A Year On

On April 4, WordPress sent me a notification that said: “Happy First Anniversary with WordPress!” It has been a year since the birth of this blog. Or so it would seem. It is my first ‘bloggerversary’- a time that bloggers put finger to keyboard to take stock of the year that’s gone by, a welcome opportunity to pen an emotional post about how valuable our readers are. A time to reflect on our accomplishments and challenges, and how we hit the thresholds of personal and professional success. A time to lay down grand plans for the coming twelve months, like a comprehensive corporate SWOT analysis. And more importantly, to raise a glass and toast to themselves, to pat themselves on the back. A milestone. A cause for excitement.

But I am not much of a celebrator; never have been. I can bet you all my skinny jeans that I am the least ‘festive’ person on the planet. A rather bland bloke, if you will. An insufferable Debbie Downer. It is not my fault that I am this way though; my cultural background and my folks – by cause and effect- are to blame. I was raised in a household that perfected the art of being conservative down to a T. Papa was a stand up Somali man who left the nomadic lifestyle as a young adult and came to settle in Garissa town- a fifteen-year-old wife (‘babymama’?) and a toddler in tow- but who still held on to the simple ways of rural life. Deeply religious, his only dream for his offspring, which I am positive has not come true if I am to be used as reference point, was to be very upright and spiritual- to become men and women of the cloth. There would be no greater honour for him that to spend this life in preparation for the next one, no other cause worth dedication and celebration. As a result, no stellar school report cards, no milestones were celebrated, no commemorative pictures, no pats on the back. Poor me. *Sheds a tear.* Sniff. Sniff. Tissue? Anyone? I intend to slap my folks with lawsuits for a long list of very cruel and inhumane violations as soon as I get admitted as an advocate. *Adjusts tie* *Cracks knuckles’*

The old lady – the aforementioned ‘babymama’ – though slightly more liberal, was similar to the old man in this regard. As was almost every household in 90s Garissa. So such things as birthdays and anniversaries (of any kind) were not only not part of the culture, but would have seemed highly unnecessary, impractical, and stupid. I have little doubt that my mum would have reacted very positively to the very bright idea of having a birthday party in my honour back then- she would have given me a good beating for it with a fresh branch from the abundant neem trees, while reminding me that instead of celebrating, she should be mourning for bringing another idiot to an already troubled world! A biological failure on her part. Only joking. Or am I?

The point is that we were raised in a society in love with morbidity. Where cheer is only performed as a religious or cultural obligation. Think Idd celebrations. Weddings. I suppose it is just on these two occasions that our folks let us actually have fun. Though I wouldn’t call it fun, at least in the strict sense of the word. Fun always seemed like a highly punishable crime. Goofy acts were a risky business. Having a blast was a deadly endeavour. How else would they micromanage our lives if we were allowed to roam free and have a good time? I think the trauma has remained with me over the years. Celebrations, therefore, always come with a bit of guilt, and an unhealthy dose of suspicion.

It is amazing how much our upbringing shapes our perspectives on everything.

I do not, therefore, think of the fact that the blog is now a year old as something to be excited about. My morbid nature gets the better of me. I can’t help but think of the fact that I had not written anything for three months. Or how consistency is not my cup of tea. How when an editor asked me what themes I usually write about, I could not come up with a bulleted list from the top of my head because, well, I have no idea myself. How I prefer not to have an idea of what I write about because that would be so painfully, terrifyingly predictable. Or on my absolute conviction that this is more of a reminder of the cruel passage of time than it is a remarkable milestone. The fact that I cannot seem to catch a break. The never ending pressures of city life and the insufferably boring routine thwarting and hindering the very life and creativity out of me. How I often feel tortured and pulled apart by my own conflicting instincts, lost a part of myself to a certainty. How even when you get the frame of mind to write something, whatever comes out would be deformed and twisted, the product of a strained and sullen imagination. Or how I hope to possess, as Virginia Woolf wrote in A Room of One’s Own,  “enough money to travel and to idle, to contemplate the future or the past of the world, to dream over books and loiter at street corners and let the line of thought dip deep into the stream.”

