The breakup of a friendship for me feels something like a potato peel to the heart. You’re left astounded about how certain you were of its permanence just yesterday. But I think the unveiled truth of adulthood is that change is certain, both a comforting and completely frightening concept. 2021 forced me to once again face this idea of permanence, to be grateful for the beautiful experience that friendships are, even when they change into something else. The joy of life is our connections with others and the value those add to our short and fleeting lives. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m grateful for every encounter I’ve had with every person I’ve had the opportunity to meet, for it’s forged this version of me. The version of me that knows that change is always coming, but slowly learning not to be afraid of it, and to know that in my lows, these are not permanent, nothing is. And that’s ok.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”
It was the 58th anniversary of Uganda’s Independence recently and naturally, I was reflecting on what that means for me and for Uganda. I was trying to figure out how I could celebrate as someone in the diaspora both in a meaningful and in a fun way, (because 2020 will not come and kill me). The fun of it was the easy bit, but my spirit didn’t feel settled with that one dimension alone. Previously, I battled with this particular intersection of my identity. Was I Ugandan enough if I spoke broken Luganda? Was I Ugandan enough if I didn’t know Ugandan history? What did it even mean to be Ugandan? The person I was—am, someone whose ideas around respectability politics, gender roles, sexuality, femininity and so on, differed from my understanding of general Ugandan society, was there even a space for me? Although I yearned to embrace Uganda, would it embrace me back?
At present, I have become much more comfortable with my identity. I am who I am and no one can take that away from me. However, as we have painfully learned, healing and growth is rarely linear. Sometimes, I remember some of the ways I used to bully myself in my childhood, wanting to assimilate in a culture that would only accept me if I skinned myself, or believed that whiteness was better, that learning a skewed version of the Slave Trade was all I needed to know of Black history, and that any resulting anxiety was because I was wrong and would never be what is right. So, with the celebration of the independence from British colonial rule (at least in the physical sense), what does this mean for me? As I write this, I think perhaps it’s simply a celebration of myself, as a Ugandan girl in the diaspora, who doesn’t speak Luganda fluently, who is still learning Ugandan history, who is still trying to find her space in the diasporic Ugandan society. A celebration of reclaiming a part of my identity that was muddied by internalised anti-blackness, colonial thought and white supremacist education.
The question of who one is, is something I imagine is explored for the duration of one’s life. So, although events in my life have forced me to come face to face with myself, and hold myself tightly, despite my own struggling, now is the clearest I’ve ever seen me. Therefore, from the 58th Independence Day, I celebrate the independence of me and of Uganda. I celebrate continuing to stitch who I am back together and loving the scars left behind.
As the food preparations for our little picnic were under-go, I scoured YouTube hoping to find the perfect upbeat playlist to mark the occasion, while I moaned about how ridiculous it was that there wasn’t a Spotify app on the TV. Around me, the warm air blew in the smell of the sun as one of my friends assembled a cheese board and the other, poorly sliced tomatoes. We set up a beautiful spread of cheeses, grapes, crackers, salad, corn, coleslaw, hot dogs topped with cooked aromatic onions all enjoyed with mimosas. With my friends’ laughter laced with mild intoxication from the Prosecco, I couldn’t help but be grateful. Grateful for my friends, the food, the weather, my pleasant mood, the front garden we sat in, the occasional bees that caused us to yelp, the sun, our lives and that moment. Things could be a lot worse.
Lately, I’ve began incorporating gratefulness as a form of humility and as a way to remember to slow down when my mind begins to race, and my breath quickens. I recognise how grateful I am to be where I am, to have the things I have and to have accomplished the things I’ve done. Recently, I finished my final year of my undergraduate degree and amongst a sea of other emotions, I was mostly relieved. University is no small feat and it is far more than walls that make a building. It’s making it through trying to figure out who you are, trying to understand society, realising the rest of your life is beginning and trying not to have a premature existential crisis but failing…often. Making it through university is sometimes letting go of the expectations you had of yourself, people and things, and if you do the work, starting to see the world clearer. It also means removing the rose-tinted glasses that childhood innocence often affords you or realising that despite a shitty childhood and adolescence you can choose to be different. Sometimes, it’s realising that university isn’t for you and choosing a different path. So, I am relieved and although none of the things university forced me to endure have subsided, I am starting to find an equilibrium. Despite corona virus being thrown into the mix with racism, I am here…post university, mid pandemic, pre-career and I’m learning.