Healer, Farai Mubaiwa was asked to pen a letter to her 18-year-old self on the eve of her 23rd birthday.
This phenomenal woman has achieved much in her lifetime and provides insight on the journey of a young African leader.
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“A day before my birthday every year, I take some time out to reflect. Reflect on what I have done. Reflect on what I should have done. And reflect on what I can still do. My friends, family and colleagues often tell me ‘You’ve achieved so much at such a young age’, and while value their praise I still believe that I could have done more if I had started earlier. As I turn 23 tomorrow, I write this letter to my 18-year-old self – stop waiting.
There are 3 key points I want to share with you, and I sincerely hope that you will take these into consideration as you continue to navigate the life ahead of you:
Self-love. Self-love. Self-love.
Self-love is one of the most radical acts you can do for yourself. You need to care for you. You need to love you and who you are. Society will convince you that self-love is selfish but it is anything but selfish. When you love yourself, you can easily love others. What do I mean by self-love? Fall in love with your black skin which society has already convinced you is inferior and unworthy. You are worthy. You are golden.
Fall in love with your hair. Your hair is not ‘nappy’. It is your crown, and so treat it that way. Understand what makes you happy and spend time doing that. Get out of the superhero mentality now, and recognise that yes you want to change society, but you also need to care for yourself while you do all of this. Self-love is a journey, and not a destination.
African Knowledge – Think about school. Ask yourself what do I really know about Africa? Upon reflection you will find that our school system doesn’t actually teach us much about Africa and this makes us very ignorant. I encourage you to do two things. Firstly, stop seeing Africa as poor and corrupt. These are negative notions that discourage youth. Secondly, start reading and talking about Africa. Read about different countries and their history. Watch the news to stay up to date. Have conversations with Africans of all ages that you encounter and learn from listening to their stories.
Why is this important?
Well upon reading, you will soon discover that Africa has the largest youth population in the world, and so if we want to better Africa we need to understand her and her people. And be ambassadors for hope. In your readings you will also discover that economists have predicted long into the future that Africa will still be poor. Do not get discouraged by that. Read their statistics; nod your head, and then laugh. Laugh out laugh. Laugh because these economists have underestimated the power of young people and young people will show them otherwise.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” – Professor Kgethi Phakeng from the University of Cape Town (UCT) told me this a few months ago and these words have stuck with me.
When you see aspects of society that you find upsetting or disturbing, do not wait for someone else to address the issue. Stop waiting. We wait for people who never come and society gets worse. You are the one you’ve been waiting for.
Stand up, link with others and make change. Society will convince you that you can only start a business, run an NGO or do something of significant impact once you have a degree, or have worked for 3 years – that is not true. Just start.
Think about the problems our communities face, and share your dreams with people who also have a desire to change this world and have both similar and different perspectives and interests, and begin. There are so many people around the world who want to make change, but the main issue is that no one knows where to start or how?
Start small and the greater impact will come.
My 18-year-old self, I wish you a life full of self-love, happiness, love, and tangible impact. Ensure that you share these words with those around you to empower others too. Our society rises when everyone is empowered.
Remember, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”.”
TYI wishes you a Happy Birthday Farai!