Perhaps I am haplessly drawn to the dark side. Perhaps my soul naturally gravitates towards the morose- the sullen always seemed more beautiful, more seductive.

But despite my gloomy pessimism, I couldn’t help but smile inwardly. I felt slightly proud of myself, though I could not admit it out loud. Due to the above-mentioned guilt and trauma. But I decided to be melodramatic and write this post. I thought of last April when I shared the first post here. I was in a very dark place at the time. A very trying time in my life. A difficult period for me. And I remember needing a distraction for all the pain and anguish that I was going through. I needed something that would take my mind off of things. But more importantly, I needed an outlet for the torrents of torment that were threatening to tear me apart. Blitzed on nicotine, I could not see anything to be happy about on the horizon. The blog was a Godsend, in this regard. It seemed the cliche that it is always darkest before dawn is indeed true. It healed me, even though I never shared the things that were the cause of my pain. I was never comfortable enough to share deeply personal things here. I still am. It was cathartic simply by virtue of writing down something. Anything. After a few posts – just like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill – I was able to get off the bed, then walk about, and get on with life. Such is the healing power of writing.

Then there is the matter of growing as a writer. You know, I have been afraid of reading the very first posts I had written. I kept thinking that if I went back to read, I would be consumed with embarrassment. What if it is too silly, too immature? I thought. But today, a year and a few days later, I gathered the strength to read the first post ‘Did He Have Passion?’   I was a nervous wreck reading it; I had not gone back to it for a year. Reading it felt like reading along-lost letter from a long lost love. That eerie feeling, those goose bumps. It was familiar but it felt new. Perhaps it was because I was looking at it from a different angle, with a different mind-set, with different eyes. Armed with a critic’s eye, I was prepared to be disappointed. But the curious thing is that I was not. On the contrary, I was proven wrong. Far from silly and immature, though painfully lengthy, I found the post passionate, punchy, fun and memorable. Unlike my recent work, I could feel that I had taken my time drafting it. Ironically, I wondered whether my current work is not quite at par with it. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it is not. The important thing is that my nerves were calmed. And that there has been some growth since.

The blog has also created, simply by virtue of its existence, more opportunities for my writing. Thanks to it, I have had the opportunity to write for other avenues. It encourages me to dream bigger. I do have hope of publishing something, a collection of short stories perhaps, or essays, or an anthology of poems. I have the pipe dream of writing for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and other such avenues. The “legitimization of desires,” of my “impractical urges,” as novelist Ayana Mathis puts it. Mathis reminds us, in this article for Guernica Magazine, that we have a right to our ambitions, impractical as they may be. And don’t we all?

So, it would seem, I have a reason to be excited.

The point here, apart from being an excuse for writing something, is to look back and see how far we’ve come. And acknowledge just how much occurred this year, because of creating a small online space to share ideas and inspiration. A space to inform, to make someone laugh or reflect, or simply to get something off my mental. A road less traveled.

“Happy First Anniversary with WordPress!”

Such a happy little message. So I’ll be a little melodramatic, have a knees-up and watch bad telly to commemorate the first ‘bloggerversary’ with love in my heart. For my good friend Abdullahi Welly Hassan for giving me the money to purchase this domain and for being a great supporter of this blog. And Firdous Yassin for providing insight into these posts and for believing in me. And to you for reading and keeping me going. And if we’ll have something to recount this time next year, Well. A tremendous privilege that will be. Cheers!

P.S: I will be starting a poetry section soon. Hope you guys will like it.

