Updated: Feb 17
Dear Africana Woman,
Hey Darling. How are you? So I was going through the last love letters that I sent you and I realised that I am a hypocrite. I tell people’s stories but never really talk about me. I am actually not used to talking about myself, partly because deep down I believe that no one is really interested in knowing all the nitty gritty. However, I do think that you deserve to know more than just the surface level. It’s not even that I want to hide anything I am just never asked so I don’t say anything. You know? Anyway, today no one has asked but I am choosing to say something. In to me see..
I was told; go to school, work really hard, get a degree, get a good job, live abroad and you will be successful in life. No one ever sat me down and said those words to me in one sentence but when you piece all the statements together that's basically what was expected of me. Boyi did I work hard.
I passed grade 12 with flying colours. I won a scholarship to a school in the UK and won a second scholarship to a school in the USA for university. I was on the right track or so I thought.
What I did not count on was abruptly becoming a minority when I had grown up as a majority. I did not expect to learn that the guys on campus did not date African girls because ‘they all had HIV.’ I was disappointed to see all the African guys rush to date girls of other races. To be classified undesirable coupled with micro aggressions really crushed my self esteem and my soul. I felt lost and did not know who I was.
I ended up fleeing the US by going to study abroad in Spain. Barcelona to be precise, it will always be my second home. Anyway, there I became desirable again and sought attention from the opposite sex. Well next thing I know it I was knocked up. Chaaaal to say that I was devastated is an understatement. I felt like a failure and that I had brought shame to my family. This came to a head when I was back in USA. So I hid in my dorm room, did not speak to anyone for months and cried all day. I do not have one picture of when I was pregnant nor do I have a fond memory of that time.
In the end my mother came to the US and took my son at 3 weeks old to Zambia and I went on to finish my last semester of uni and graduate. Even then I did not socialise nor attend graduation. Thereafter, I ended up staying with family friends but I was a terrible guest so I was kicked out and found myself homeless in a foreign land. I stayed in motels, and ate crap. Until I decided to reach out to a dean from my college, who came to pick me up and helped me find a job and proper accommodation.
Life started looking up again. I was making plans to have my son come back to the US. Until, my work visa was denied and I was given 2 weeks to leave the country. Now I am not about that illegal lifestyle, so I left. At this point I had classified myself an absolute failure. I did not go for my masters, did not get a good job, was kicked out of the US and was back in Zambia as a single parent with no source of income. (sigh).
I started out with a fashion company because I am a designer at heart. I had moved into my mother’s house and was disoriented about this parenting thing. I ended up having a huge argument with my mother and she kicked me out of the house. So there I was homeless for a second time but now I had a child with me. I remember calling one of my paternal brothers to tell him I was homeless. He told me, “Pray about it, it shall be well”
I ended up squatting in a friends home. I was so poor that I did not have money to get on a bus. I remember walking 10km once with a baby on my back to attend a meeting. I remember walking to town along the railway tracks in the rainy season and my flip flops broke so I walked in the mud. Eventually I found myself in the servant's quarter of my father’s home with his 5th or 6th wife/chick.
Finally my cousin basically found a job for me as a receptionist of an advertising agency. There I was with my whole degree working under managers who had certificates and diplomas. That in itself was humbling. At the time I thought I was highly qualified but now I know I was entitled. My main observation as someone who studied in another country and came back was that I had no network to leverage and no support system to show me the ropes. It’s well and good if you are coming back to join the family business but that was not the case for me.
After finally breaking into the job market, I worked at 5 companies, burnt out twice and basically climbed the ranks. What is more notable is whilst I have always been intellectually smart, my emotional intelligence was not developing at the same rate. In fact it could have been stuck as a teenager for a very long time. I was the worst boss you could work for, so bad that some employees actually started plotting to kill me. I had zero self esteem and no awareness of my identity. I even found myself in entanglements with men that were unavailable including married men, not because I wanted to steal the marriage, but because I did not have to commit to something serious. I wish I could lie this part away but facts are facts. But it gets worse, I found myself in a situation where I was sexually assaulted by two assailants (hmm that sounds pretty; I was raped by two thugs). During my rehabilitation I lost so much weight. I posted a picture of myself on social media and I remember being congratulated for loosing weight.
I’ll tell you something else I struggled with was not fitting in anywhere. I am proper damaged goods because I do not speak vernacular. People don’t know what to make of my crazy accent. Mind you I did not forget how to speak Bemba. In my home we never spoke it. English is my first language. As a result, by Zambians I am seen as not Zambian enough. By other nationals I am not foreign enough.
Between not being enough, the burn outs and the assault I had reached rock bottom. I then began a journey of self discovery and taking responsibility for my actions. I could no longer live an entitled existence placing unrealistic expectations on the people around me. If anything, if I expected someone else to invest in me I had to show my commitment and seriousness by being the first to invest in me. Basically, I looked in the mirror and said, “Would you hire you? Would you be friends with you?” The answer was No. I had a temper, I hated myself and I had no purpose.
So I started working on each thing one at a time. First I had to love myself. I started dating myself and got to know me. (side note. I wish more ministries would actually teach people how to be single). I forgave myself for deeming myself a failure. I let go of the notion that success was in this neatly packaged prescribed box, because I was always an outlier. I am uniquely and wonderfully made, there is no one else like me boo and I do me only the way I can. I made radical changes in my life. I stopped drinking alcohol, I only listen to life giving music which is usually gospel, I listen to a number of sermons per week from diverse pastors, both men and women, I'm officially a podcast junkie, I drew myself closer to God by reading the word and beginning to decipher His voice, and the Spirit’s voice.
Whilst I do not scream the way I used to my eyes have no chill. They haven’t yet got the memo. As for my purpose, I really began to seek clarity on what that is and consequently pursue it. Right now as I write I am in pursuit. I realise my life is like a telenovela. There are parts I would rather erase and feel deep regret for the people that I hurt. I cannot run away from the fact that I am flawed. Yet I refuse to be paralysed by fear and shame and not help the women I was called to serve.
This is what I know for sure, no task is beneath me that I would not do it. I have deep compassion and empathy for women that are suffering in silence, not believing they have a lifeline. My purpose is to help women find themselves, find their voices, clarify their identity and carve out their special way of existing in this world. That’s my super power.
Sweety, sorry that this was long. How does one really cramp 36 years in this small space. Let me know what you think in the comments. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think it will bless. If you are new here, please go ahead and subscribe. As you can tell this is a very open space. Maybe a touch of TMI. If you are a live-hard reader, I love you for coming back week after week. You are the bomb.com. You can always catch me during the week in my playground Instagram @chulu_bydesign. Go ahead and check out the new podcast Africana Woman with Chulu. It is found anywhere you get your podcasts. Alright babe. Love love love you. I want you to love yourself, flaws n all and attract the life that you truly desire.
Love you a ton,
PS. interesting facts
Little man’s sperm donor has wilfully ceased responsibility, out de livin his best life. Blessings n light to him.
I have been ghosted several times after dude found out about the rape. Strongly recommend you not bringing it up in conversations or better yet just avoid any assault of course ( I say sarcastically)
I am still dating myself