just might.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's The Thing Around Your Neck.

A collection of stories

Stories I may never fully understand. I will never fully understand.

I am not Nigerian. But Grace is.

"The Headstrong Historian" explores identity, more specifically cultural, racial, and familial identity. And I'd like to comment on that, in a letter to my other self.

...

Dear Grace,

I know you. I pity you.

You are at a point in your life where you follow instruction and are happy to do so. You know that you have a fondness for chemistry, and so you have plans to pursue a path in chemistry for your future. You know that you are quite adept when it comes to education when it comes to chemistry. You know that if you are good at something, you should do it more.

You live such a wonderful life, it's true. You have a home, and you have faith. Your opportunities are endless, Grace, what with your home, your faith. You have a family, too, who determines that home and that faith. What that home looks like. What that faith looks like.

All of that which you know has come from school. Your education, of course, has come from classwork and homework and teachers with small minds and big authority. Your discipline has come from your classwork, your work ethic - from your laughter and the pain that followed in your cheeks, a pain you would associate with both smiling and with your father. You know that children enjoy gossip, and mocking instructors when they are not looking. You know that the purest form of pride can only come from knowledge, and that knowledge can be found in scripture, in study, and in class. You know that you are an intelligent girl and that your intelligence is a defining aspect of your character. You know, and pride yourself in knowing, that you are the youngest child, and still you are the smartest. That, I know, is who you are.

I know that you visit your grandmother. Her hands are very beautiful, as are the pots that line her home. Both are dried and hardened with age. She shares stories with you that you find difficult to fathom, but the light in her eyes affirms every word she speaks as truth. She tells you stories of your father, and you can tell that she is disappointed in him. The way her voice falls also tells you she is disappointed in herself. She doesn't like to talk about the missionaries.

You pride yourself on being able to identify elements of your history class with the political and religious systems she describes and the colonialism that she undoubtedly witnessed. Your teachers, however, do not hold your ability to do so in high regards.

Your grandmother has told you about your grandfather, about his family, and his family's family. She described what you recognized as a cultural denouncement of infertility, and you smiled as she told you that she didn't care that the God Ani probably misfortuned Obierika's family. You also smiled when she told you that Obierika refused to take another wife. Your father would like that. She described him with loving and warm words. Your father doesn't use those words when he speaks of your mother.

I know you. You hope your brother speaks of his wife that way when he marries.

And when you go home after your visits with your grandmother, you find that it takes more and more energy to move your feet. You think about what you have learned about human physiology, but it makes no sense to you. You can find no explanation for the added weight in your legs, the inability to contract and extend at the knee as you leave. But you observe it, and you don't question it, because while your mind doesn't understand it, your heart does.

And when your father tells you that Nwamgba speaks nonsense, and you tell him of the call- and -response poetry that you are considering as an area of study, he chastises you and accuses you of being sacrilegious. He tells you that you are a Christian, that you are good at chemistry, that you are going to study chemistry because you are good at chemistry and you know you are good at chemistry. So you do your homework, and hum your grandmother's songs as you do so.

When you go to school, I know you find yourself stifling your opinions to avoid punishment from the instructor, choosing to hum your grandmother's songs instead. When the boys raise their hands to give the wrong answer to a question - and you know it will be the wrong answer - you don't raise your hand. Your mother teaches you the responsibilities of a good wife, a good mother, and a good Christian. You blindly follow her arbitrary words, humming your grandmother's songs as you do so.

And I know that lately, you have found yourself visiting your grandmother more often. She is getting older, you know, and more feeble. And you have discovered that the weight in your legs has dropped from your heart - that the source of such heaviness is thoughts of losing your grandmother's stories.

That same pressure on your heart reappears when you hear your instructors talk of the savage Nigerian Culture during discussions of colonialism. You no longer recognize that culture in your grandmother's stories. It's not culture.

I know you, Grace. I know that you will grow to loathe that name, that you will lose interest in chemistry because chemistry doesn't alleviate the pressure on your heart or the weight in your legs. I know that you-you will sit with your grandmother before she dies and hold her calloused hands as you say goodbye. I know that you will come to love the name Afamefuna because it reminds you of those hands and those eyes and the poetry and the loving words that describe your grandfather.

I know that you will pursue a degree in history because that will alleviate the pressure on your heart. Because you want to write about your grandmother and publish it at University.

I know you, Grace. I won't pity you much longer.

I'll see you soon,

Afamefuna

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The One Thing Everyone Should Do Before They Graduate

Why I wish everyone could have shared in my end of school adventure.

Lswitka
Lswitka
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The end of freshman year was filled with the abundant stress of final exams, teary-eyed goodbyes, and last looks at my dorm room on South Campus. The academic year was overwhelmingly busy, and I tried my best to soak in every single moment as a first-year college student. But as I'm sure many of you can understand, it's not always possible to make time for the adventures we so desperately desire. I found myself saying "I want to do that!" all year long, and here it was the last week of the year and my bucket list had barely been touched. All those Philadelphia excursions, dreamy coffee shop dates, and campus explorations that I looked forward to never ended up panning out…

… until last Thursday night.

With about half the freshman class moved out of South Campus, everything felt a little strange. There was barely a dinner rush at all in Donahue Dining Hall, and my room looked so empty it almost made me sad. Naturally, I called up a couple of friends. Within minutes, we met in the lounge, and we were off for our adventure.

Every single day on the way to labs in Mendel Hall, I walked past the beloved Falvey Fountain. It had become such a consistent part of my routine that walking past it felt like it was a necessary daily occurrence. But this time, we didn't walk past. In fact, we stopped dead in our tracks and admired its color changing beauty for a brief moment.

And then we dove in!

Yes, we jumped right into the fountain. First the daring adventurer of the group, then his sidekick, then the skeptic, and finally myself. This was definitely not allowed, but no one was around, and more importantly, no one cared. Being knee deep was freezing, but the adrenaline rush was too much to suppress. So we submerged further, dunking each other and splashing the icy water literally everywhere. My wet hair made way for the most epic hair flip of all time, and we all laughed joyously.

All the stress of looming final grades and the completion of projects, the bittersweet goodbyes to our newfound families, and the hassles of packing up for the year were washed away in that fountain, drowned in the euphoria of the moment. We were officially baptized in summer as it dubbed us the kings and queens of adventure.

Afterward, we wrung out our soaking clothes and snapped a quick pic of our drenched selves. Trying to escape the scene hastily, I dropped my bag of M&M;'s. They spilled everywhere, leaving streams of melty chocolate and food coloring running through the aftermath of our fountain dive. The scene looked like a bit of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory had exploded from the fountain and into the night.

I am far from kidding when I say that adventure is a must for everyone, at any stage of life. Whether it's fountain diving at Nova, or sky diving in New Mexico, something about us as human beings needs the unusual, exciting, and even hazardous experiences. This one was particularly cleansing and absolutely unforgettable.

So I implore you: go forth this summer and be adventurous! Explore hidden places, try new eats, shuffle a stranger's playlist, introduce yourself to someone on a whim, or just get in the car and drive with no destination in mind. This summer is for the bold; this summer's for you.

Happy adventuring!

Lswitka
Lswitka

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