Unlearning old ways feels like walking on wet green grass for the first time after a long time in the wilderness. It reminds you of the softness and the chilliness of the earth beneath your bare feet. You can smell the earth and you remember the taste because once, a long long time ago, before you were earth, earth was you. You remember!
Stepping out to relearn who I was, who I am, away from what they said I am is familiar. I knew I am not who they said I am or who they promised I would be. I knew it. Before I could step on to the grass they took me on to a journey. A long journey through the wilderness. Where nothing grew except the hard dried acacia. They said, ” You can’t bloom here but you are safe!”
Women walk through the wilderness because they are told it safe in the dry lands. Here you can’t do much other than survive the heat of the day and the cold winds of the night. You should be singing but it’s too hot or too cold for that. This is not the place, they say.
So women don’t try to sing. It’s hard. “It’s ok right here, it’s hot during the days and cold during the nights but I am here.”
Eventually when a sweet little girl, decides to sing because mama is too tired, the women gather around to listen and marvel. They try to sing along but think their voices are not as beautiful as the little girl’s. But it warms their hearts and sometimes, they long to sing too but instead breakdown and cry. The little girl, stops singing. She doesn’t want to see her mama cry. Mama thinks little girl should sing anyways but she holds her back, “For what purpose, my love, your voice will grow thorns and become dry during the day and cold during the night, hush my little one”
If life feels strange and alien, the expectations too heavy, the rules too many and you just want to run and hide, then it’s time to unlearn the old ways. Unlearning includes letting the unfathomable ideas and desires you have take root. It includes letting yourself be open to receiving kindness to yourself. It means being ready to explore untouched paths that might or might not have been opened before. Roots don’t follow a path designed for it, it digs deep into the soil and creates it’s own path. The destination is always unclear for roots don’t decide where it will land but it follows water. It follows life! Scary to not know where you end up as a woman on her own path right? The unknown path is way better than the path that brings you misery and boredom. The path that everyone follows. If you are lucky you will find a partner, lost like you, following their own path and maybe together, can create your own maze!
I knew some paths weren’t just mine. But I also didn’t understand why I took certain paths. Refusing to follow the paths laid down to me was supported by some of the choices that I didn’t make for myself. Some things just happened as they did, they chose me. And other things were actively put into life by me consciously or not.
The act of self talk, asking questions and letting be are not taught early enough. Unlearning fear and reclaiming my voice continues to be the greatest gift of all. Unlearning to be meek in the face of unfairness and taking up space is beautiful. Unlearning to let people’s opinions not faze me is truth. Unlearning to be good has created a goodness of my own, not the goodness of the culture I live in. A goodness that creates a deep respect for self and clear boundaries. Unlearning to watch and wait to be rescued and saved plunges one into new territories. Gives courage! Unlearning to fear failure because failure is the drive that leads to breaking grounds. Unlearning to act now, gives home to patience. Unlearning and unlearning old ways is fierceness.
However, unlearning toxic behaviour that others see better than yourself is perhaps the not so glorious part of it all. Because unlearning requires not only gaining but also shading. Shading the damage and shading the old ways of being. This is to be carefully examined. What the world deems toxic can in nature be a tool of silencing and oppression. It requires your own instinctive judgement and truth. It requires close examination. It requires honesty and truth to self. It requires asking questions not just to the self but to people around you. It requires taking self criticism because you are your own hardest critic or you aren’t. It requires asking what you could do better for yourself most of all.
Refusing to unlearn will always put us in a place or position that requires forceful unlearning. Not pretty. Uncomfortable situations that may not only dampen our spirit but also put us in physical harm to ourselves and others must be lived. Refusing to be uncomfortable can lead to replacements that either creates cognitive dissonance or plunge us into deeper despair. Ignoring a fire doesn’t mean it’s not burning your house. A certain anger, must be lived. An old trauma must be revisited. All in its time and speed. The things that bring you pain must be confronted, your fears must be articulated. Something that bothers you must be given space for confrontation. Attitudes or cultures that threaten you must be met and if not, you MUST run, run far away. Run, go find your pack.
But who are we if we unlearn without seeking from those who have taken the same path and gone before us? We must seek! We must raise our hands. We must seek from people who we want to emulate and people who we deeply admire.
Unlearning is life long. It’s unlearning and relearning that opens doors for new and better truths.