Image source: thenewstack.io

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23 thoughts on “A Year On

  1. You know, I came hereto say thanks for starting your blog. it kinda inspired me to resume writing. I used to when I was younger but had stopped over the last 2 years. Keep on doing this, Aress. It’s a lively addition to my reading list!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kavita, it makes me glad to know that this blog inspired you to start writing again. Keep up with it. Myself, I shall keep on writing, no doubt. Thanks too for always reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The one year mark is just the beginning. There’s so much more to come from this blog, and I personally cannot wait to watch you grow even more as a writer/poet. So proud of how far you have come. Thank you for sharing with us your stories, inspirations and dreams. No dream is too big, and on that note, though a little late, Happy one year bloggerversary Aress. Super proud of you!

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    1. Thank you so much Khadija for the wishes and the kind words!

      Like

  3. Nilipitia hapa late night!

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    1. I am glad you stopped by Kavita! Good to have you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kept us waiting for a while but definitely worth it. That story about our parents not letting us have fun resonates with me. I’m a Garissan as well. Our people are very conservative. In our household there were not many celebrations either. But as I grow older I’m starting to realize that it made us better people. Happy to read something relatable ! Thanks for sharing!!

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  5. “The point is that we were raised in a society in love with morbidity. Where cheer is only performed as a religious or cultural obligation. Think Idd celebrations. Weddings. I suppose it is just on these two occasions that our folks let us actually have fun. Though I wouldn’t call it fun, at least in the strict sense of the word. Fun always seemed like a highly punishable crime.”
    Isn’t this what makes members of your community resilient, thriving in a world where everyone thinks of it as a combatant society that should be treated with apprehension? Isn’t the morbidity what makes Somalis natural poets because, instead of focusing on conforming to the world’s definition of fun, they are natured introverts – raised to be creative, and unbound in their imagination.
    I’d recommend “A Man of Good of Hope”, a book by Jonny Stinberg.

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    1. Yes Dann, the morbidity had its advantages. It molded us into better people. It made me who I am. And yes, perhaps it makes me a little more resilient in a harsh world.
      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check the book out.

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      1. You are welcome.

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  6. Its always a pleasure to read your posts Aress. I may not comment here everyday, but i always look forward to your blog. Keep up the good work and yes, we all have ambitions as impractical as they may seem. I’ll be waiting for the new segment. Happy belated blogversary!

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    1. Thank you for the kind words. I shall try to keep up.

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  7. I’m going to subscribe with the new york times, and wait patiently for that day that one of your works will be there.
    Reading from this, made me feel lucky to be someone who also got passion for writing… at least I can transform the emotions and battle in mind into words, words that once are put down on paper (or screen) bring about relief.
    I brag that am a poet to some people, not everyone hehe, so am looking forward to your poem column. 🙂 happy belated blogversary!

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    1. I hope you shall not have to wait too long for my Sunday column with The Times. Haha. Dreams ey?

      Glad you got inspired by this in whatever way. Looking forward to your poetry as well! And thanks.

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      1. All dreams are valid huh!
        But don’t wait for my poems though. I am not comfortable to share my writings, but I am not COMFORTABLE sharing my poems. Hehe

        Liked by 1 person

  8. The childhood memories and the ‘babymama’ comment though!!! I Enjoyed this piece. Shukran for the inspiration!

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  9. “We have a right to our ambitions, impractical as they may be. And don’t we all?” Powerful. I am not big on comments but I follow your blog. I love it. Keep up the good work Aress.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and for leaving a comment. Cheers!

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  10. Ah the healing of writing! I so understand! And it stokes me that you are writing about what you know, what seems so normal and commonplace to you hat you might forget to write about it or think it not with your attention. But for me, it opens a portal in a world I’ve never visited but want to understand. So thank you!

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    1. You are welcome Colleen. I am glad to know that it opens a door into something you would want to understand. Writing is also a portal for me to understand my own world. Art not only lets others peek into a new world, but it also shapes the author’s understanding of it. Thank you too, for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah so very true! You are very insightful.

        Liked by 1 person

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