‘When I was your age I was a straight A student, I never got into trouble and I listened to everything my parents said.’ If you grew up in a Ghanaian household you’ve probably heard this one before. Hell you’ve probably heard this one before regardless of your background.
I grew up definitely thinking my parents were excellent at school (which in my dad’s case was pretty accurate), were virgins until marriage (sorry mum and dad I call bullshit on this one) and never got into trouble. Pretty big boots to fill if you ask me!
That meant exam result days and report card days for me were extremely anxious times and I panicked at the thought of yet another lecture about how dedicated and wonderful my parents were at life. Whilst I was allowed to explore my creative side most of the time the thought that the only way to make it in life was to get good grades at school, find a ‘good’ job and get married was embedded into my soul.
My battles with hating certain subjects at school, self-esteem issues being curious about sex were battles I thought were peculiar to me. I was the fuck up. If my parents who came from nothing could knuckle down and make a great life then it was only natural that I did too, being that they gave me everything. ‘To whom much is given…’ and all that jazz.
I know a lot of people who grew up in similar backgrounds to myself and it’s always a running joke of if everyone’s mum and dad were first in class, well who was last then? Who battled with anxiety and depression at a young age? Who rebelled against the ‘norm’? Who got pregnant young? Who was ever confused about their sexuality? I know, I know…all very taboo, but what this cloud of perfection our parents hid behind meant was we were left feeling inadequate- at least I was. School was bitter sweet, I was okay at it, enjoyed it at the best of times but I simply wasn’t my dad. If I’d known sooner that my mother was way better at business than English literature I wouldn’t have felt like such a failure for the things I didn’t quite grasp as easily.
And what relief and support I would have felt if I’d also known sooner that my dad suffered with anxiety and panic attacks around the same time that I did. That I wasn’t just being irrational and weird.
Our parents don’t do any of this out of malice. They grew up in way different era to us, one that didn’t quite allow for self- expression and ‘fucking up’. The beauty of getting older is you hopefully learn more about who they were and some of their more intimate struggles. You learn that nobody is perfect because what is ‘perfect’ anyway?
I hope that one day I can let my children know that I hateeedddd Math and Science, that I lost my virginity at 18 (when they’re old enough to know of course), that anxiety and panic attacks don’t make you a freak, that as determined as I am to get shit done sometimes getting out of bed was a real struggle. I hope that inspires them to do what they love, be encouraged always and know that none of us are perfect~ Namaste