Fifth year has been interesting so far. In my seventh week now, it feels like I only just started medical school. As expected, at the beginning of the academic year, everyone was looking their very best. Guys all clean-shaven
and looking delicious. The ladies, got to say, my classmates, they kill it every day. Gorgeous braids and weaves from almost every country on the planet. (Lord knows I’ve never heard of some of these countries) Everyone really was looking good. I certainly was. I just decided to go with a different kind of look. #Renegadestyle. I started my semester not with braids or a weave but rocking my natural ‘Ghanaian’ hair.
Reason? Well, in second year, I noticed the cyclical hair changes of my colleagues. Without fail, the cycle kept recurring semester after semester. Thing is, hair styles have a ‘life-span’. In some four to six weeks from the time t, that weave is old. It’s just gotta go! Everyone wants a new look. As if on cue, the weaves come off and for a week or two everyone rocks their ‘Ghanaian’ or ‘Nigerian’ hair, then, the cycle repeats.
Really? Hair? You are probably thinking, this girl has a lot of time. Cyclical hair changes? Who pays attention to that? Okay, let me get to it. Thing is, I have always considered myself a bit of a renegade/ rebel/non-conformist. I always chart my own course. The whole follower thing, doesn’t really work for me. So, for something as trivial as, what to do with my hair? Well, I put some thought into it. I certainly do not want anything anyone else has. No thank-you. I mean, if most people will have a weave at this time, that certainly is my cue to do the exact opposite.
Being a renegade gets me in quite a bit of trouble with authority from time to time. You can certainly figure out why. As they say, trouble is the spice of life. Oh wait, no one says that. They should. Conforming is boring! I like different, I am different, I do different! What is that they say about if something ain’t broken…The genesis. How did it happen? How does a person become non-conformist? I have come to the conclusion that for me, being told too often that I could not or should not do one thing or another led to this outlook. I guess I was on a mission to prove everyone wrong, and again, ‘if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it’.
Case in point, my love for sports. In basic school I almost made it for the track and field team but someone brought up sickle cell and I was out. In high school I really wanted to try out for the basketball team. Again sickle cell and I was out. Thus after high school, I played basketball with the guys, I got different friends to train me. There was jogging too. Just because I was prevented from engaging in sporting activities, I decided that is what I want to do with my free time. Don’t tell me I can’t do something. That only upsets me and inspires me to get it done! Just an aside, persons living with sickle cell are perfectly capable of participating in sports/ exercising. Within reasonable limits of their health of course.
Being the renegade that I am, there really is no way I am going to live the ‘expected’ sickle cell life. People expect a sickly person who just can’t do much. First, a little reorientation. Persons living with sickle cell can live healthy lives, I cannot emphasize this enough. Second, I am too much of a hyperactive person to do the sick thing. No, I’ll pass. I got sports, church,family, friends, social activities and lastly school. I don’t have time to be sick. “ain’t nobody got time for that!” Of course I have been blessed in so many ways, my health certainly is my biggest blessing. I really am a walking testimony, it is worse for others but there is a lot of will power at play here.
There is the thing with medical school. After high school, when it came time to decide about university, my mom did a bit of asking around. A few well meaning people advised that I not pursue medicine because the stress might just exacerbate my condition. She really had my best interest at heart. It certainly has been difficult, but guess what, I’m still hear. I guess I’ll be singing Chris Brown’s-Look at me now, in a couple of years. Just because it is expected that medical school is going to be unbearable for me, I decided I am “gonna kick ass”. If I wasn’t this much of a renegade, I would have probably accepted that advice five years ago and given up on my passion.
Then there is sickle life. People generally do not speak openly about their health, certainly not Ghanaians, but really, why should they? Persons living with sickle cell, generally keep it secret. I think it has something to do with the fact that y’all expect us to break into several pieces right in front you, or worse still, just up and die. Don’t know what it is? I always wondered why in school kids with asthma did not mind telling everyone but those with sickle cell hid it like it was contagious or something.
So, I tell everyone I have sickle cell disease. It seems to have a bit of the non-conformist element going on in there, but that certainly was not the reason. Maybe it helped, because it is in my nature to be different. Whatever it is, I said it, you all know. I pretty much stuck a person living with sickle cell sticker on my face. No, I am not going to die tomorrow. Please don’t act like I am. I am just passionate about this cause and don’t mind putting myself out there. I just want to reach as many young people as possible, change misconceptions about sickle cell disease and ultimately assist you make an informed life choice.
Please join me. Be different, stand out. We can’t all be full on renegade, but we can all stand up for the cause. Please get tested. Know your haemoglobin genotype and that of your partner. Make an informed life choice.
#Renegadethings #nonconformist #saidit!