You Don’t Know Me

You don’t really know anyone.

There’s a memory from my childhood I’ve never written about. Mostly because I don’t remember it. It’s one of those stories I have heard from my parents so many times, it almost seems like a memory…but it just isn’t.

It’s a story about me — baby me.

The story always comes from looking at my baby pictures. There’s one where my chubby face is being carried by a young smiling lady with low cut hair in a simple dress. She looks like a teenager or in her early twenties.

“Her name is Pamela”, they said.

As a child, I loved her very much. My father said she was the only other person — apart from my parents — that I trusted.

“You weren’t a cry baby,” he said, “but if we left you without her around, you’d scream until you were taken away”.

“Babibaa! Babibaa!”

That was my version of ‘Pamela’.

The story goes that one day, Pamela, my caretaker, emptied the drawers and the clothing lines and left. My parents came back after work to find me alone, in bed, screaming.

“Babibaa! Babibaa”.

The story always ends with an awkward silence. Until we move to the next picture.

*smiles*

I don’t know how to communicate well. It may come to you as a surprise, hopefully — because I have dedicated my life to reading, writing, listening, watching, making and telling stories.

However, if we’re having a face to face conversation — a serious conversation — and I don’t get time to think, I get flustered and say the most stupid things. On the days I feel a little more confident, I’d add something like “Yeah, that’s what I meant” and just hope you realize, with my facial expression, that I am aware what I said didn’t make sense and I hope you move past it.

I can be shy, nervous, difficult to deal with, emotionally distant, introspective, lost in thought and hard to understand.

When I get emotional( which only happens inside my head), I forget words. I go silent. If you push, and push, and keeping pushing, I start speaking very — very fast. I know (in retrospect) it’s escalating when I start raising my voice and then look around for something to hit.

Something. Not someone.

I once broke my wrist by hitting it on the floor because I couldn’t stand a conversation. I could have just walked away.

I could have just walked away.

I am afraid I’ll die without ever writing the things only I can write. Each day I wake up, each day I sit to share words, I come with the fear of death after an incomplete life. It permeates my work, my laugh, my productivity hacks. It permeates every conversation I have.

Without reading that last sentence, you’ll never know.

If you’ve ever read anything I have written, you know me more than 90% of the people in my life. I am closer to you, dear reader than most of my family members.

Why? I can’t even tell you why.

*laughs out loud*

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Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Although you know a lot more about me, you don’t know me. The same way you don’t really know anyone.

In a world where we’re so connected that a man I had never met was able to help me quit an internship I hated, how can this be possible?

How can we have so many Social Media platforms and still feel so unknown? Is this just me?

Well, I have a theory.

My parents have never asked how I felt about hearing that I was left alone as a child by someone I trusted. Hell, I’ve never even talked to my own little brother about how much my inability to express feelings in words affected my relationship with him.

I was apologizing to him recently via Whatsapp for being unable to keep a promise because of unforeseen circumstances. The weight of failing him hung on my eyes while my fingers couldn’t find the vocabulary needed.

Who is to blame here? Social Media again? Or that we don’t take the steps needed to know the people we think we know?

Or maybe that’s the issue.

We think we know people simply because we spend a lot of time with them. Parents think they know their kids because they’ve been with them since they were born. We think we know our classmates or our co-workers because we spend most days in the same room as them.

But do we though? Do we really know them? Do we know anyone?

I sit here in my office — the one that represents the steps I’m taking towards a life of work I love — fighting the urge to wake up and swat that single fly that has been escaping my grasp since morning. Our dog is asleep; at least, I did a good job there.

I sit with the fear that I’ll never be able to amount to anything, that I’ll never have anyone really accept me for the incomplete human I am. I sit, scared, that admitting I am afraid of the career path I am taking — to write, podcast and do youtube — admitting that I could be wrong will thus open the flood gates for everyone who said that I should consider something else.

You don’t know anyone until you’ve known their fears.

It’s worse for people like me, who are biologically incapable of looking you in the eye to proclaim a truth we aren’t sure or a fear that’s choking.

We’ve long learned not to trust anyone. We’ve forgotten how to tell you about ourselves. Our teenage years were bullied into lying smiles, our heart’s careers crushed by years of trying out things we knew we weren’t good at but had to.

Or maybe, we simply never learned and we’ve been hiding it really well.

We trust the page.

The page doesn’t interrupt. It doesn’t tell us to repeat what we just said. It doesn’t play mind games. The page remembers exactly what was said, not some version marred in our feelings. It doesn’t judge. It doesn’t make suggestions or reminds me that other people have had it worse.

The page will not leave me alone in bed crying when I trusted her to keep me safe.

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Photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

I don’t know if Pamela is alive. I know the past two years have been pushing me to my knees to pray. I feel a part of me fighting back, trying to stand. Maybe it’s time to stop fighting the change that is needed.

Maybe it’s because I think I know who I am when all I ever was, was who you told me I was.

So tell me, who do you really know?

Written by

Cameroonian writer and video creator. Featured in LEVEL and P.S. I Love You. I write about building relationships and personal transformation.

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