I turned 29 last week, and it was perfectly celebrated with family at Yasmina, a Lebanese restaurant at Marina Mall in Airport in Accra. I hadn’t planned to have the day go so well, but it did. As my family sang a funny off tune “Happy Birthday to you”, I realised that this was the first birthday that I could remember feeling absolutely content with my life. I have a job I love, friends I adore, I make it to the mosque for Jummah way more often, and I just celebrated my first anniversary with my boyfriend (who I absolutely intend to marry one day so help me God).
As I crossed over to kick off year 29 as an African woman I hold this to be true, “Everything I need I have, and anything I don’t have I don’t need”. At least a third of my life is behind me for sure, so this is as good a time as any for reflection, and to share some of the lessons I learned in my first 28 years of life as an African woman.
Lesson 1: You’re NOT special, you’re different. We are all different, but this doesn’t make you better than anyone else. When I was younger I used to think I was special and it was difficult for me to empathize with others. I would think that certain things wouldn’t happen to me because I was special and others were not. When I learned that difference didn’t make me better it helped me be less judgemental.
Lesson 2: Know your WORTH. You are a full human being. Your body, your mind, your experiences, and everything else that makes you who you are is of value. If you don’t know your worth you will continually let people into your life who are undeserving, and unworthy of not just of your time, but your love. Be like an exclusive club, not just anyone should be able to enter it or join.
Lesson 3: Speak your desire. Don’t just write your goals on a piece of paper, or keep them in your heart. Say it out loud. Yes talk to the Universe. Talk to your friends. What ever your heart desires don’t be afraid to put it out there. I know this is radically different from what most of us have been taught, which is to keep your desires as a secret lest someone blocks your way. But you never know who in your network may be in a position to help you, or connect you with someone else to help you get what you want. Speaking my desires has helped my find clients, a place to live, and even love. Don’t be afraid to say what you want, no one can take that which is rightly yours.
Lesson 4: When people show you who they are, believe them. Maya Angelou and Oprah have been saying this for decades, and when I started applying it to my life it made all the difference. For example, if your friend gossips to you about people she knows, whether you know them or not, let that be a warning to you that she is a gossip. This is just who she is. It doesn’t mean you have to cut her out of your life, you just have to accept that this is who she is, and she’ll never change. Or if your brother is unreliable and you know he doesn’t like to inconvenience himself for others, don’t ask him to do things for you. That’s who he is, you have to adjust to that. You will lessen your headaches, and disappointments with people if you just learn to accept them for who they are, and you stop expecting people to not be themselves just because this is how you would hope for them to be.
Lesson 5: If you’re in a relationship with a married man, you wont be able to find your own. I have dated a married man or two in my day, never wanting them to leave their wives, but always secretly hoping that I would find love. Two cars can not fit in a space meant for one, and furthermore once a car has parked in a space, it is fully occupied whether there is a bit of space left or not. Yes a married man can love you, and you can love a married man, but you wont be able to find your one true loves if you’re already with a married man.
Lesson 6: Make an honest pact with yourself. In the year before I met my boyfriend I made a pact of celibacy with myself. I didn’t want to have sex until I was in love. I went further to pray that the next man I will sleep with not only had to love me but, he must be the man I will marry. In the year I was celibate temptation came from every corner. At one point I was talking to 4 different men, all of them promising to buy me all the things I wanted, none of them however, capable of really loving me how I needed to be loved. So I refused to compromise and stayed true to my pact with myself. I think it was because I was celibate that I was able to clearly see what and who I wanted in a partner, and to find him. The year I was celibate allowed me to learn the difference between physical, and emotional satisfaction. You cant substitute one for the other.
Lesson 7: Plan, Plan, Plan. The most important part about getting anything accomplished is planning. And by planning I mean listing down not just what you will do but how you will do it. There was a time when my plans started with “When I….. , I will….”. Now my plans are about how, what steps to take, what actions need to happen, who do I need to talk to, what do I need to find out, where do I need to be. You have to be as meticulous as possible with your plans, don’t leave it to chance. If its going to happen, its up to you.
Lesson 8: Real friends love you inspite of your flaws. I had to admit to myself that many people who I had previously considered my friends were not really my friends. I didn’t love them unconditionally, I only loved them so long as they behaved in a way that I deemed fit. If I was truly their friend I would look at their flaws and love them inspite of them. Because I could not do this, I had to accept that they were not my friends.
Lesson 9: Your flaws are perfect for the heart that’s meant to love you. No one is perfect this is true. But when you’re with the wrong people you’ll feel even more imperfect. People who don’t know how to love you will try to change you, but when you meet the ones that are meant to love you, your flaws to them will be perfect. They will love you for who you are.
Lesson 10: Me first, all the time, and everytime. People will say that putting yourself first is selfish but if you don’t put yourself first you wont be able to live your best life. I put my faith, my peace of mind, my physical self, and my goals and aspirations before anyone else. I do only that which is right for me. I make sure my decisions are best for me first before I consider anyone else’s feelings. The most important lesson I have learned is that the most important relationship in my life, is the one I have with myself. It is only by cultivating, and nurturing this relationship with myself that I have been able to get to a place in my life where I can look back and say I have everything I need. I am content.