17 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Turned 21

21st Birthday
Photo Cred: Boho Weddings Online

 

Towards the end of last year, my aunt asked me to help her put together some advice/words of encouragement for a young lady who was turning 21 years old. She asked me to think about what I wish I had been told or what I wish I had known at the age of 21. As I did the list, I realized that there was so much that I was forced to learn from experience as I entered adulthood.

 

I think it is an assumption in our more modern black African community that you’ll figure things out as you go, especially because most of us are growing up away from home and from our elders. Granted that the best teacher is experience, but some guidance and counsel never hurt anyone.

 

Most of the words of wisdom we receive as we enter adulthood is to work hard, get a good job and get married – especially as black African women (bAw). As though that is the fullness of life. This got me thinking that there may be some young 21-year old who hasn’t had the opportunity to receive counsel on life and could benefit from reading up on a few key lessons that can help make their next stage in life more fulfilling. Or possibly, just a woman who needs to remember what is important in life.

 

And so here goes – 17 things I wish someone had told me as I turned 21:

 

  1. You are beautiful both inside and out. From this age onward, understand that society and your own doubts and fears will try to disagree with that statement. Begin now to choose to believe that you are beautiful and tell yourself that truth every day when you look in the mirror.

 

  1. You are more than worthy of love. You may find yourself seeking validation and worth in different places as you reach this stage of your life – in men, friendships, career, beautiful clothes or just looking good. In all instances, nothing and no-one will be able to validate you. Understand that your worth and value stems from your Creator God alone. This will serve you well in years to come.

 

  1. Be much kinder to yourself. You’re going to find yourself making some major mistakes in life because now you’re playing in the big leagues. There are enough people out there who will try to make you feel bad about this so don’t add yourself to that equation. Learn to be your number 1 fan by encouraging yourself when you fall.

 

  1. When it comes to people (associations, friends, family, romantic relationships etc) take those associations with an emotional maturity. Understand that not everything done to you deserves for you to take it too seriously. Most times, it’s not even about you.

 

Be Kind to Yourself
Photo Cred: WordPress.com

 

  1. Expect less. This is not about lowering your standards but about what you hope others will do for you. This gives you the opportunity to be taken by surprise in a good way in life. The less you expect from people, the better.

 

  1. Rejection and disappointment is not the end of the world. Now that you’re a little older, rejection and disappointment will hurt a little more than it did when you were younger. Try now to learn that it does not mean the end of everything. The sun will still rise tomorrow.

 

  1. People who were meant to shield, love and protect you the most may end up being the ones who hurt you the worst. Learn to discern the hearts and intentions of people early on so that you can gauge those you can lean on a little more. Remember that only God will never disappoint you.

 

  1. At all costs, avoid debt in your life. You will soon be on your own, making your own money and making your own financial decisions. There is such a pressure and a tendency to want to get all the wonderful things in life that you can’t afford just to keep up with others or to “show what you’re working for”. Try as much as possible to adjust this mind-set and attitude. Instead, pursue the freedom and peace of owning what is yours and living a lifestyle you can afford. This will allow you to sleep better at night.

 

Save Money - Don't Get Into Debt
Photo Cred: Frugal Farm Wife Online

 

  1. Make time for your family. Yes life is exciting and you’ve got so many amazing friends and adventures but remember where you have come from. Your family will always be there for you regardless of what you go through or how life changes. Remember to make time to appreciate and enjoy them.

 

  1. If you haven’t already found it, seek out your life’s purpose. This is usually closely linked to what you are passionate about or what you’re really good at and love doing. It’s the thing you would be willing to do without ever getting paid for doing it. Knowing your purpose makes life that much more of a joy to live. It gets you out of bed on a tough day. It warms your soul even though things are unbearable. It can also become your career. Find out what you’re on Earth for.

 

  1. Take your time and enjoy your season of singleness. Contrary to what social media/family/friends may say, singleness is a blessing. Seek to enjoy and bask in all the goodness that it holds for you – your own time; travelling; meeting new people; excelling in your career and purpose; making mistakes and getting back up amongst other things. You will never get this time back so get over being single and get into how amazing it is before it passes you by.

 

  1. Wait for a man of his word. You’re young and beautiful with so much life ahead of you and men will recognize and desire that. Try to keep a cool head when it comes to choosing the men you date. Be selective – be hard to get but easy to be with. Be a delight but set your boundaries early on. This will serve you well in protecting you from men who do not have your best interests at heart. Wait for a man who does what he said he will do and with whom you will have no questions about his intentions.

 

Be Selective 2
Photo Cred: Skinny Sticks Tumblr

 

 

  1. More likely than not, your heart will probably be broken despite all your efforts to wait on the right guy or to protect yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over that. Instead, learn from your experiences so that you are clear on what you deserve, which will make it easier for you to identify that in future.

