In the southernmost reaches of Senegal, there sits a village known as Thianghe. Here, amidst a rough estimate of thirteen hundred others, lives a girl known as Hawa Diallo. She’s a toubab, or foreigner, and this she rarely forgets. She also has another name, yet this she often forgets. However, when it comes time to remember this other name, there is a myriad of things Hawa has learnt that she does not wish her to neglect, so she chose to write her a reminder.
Remember about now. I don’t mean this very moment, but rather the concept of now. Don’t go back to living vicariously in the future, for now is all there really is. Overcome time. I promise it’ll pass.
Remember how you savored half of that packet of M&Ms you’ve been holding onto for months today in your back garden, as if they were heaven sent. Moderation is key- allow yourself to continue to practice it despite no longer being isolated from so much. When you’ve everything you could desire, remember when you had none of that, and how, still, you were happy.
Remember to let go. When you dance, float away and let yourself be as wild and ridiculous as possible, like when you danced here. When you’re sure you’ll fail, push your shoulders back and try with all the confidence you can muster. Anyways, failure is a fine teacher. Keep talking, keep moving, keep being, and forgo expectations because if you’ve learnt anything it’s that they need not exist.
Remember kindness. Though maybe now you don’t have to greet everyone you pass, it doesn’t mean you should close up again. Be friendly, be open. Allow the world into your heart, and regard it with a mind unhinged. Recall all you gained by simply talking to people. You certainly wouldn’t have made it very far without them.
Remember waking up at sunrise, when the village was bathed in a red dawn light, and all the sounds- birds, cows, sheep, the pounding of corn and millet- came in piece by piece like an orchestra. Remember how sometimes you’d have to stop in the middle of a run so you could regard your surroundings in awe, because it was too surreal to be surrounded by such beauty. Remember how you felt when when you learned at last to do your laundry, and all the women who used to laugh at you exclaimed, “Hawa can do it!” Remember when you realized you weren’t afraid to smile anymore- and I mean really smile, with a cheesy grin plastered across your face that simply won’t leave no matter how hard you might will it to. Remember scorching hot afternoons when you and your sisters would dance in the river- your cool sanctuary from the endless sun.
Remember the ceaseless sweat you could’ve drowned in, the dirt that’d coat your skin and make you think you’d finally gotten a tan, the gastrointestinal issues that followed eating meat from that anteater, how yesterday you crashed the bike with no brakes in the sand and bled all over the place, and all the quantities of seemingly negative experiences that humbled you.
Remember the people you sat with, making tea on a sunny afternoon as you scribbled this into your notebook. Just, please- remember. Perhaps the worst thing you could do is to forget that, once, you were a girl in Thianghe.