A year ago today, December 29th 2015 to be precise, I left my biological father’s house to escape domestic violence. After being told the night before that the only reason I wasn’t being beaten to a pulp was because he had made a promise to God, something snapped in my head. I was supposed to be grateful he wasn’t hitting me? Was this what my life was supposed to be about? Naaaaah! I was done. I spent that night ravaged with fear and unable to sleep, used the insomnia to pack my stuff and waited for morning. I jumped in the car and was out before anyone woke up. It felt like taking my freedom in my hands and deciding to use it. I didn’t know where I was going, only that I could not spend another day living in fear. Uncertainty is scary, but not as much as not knowing the next time fingers will be curled round your neck, trying to choke the life out of you or fists punching your face repeatedly till you go numb and giving you a black eye and bruises that only make-up, scarves and dark shades can hide. I was tired of putting up a hard exterior while disintegrating inside, becoming this cold, bitter hateful creature. I found myself in my uncle’s house, sobbing like my heart had been ripped out of my chest forcefully.
My Dad has always had this violent streak and he spared no-one: my mom when she was with him, his current wife, her mom, my half-brothers, even his own mother and many others. I read Purple Hibiscus years ago and it felt like I was reading about my father- saint in church, friend of all the priests and bishops, gracious host, generous giver, army general at home. Unfortunately for me, I was the only one he could currently hit. The boys (read men) were now big enough take him on and he could no longer touch their mom. I had become his outlet for frustration: verbal, emotional and physical. He didn’t bring me up or pay my fees or even the hospital bill when I was born, but I was ready to forgive every wrong, to heal him, be his balm, I was hungry for my father’s love and didn’t let my mom know he had begun hitting me too. Apparently I was wasting my time. He had asked me to leave his house on so many occasions; it was only a matter of time.
2016 has been my year of liberation of sorts because 2015 was freaking awful. I remember how I felt when the clock struck midnight on January 1st. For the first time in my life, a new year felt like a new beginning. I had saved enough money from my new job to rent a new place, a space I could call mine, away from people. Was ready to make this year one of reckless abandon- live on the wild side, do away with all my inhibitions and regret later. Nothing else would matter as long as I was finally free from pain. After all, that’s what liberation is supposed to mean, innit?
God had better plans for me though. I’m sure he looked at me, shook his head and said, “Not on my watch kiddo”. So, here I am, I live with my uncle, his wife and my cousins now. They’ve refused to let me leave. I’m finally experiencing what love and family feels like- something I had forgotten since I stopped living with my mother after university. It feels glorious, like heaven on earth. The gift of living, giving, laughing and loving, with people who genuinely have your interest at heart. Oh! How I had forgotten!
I now live with a purpose as opposed to moving around like a zombie just to get through each day, a shadow of myself. Love gives you strength you never realized you had. My uncle’s wife is my new confidant, I tell her everything. She’s mom number 2, the most amazing mother a girl could ask for. My good paying job is crap, so I’m using the dissatisfaction I feel for it to save up and do more productive stuff. I intend quitting next year and going to school to expand my horizon. I now recognize how awesome I am and how I deserve more from life. I look in the mirror now and I go “heyyy! Looketchuuuu!!”
My mom has been amazing with her words of affirmation and never ending accolades (after calling my uncle’s wife to get my gist and ask if there is any current boo). My friends have been pillars, giving me ego boosts and helping me to focus. I haven’t spoken to my father in a year, my half-brothers and I have a strained relationship because they feel their mom is infallible (I don’t hold it against them, but I keep my distance). My step-mom still came to my uncle’s house to tell malicious stories about me to his wife (God will keep fighting for me, shebi I’ve left your house for you). My Dad can’t visit his brother anymore because I now live there (I dey cause trouble sha hehehehehe). It’s been an interesting, eventful year!
I lost family members for the first time this year. First was my aunt; she was the kindest, sweetest soul, never held a grudge and had no enemies. I cried in the office that day like I was going to die. Thank God my mom made me speak to her some hours before she died if not, guilt would have finished me. I felt a big hollow in my chest. My mom’s sister had no children so we were all her children till cancer came and snatched our mother away. It was a difficult time for my grandmother. She was depressed for a long time. My aunt was her first child (she had buried 5 children from a previous marriage and ran, so the all memories were back, haunting her). Burying a child at any age is a nightmare for any parent and we kept faith that she would triumph over depression. Grams is back in full glamour now. The second person was too much of a public figure so the family couldn’t even mourn properly with all the surrounding controversy. On the day of my birth 1989, it was Stephen Keshi’s parents who drove my mother to the hospital. On the day of my birth 2016, we buried their son, not caring if the country he served was going to honour him properly or not. We honoured him. That was all that mattered.
I was reminded this year that good people and miracles still exist. A colleague lost my WAEC certificate in 2011 and I stumbled across a Facebook message asking me to contact a number. The message was sent to me in 2012 and I saw it in 2016! The finders refused to collect anything from me and I literally had tears in my eyes. If you ever come across Don Reality John on Facebook or go to the business centre on Muri Okunola Street in Victoria Island, give Mr. Dennis a hug for me.
I cannot be thankful enough for the year I’ve had. For love, for life, for family, true friends and growth. God showed himself and gave me the one thing I wished for a year ago – inner joy from peace of mind. I had prayed that 2015 would be the last year I spent a Christmas holiday in a depressing house and he heard me. Sure, it was a tough year emotionally and sure I’ve been to the hospital more times than usual this year, but even the illnesses can’t steal my glow! I can’t wait to show next year what I’m made of. After a sour experience in 2015 at the hands of a demon (not Yoruba), I think I’m finally emotionally ready to let love touch my heart again (my father breaking my heart was more difficult to survive sha). All that’s left now is a boo to share my weaknesses with because not every time strong woman, sometimes curl up and be a big baby. *wink*