If no one bears witness to it, did it happen?

This self drag brought to you courtesy of my therapist + my musings on memoir writing.

If no one bears witness,
Did it happen?


For context, I was sharing about my changing relationship with visibility when she posed this question. A question which had me re-evaluate the ways I need certain moments witnessed before they feel like a complete moment to me.

Which made me ponder the writing of my memoir, a project I’ve been working on for years.

Lately I find myself wanting to relinquish writing and seeking publication of that work. I feel myself wanting to withdraw from sharing more of my “in real time feelings” on social media…but I also feel a pressure to validate my stories and experiences through documentation.

I am not ashamed to be a kid who grew up finding community on the internet, an immigrant kid who through the corners of blogger was able to connect to other immigrant kids trying to find words for our shared experiences, who built community through naijapals and Facebook and many many aol emails exchanged back and forth. It feels like a huge part of my experiences around coming of age, both the glamorous and the awkward, were witnessed by people who were for the most part strangers and yet embraced me more than a lot of the people in my local community.

Sometimes the people in closest physical proximity to you just don’t know how to hold the complexity that is you.

Which brings me to my changing relationship with visibility.

When you’ve been witnessed in ways that feel validating by strangers, how do you impose boundaries around your experiences without feeling like you are depriving your own self of a sense of belonging?

I don’t really know the answer you guys. Which brings me to my original question: “if no one bears witness to it, did it happen?”

Obviously duh. It did happen. And own our witness is important in validating our experiences even if no one else can hold space for it. This is what I’m affirming myself with when I feel that angst. Also I’m reminding myself that unlike my teenage years and even my early twenties when I was still fighting to find community, at this big age of mine, one of my biggest blessings is that I have my people. The ones who I am sure enjoy me and want to journey with me. They are not out of reach.

So to the part of me that feels like if I don’t write and publish my coming of age memoir then its almost as it I never came of age, well girl, that’s ridiculous. Because obviously you did. Maybe one day you’ll be feeling more inspired to reflect on and turn your reflections of the journey from girlhood to womanhood into a book and on that day, it won’t be from the fear of being erased, but from a deeper place.

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