Written by Efe Plange
In this two-part series, I am sharing some personal life hacks with other young African women out there. These are by no means any universally proven “rules.” However, for the few out there who need some inspiration, I hope these offer some respite. Part two follows up shortly.
1. Own Your Age!
There is an age-old myth that somehow places a burden on women to defy natural law by making every effort to remain young. Thus, if there is one thing women the world over fear, it is to age. My own mother at age 57 has jokingly claimed age 50 ever since I can remember. It’s not her fault, neither is it yours.
When you consider the other side of the equation, you would realize that the double-standards is real! Men bask in their growth, and the expected wisdom that comes with it. Growth and ageing is seen as a positive thing for them and there are no qualms about it. And so while men would proudly throw parties for their 40th, 45th and 50th, we brood in our rooms at our 30th.
If you believe and accept this myth, you are literally accepting that you are worth nothing beyond what your physical body and appearance can offer to society. In any case, us women alluding to such ridiculous social conventions, is what is pushing many of our kind into self-inflicted torture. Thus, we are investing all our money into miraculous creams and lotions, and in more damaging and permanent resorts like plastic surgery, just to stay young.
When I announced my 25th birthday on Facebook last year, I was quickly alerted, “Don’t broadcast your age, it’s an abomination for women!” But honey, I know where I am coming from, and I am constantly amazed at the enormous transformation both in stature and in wisdom. I am proud of the woman I have become and growing into.
My mother has never been a fan of deliberate weight loss regimes, she would always say, “these folds and stretch marks are the crowns of my fertility.” She has owned and embraced the scares of motherhood so well that she has mentally and psychologically freed herself from any form of beauty standards. Hence, she is living life to the fullest!
I proudly claim my age each year because growth is good thing, real growth is more interior than exterior; and heck I still look and feel a hell lot awesome!
2. Read, Read and Never Stop Reading!
My research interests in literacy has proven that, there is a close link between reading, writing, and the act of public speaking. Aside these benefits, the enormous knowledge-value that exists in books is yet to be discovered, especially in our kind of society.
Where our education and the educated have been heavily commercialized, any form of extracurricular reading thus, is seen as a waste of time.
However I encourage you to read, read, and read some more! You create a lifetime archive of experiences that gradually shape your personality.
When you read wide, you think wide.
3. Never Stop Looking For Opportunities!
Let me just go straight to the point—I am always in a job-search mode (spoiler alert for my future employers). No matter how rewarding money, personal and professional development-wise a job is, I still search.
Hence, I always work between two-three jobs a time. People in our society tend to be very comfortable. I am never satisfied, never okay and never settling. With this attitude I have managed to build a very diverse work experience on my CV.
If your current full-time job isn’t offering you any opportunities for personal and professional development, and what’s worse, if it is too consuming yet unrewarding, don’t wait till you are six years in-deep, to make the move. Life is short, and ain’t nobody got time for that!
Aside my graduate school obligations (teaching and course work), I teach African Dance weekly, run my website and I’m an outsourced writer for several companies—yes it is possible!
4. Willingly Ask and Accept Constructive Feedback!
In my school studies, my colleagues and I have a tradition. When we ask each other for feedback on our papers before we turn them in to the professor, we usually say, “abeg massacre my work for me!” This means, be literal and blunt with me. This is how we learn and support each other.
No wonder peer reviews are such a key thing in Western education because seriously, isn’t it better to sound dumb in front of your peers than in front of your professor, faculty members, clients and customers. Peer reviews are not only useful for projects but they could be also useful in shaping our personalities.
Occasionally, I ask my friends, “So what was your first impression of me, and how has that changed,” “Name one positive trait I have,” “What would you say I should change about myself?”
As a people, imagine if this exercise happened on the individual, communal and governance level? The benefits are enormous!
5. Be Boldly Adventurous!
My mum always had a saying, “Cowards, tend to live longer.” Very true, but cowards also never achieve anything! What would Mungo Park have discovered if he stayed home petting his dog in front of his fire place? Your guess is as good as mine.
And here, I am not only talking in literal terms of physical mobility. Lupita Nyongo would say, “Do something each day that scares you.” Having schooled on science biased campuses for the most part of my education, my marginalization as an Arts and Humanities major is a normalized reality for me.
