By Gloria Adaeze Adichie, MA Conflict Transformation & Social Justice
For the first time in my life, I travelled out of my country, Nigeria, to a foreign land and lo! It was in the middle of a lockdown. I was excited about the travel, but I felt empty after travelling. This emptiness may be a normal feeling for most people, but this normality is not the same in a pandemic. Well, I could not ascertain the usual feelings that come with travelling for the first time because I had never travelled until the lockdown.
And here in Belfast, I am; at first I felt that no one could hear me even when I breathe. Soon, I discovered it was a battle of the ‘self’. This battle made me ask my inner self: Who am I? Have you gone, or are you still there? Or rather, what is remaining of me? I was shut down to my ‘self’ that I hardly recognised myself – The lockdown of the ‘self’ is what I call ‘lockdown inside lockdown’.
The lockdown has made us strangers that know each other. I knew myself, but I felt like a stranger within my ‘self’. An African proverb once says that when a handshake moves beyond the elbow, it is no longer a handshake; it has turned into something else. I guess our handshake with life has moved beyond the elbow, and we have felt and perceived the different shapes of life and are thrown into the field of struggle. This perception hunts the ‘self’ more than the ‘non-self’.
A number of questions came to my mind. Which could be better – consciousness of the ‘self’ now or keeping the ‘self’ asleep? Will the latter reduce the struggle within? At a point, I realised that the ‘self’ needs to be awake not just to keep me moving but to give me reasons for moving. I am sure some people have been in this position or are in this position or maybe in this position in the future – know this – you are not alone – fear not the languages of the ‘self’, speak in the language you understand, the ‘self’ understands it.
The ‘self’ may be real to some and unreal to others. But one thing may be clear – the ‘self’ is a substance that keeps us moving. It may not be the breath of life, but it is the breath that sustains us during our struggles. So, it does not just make you conscious and reflective of the world around you; it fights for you.
We all wonder what a post-pandemic universe would look like less than we wonder what a post-pandemic ‘self’ would look like.
Could we for one minute, at least, converse with the ‘self’ and give it a ‘voice’.
Could we at least tap the ‘self’ to keep it alive?
So that we would not say, after the pandemic, we lost ourselves.
Lockdown is so subtle; if we are not careful, we may lose ‘our voices’.
Lockdown is a chance; if we can, we could regain ‘our voices’.