I didn’t know if I had the strength to forge on. My life felt like it was falling apart on multiple fronts and the fact that I had to put up a brave face every day to the world made the situation even worse. My therapist had just told me it was the anxiety of the unknown, that everyone went through it and it would go away with time. But I had been feeling like this for more than six months. I know Dr. Riziki had a point, but did he really, truly understand the despair I was going through?I had resisted entertaining any thoughts that I was depressed and suicidal. That was never me and was never going to be me. Now I sat at the Jomo Kenyatta airport terminal waiting for my flight. Dr. Riziki had recommended a trip to somewhere I had never been so that I could get a new lease on life. Said the best therapy is to get a fresh perspective. It would certainly help to do something new and maybe try out the new camera I had just bought and not got round to using because I had stopped going out. So here I was, feeling the anxiety clawing at my skin, threatening to escape and disintegrate me into a million pieces. I clearly knew what was ailing me. The frustration of being stuck here, in the now, in this one body of mine that could only inhabit one place at a time. The smallness of it all. The airport was full of the other travelers hurling suitcases, alighting from wherever they had come from, places with strange names and strange cultures, all just representing one more thing I would never get to see before I died. My problem was inadequacy, because the arrow on the map was so ‘helpfully’ pointing out that I was here, and that was it.
I got on the flight and hoped that when I came back I would feel a bit better about the quarter life crisis I was going through and maybe even have a plan. It was about time I started being positive before I had to deal with friends and family telling me that she was displaying all these ‘white people problems’. As if depression was meant for a certain skin color. Another thing that made me believe in the increasing shallowness of the human mind. I did not want my mother to start with the “Anita you have a good life, Anita you take for granted all the blessings in your life, Anita you are not sick”. The last time had got very heated and they both said some things they wish they could take back. But don’t we all take for granted that life moves forward and you move as you do when rowing a boat, facing backwards. You can see where you have been but not where you are going. And your boat is always steered by a younger version of you. Its hard not to wonder what life would be like facing the other way. Maybe I wouldn’t feel so stuck. When I come back I’ll talk to mum and make things right.
I settle in my seat and decides I will just sleep through the journey. “Nothing to see but clouds anyway”, muttering under my breathe. A lady who looks my age sits next to me and says hi with such happiness that for a second I am taken aback. “What is she so happy about?” I almost snaps at her, a habit I am finding hard to knock off and which is not getting me any favors with the world.
“I’m Jacky, first time to Victoria falls? I’ve been there once and I just have to take pictures of the waterfall again. Too magical”
She is definitely in a bubble of happiness and its somewhat infectious were it not for the fact that I am a sour sport. So instead of being gracious and polite and telling her my name I blurt out, “Don’t you think there is frustration in photographing something amazing when clearly thousands of identical photos already exist. The same sunset, the same close-up of an eye, the same sky… the same waterfall. Doesn’t it just turn a unique subject into something hollow and pulpy and cheap? Like a mass production of furniture you happen to have assembled yourself?”
“It can’t be that bad, there is beauty in everything because you saw it through your eyes. What do you do for a living?” I tell her I’m a construction engineer and she looks very impressed(They always are when you do a predominantly male job)
I sense Jacky is something alien, because she just smiles and this perplexes me the more. We both settle in our seats and have a silent flight with the occasional announcements and refreshments breaking the ice. The plane lands in Lusaka, Zambia and at the baggage claim, Jacky turns to me and says something that sticks for a while, “care less about things, loosen your grip on life and stop over analyzing and glancing behind every few steps afraid someone will snatch it from you before you reach the end zone. Hold it loosely and playfully, like a volleyball, keeping it in the air, bouncing freely in the hands of trusted friends…That’s how you stay sane. Enjoy Zambia”
I am about to get angry at this girl who knows nothing about my life but then again, she has said something important. As I hail a cab, I am aware of the smallness of my perspective, by which I couldn’t possibly draw any meaningful conclusions at all, about the world or the past or the complexities of culture because although my life is not bad and I know I am an epic and unrepeatable anecdote, it still only has a sample size of one, and may end up being the control for a much wider experiment happening elsewhere. I know I need to chill out. Maybe this trip wasn’t so bad an idea. I’m already learning something and I haven’t even began the trip itself.