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  • Ashy Akakpo

Wonder-full not wonder-empty

It’s funny how your whole life can change after a day. After one, single day. What you thought you knew, who you thought you are, gets swept away. And your mind gets all foggy and you just kind of sit there in shock, denial, but still with a small ounce of relief.

Imagine wondering, every day, who am I? Who am I… really? Because for years you’ve been imitating so much. Copied so many people’s mannerisms, styles in clothing and messaging, humour, speech. And now you’ve hit a wall, a dead end.

That was me last year and early this year. Realised how much of myself I’ve buried away deep underneath all this façade. A façade I’ve polished over the years. The more people I meet, the more aspects I add to my already cluttered masquerade of lies. The mask would slip from time to time though, just a little bit in front of the ones I felt safest with, accepted by.

Although, after a lot of reflection, some of the people I thought I genuinely felt safe with and trusted – I didn’t really, because I never felt comfortable enough to take the mask off - fully anyway. I just felt more comfortable to play the role I had mastered for years. Which is lowkey sad if you think about it. I mean, I remember speaking to a former close friend of mine early this year, about some parts of me I had kept hidden and parts of me I had realised about myself and he was in shock. Even told me what I was saying wasn’t true, because and I quote, ‘you’re a good listener.

Only for me to realise, this friend I thought I trusted and felt safe with – I really didn’t.

I had convinced myself that I did but for me not to even show my most authentic self to him – said a lot. A part of me still didn’t completely trust him.

Which is funny and a little ironic because it even got to a point, I wore the exact same mask even by myself. It became natural to me I guess, hiding my authenticity even from me.

Well, it caused me to have an identity crisis. A huge one. I started asking people closest to me questions. They were sort of confused by the questions I asked them, wondering where did this crisis all come from? I mean, from the outside looking in, it seemed like I had everything figured out… but did I though? Uh, no.

It was only one of my friends, who’s known me since I was about 7, who recognised a change in my persona over time. They had noticed the changes, the fakery. The overcompensating, the ‘acting the part, taking up the role’. They had noticed it all and had in the past pointed it out but of course, I refused to listen because why should I, right?

She wasn’t wrong though. See, I’ve always considered myself a bit of an oddball. From the time I can remember, I’ve always been just a little bit – how can I put this – weird? I’ve always tried to ignore it but sometimes you just can’t. Sometimes the more you try to ignore something, the more it starts to poke you with a stick.

Growing up, I remember getting teased constantly for how I looked and how I was in general. Children are energetic, sure. But I was a little bit more. Children are naïve, sure. But I was a little bit too naïve. Always got told by all the adults who met me growing up that I was so different from the other two (my older brother and younger sister).

I mean, it was a tiny bit obvious. The way I behaved, the way I interacted with the world around me, I’d say – yeah. Very different indeed. I guess that difference got more obvious the older I got.

It was easy I guess to make friends, but it got harder to keep them. Why? I was a little weirdo. Fascinated with history or science. Blabbing about Jacqueline Wilson and how one day when I grow up, I wanted to publish my own book (uhh.. who knows.. that might still happen). Jumping around the house, spinning in circles, bouncing off the walls (metaphorically speaking) – and at this point I wasn’t a kid anymore, I was a teenager.

I guess it was then, the difference got a lot more obvious.

My friends were interested in dancing, training bras, fashion, makeup, bashment etc. I mean why wouldn’t they be? But me… I was beginning to stick out like a sore thumb. I couldn’t relate.

And it wasn’t like I didn’t want to relate.. I just didn’t know how to. Everyone else had it all figured out but for some reason, it was like I was missing the manual. I would blame my parents for how I was, thinking if I found an excuse it would make sense for me and my friends at school. But looking back now – that infamous neon orange tracksuit set I would wear constantly… that had nothing to do with my parents. I liked it, so I got it and wore it 24/7.

So, one day I started researching. Going on my favourite website ‘Wiki-How’ and learning the art which is normality. How to make friends, how to be funny, how to be confident, how to be liked, how to be popular, how to dance (I was stiff – trust me).

I started copying how my friends would dress, I started trying out makeup, copying my friend’s hairstyles, imitating people’s accents, vocabulary, dialect, started listening to bashment.. yes, true story. I even started copying how my friends would laugh, sit, drink, write. What they liked to eat, hobbies they did, facial expressions. I even started copying this one girl from secondary school, by putting semicolons after emojis when I would text people. Did that for years. And it wasn’t like it was an unconscious or subconscious thing – no. When I would message her or her friends, I would consciously get rid of the semicolons.

I constantly masked. All day, every day. The mask I was wearing, getting tighter and tighter. Until I had loss myself – almost completely. I had grown so used to being liked by everybody by being fake, until I had become so lost and miserable.

All that effort just to lose oneself. Wow. But – the story doesn’t end there. After recognising how lost I had become, I took the initiative and started finding myself again. It took me about a year and little bit but, it was Monday 21st June 2021 at 7:30pm – my whole life changed. Forever.

Now, I’m not saying the mask fell off – no. It’s just now I know who I am. I’m not weird, I’m not abnormal, I’m not strange – I’m just a tad bit different. Well not a tad bit – a whole lot turns out but still, not entirely a bad thing. Nay, na-da, nope.

Every day I learn so much about myself, I’ve started learning why I do somethings that I do and why I don’t do other things. And slowly but surely, the mask is slipping off. It’s a weird feeling unlearning all the behaviours I’ve adopted over time to ‘fit in’ or to not come across as weird. But it’s worth it.

Last year, I started reading Psalms 139 and told everyone (with conviction... lol) that I believed every, single word written in that scripture. Did I though? Barely. It didn’t mean a thing to me. I would read it and it’d fly over my head like a train if it had wings. It is only now, when I read it, I’m starting to recognise the truth in those words.

God has made me perfectly. He fashioned me in his hand and made me the way I am, on purpose, for a purpose. Mate, He knows me better than I even know myself – clearly, which is why He’s helping me rediscover myself again.

It isn’t going to be a walk in the park, unlearning things and feeling confident to just do me, but every day I am reminded – that God has made me wonder-full and not wonder-empty. Unlearning things and rediscovering things about yourself can be scary at times. Not everyone is going to like the man or woman of God that you are. Hey, you might even lose people you’d never expect to lose, just because you decided to be you. You might get blocked, insulted, lied on, bullied and even turned away, but don’t let that stop you from living authentically.

All that happened to me when I started living authentically. But I guess when you live like the person you were created to be, not only do those things not even remotely bother you (okay... maybe a little bit.. I'm a sensitive person okay..) but it shows you that some people just can't handle your sauce.

You are who God says you are! You are who God has made you to be! Remember John 17:17 lets us know, that there are no lies in God’s Word! And that’s a money back guarantee. Only truth. Always and forever.

Man, it took me a long time to get where I am right now, not saying I reached the end of my journey, quite honestly, this is only the beginning. Pray for me, that I continue to walk authentically in the plan and will of the Father, as well as just living like the woman of God, He has called and made me to be. And I’ll pray the same for you too.

Stay rocking fam! And live authentically for JC.

Ashy x


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