Recently, I found myself listening to Future’s song; Mask Off (Yeah! I know). And despite the fact that I could not understand squat in the song in terms of lyrics, with the exception of the phrase ‘mask off’, something about the title really got to me. As I sat there, I began to think about the many masks that I had fabricated for myself.

I got reminded of my younger days; at a point in my life when I was not very sure about who I was. I used to have what I call a fluid spine; adjusting and struggling to fit into every shoe size and key hole just so I received the feeling that I was accepted somewhere and that I mattered to somebody…to anybody really. I drank with alcoholics, chilled with pot heads, befriended sex addicts and even joined the salsa club, despite no bone in my body being able to swing to the tune of ‘Ayariba Yariba’. I wanted to belong so badly and would do anything just so I fit in. Man was that a difficult time for me!

My greatest and most prominent gift to date is the gift of expression (read, I talk a lot). I do so through speech and writing, with the latter being my most preferred. This ability makes it very easy not only to envision and create story lines and persona but also to actuate them. The ace of ay great storyteller and orator stems from their ability to not only create but also to become every single one of their characters and put themselves in the very alternate realities that they have conjured. The only misgiving to this is that when you have come from a broken home like myself, you want to be here all the time to escape the hurt and pain of reality. A point reaches where you do not know what is real and what is not; like being caught in a permanent high.

I made masks, and I was very good at it. One for every situation, for every group of people, for every day of the week; it is like when you met me in different circles, I was a totally different person each time. I made an image that I felt best fit that very scenario and group of people. I was being a good friend, brother, boyfriend-ish, bff, son, uncle etc. You need it, you name it, I became it.

Ask any of my friends in campus or anybody who knew me and they will tell you that I was the most available person on the face of the planet. I mean no one is ever this free and forever reliable; with the exception of God, of course. Whenever they needed me, I was there. It did not matter that I had just dislocated my shoulder during rugby practice or that my ankle was acting up again; it did not matter that you called me at 11:30 in the night and I had a 7am lecture; you needed me, I was there. Later on, I would look back and hate myself for lacking this super ability that supposedly everyone else had but me; the power to say NO.

I wanted friends, I needed people to like me; I did not want to be that lonely guy. Like I have said before, I am not a loner; I don’t do isolation very well. My innate nature to associate was on steroids and had taken me over, not caring that it was driving me off a cliff.

Years later, insomnia having finally caught up with me and deciding to pass time by reminiscing back on the good old days, I cannot help but wonder if there are any other masks that need taking off. Having achieved a slight upgrade in wisdom as a result of increased earthly mileage, I have found myself at a point where certain difficult decisions need to be made. I have several people who I am privileged to mentor and they need an image they can emulate. My first step in this is discovering if I am my true self in all that I do, every day, or if there are still pieces of me hidden under some superficial mask.

I have a little bundle of cuteness with my DNA on the way and I would not desire for her to have to go through what I have endured; it would not be fair to her. For that, I need to give her an image of what authenticity is and show her its pros and cons. This means having to deal with some scars and demons that have stayed buried for too long; those of bitterness and those of the rejection that I have encountered in my past. I need to get free of them, lest I unconsciously pass them on to my little princess. I have to reacquaint myself, to myself and get to really know who I am before I can even think of telling her who she is.

The masks, are coming off.


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