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City of Banjul
Sunday, March 3, 2024

Do we care?

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With Aisha Jallow

Another year is soon over, and a new year gives us hope and new opportunities.

This is what we try to tell ourselves, for comfort and encouragement. They say that hope is the last thing that leaves us, humans, and this hope can be a beacon of light in the darkness. We lift our eyes and glance at the horizon, trying to find that small piece of hope we thought had left us a long time ago. This year is nearing its end, and not much has changed for the better. Do you care, or are you so busy surviving that you don’t have any time left to think about it?

How much have you heard about the atrocities against humans in, for example, Ukraine and the Gaza Strip? Is it too much to take in, do you care about them, or is your life so occupied with your own troubles that there is no room for anyone else?

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I know for myself that it is easy to become both deaf and blind to all the horrible things that are happening in the world. Every day we are fed with news about climate change, deadly shootings in the US, or the other day in Bulgaria, where a young man shot and killed 14 people, and injured several before he ended his own life. This happened at a university in Bulgaria, and the young man was a student there. No one knows the reasons for his attack and the questions will remain unanswered.

At the beginning of a new year, we tend to look back at the old year and summarise our achievements or failures. Which of these two is the larger? Should we even consider or just leave them as they are and move on? As we become older, we have more to look back at instead of forward to. Young people live in a bubble where they are protected by their own naïvety.  They make mistakes without knowing and bounce back thanks to their perseverance. They don’t have enough experience of life to be able to see what will become the consequences of their actions, and perhaps that is a good thing.

Older people warn younger people to not do any mistakes. What kind of mistakes do they refer to? The same mistakes they did themselves, but never admitted to anyone? When I was a young girl, my mother warned me about young men. She became furious every time she suspected that I had met a boy, but she never explained why. As an adult, I can look back at my own life, but also at what I know about my mother’s life, and I finally understand why she acted the way she did. She was afraid; afraid that I would end up in trouble, but she could never explain what she felt. She was a victim of her own fear and her own trauma, and because she was unable to explain this to me, I also became a victim.

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It is important to speak to our children about emotions. They learn to understand themselves, and they learn to understand us parents. They will not remain children all their lives; childhood is such a short period of time when we are looking back. When our children grow up, we can grow a new and deeper relation with them, where we meet on a friendly basis. They will not lose their respect for us; instead their respect will grow deeper thanks to their understanding. I think that many of our relations are damaged because of fear. What people regret the most at the end of their lives is not their mistakes or their lack of wealth, instead it is the missed opportunities. The opportunity to tell their children that they love them, to ask for forgiveness, to not fulfilling their dreams.

Our dreams can be small, nothing that costs a lot or takes us far from home, but if we allow fear to rule our lives then our dreams will fade away. Our dreams can change. As a young girl I wanted to become a circus clown! I don’t want to become that anymore, but I still enjoy making people happy and to crack a joke. Nowadays my dreams are about the family but also about politics. I will never be satisfied with being a housewife, even if I love taking care of my home, cooking, baking and so on. Sometimes I tell others that I still haven’t decided what I want to become when I grow up. Do we have to decide? What stops us from following our dreams? It is the fear of what others would say. But why should we care?

I think it is harder to dance to the beat of your own drum, when you are surrounded by so many people as you are in The Gambia. It is hard to find a place where you can be alone for a while, and people will always ask you why you are there, where you are from, and not leaving you alone even if you wished that. It can be hard to find time to think when your thoughts are always interrupted by others. People observe and gossip, they interfere and you feel that you must explain, even if you don’t wish to do that. Fear holds you back; fear of the reactions and comments of others; fear of being questioned and fear of envy.

In a society where everyone controls everyone else, it is not easy to become the one who doesn’t follow the stream. There is a saying: “Only dead fish follow the stream”, and it is so true. A fish is able to move itself in the water; it swims freely and can change its direction without a thought. It is harder for us humans. To make life easier, we tend to follow the stream, do what others do because then we will not be questioned. Perhaps life will be a bit easier when we do that, but our hopes, dreams and ambitions die.

I want to swim freely, like a fish. I want to follow my dreams and see where they lead me. Because I still haven’t decided what I want to become when I grow up, I feel that the world is open and I am free to meet the opportunities that are given me. Life is still exiting, even though I am 61, and I hope that I will always feel this way. Life has not been easy, I have stumbled and fallen many times, but nothing could hold me down. I was always up on my feet again, even though it could take a little bit longer sometimes.

I do care about what is happening in the world, but I refuse to allow it to hold me down. I do as much as I am able to do for others, and I allow myself to be content with that. A new year is waiting for us, fresh and unspoiled. It is exciting to see what is waiting for us. If you care; please try to do your best for yourself and for others. Never forget to care about yourself. Let that be your promise for the new year, 2024.

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