I’m a good liar. Great even. I can create scenarios even I start to believe. I’m that good.
But, I am also a very honest person. I share a lot about my life because I would hate to have been misunderstood should I die without warning. I would hate for my obituary to talk about how excellent of a human being I was when in reality, I might not have done as much as I could to make the world a better place for someone else.
The most important beliefs I live by are to love every single creation from the birds to the trees to the ocean to human beings who break every rule and to see as much as I can. And so, I travel.
Being the oldest daughter of two strict Ghanaian Christians, it would seem like the option to travel and move freely would be off the table. I mean, how do I tell my parents that I want to wander Peru aimlessly or travel to Spain without a phone or visit Poland in the middle of winter with only a coat and scarf?
I don’t. I lie. A lot.
The first time I travelled alone, I was nineteen and had just finished my first year of university. I couldn’t bring myself to just go back home for the summer and so I told my father that my school was sending me to Peru for thirty-five days. I said we were to do homestays–not quite a lie since I couch-surfed in family homes. I would send pictures of the families I was staying with and basically talk about Peru minus the fact that I had limited funds and was completely alone.
After studying abroad in France, I stayed in Europe and told my loving parents that I had enrolled in a writing program with my school over break. Not quite a lie since I kept writing–except I wasn’t in France and had no business in Spain or Germany or Poland with no phone.
In retrospect, I think my parents have always known the kind of daughter I am: one who rejects religion and loves life a little more than a respectable Christian should.
Still, they loved me enough to send me $50 while I sat in a hostel in Arequipa worried about how I would pay for the night. They loved me enough to listen to me complain about how victimized I felt to have my phone stolen in Paris. They loved me enough to pretend to be okay with me using paper maps to get around Europe since I had no phone. And most importantly, they love(d) me enough to let me breathe as much as they could.
I know most won’t be lucky to have parents who let them breathe as much as my parents have let me so far and so here is my advice:
One day you will die and all everyone will say about you is how kind you were and how great of a person you were since you followed the rules to the T. You did what was expected and made your mark however you end up doing it. Your obituary will be spectacular. But you must take a step back to ask yourself: will your spirit truly be at peace?
Most of our parents have lived their lives cognizant of the fact that their lives were forever intertwined with us, their beloved children. Most of our parents ultimately fail to realize the extent of our humanness. Most of our beloved parents fail to see us as fully capable human beings of making choices that will shape the kind of people we become.
I think it is our duty as loving children to show them the extent to which we claim autonomy over our bodies and lives. While many of us continue to be financially and emotionally dependent on our parents, showing them that we are capable of making our own choices might be close to impossible. But, we owe it to our future selves to try. To try as hard as we can until we can breathe at our own pace and decide the contents of our obituary.
Every single line of it.