2018: My Top Medium Articles
I joined the partner program in July 2017. I have made more money this December than the past 11 months. I had little faith in myself even though the people around me said the same thing over, and over:
You can do this.
Everything changed when I started to believe.
This year alone, I published 90 actual stories: poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, excluding the horde of emojis and comments. There were months where I wrote only one story and others where I wrote every day, like December.
While writing on Medium, I felt my words mattered. I made friends with amazing people, felt support from creatives I have come to love and respect. With some, I will be collaborating extensively through 2019 and probably the rest of my life. With others, I share such happiness at their success that I have been able to redefine what it means to be happy for someone else.
I feel gratitude for every single moment I have spent here in 2018 and I daresay without some of the writers here, I would not have come out of the dark holes I found myself in during the year.
No metric can measure the support I got from my Medium family.
Each article on this list is a moment in time, a singular event that forever changed me.
I wrote this at the start of this year. My fiance and I had no idea when we would get the visa interview we’d applied for in June 2017. She had emptied her savings to come to visit me the previous Christmas and I was in between jobs. The weight of our separation and the uncertainty of our future loomed over every conversation. We were now engaged with no clue of when we’d see each other.
“Kneeling down, naked, on the 14th of May, in my dingy room to ask her to marry me was the only thing left to do. Everything in my life had always been complicated. Everything required mental coercions and pep talks. Everything… except spending the rest of my life on earth with Suzanne”.
We got the Visa interview request on June 14th. On June 21st, it got approved and on June 23rd, I was on a plane — my first plane ride — to a place I’d have to learn to call home. I felt so many things on this ride, so many emotions. I was worried about the plan tremors, excited about meeting my fiance, sad about leaving my parents and siblings.
There are experiences that show you more about who you are than any self-reflection ever can. This was definitely one of those. It was also the first piece that ever got curated under ‘travel’.
“I met my fifth messenger at JFK. She was visiting her children. Somewhere in Chicago. The men at the gate asked me to take care of her. She reminded me so much of my mother. I pulled her luggage. We went through the elevator and metro. She needed a money change. Her luggage had to be paid. She didn’t have enough. The money my wife had told me to keep close finally had some use. I had been too scared to buy anything”.
There are many things long distance didn’t teach me about being in the same place as my romantic partner. I am learning daily and growing as a husband and as a human. A lot of what I do is more unlearning and returning to childlike curiosity while understanding what is really important in any relationship.
“We’ve known each other for over a decade, how come we still have these fights? Why can’t she understand that this is who I am? Why do I keep making this same mistake?
And, the question that got me to write this:
What is wrong with me?”
The Writing Cooperative cannot be over lauded for how much they’ve enabled writers to connect with each other. Whenever something I write about writing gets published there or in Publishous, I feel a different kind of pride from people I consider my peers. I still remember the day Nicole Akers sent me a private note to join her amazing family of writers.
This story took months to write and I benefitted feedback from friends, especially Awanto Margaret. The plan was to have this submitted in some magazine, but, at some point, the pain of keeping the story hurt more than wherever it was going to be read. I am proud of this one, even though it didn’t get as many claps/reads/views as I may have thought it would.
If a writer should concern himself with whatever suits his fancy, and at the same time reflect and interpret his society; if he must provide inspiration and guidance and challenge, and be responsible to accept the warming rays of the sun and report them, do you now see what a herculean task it is to write well?
I don’t mean this lightly. And by no means do I pretend to know the scale of skill or talent required to write: writing is hard. Very hard. If there’s anything that gets clearer the harder I practice, it is the level of personal growth required to improve this skill.
Each time I worked on this, someone had died. Each time someone dies, I read this. Each time death shows up online with someone I looked forward to meeting, or a friend’s sister or grandmother or friend, I curled up and read this again.
I don’t know if I wrote this for me, more than for the time when I’d die.
It got 67 claps and still remains one of my favorite stories.
The weight of distress laid on my lips in front of the mortuary. Wails, sighs, folded arms, and lost looks. In the middle of it all, I wondered why no one came to tell them to be more orderly. Or, even, to respect the dead.
But when another wave a sadness shook me from within, I understood what we all understood — the great equalizer and unifier, the salient scare we all share ever since we found out that we were mortal.
6. Welcome Home
I have never been officially diagnosed with depression. My visit to the therapist in the US unraveled aspects of my mental health that may have been the cause of past events that had very similar traits with most depressive episodes.
The reason why I still hold hope that I am okay is because I have a tendency to believe what I want to believe. And right now, I want to believe that even if I am mentally ill, I am okay enough to live a fruitful happy life.
The same way my myopia and astigmatism allows me to see with my glasses.
