by Glory Enyinnaya
Not for the first time in her life, Ada wondered who she truly was.
As a child, she was whoever her parents said she was. She lived and grew under the gaze of her mother and father. It was this loving gaze which gave her self-confidence, which soothed her, which gave her all the strength and the courage she needed to overcome her fears and the obstacles she met in the world.
If her parents said that she could do something, then she did not hesitate one second. Her parents said she could be a doctor, so she would. And the only reward she asked was to win their admiration, to arouse their wonder or to hear their cries of exclamation and their laughter.
Then high school happened.
While growing up, she became aware of the gazes of others upon her, gazes that were a lot less tender and a lot less indulgent than those of her parents. Sometimes they were even ruthless.
It was at this moment that a complex was born. Ada became ashamed of herself and her family. Why did she have to wear a brown scapular around her neck, when her peers had gold chains? Why did she have a Rosary on her finger and not a turquoise ring? Why did she have to make the sign of the cross before eating? Why was she different?
She had a hard time accepting herself as she was and tried to conform to the images that the world threw at her. Her greatest wish was to go unnoticed and be left in peace.
So once she went to university, the brown scapular came off. So did the finger Rosary and the Holy Water. With time, even Sunday Mass was dispensed with.
She embarked on a classic self-reinvention and the media was her greatest ally. She sacrificed her virginity to be like everybody else. When an ‘’accident’’ happened, she was driven to abortion by those around her.
Upon graduation, she defined herself by her profession, physique and possessions. She was the ‘’intelligent doctor’’, the ‘’slender beauty’’, the owner of the ‘’sleek Toyota.’’ She confined herself to the image of a superficial woman, of an object, which did not correspond to what she was deep down inside. She was pushed into playing games of seduction out of her desire to attract attention, to be the center of the world, the prettiest, or the most intelligent, in all respects, the best …
Unfortunately, in this quest, she lost her true personality, her true self. In seeking to please everyone, she spread herself too thin and lost her spice, no longer knowing what she was made for, what her call was, what her vocation was, or what her mission was.
She had become trapped in adolescence.
Then one day, a new doctor was transferred to her hospital. Nkiru was heavily laden with the marks of oppression Ada had left behind years ago – Rosaries – one on her finger and one around her chubby neck. Worst of all, when all the female doctors gathered round to exchange racy stories about their adventures with men, Nkiru was silent. She had nothing to say, no ‘’man stories’’ to contribute.
The elitist in Ada was scandalised and was prepared to give this gauche newcomer the cold shoulder. But the more time Ada spent with Nkiru, the more she came to realise that Nkiru had a special grace. She had a positive self-image and was ‘’at home in her skin.’’ She was free from the gaze of others, in her social relationships, in her work, and in her play.
But her freedom had nothing to do with independence or the freedom of wild animals which involved doing whatever she wanted, whenever and however she wanted it.
Intrigued, Ada engaged her in conversation one day, and she learnt that Nkiru was oblivious to the gaze of others because she had entered into the gaze of God. She had placed herself under the gaze of the Father. She had submitted to Him.
‘’His gaze has freed me from the dictatorship of the spirit of the world, cleverly orchestrated by the media which imprisons women’s consciences and which makes those who dare not conform feel guilty. His gaze frees me from the gazes of others, from all the expectations that others place upon me.
Who am I?’’ she chuckled. ‘’I am a daughter of God.’’