brilliance and resilience

I just finished Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom

well, I finished it, sat in silence for a few minutes, and then I sent a text saying “it made me feel a lot of feelings. it wasn’t instant, but I want to cry.”

but I didn’t cry. I got up and put on Raury’s All We Need album, Trap Tears specifically. I listened to it twice before letting the album move on, chopping okra and thinking of this post the whole time, building it in a loop, adding the new sentences in bits to help me remember what words I wanted to say, what order I wanted to say them in. the album’s still playing, but the okra’s waiting. and I’m sitting here knowing these words aren’t the same ones I had in my head, but they’ll have to do. they’re close enough. they’re enough.

I saw myself many times in this book. a mother, bedridden with depression. a brother who bullied his way through life with brilliance in his right hand and resilience in his left, to no avail. a girl who refused to speak of any of this, who was determined to do the hard thing and see it through, alone. to do what they couldn’t.

I also saw myself in the last book I read, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates. in the woman who started a conversation in her head and continued it out loud, in the man who knew her well enough to dance through conversations the way she needed him to. in the missing memories, the missing pieces that are simultaneously desired and feared. in the warmth in the muck, the joy in the loss.

and before I read either of these books, I was watching Naruto: Shippuden. if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been at it for awhile. like 6, 7 months. it’ll be one year since I started watching anime on the 12th, and I have a healthy amount of Japanese in my vocabulary to show for it. but let’s focus.

being who I am, it wasn’t hard to grossly oversimplify the villains of Shippuden. they didn’t know themselves, and if they did, they knew only themselves. they didn’t see the others around them, they didn’t know how to factor them in, their desires and their fears. that was the root of their troubles, in my eyes.

Kabuto: Isn’t acknowledging what you can’t do the same as giving up?

Itachi: No, it means to forgive yourself for what you aren’t able to do. Your comrades are there to make up for what you cannot do and to prevent you from ignoring things that you actually might have been able to do.

I’m 97% sure that Itachi Uchica is my favorite Naruto character, but to explain why would involve a lot of spoilers, and I’m nicer than that. he said a lot of things, including “if you want to know who you are, you have to look at your real self and acknowledge what you see“. and “those who forgive themselves, and are able to accept their true nature…they are the strong ones”. a lot of things were said by a lot of characters in the 421 episodes that I watched (422 actually, watched one filler episode by accident), but the Itachi quotes hit hardest. eventually I’ll rewatch Naruto, probably before I watch One Piece, because I cling to what’s familiar. but it was important, the way I was given what I needed.

Transcendent Kingdom was also important. I started around 10:30 last night and was done by 5pm today. yes, I slept. but something Gifty, the main character, said, stuck. “I’ll figure out a way to be myself, whatever that means”. whatever that means.

and that’s where we are. I took a break to check my phone and now I’m not sure where “that” is, but we’re there. I know I’ll have to read this book again, because so much was said. so much has been said in every book, every show, every song. so much I hope I’ll never forget, but it’s inevitable, isn’t it? one day, everything that is, won’t be. but that day isn’t today, because I’ve remembered where “that” is.

brilliance and resilience. the duo came to mind while I was reading The Water Dancer, and at first they felt really profound, but then I realized I’d already met them. April 22nd, 2018 I said,

you

are resilience

in the face of adversity, you reflect brilliance

it bounces off the facets of a diamond formed by pressure

yes you, are a treasure

I’d already found them, and put them in a letter to myself. always writing letters, always leaving reminders, always making to do lists to try and keep myself from forgetting. but still, I forget. I forget where “that” is, I forget where I am, who I am. so I have to find me again, to figure out the who and the why and the what for and all the other questions. so many questions, and tears. I couldn’t cry when I finished the book, because these were the words that needed to go with the occasion, to make sense of it. so the tears are here now, as I knew they would be.

I may not reread it, because this will happen again. that’s one thing I genuinely love about myself, I can find everything in anything. sometimes it gets me in trouble, or makes me a burden, needing clarity on top clarity to make sure I picked the right “thing” out of all the options I’ve gathered for myself. but for me, there will always be everything. in every book, every show, every song. there will always be tears. I will always be given what I need. I see God in these things, in anything, in everything.

and so I have these thoughts, these quotes. I even have a quote from a friend, but I’ll wait til he publishes it himself. it was given to me, and I’ll keep it until then. I’m proud of my friends, proud of myself for letting them in. proud of myself for learning my fears and desires as well as their own. proud that I’ve gotten to the point of knowing that God’s around the “that”, even when I can’t find the “that”. the me in the “that”. that’s okay. that’s enough.

Author: Iyaniwura Olarewaju

† | naija | nj | Cornell

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