By Aminata Buganzi Kinana
I have spent all of my life so far in primarily academic settings, but the hardest lessons I have ever had to learn pertain to those about human interactions, relationships, and life in general.
I am a young Tanzanian woman and so those identity markers have played a large role in the experiences I have had. I have been blessed enough to have had opportunities that have led me to having a giant global family that spans over more than four continents. Here is a list of 10 life lessons I have learned so far from them. Some of these lessons came seamlessly, some from more painful experiences, but either way they were definitely ones I needed to learn.
As you grow older, Tumblr and Pinterest quotes begin to make a lot more sense. I am not a guru of any sorts, just a simple girl figuring things out one step at a time. This list is for both of us, may we both come back to it often until it is imprinted onto our hearts and minds.
- Be humble and grateful.
I love this one because it is so simple but easy to forget. No matter what we accomplish, at the end of the day we are all human, which means that we go through similar experiences and emotions, regardless of where one is in life. Gratitude is important because it controls perspective. When you are able to see the wonderful things, you have in your life, no matter how small you may think they are, you can control how you react to the more challenging aspects you have to endure.
- Expect good things and do not fixate on the negative.
I am the self-proclaimed master of finding what is wrong with not only situations, but also people. My critical thinking skills have allowed me to be a great thinker and have been an incredible asset in my academic life, but it can really destroy personal relationships. Expecting good things is necessary because it is just as easy as expecting the bad without the baggage that comes with it.
- Be rebellious.
Someone I greatly respect told me that I haven’t turned back since. This one is not easy, especially for women as we are expected to be obedient (even if no one tells this to you out loud). Be deliberate about your actions, especially in relation to the things that matter the most to you. Being rebellious means doing what is right for you, and doing that will make some people not like you, but if something really matters to you, what is easier, not being liked, or not liking yourself?
- Be kind to yourself as well as others.
The second aspect of the previous statement tends to be much easier to do than the first. Yes, you must treat others as you would like to be treated, but also allow yourself to make mistakes and grow from them.
- There are good and bad people, be a part of the good that balances out the bad.
This one is a hard pill to swallow, but we have watched enough episodes of The First 48 to know that it is true. Everyone you meet will not always do what is the best for you or even themselves. One thing I had to learn the hard way is that people will disappoint you, they will do things you never would do to another person. When hurt, you can learn through the actions of others about what not to do when/ if you are in a similar situation.
- Forgive! Forgive! Forgive!
All of those quotes about how forgiveness will set you free are telling you the truth. When we are young, we are taught from an early age to say sorry when we do something wrong, and as we grow older, we are taught about the importance of forgiving others. But no one ever tells you that there are some apologies you will never receive and that that is okay. Throughout my childhood and up to very recently (probably like a week ago), I have always had a preoccupation with mending relationships. Regardless of what has transpired, I always believed that an apology would lead to changed behaviour and a happy ending, but that does not always happen. Some people are not sorry for what they did to you and that is okay, you just need to move on. Resentment is poisonous and it does not matter how much you think the other person deserves your anger, chances are that they don’t care.
- Stand on your own two feet.
This one is particularly difficult for young people because for the majority of our lives, we have had people fight our battles for us. Growing up I had a warrior princess for a mom, truly unstoppable, but when you have someone that strong next to you no matter what, you don’t learn to stand up for yourself maybe as early as you should. Standing on your own two feet means saying and doing what is true to who you are and your spirit no matter what. It is incredibly difficult to do at first, especially if you are not used to having to do it, but just like almost everything else with life, it gets easier and with time, you begin to do it with less anxiety and more certainty.
- Be reflective.
Think about who you are and what you are doing often. Those moments of self-reflection may be exactly what you need to get you back to earth during a massive win in life or lift you up during periods of struggle. A strong sense of self is important. I have been lucky enough to have many people in my life who constantly remind me of my strengths and my responsibility to myself and others, but I know that it is important that I know and believe that myself too. As much as we love support and appreciate the communities around us, no one can make you reach your full potential other than yourself.
- Carve your own path.
It is perfectly fine, in fact ideal for you to do something that has not been done before. We all don’t have to make the exact same choices in life at the exact same time. Do what feels right to you. I recently made the decision to do something that many wouldn’t due to pressures to always appear like you are making major (money) moves, and I had several friends reach out to me about how they love the fact that I always do what I want to do without fearing what others reactions will be. That is when I realised that fear of public perception affects a lot of people.
The best decisions that I have ever made, that brought me the most success and happiness came from doing what I enjoyed. I loved the process therefore I excelled at it. I did great at it therefore it became my niche. Don’t be afraid to do what isn’t popular or what others don’t seem to understand as you try to embark on it. Don’t worry, they eventually will get on board when you start soaring.
- You are enough.
Everyone tells us this—religious sacred texts, Instagram posts, Beyoncé, but I don’t know why it is the hardest truth for us to accept. You are beautiful, fearless, brilliant, kind, honest, loving, hardworking, a fighter, a complete badass and those who treasure you and your amazing skills can see that. Do not waste time trying to sell the idea of you to others, you don’t get any commissions for it. A lot of the time, we have an entire tribe of people ready to support us, but we choose to focus on the naysayers. Shift your perspective. It is the world’s biggest cliché but the no. 1 truth as well—you only live once. Grey’s Anatomy reminds me of this on the daily, and I refuse to spend my time dwelling on the negative, it just takes time away that you could spend loving others, appreciating your family and friends, working on that project that could change the world.
To all the beautiful people that gave me these wonderful nuggets of wisdom and keep pushing me to be the best version of myself, thank you!
Aminata is originally from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She has a BA in Euro-Africana Studies from Grinnell College and an MPhil in African Studies from the University of Cambridge. She is about to embark on an exciting research project centred around women, nationalism and colonial hybridity in the Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar and Réunion. Her biggest dream is to find a way to bridge the gap between academic research on Africa and greater participation from the general public surrounding the continent’s history and future. Follow her journey on Instagram at @eastafrican.nerd23.