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Own Your Story

February 7, 2018

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The greatest lesson I learnt in my 20’s is the importance of owning my story. It was something I had battled with since childhood. Over the course of the years, I have learnt that there is great power in not only loving but also accepting myself. I have learnt the importance of taking responsibility for my life and owning up to my mistakes. I have learnt that it’s paramount to forgive myself where I feel I’ve missed the mark. I’ve learnt to high five myself for the internal victories no one can see, like when I don’t allow negativity to slow me down or when I choose to believe a truth about myself instead of giving into a lie. I’ve also learnt that hearing myself say “I am proud of you” to myself brings healing and takes away the need to hear this from someone else. This is a snippet of how I have learnt to own my story over the years no matter how sad, how painful, how imperfect it may be— it is my story.

When I was a little girl, I quickly realized that boys got preferential treatment from girls. From an early age, boys were groomed for leadership whereas girls were expected to play a supporting role. I am not sure if this was deliberate but growing up, the elders spoke very highly of boys— who they would grow to be and the impact they would make in the family and community. But a girl’s destiny was seemingly always marriage. By virtue of being born male, boys were thought to be better (I figured this was due to the fact that they would carry the family name). As you might guess, this did not sit well with me. I was very feisty then, so I decided to make presence felt: if I had an opinion, I’d speak up (even at the risk of being called disrespectful). If I wasn’t being listened to, I spoke a bit louder. If I didn’t agree with something, I’d point it out. I soon realized that this approach was not working because it landed me in trouble, often. This irked me and so I changed my strategy. I tried to be one of the boys, it was cool for a while. I spoke like they did, took up interest in sports they liked and did chores they did. And I would cry when my mother made me do girly chores because that meant not being part of the “boys club” anymore. Even though it was fun being one of them, I was incredibly miserable with myself. Once again, I found myself needing to change my strategy. After dismally failing at trying to fit in, I decided to embrace who I was meant to be— a girl. In so doing, my life changed. Even though that meant being in my own club (that can feel lonely at times), what mattered most is that I felt better about myself. And the insecurities I had before were overcome. I owned my femininity the best way I knew how. This lesson was learnt at age ten,  made me believe that I’d be a leader one day— a proud female leader.
Another moment that forced me to own my story came in my teenage years. When I was at school, I realized that our family was different. Even though our parents were married, we were often separated by distance because my mom was studying, pursuing her dreams in another province. I was proud of her, but at the same times, I resented her for not being there for us. I loved my mother but her absence from us meant she missed a lot of important moments that I would’ve loved to share with her. It was not until a very close friend of mine lost her dad that I realized how tough the situation must’ve have been for Mom too. When I watched my friend grieve for her dad, I got a revelation that even though our family situation was not ideal, it was one I could still be grateful for. I also learnt that it was not my mother’s intention to leave us with a void in our lives, she was doing the best she can for us. From then, I started to own my story, I embraced the fact that I had a mother who was strong enough to pursue her dreams. I started to enjoy Mom’s visits more. I wrote to her often after that and she wrote back. Before I knew it, Mom graduated with flying colors. She was the first woman in my family to get a degree. To this day, we have the photos of her graduation day on the wall.

 

By the time I turned 25 I had done well for myself career-wise, but I was still single. The pressure to date and marry was on. A lot of friends got married then and the question of my relationship status would come up often in our conversations. Needless to say, if I could’ve manufactured a husband for myself, I would’ve but it was simply not happening. First of all, I am very careful about what kind of man I associate myself with. Having been raised by a strong man, I simply wasn’t willing to settle for a partner who did not embody what my father had taught me about what a man is. In my frustrated state, I begged God for a mate. I wondered if maybe I should settle. I started to question my standards and it only made sense to lower my expectations (by the way, this is a bad idea). And so, I dated someone who was seemingly in love with me. We were in a courtship for a while. He was nice, he was focused but I was not happy. We got along just fine until my 26th birthday. He called me to wish me a happy birthday and I typically said, “We need to talk…” He didn’t suspect anything so he was fine. A few days later, I unburdened myself from a relationship that was making me feel heavy, like I was settling. I had to take responsibility and admit that I hurt both of us by getting into something that I didn’t want to begin with. Having to face that taught me to embrace the fact that while I wanted to be with someone, maybe it wasn’t my time as yet. I cried for many nights after that but I was free. It became clearer to me that whilst most people around me were getting married, it didn’t mean I had to rush into something— I was exactly where I needed to be at the time and needed to enjoy it. Determined to be productive, I worked on myself. I signed up for a lot of church activities and took up extra shifts at work and focused on my blog. I embraced my season of waiting and asked God to protect my mind from settling and dreaming small. As for the married friends I had then, they waltzed out of my life and I didn’t even miss them. A few months later, I met my amazing partner who is everything I ever prayed for, and to him, I was the woman  worth the wait. This proved to me that time spent working on ourselves is never wasted.
Own your story. Don’t allow people to make you feel small because your story isn’t the same as theirs. There’s a reason why your story is different; embrace it, don’t run from it. Honor your story. Don’t shrink. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t despair. Embrace the cards you are dealt and know you can win with a set that most people would lose with.

 
Love and light,
Nono Cele
Email: nono@nonocele.co.za
Tweet Me: @Nono_Cele

 

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