For every scar, blemish and stretch mark on your skin, there is a cream or oil to remedy or get rid of it. Or so they tell us.
But for every scar, blemish and stretch mark, there is an accompanying story.
I remember once diligently using prescribed oils over my stretch marks for months on end, and finding my diligence come to no avail, eventually. I even once tried to scrape off the skin that forms those bumps and grooves over a few parts of my body. But the pain was too excruciating.
And after all, stretch marks are more than skin-surface deep, a stretching of the mid-layer of skin, called the dermis, which is beneath the surface.
Always having been a clumsy sort of person, I have been prone to acquiring gashes and scars. As a child, I fell so often on my knees that I still have some plasticy skin to show for it. Once, I walked into a fence that had come undone. The unwound piece of wire jutted into my right thigh. And unfortunately for me, a kid behind me ran against me at that precise moment and dragged the wire from the top of my thigh a way down toward my knee.
For many years, I had that prominent scar on my thigh. But time has faded it to a point where it is now almost invisible.
I have all manner of scars really, and all manner of accompanying stories. The mark next to my right eye is from a time I fainted in extreme heat and dehydration, aged 17. As I fell, I hit a piece of concrete jutting out of the pavement. Three centimetres closer, that concrete would have hit my eye.
So why am I talking about scars?
I turned 30 last week. It was an momentous day for me; a day and moment which excited me more than I had ever imagined it would.
In the run up to my birthday, I naturally had reservations and reflections about my life. Had I done with my 20s what I had really wanted to do with my 20s? Was I ready for my 30s? Did I want to be 30?!
A lot of things happened to me in the last month before I hit the big day. And in many subtle ways, I was asked to answer to who I am and what I believe about myself. In essence, this was the ultimate test.
Through these occurrences, and some where very hurtful, I realised that I didn’t want to go into a new age carrying everyone’s opinion about me on my shoulders. I realised that I wanted to finally stop appeasing and pleasing just to make other people comfortable.
I came to the clear understanding that this is MY life which I live with, for and through many other lives. But that at the end of the day, I had to accept that this journey is mine. My trials. My errors. My learnings. My oxygen. My body. My being.
And so this is where the scars come in.
You have many ways of thinking of scars. They can be ugly. They can be flaws. They can be beauty. They can be memories, landmarks on the map of memory that your skin covers you in.
As I live out my 30s, I never want to feel like I have to hide myself – and who I am – to anyone, and more especially myself.
As one of my friends duly reminded me on my birthday, “Never be a stranger to yourself.”
My marks and blemishes and so-called ‘imperfections’ are all a part of me. All me. All Fungai.
I thought about this as I looked at the black scar of a burn seared into the lower part of my right leg.
This burn was sustained on a boda boda in Uganda. After a week of perfect riding, I managed to hit the scorching exhaust pipe of the motorcycle with my leg. This was my final ride of the whole trip! And my skin immediately melted off leaving a gaping oozing pink wound.
The pain. Oh, the pain!
And yet now I look at this wound every now and then and smile. I went to Uganda in a bad space. And yet I met so many amazing people in that time, wrote poems on rides, watched a different world unfold before me.
Now, sometimes I meet a Ugandan who tells me that if I should ever go there, I should avoid the boda bodas because they are dangerous. Sometimes my scar is covered up and too complicated to bring out to show. So I just smile and nod. But sometimes, I pull my leg up and show it. And say, “Oh, I have my own share of stories!”
The more I think about it, the more I realise that my scars are journeys of experience and awakening. They create familiarity with the similarly wounded and a uniqueness of journeying within my body. They also challenge me to accept myself and create my own standards about me. It’s not always easy. But this is who I am.
If you should see me,
walking down the street,
head low against the wind,
that this is no women bent
with the thoughts
‘Mother… Sister… Daughter’ by Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze