The Validity of Your Experience

Ifeanacho MaryAnn
5 min readAug 31, 2020

Paulo Coelho’s “The Witch of Portobello” is by far one of the most insightful and beautiful books I have read this year. Coelho effortlessly captures the intricacies of being a mother, a divorced Catholic, and a woman whose ideas were out of place in the world and time she found herself in. One part that stood out for me was the part when Father Giancarlo Fontana had to choose between being Christlike and being a servant of the Roman Catholic Church. Fr. Fontana’s decision proves that sometimes the word “right” is often subjective and that doing what is nominally right can sometimes feel cardinally wrong. As a lover of unorthodox rituals, especially as it pertains to writing, I especially loved how Coelho (through Athena/Sherine Khalil) shows us how we can brush the divine through dance and the gentle art of calligraphy. I got really interested in Sufism after reading that book. That was all I could talk about! I told everyone close to me who cared to listen about Sufism, Gypsy culture, how awesome a writer Coelho was, and how I wanted to meet (and work with) him someday. One of those people laughed at the last part. Apparently, I was too obscure and inexperienced to work with someone as popular as Coelho. After which he proceeded to give me a mini-lecture on the importance of dreaming attainable dreams.

You see I am used to quips like this. I have heard it multiple times

“You are ghost-writing a book on relationships? You? Irrevocably single you? Wetin you sabi about relationships?”

“So wait, you think one day they’ll invite you to talk at TEDx? People there have experience and have been through a lot of shit. What have you been through?”

“You read a lot but that doesn’t actually mean you know or have experienced some important stuff.”

I always find these little swipes funny because I understand there is this underestimation that comes with familiarity. Yes, I don’t know much about a lot of things but I do know a lot about some things.

I know the struggle. I know what it feels like to always feel as if you are in a tug-of-war with life. The rope burns your palms and your feet drag across the stony earth as you try your best not to lose this battle.

I know what it means to have soul-crushing depressive episodes; of carrying the burden of an unhappy self, never really feeling totally happy and feeling “meh” at best.

I know pain; the mind-numbing pain that comes from losing the people you love to life and death.

I understand how unexciting, depressing, and stressful liminality can be on the journey to self-development; you are grateful you are not where you used to be but where you want to be seems so far out of reach.

I know how frustrating a blank page can be when you are a writer; of how ideas can be teasing mistresses flitting away when you desperately need them.

I know what it means to be cloaked in self-doubt while making an effort to elbow through life; of how imposter syndrome can be an albatross around your neck as you try to become the best you can be.

These might not seem like a lot but if sharing my experiences helps just one person navigate his/her way through life, then I am happy.

Maybe you are like me. Maybe you feel your experiences and insights don’t matter because your “becoming” story hasn’t ended and that somehow makes you less qualified to share your knowledge.

Maybe as a young man, you know how hard it is to navigate life when your weight seems to be the elephant in the room.

Or what how hard it is to make it in a country like mine without connections and money or resorting to crime and how people would (sometimes) taunt and make fun of you for the deciding to take the honest route to success.

Maybe you know what academic setbacks feel like; of how frustrating it can be when the efforts you have put into your studies don’t give the desired results.

Maybe you know how recovering from addiction can be a slippery slope; of being clean for 30 days only to be hit by a blinding desire to consume whatever it is you are addicted to on the 31st day.

Maybe you know how hard it is to be beautiful; to always have people define and box you without even giving you a chance to prove yourself, of how everyone you meet seems to either hate/envy you, want your body or feel you are not- and shouldn’t be- the sharpest tool in the shed.

Maybe you know how hard it is to be successful; of how everyone seems to think being wealthy makes your demons less sinister and your problems less valid.

Or maybe you know the jittery excitement of being a parent; of falling in love all over again with this chortling bundle of joy and being afraid you might scar them just like you parents did you.

Maybe galling it is to feel inadequate; to feel you would never be enough no matter what you do, how many degrees you get, or how much money you have in the bank.

Or maybe, just maybe, you know the acrid taste of rejection- from love interests, school applications, work interviews, and many more- and how it can make you want to throw in the towel and stop trying altogether.

Whatever it is, no matter how small or large it seems, it is valid and you owe it yourself and to others who are going through the same struggles to share these experiences. It doesn’t matter if you are still struggling or still writing your becoming story, your experiences are still valid and worthy of note.

Like what you read? Check out Not Today, Cupid! A Millennial Guide to (Not) Falling in Love



Ifeanacho MaryAnn

Storyteller, Long Distance Cat Mom. A quiet voice rambling in an isolated corner of the internet. I write on psychology, films, books and my random thoughts