When I was twenty years old, I lost my mother to cancer – through my teens, I had witnessed her battle the disease that would eventually steal her from our family. She was a kind person who made an impact on everyone she met and talking to a friend recently, I noticed that I had inherited my mother’s work ethic. This was something I was proud of because my mother was a phenomenal woman and I had always wanted to be like her – especially the grace with which she dealt with situations that were not pleasant. However, apart from a slight resemblance, I do have her eyes, and a few character traits; I am very much my father’s daughter. Years of being shaped by society, others expectations and trauma had changed me and I was losing a certain trait I had inherited from my father – my stubbornness to stick to what I believed in. I do admit that as I have grown, I had become much flexible by listening to others, however, if I am convinced about something, I would normally stick it out.
Stubborn people are not stubborn all the time – and while many may not see stubbornness as a good thing, it is a personality trait that has served me well in some instances. However, I noticed recently that I had suppressed this trait and a certain incident that happened recently made me realise this. One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to highlight the lack of mentoring culture in the Ghanaian environment I grew up in and when people step up to guide anyone, it is mainly to live their lives through them. I saw this all around me – how people that were in positions to guide would take on the position of gods and proceed to tell people how to do things without allowing for individuality, to learn to trust their intuition and learn from their own mistakes. I remember talking to a young friend of mine who felt called into leadership in a religious setting. I noticed that he was actively following many leaders in this religious group and they called him ‘son’ and he referred to them as ‘fathers’. Looking at these relationships on the surface, looked beautiful because he seemed to be learning from them – however, if you looked closely, that was not the case. None of these men he was following were mentoring him, if anything, they were using him to further their own agendas. When this young man noticed what was happening, he walked away from some of these people and that was when the character assassination began. When I last met him, he tried to defend the remaining ‘fathers’ in his life by explaining that they always graced meetings he held – when I then posed the question if any of these men had recommended him to a bigger platform or given him theirs, he suddenly went quiet and I could see the answer in his eyes.
A few years ago, I was at a religious women’s event where I bumped into two elderly women in their 70s. They had so many stories to share about the lives they had lived and to be honest, I found them very delightful and full of character. I knew one of these ladies through mutual friends and got to know that her friend was visiting from another city. I would later be contacted by the elderly lady I already knew that her friend was asking after me and wanted my permission to pass on my telephone number. She was a sweet elderly lady – what harm could having my number do, right? Wrong! I had just given my number to an overbearing person who would try to live their life through mine and use the tradition of always treating our elders with respect to trample over my boundaries therefore disrespecting me in the process. Had I not tried so hard to suppress this stubborn trait in me, I would not have found myself in this situation – I had never been okay with a tradition that was okay with older people being right always by suppressing the rights of younger parties. In the culture I come from, when dealing with someone who is older than you even by a couple of hours, they are always right and you may find yourself apologising to them especially when they wrong you. It was this same tradition I hated with a passion that this elderly lady would subject me to for years until I recently decided to call her out on and cut all ties with her.
The conversations started okay – with phone calls here and there to check how I was doing, however, it was not long before she started accusing me of not ever calling her back. To be honest, she and I were not friends and I did not have anything in common to discuss with her. Then she decided to take on the role of a mother in my life because someone had informed her that I was motherless and she had concluded that this fact could be one of the reasons why I was single in my thirties. So, this woman had decided to take it on herself to mother me into marriage! As much as this was an insult to the memory of my mother, she also did not respect me enough to get my opinion on the matter and used the tradition that muzzled me to not speak against her to bulldoze into my life and treat me like all the upbringing and support I had had from my mother and my family was not worth anything. She made comments that I should have immediately called ******** on but I did not and then she started trying to introduce me to men she had found for me. Mind you, she never asked me what I was looking for and to be honest, she never made the effort to get to know me as a person. She was told I was lacking and she was going to make sure that she guided me to achieve what she and the people that had informed her about me saw as lacking in my life. When the first match did not work out, I respectfully explained that the gentleman and I had nothing in common and we hardly had anything to talk about. Then she recently brought another one and like the first, he was also on another continent, something I am not comfortable with!
He then started manipulating the situation by going back to this lady and informing her of my personal stance on certain things that he did not agree with and to be honest, this pissed me off royally! On a quiet Saturday morning, while I was planning my day, she called me to tell me off as she always does because she had found me the most ‘wonderful’ person and I was not jumping up for joy so she was going to travel to my city to have a sit down meeting with me so she could teach me certain things and give me the opportunity to learn from her mistakes! At this point, I was shaking with uncontrolled anger as I quietly chanted to my self “Koya, don’t lose it”. Eventually, I would interrupt her by informing her that I was not available for her meeting, and asked her what she wanted to discuss. Well, she wanted to use her life as guiding lights for me so I don’t repeat her mistakes that caused her marriage to fail. Also, the gentlemen I had not married had given her feedback she wanted me to hear from her! At this point, I was hysterical, so I proceeded to point out that she had never taken the chance to get to know me and what I wanted for my life plus, I have family and they support me – my mother may not be living, but like every human being, I did have a mother who raised me as best as she could and I did not need my mum replaced!
She would proceed to talk over me and when I started becoming firm, she would accuse me of being harsh – so I quietly listened to her waffle on about fixing my life and when she was done, I thanked her and ended the call. I would immediately block her – I was no longer going to put up with someone who would turn a conversation into an argument the moment I started speaking about my feelings. Why would anyone put up with such behaviour for as long as I did and ignore their belief about how wrong a certain practice was? As I asked myself this question, the answer was glaring, I was conforming to what society expected me to be and I was allowing this overbearing person to shape me into who they thought I should be. No one needs to put up with that kind of behaviour. This life is all we get – if someone truly cares about us and wants to guide us in any parts of our lives, I do not see anything wrong with it, however, what I do not agree with is them trying to live their lives through others by trying to get them to do what they think is right.
I have decided to live with my own convictions – by all means, I am open to advise but it does not mean I have to live it. At the end of the day, I have to live with myself and my mistakes and I am very much aware that I do not know it all. The purpose of this blog is to use our experiences to change certain narratives that have not helped the generations that went before us and effecting changes that will help the next generation live more freely than we could. We want to effect positive change but we do not want to fix anyone. When dealing with overbearing people, remember that their behaviour is not a reflection of who you are, keep your cool, stay positive, set limits, stand your ground and finally, distance yourself.
Thank you for taking time to read, share, like and comment – continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.