I wish I could talk about the good without talking about the hard, but I can’t. You admire me now but have no idea what I have been through. It's true what they say "we sometimes don't look like what we have been through''.
My Dad was a nice man but borderline abusive. Not physical but it’s always verbal. He constantly abused my mum but she shielded us from it. Although we were very close, I hate what he did to her. She didn't mention until he died in an accident.
He told me when I was 9 years old that no one in my family had ever graduated from the University and constantly encouraged me to read and excel in school so that I can be the first and just maybe, others will follow my footsteps.
Running away from home never helped anyone but that saved me from getting married after my Dad died. It didn’t help my relationship with my mum but towards the end of life, she understood why I had to run away and we got talking.
I was only 17 when I ended up on the street of Lagos. I was alone and I was so scared. This was after my Uncle, whom I stayed with tried to rape me. One night, I saw a girl get raped and out of fear, I went in search of proper accommodation. I ended up in the brothel with commercial sex workers and drug pushers.
I admit, I was tempted to join the girls on the street who went to clubs in search of men to sleep with for money. But I guess, where I was going was more important than a mobile phone and new clothes.
Dear teenage girl, living on the street is hard. Nobody cares. No one is there to defend you when something goes wrong. I had to fight for myself. I narrowly escaped rape four times, lived with a jean and two t-shirts for months and went without food for days. It took me nearly two years to finally leave the brothel for a better life.
My teenage years have been the greatest and most difficult years of my life. Sometimes I look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person staring back at me. I’m grateful for all the nights that turned into mornings, friends that turned into family, and dreams that turned into reality. I finally graduated from the University of Lagos.
Somewhere along the way, I learned that everything is temporary; people, places, emotions. I learned that you simply can’t love others until you love yourself. I’ve given myself permission to be vulnerable because its too easy to be cold in a world that makes it so very difficult to stay soft.
Dear teenage girl, you might be going through a difficult time now but look at the bright side. It won't last forever. Just like me, and so many others before you, you will get through this.
It's possible you have taken some steps in the wrong direction but there's still room to fix this. We all make mistakes and bad things happen but it's so important not to dwell into the misery, rather to smile through the tears and make an effort to appreciate the gift of life.
I am smiling right now as I write this and I feel so blessed to be at this place in my life: married two years with a 9 months old princess. I believe that should be a enough of a reason for me to be in a good mood. That should make you smile too.
Don't suffer alone in silence. I'm here if you ever want to talk.
A girl just like you,