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.
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.
This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe everyone has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.