On one particularly dark day, while I was still in Cameroon, I wrote this with tears in my eyes. It was very cathartic. When I read it now, it feels like someone else wrote it. It’s one of the pieces that make me proud of my gifts as a human writer.
“Understanding the lack of vitality is the first stage of discovery. Knowing the despair has come. Making jokes with friends. “It’s that time of the month,” you say and sip another glass of cocktails you never drink. You’re not trying to drown the feeling with cheap alcohol. You know it won’t go. You are looking for a desperate outcome; something deliberately stupid that would trigger concern in your peers. You don’t know how else to say it. So, your sarcasm tops a notch. You’re all inebriated talking about one night stands and the possibility of talking to the girls on the other table. To them, it’s a fun evening with the funny guy. They don’t know it’s a cry for help.
They’ll never know”.
This is when I started to believe. It was also the first time I got published in The Startup. I strongly believe both are related: being added as a writer to join Ali Mese‘s team of writers and my increased confidence as a writer.
This piece was really a pep talk to self: I was coming to terms with the changes I needed to make in order to become the person I could see myself to be.
“I want to be there for the people I care about. I want them to be able to count on me no matter what. I have been looking at friendships die in slow motion and feeling a pain I should have been embracing, instead of regretting.
I can’t be there for everyone. Not like this. Not anymore. If I’m not intentional with who I call friends and family, then I become an unreliable acquaintance”.
Even after the process of letting go had begun, November hit me really hard with so many things: total dependency on my wife, lack of income, home-sickness, learning how to live with someone, being in a new country, and even the time when I felt I had been racially profiled.
I had never felt as angry as I did while typing it — anger at no one in particular. My wife and I had just had a disagreement and I had no one I could talk to. It was very, very hard.
Yet, writing this got me to connect with Trisha Traughber, Elena Mutonono, Elena Tucker, Justin Norman, Nicole Cooper, Jason Weiland, Kitty Hannah Eden, and other beautiful souls. They showed me empathy and love like I had never seen before.
The most amazing part of this all is that I have never met any of these people physically, but I feel like we’re already such good friends. I guess empathy does that to you.
I was quite pleased when the curators picked it up as well.
“I feel out of place. I feel misunderstood. I can’t work because I don’t have a work permit, so I feel like I am simply taking from everyone around me and not contributing. I can’t drive, so I feel dependent on everyone. I can’t go anywhere to let steam off because I don’t know anyone who isn’t friends with my wife or her family( and I can’t drive). I can’t buy stuff I want because we have a budget I haven’t contributed to and can’t because of permits. Also, we both can’t work. I need to walk around with photocopies of my passport and social security because I don’t have a valid ID. I don’t know what I can or can’t do because it’s a new country with rules I may be completely oblivious to”.
I have a hard time coming up with headlines. I know it’s important, but I never get it. I’m studying how to get better at it because I understand it’s one of those things you don’t have to enjoy to understand the importance.
This single piece quadrupled my daily views in 24 hours and stands as the most read piece this past month. I don’t know if it was the timing or what, but it was really well-received and I feel it has some aspects of timelessness in it. So, I’m looking forward to how it will do in the future. I think its popularity also had to do with the fact that I was finally writing with the audience in mind and sent the piece to a publication it was compatible with.
Even with 2.9K followers, I still feel that readership has nothing to do with how many followers one has.
Each system and environment would, therefore, require that we identify the end goal (to be a writer, to own a successful business, to be a valuable member of my community), then map the environment this goal needs.
You want to be X, you find out what people who are X do, and you now find a way to become that kind of person.
My spiritual life has evolved stupendously since I got the USA. I started volunteering in my church — Smoky Hill Vineyard — and spent the most reflection filled Christmas Eve I have ever had. My wife and I spent a great deal of time talking about this and really uncovering the layers of our past when it came to spirituality and Jesus.
My friend Shannon Ashley asked if I celebrated Christmas and I was so giddy at that moment — I was just completing my second round of editing.
Janis Cox introduced me to a supportive Facebook group after she read this and the comments I have received from readers still make me teary.
I am so glad I am learning to embrace my love for Jesus.
“All my life, I felt there was a bridge I had to cross to meet Jesus. That there was a way — unclear — -seemingly unavailable to me, that made me think I would never get this whole Jesus thing. When I moved to the USA in June, er my wife took my skeptic self to Smoky Hill Vineyard where she’d been going for 6 years. For the first time in my life, I thought to myself:
Woah. Jesus is actually cool”.
To Luke Rowley for his Facebook comment (he probably doesn’t remember).
To Iva for being a badass.
To Shreya Arora for being such a lovely human.
To Jae Hermann for reminding me what it means to write from the heart.
To Frank McKinley for building a community I am proud to be a part of.
And Ameaka for believing in a dream even when I had to let you carry it all.
And yes, this list will continue through January 2019:-)