 

  1. Understand that you will probably lose friends as you journey on in life. It’s not necessarily because you or they are bad people. As you grow, you evolve and so do those around you. You may not grow in the same direction and sometimes that may mean that you must part ways. It’s alright. People who are meant to be in your life will remain there to walk with you as you become your best self. The rest are for a season or a reason. Learn to differentiate who is who in your life.

 

  1. Find a mentor. Be on the lookout for a woman or women you admire in terms of how you desire to live your life and where you would like to end up. Women who uphold your principles in life. Seek to develop relationships with them. Life is not lived in isolation and as a young woman, you can learn much from your older sisters and mothers who have already walked the path you are embarking on – regardless of how “old school” you may think they are! Life and its principles never go out of fashion.

 

  1. Never make anything or anyone else more important than God – not even yourself. As long as you grasp this simple but powerful truth, you can have the best life ever and become all that you were meant to be.

 

  1. Have fun!!! You are young. You’re at the peak of your youth and the world literally is your oyster. Don’t rush to grow up because that comes with its challenges. Soak up every single year of your life because it will never be the same again. Have no regrets.

 

 

Have Fun
Photo Cred: Allure Online

 

 

And so there it is. Thanks to my colleague Tumelo Bosaka who also helped me out by sharing a few of the truths she wishes she had been told at 21. I hope this serves someone well as they enter into the next season of their life. Maybe you’re past 21 but you haven’t come across some of these. It’s never too late to learn and grow. Or you may have just needed a refresher. Let’s keep going ladies 😉

 

Let me know your thoughts on the list and please share any other lessons from your experiences. Maybe you had a completely different experience. I would like to learn from yours too.

 

With love,

Sonia Dee

image
Photo Cred: Noxolo Chalale

Before you go sis, just a few things you may be interested in:

  1. We have a Hiking Event to celebrate you gorgeous bAw on Sunday the 27th of August at Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in the South of Joburg. If you desire to get out, meet other bAw and hear inspiring stories about how to best reflect on your life and live it in a way that God desires for you, this get-together is for you. We will have a lovely picnic after our short hike and some uplifting words from our older sisters who have learnt the value of taking stock of their lives. Come and let’s Heal, Exhale and Reflect together.
  2. Would you like to be part of a community of women who are daily speaking and seeking healing for different aspects of their lives and returning to their true identity in Christ? Then join us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to receive daily encouragements and connect with like-minded sisters!

 

Chat to you soon!

Secrets To Having The Natural Hair You Want

My baby sister and I rocking our natural hair at a wedding (Photo Cred: Rumbidzayi Dube)

So whenever my sister and I are roaming the Joburg streets with our natural hair out to play, we generally always get stopped to answer questions about our hair: How come it’s so soft? How come it’s so long? Why is our hair so healthy-looking? It’s almost as though we know something that other aspiring or new naturalista’s don’t.

This is something I have been reflecting on for a while now, and I would like for other black African women (bAw) to rock their own natural ‘fros with the same confidence and joy that I, and others, have come to enjoy. So here goes. Here are a few of the “secrets” I have come to understand that lead to you finally having the natural hair you’ve always wanted:

Decide To Focus On Your Own Fro: First things first – afro envy is real guys! Do not be fooled. You know that feeling of ‘fro “inadequacy” you get when you look at a sister with an afro that looks like Diana Ross’s while yours looks like the young Kunta Kinte’s teeny afro in Roots? Lol! Well, that’s normal! You’re not the only one who feels that way or has that experience. Just like braids or weaves come in all different lengths, shapes and sizes, so does natural hair.

Choose to let go of any preconceived notions you may have picked up that your ‘fro must turn out a certain way. Instead, begin to focus on and learn your own hair. How does it respond when you use certain products? What about when you’ve just washed it? And when you twist it out? Taking the time to learn your hair gives you insight into what brings the best out of it.

Remember too that your curl pattern will most probably not look like another bAw’s curl pattern. I had to accept this with my own sister. She has a looser curl pattern and her ‘fro stretches more easily whereas I have a tighter curl pattern that creates cute little curly styles that she can’t really get. It’s important to know that just because you have the same skin colour or even come from the same country or heck are even related does not mean your hair will look the same. Focus on understanding what your ‘fro does.

Take It Back To Basics: I am all about using 100% organic and natural products on my hair. The sad thing is that the world has bought into the “fake” life including the food we eat and the things we use on our bodies or hair. Shampoos and conditioners are filled with so many harmful chemicals that dry out the natural oils in your hair causing it to feel super dry and to look lifeless. No wonder why you feel like your ‘fro never looks lustrous and healthy. It may be what you’re putting into it.

