Being true to self is the beginning of the peace one needs to live life in harmony with self and with others.
Written by Monicah Jasons
“Potatoes, please?” I meekly said while handing out my plate ineptly. The burgeoning crowd of hungry students was enough to trigger my anxiety. Add to that the menacing glare I received from the cook on duty before me. My palms were sweaty. In that moment I wished that I was anywhere else but there.
I fidgeted, simultaneously tagging the sleeve of my oversized trench coat. I hated attention, yet the spotlight was now on me. Everyone must have hated me for prolonging their agony on the queue. I remained glued to the ground, my eyes fixated on the broth of githeri inside the gigantic sufuria. I was a funny sight. A timid newbie in an oversized trench coat making others wait in line. That was the first time I realized I was different.
I received stares from the students who did not care to hide their shock. Some were bold enough to approach me with questions, “What facial cream do you use? Did you try bleaching your skin and the attempt backfired?” I loved my dark skin, no question about that, and I only applied petroleum jelly, Vaseline to be precise. How could I tell them that the food I consumed was my only enemy in the picture, without adding more questions on the list in their curious minds? I unconsciously scratched a spot on my face that was pus-filled, only to receive disgusting looks. One student was kind enough to hand me a pocket tissue.
That was the beginning of my high school journey. I became closed off after that encounter, making it hard for me to make friends. I fetched my water when it was dark and took a shower when no one was in the shower room. I tried so hard to remain unnoticed. People talked about me in ways that made me question how ignorant they were. Sadly, the stares did not stop. Neither did the talks behind my back.
My attempts at remaining unnoticed were futile. I had done everything to cure my skin, but had no positive results to show for it. Throughout high school and even after, I visited countless skin specialists and physicians. I only went back home in pain, with expensive prescriptions and a promise that my next visit would be better than the last.
My last visit to the hospital made me realise that my case was different. Unidentified. Medically understudied, also. The previous prescriptions had been mere guesses that resulted in worsening my skin condition. I decided not to take the pills they offered me anymore. I stopped applying the facial cream they recommended, cringing at the memory of how some of these creams had a burning effect, an itching sensation and discolouration. My body had consumed so many toxins and that was enough. My hormones had been affected—something else that worried me. I decided to resort to makeup. Hide a little of my ravaged skin under makeup, and maybe, just maybe, multitudes would stop staring.
My real face was soon under the thick layer of concealer and I felt like a phony. Why was I hiding? I needed to be me: that girl in the mirror who stared back at me each day with a smile, despite her scars and all. The girl who looked at her face without questions, no judgment. I closed my eyes and wiped off the mask using a wet wipe. I trusted my instincts and traced my own face for the first time. The realisation struck me and I froze. For the first time in a very long time, I was being real to myself and to the world.
I picked up my phone and took a selfie. I got on Instagram and without a second thought typed a short caption, Ebony. I hit ‘Post’.
It was a one-word caption that spoke volumes alongside my first makeup-free selfie on Instagram. I was stepping out of my comfort zone, and to be honest, I was scared. I didn’t know what to expect. Within a few hours I had received a couple of likes and positive feedback. I read the comments with a stupid grin on my face. I was proud of myself for taking a bold move. Since then, I decided to use the platform to show the world what being real was. All I had to do going forward was pose for pictures and post them. No filters.
This became my story of courage: Focusing on my beautiful scars. Like a butterfly, I was once a caterpillar camouflaged to the greenness of the leaves. Not anymore. Now I have my wings painted in a beautiful shade. My theme is, ‘Pose, Photo Dump’ because why not?
I created a YouTube channel, 'Unfiltered', where I post inspirational videos, mostly telling my story. I channel positivity hoping that there is someone somewhere who will find my story eye opening. My little efforts bring me joy and each day, I appreciate life a little more. Being true to self is the beginning of the peace one needs to live life in harmony with self and with others. I stare at the sky at day light, the clear blue with white patches, the sun reflecting its rays on my face. And I smile and pose for yet another picture.
It's my story.
Monicah Jasons is a writer who resides in Nairobi, Kenya. She lives together with her two sisters and her goofy dog, Lola.
Monicah is an avid reader who spends most of her free time in the library reading journals and sometimes scribbling some pieces of poetry. She also enjoys afternoon naps and can't resist a cup of hot coffee.