Photo courtesy of Jessica Foumena

CAMEROON: A Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

Jessica Foumena advises her younger self to dream big and resist cultural pressures to follow a set path.

I see your future. You'll be a changemaker.

Dear Jessica, 

Happy birthday! You just turned 18 and your head is full of dreams. You wonder how you will realize these dreams by your 25th birthday—the age at which our society expects you to be married and to have your first child. You have seen numerous examples of your peers following this path, making you feel that having a husband and raising his children is a woman's ultimate calling.

Now that you're 18, you're a woman. Now that you're 18, you feel the pressure to marry and have children in the next seven years. In fact, you and your friends have been having long conversations about the joy of being respectfully called 'Madam,' the white dress you will wear on your wedding day, and the beautiful life you will have with your respective future husbands.

Yes, marriage is a beautiful thing. Having a family is a noble dream. I share your excitement. I wish you to meet your prince charming. However, if you do not get married by the age of 25, don't blame yourself. Don't get married to someone because you think it's time, because your friends are getting married, and/or because your parents are pressuring you. It's not worth it. You may end up making the worst decision of your life. If it's meant to be, the right guy will come into your life at the right time.

Yes, some of your friends will get married and have children before you do. Family members will tease you about your singleness. Strangers will question you. Family and friends will offer their unwanted help. Some will tell you that you're too 'difficult' and 'too picky.' The worst part is that your single male peers will never be called those things or treated that way. After all, they are men, and they can get married any time.

Yes, you will feel alone and lonely. You will cry. But don't worry. I've been there. Numerous times, I was teased for following my dreams. Family and friends questioned my singleness. I felt alone and lonely. But I never gave up on myself. I followed my dreams. I got my master's degree. I traveled. I became fluent in English. I loved. I laughed. And I keep working on my dream to become a leader for my country and my continent.

I know you love school very much. I know you want to get your master's degree before getting married. I know you want to travel and discover new places around the world. I know you want to be fluent in English. I know you want to be a leader. I know you want to make the world a better place. The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to enjoy your life fully. 

So, follow YOUR dreams. Get your master's degree. Travel. Learn English. Love. Laugh. Become a leader. Live your life. It's SO worth it! You may end up making the BEST decision in your life! Through your different experiences, you'll know more about yourself, life, and the world. And you'll become great wife material! I promise!

Age is just a number. Don't let social expectations keep you from becoming the great woman you're called to be. Don't compromise your greatness.

I see your future. You'll be a changemaker. Your story will be a source of inspiration to many girls who want to dream big and lead. 

My dear, don't worry about the marriage 'deadline' of 25. When it is meant to be, your husband will find you. And together, you'll build the life of your dreams.


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Comments

Wow Jessica I have read this story four times and will keep on reading it.Its so inspiring and so real.Marriage is good but it has deprived many young girls from achieving their dreams.Girls shouldn't get marry because of peer or family pressure.Its a wonderful piece my dear sister 

Hello Jessi

Wow I love this masterpiece addressing the greatest dream killer among our community women-societal marriage expectation. I told two of my friends today while we were chatting that marriage is the greatest problem most women have since they get into it without knowing who they are and what they are meant to be. Regrettably they stay in marriage as servants and followers while dying in silence. As a result many great voices die as puppets because they wanted to fall within societal dictates. Could you please follow my Stories & Coffee initiative? It is a forum for emotional/psychological, healing, learning and empowerment for women who are victims of this societal ill. check out updates on our facebook page. Thank you for this reference letter that I will greatly use in my #EmpowerMeDontBlameMe campaign.

Sally Maforchi Mboumien

Founder/Coordinator COMAGEND Cameroon

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/women.girls.healthrights/

LinkedIn ID: Sally Maforchi Mboumien

Advanced Digital Changemaker 2017

Hello Sally 

Thank you for your thoughtful feedback. Indeed, we need to address this social issue: the pressure for women to get married by 25. You nailed it when you explained that some may not even be ready to get married and end up in bad relationships. Feel free to use and share the letter for your #EmpowerMeDontBlameMe campaign I'll check it out closely and see how we could work together. Cheers! 