During my first career fair season on campus, my senior colleagues at my department were quick to discourage me from attending as it would have been a total waste of my time. A reception I attended prior to this year’s fair made this warning even resounding as the recruiting officials emphatically stated that they were only looking for science and engineering majors.
As if these messages were not clear enough, I still went for the career fair the next day and instead of simply going to sell myself as a viable candidate for employment, I went with a very ambitious mission to educate the recruiters on why the sciences need the Humanities.
I left most recruiters stunned and the ones who couldn’t resist insisted on either referring me to their HR officers while some, even considered actually creating a new positions in their companies that would employ people with a humanities background. One thing was clear for sure, I made some impact that day.
A year ago, with no gym instructing experience, I just walked into the offices of our school’s gymnasium and asked to be allowed to offer African dance lessons. This idea was inspired by a Zumba class I attended and thought the class would be more fun with our Afro beats.
Again, the city I live in is predominantly White and I wanted to use this opportunity to share one aspect of our beautiful culture with them. Today, I have an additional income to my stipend and I am a certified CPR officer and dance instructor.
6. Invest in Dating
I know this might sound a bit corny but yeah, choose “the one” from options.
In our culture, many people don’t seem to know the difference between dating and being in a relationship. Hence, people tend to even refer to their partners of five years as “the guy I am dating.”
Dating simply refers to a period where two people attempt to get to know each other, on a social, psychological, and spiritual level. This period seems to have been corrupted in recent times with physical contact but it still remains a viable time for establishing any future relationships on the foundation of friendship.
During this time, you get to know each other’s basic preferences, daily routines, activities, hobbies and most importantly, temperament. Make a deliberate effort to have options at this point so you are actually “choosing.”
When you take time off commitments and just date, you get to compare and are indeed exposed to varying ideologies of men. It is also useful to witness the growth rate of your options as occasionally, you get to see their various responses/reactions to certain incidents.
For instance, when I cut my hair, I received varying reactions from my male friends. While some admired and encouraged my “bravery,” others took a huge sigh of relief after I said it was just a phase and that I might be going back to straight, long and fake hair. At this point, you can easily identify who values your personality over your attractiveness.
While this might not be a deal or break situation, it serves as data for other considerations. Other issues to consider are how each reacts to your career, personal and social achievements.
You can easily detect which guy is a controller, cheater, obsessive, needy, manipulative and for most financially independent women, watch out for the opportunists!
Be careful though, this is not a green card for women to be sleeping around. Actually, if you are already sexually active, claiming celibacy at this stage would yield you the most results.
I do this because marriage is serious business and I always like to be in the know. And although I am not looking for a perfect guy, I am hoping he acknowledges his imperfections and since I am also not perfect, I am hoping that we both enter into our marriage with just the right amount of crazy!
7. Make yourself an asset
Unemployment in the world has come to stay, and with this globalized capitalist regime, no one is indispensable. Therefore, be sure that you are your only kind, to your employer.
Your intellect, creativity, skill and general presence at work should be your asset. Invest in your professional and personal development. Make every living experience a learning experience.
In a few months when I graduate, I would not be the only one with a master’s degree in my field ergo, what makes me different from other 2nd degree holders in my field of study and work?
I am here encouraging you to again yield to my earlier call—read wide, train hard, learn deep. Explore, be adventurous, build a unique personality and make sure that your strengths are indistinguishable from your identity and self.
Build yourself in other areas so that when you are employed for instance as a creative content developer, your excellent organizational skills can earn you a supervisory role in addition.
One way you can develop such a trait is to engage in a lot of extracurricular activities as the benefits from these activities come unconsciously to us.
Part two follows on a much deeper and personal level…
Efe Plange is founder and editor of Sankofa Reviews. She is a Graduate Teaching Instructor, and recently concluded a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Technical Communication at Michigan Technological University. She is passionate about the Arts and Cultural industry and her background in the field is fueled by a longstanding dream of seeing theory work together with practice. Connect with Efe on social media: efplange_gh on both Instagram and Twitter, and Efe Plange on Facebook.
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