Take the time to do your research. Read up on the natural oils and products that are best for natural hair. The first trick is to read the labels on shampoos – if they have a long ingredients list, you pretty much know that there is nothing good in there for your hair. More so if water does not form part of the ingredients. Better yet, go back to using products with no added ingredients such as bi-carb of soda as shampoo or apple cider vinegar as conditioner. Your hair will thank you later.

Trying a different look with my ‘fro

Be Patient: I can’t emphasize this enough!! We generally are a generation that has completely lost the meaning and value of patience because we get everything we need at the click of a button in most cases. So, you wake up and decide that you want to go natural and expect that by next month (you’re giving it a lot of time here!) you’ll have a soft, curly, lustrous afro just like Precious Kofi. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but that probably won’t be the case. Your hair type may not even be like Precious’ plus you don’t know how long she’s grown it or how she styles it to look the way it does.

The natural hair journey can be compared to a running race. Each naturalista has their own lane (hair type). Has been training for different periods of time (time frame of having her afro). Has different training routines and methods that work best for them (products used on her afro). Has different inherent skills and developed talents when it comes to running (different hereditary curl patterns plus adjustments to her environment). What will lead to that racer coming first in their race is understanding these different elements and maximizing on them fully. This takes time and patience.

Remember that your hair has probably been put under much strain for majority of your life – relaxers, weaves, braids, wigs, heat, combing etc. It has not been out in its natural state and needs to adapt back to it. You can’t expect it to return from decades of manipulation in a few months. Allow it the freedom it needs to grow out all the unhealthy habits and chemicals that have hurt it over the years. Then one day, when you least expect it you will see your hair come out in a curl pattern or with a shine you have never seen on anyone else 🙂

Try Different Products For Long Periods Of Time: Following on from the above point, in your quest to have your best natural ‘fro, you will need to try different products to finally hone in on the ones that work best with your hair. What works for someone else may not work for you and vice versa. There are a number of different oils that do different great things for natural hair. Make sure to read up on them. Some act as moisturizing oils while others are sealants. Some are essential oils and others are carrier oils. Sometimes they must be mixed together for best results. I personally subscribe to Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, Castor Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I will write about this in future.

What tends to happen is that we hear about all these amazing oils we should use and so we get a bunch and just try them all almost at once. Maybe we use a few for a few days or weeks then switch because it doesn’t seem like they’re doing anything. But this doesn’t allow your hair to adjust to the components of that oil treatment so you can see if it’s working. At our last “My African Crown” Hair Event, hair guru Thandiwe told us that it is better to use the same products on your hair for 3 months to allow your hair to adapt to them and to let you see if they are working. I stuck to the three oils above for months despite it looking like nothing was happening and forgot about it until one day I noticed how rich and soft my ‘fro had become.

Natural Sisters 🙂

Be Gentle With Your ‘Fro: One of the greatest myths about natural hair is that it is tough and hard. Again, Thandiwe mentioned at our last Hair Event that black natural hair is probably the most sensitive hair type. That is why your reflex is to pull back when your hair is being combed or getting blow dried etc. God has blessed us with a ball of cotton wool on our heads but we’re treating it like steel wool instead. We yank at it with combs and try to straighten it with blow dryers or hot combs. Such force and unnatural heat only causes more damage and makes it tougher.

Instead of using a comb, detangle the knots in your hair with your fingers. It takes time but it is so good for your ‘fro. Refrain from putting any heat at all to your ‘fro as heat damages and dries your delicate hair. Instead, twist your hair straight after washing and moisturizing it and sleep with it like that. In the morning, you’ll wake up with soft, moisturized hair that you can style – again I will write about this in future.

Change Your Mindset About Natural Hair: This has got to be the most important secret for me. For all your life you have been fed the incorrect information about your hair and how to care for it. It is people who don’t even have the same hair as you who have sold you products and ideas about the best way to care of it. If you want the hair you were originally given, go back to the manufacturer of that hair – God. Pray for your hair and ask Him to show you how to best take care of it. It sounds silly but trust me – it opens you up to people, articles, and products etc that speak to what your hair really needs.

When you begin to see your hair correctly and why you were given it in the first place, you’ll begin to understand what you need to give it. You’ll begin to love it instead of wish it was another way. And your afro will love you right back.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this post. I hope it has enlightened you to the real secrets available to you so that you can rock that healthy and full head of hair you’ve always wanted. Maybe you already have the natural ‘fro you want. Please share some secrets you have learnt too. Maybe you just have some questions – please don’t hesitate to ask.

Let’s keep working to have the hair we have always had but forgot about!

With love,

Sonia Dee