Peace & Joy / Paix & Joie

Your WP Sister Jessica

Founder/Fondatrice, Women & Africa International

Official Website: http://www.womenandafrica.org/

 

Thank you for this message Jessica. The marriage is very good like the other one said but if it did not happen before 25 years or near 25 years it is not the things of blame as you said; It must continue with his dream. Thank you very much for this good advice

sylvie

Jessica, your letter resonated so deeply with me and others at World Pulse.  These expectations that we have, both pushed upon us and that we hold inside, don't lead us to our path of potential.  As someone said to me once:  "Expectations are unspoken disappointments."  There's such truth to that.  I would give the same advice to my 18-year-old self.  That everyone's path is different and to be open to the incredible places it will take you.... and what you will learn along the way.  Thank you for this letter.  In my 40s, I hold your advice close to my heart.

Jessica, your letter resonated so deeply with me and others at World Pulse.  These expectations that we have, both pushed upon us and that we hold inside, don't lead us to our path of potential.  As someone said to me once:  "Expectations are unspoken disappointments."  There's such truth to that.  I would give the same advice to my 18-year-old self.  That everyone's path is different and to be open to the incredible places it will take you.... and what you will learn along the way.  Thank you for this letter.  In my 40s, I hold your advice close to my heart.

Dear Annie

I'm very touched that you say my letter touches you as a woman in her 40s. I like your quote "expectations are unspoken disappointments." This makes sense actualy because by default, I learned not to have expectations or very low to avoid disappointments. Indeed, everyone's path is unique. All the best.

Peace & Joy / Paix & Joie

Your WP Sister Jessica

Founder/Fondatrice, Women & Africa International

Official Website: http://www.womenandafrica.org/

 

Dear Jessica,  I remember well your 25th birthday, a day celebrated with your American "family."  I am glad you were in a country where women can choose their path without pressure, and that we could assure you from time to time that there was no hurry for marriage or babies-----you can even choose to remain single and devote your life to your Godly purposes!  And now you are the voice that reassures others-----what great promise is ahead for all of you young women!  Love you, Mama Susan

Dear Mama Susan, thank you to you and Papa Bob for opening your hearts and your home when I needed the most. Y'all have (and still) have an amazing impact on my life. I thank GOD for you. Love you more! 

Peace & Joy / Paix & Joie

Your WP Sister Jessica

Founder/Fondatrice, Women & Africa International

Official Website: http://www.womenandafrica.org/

 

Hi Jessica,

I loved this post! I also love hindsight :) When it makes everything feel better, but also even when you look back and you realize you knew all along something was not going to work out. You are an inspiring person and it's awesome that you have achieved so much in school, learning English, etc. There is also still so much time left to achieve dreams of children, a husband, a family, etc. I used to write letters to myself when I was 13 and 14 to read at age 20, 25 and 30 and it was always fun to read them once I had reached that age. I've often reflected back on my younger self but haven't actually written her a letter. Maybe I should... Yours would be an excellent example to follow. Things usually do work out, sometimes not in the ways we wanted but in other, new and exciting ways and it's good to be reminded of that. Thanks so much for sharing.

My best wishes to you,

Julia

Dear Sis Julia,  Thank you for sharing your experience of writing to yourself. Writing is a great way to connect with our inner self. I would encourage to keep up the habit. I'm also very happy to hear you enjoyed reading my story. You're welcome. We need to have ourselves as best friend at the end of the day. My best wishes to you too! 

Peace & Joy / Paix & Joie

Your WP Sister Jessica

Founder/Fondatrice, Women & Africa International

Official Website: http://www.womenandafrica.org/

 

Very well written Jessica.. commendable and coming straight from the heart. Their should be nothing like a certain age for a certain achievement in any woman's life. Growth and realisation of one's dreams must be an ongoing process. Let things come into our lives as destined and keep going with the flow and rhythm with a constant faith in our hearts and twinkle in our eyes for a happy brighter life to come to us. Keep learning and keep sharing the knowledge, goodwill and love to the sisters across the globe. Extending my love and best wishes to you dear and your worthy cause.

Dear Rachana, thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Yes, we can dream at any ages and we can learn from one another regardless of our locations and origins. All the best on your end of the world. 

Peace & Joy / Paix & Joie

Your WP Sister Jessica

Founder/Fondatrice, Women & Africa International

Official Website: http://www.womenandafrica.org/