When I had turned 22 (like six months ago) I asked myself a crucial question. What is it like to be in your 20s as an African woman? I had to reflect because as an African woman who is now 22 years old, I’m overwhelmed. There’s so many things happening during this time. At this point, I feel all sorts of emotions and I’m constantly overthinking. And I love when people tell me to stop overthinking. How can I stop? But no seriously, it’s been a rough journey (I know- I’m only 22). I’m constantly thinking about my future, pleasing my parents, worrying about the friends I have, romantic interests/marriage, taking care of my family meanwhile trying to take care of myself. You see where I am going with this?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a manual book for the oldest daughter. And, there isn’t a manual book for the African daughter. I’m not going to lie, being in my 20s so far has been a weird but beautiful experience. I wish someone would hand me a book to read so I know what to do. As an African woman in my 20s, people are expecting a lot from me. My parents are expecting me to be this bomb ass daughter. A daughter who cooks, cleans, and caters to their needs every day. The interesting thing is I’ve gotten so used to pleasing my parents, I no longer question my freedom. I want to be free. You may ask, what does it mean to be free for an African woman like me? To be there for my parents, but to also be free to do what I please. To make my own mistakes and learn from them. To make my own decisions. To step out of this box that I have been placed in.
This box that I speak of is significant. I am in multiple boxes in which I can’t seem to leave. The first box is the one my parents have placed me in. As I get older, the closer I reach the edge of the box, I am shoved back to the center of it. The edge of the box is my freedom. The center of the box is starting my mission of getting out of this box all over again. And this is applied to some of my relationships as well. Every time I get closer to the edge, I am shoved back to the center. What’s holding me back? The expectations, the responsibilities, and the rules.
Being in my 20s, I am working towards becoming self-aware. After graduating from university and being sick, I’ve become more aware of the things happening in my life. Becoming more self-aware means being aware of my bullshit. I have been. There are certain characteristics about myself that needs to be changed. I don’t like that I’m always telling people, “I’m working on it.” But am I really? How do you start working on certain things about yourself? Things that we now say are “toxic.” I once believed that I could work on these “toxic characteristics ” of mine but as I get older I’m realizing that I’m lying to myself.
There are steps to this though. Steps to become self-aware. Being self-aware does not mean just being aware of your actions, flaws, thoughts, etc and that’s the end be all. No. That’s only part of it. That’s like 10% of it. I’ve started to learn that when you are aware of those aspects I mentioned above, you need to do something about it. That’s the part that I struggle with. I thought I had it—- the equation: noticing your actions, flaws, thoughts, emotions + doing something about it = self-aware. But is this really a realistic equation? Is this how one becomes more self-aware? What does it even mean to be self-aware? For me? For you?
So far, what I have learned is that you are meant to grow in your twenties. When I say that, I mean that you are meant to feel uncomfortable. I don’t remember when I’ve been comfortable (well when I was like 11 and didn’t have to pay bills). My goal for now, as a 22 year old woman, is to be self aware. Hold myself accountable. Process my emotions and thoughts. Be present. I’ve given up on myself for so long, I no longer want to do that. And most importantly, try. Try to step outside of this box my parents have placed me in.
Keep going because the journey does not end here.
Thank you for reading!
Writer: Diaka Thiam (: