Bolade Ogunfuye: What it means not to be normal [NEW VOICES]

by Bolade Ogunfuye

In truth, I can’t honestly remember a time I didn’t flirt with weirdness and eccentricity as a default part of my daily life. Over the years, I learnt how to manage these life companions; I usually alternate between distancing myself from the worst of their effects, keeping to an arrangement of sorts where they don’t hassle me and I give them a say in my committee of decisions, and occasionally handing over control to them to varying results.

Nigeria has never been the best place to admit to any form of being different, eccentric or even a little bit insane. I guess it all depends on our definition of eccentricity and how it affects your actions and the people around you. I learnt very early to wear different masks, to blend in, to look and act like the average person and keep a lot of what goes on in my head to myself.

Sometime between my first, early, admission of being uniquely different and now, I realized that who I was, who I really was behind all the smiles and curt awkward glances, wasn’t for general consumption. I didn’t feel like I could share that realization with anyone around me, though; to have my distress validated by those closest to me was to afflict myself with a new and different pain, that of acknowledging that I was defective, like a factory reject, that somehow the great machine created me wrong. I didn’t want to suffer alone, but I also didn’t want to admit that I was in fact the (unwell) guy I was so often accused of being.

Curiously, I realized something later, that as I grew older and more self-aware that either my masks were getting so good as to deceive even me into a semblance of acceptance, or that I was more self-accepting of myself to the point of owning and reveling in my uniqueness. I caught myself enjoying how much I didn’t worry about standing out, I even began to loath and consciously avoid regular, normal people, or “regulars” as I liked to refer to them. I also became really good at coping mechanisms to get through interactions with “regulars”; chiefly humour and dark humour.

I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t be the first to use comedy and sarcasm as coping mechanisms, especially by we who are less than 100% mentally well. Caveat, though: I’m not saying that all funny people are unstable or that everyone who’s unstable is funny, but the high density of skewed neuroses and addictive personalities often find affinity in comedy. I also noted, with more curiousity that self-deprecating comedy completely shattered the walls between my awkwardness, my social ineptitude and my weirdness; It was comforting to see the same impulses and oddities that are often unwelcome in the world at large embraced somewhat. Finally, I saw potential, value even, in the way my mind worked.

I didn’t consciously set out to joke about my mental conversations, but I quickly realized just how much more comfortable I was with myself, talking to people about these things opened my eyes up to the wealth of material there was to mine from my daily experiences and thought processes.

I do not plan to ever go for any form of treatment. I do not plan to “come out” and admit this in person. I will carry my companions with me to my grave. I plan to continue to hide in plain sight and continue to blend in and manage them some way or the other. In the end, we all find a way to manage ourselves and make some sort of sense from our daily experiences as we live with them or they kill us eventually.

Bolade is a writer and multi-media development professional. He began as a writer, and has since expanded his repertoire to include media content design and development, brand strategy, new media, advertising and PR with a career spanning the last decade. He is addicted to caffeine, sartorial excellence, sarcasm, true crime and media content of the highest quality; and is very fluent in double-speak.

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