Written by Naomi Akharele
What was your favourite thing as a child? The color pink? That Teddy Bear you still think of sometimes? Or was it a TV show or some kind of food?
I’m sure it was sacred to you at the time, the one part of you that was so undeniably you that everyone saw you as an extension of this thing and vice versa. Until it wasn’t.
Then puberty hit, or maybe it happened before puberty, but something changed.
A month ago, my mother and I were on our routine phone call and she said that she didn’t know me anymore. Now where have we heard that before? Who can blame her? I moved away from home, bleached my hair and now I work nearly round the clock. Of course she doesn’t know me anymore. Hell, I don’t think I know myself either.
Chances are, if you are a woman, you were raised in something of a closed environment; not allowed to play as much as the boys, not allowed to express yourself, you know the drill, the moment you found a way to cut yourself out of the shackles of what the stereotypical womanly lifestyle is supposed to be, you lost a few fans. Most of the time, your parents are the first to go.
Who can blame them? Not everyone finds a way to reconcile the image of you they have in their heads with who you are now. I used to think it was a thing of control – not to rule that out, as it is also a huge part of it – but I have come to realize that humans are very averse to change, despite it being the only constant thing.
Enough talk about other people, let’s circle back. Has anyone ever really addressed how it feels when you are no longer the girl you used to know?
In this context, that’s not a bad thing. With growing up and unlearning unhealthy patterns and shaking off expectations, there is often a mind shift that follows; a new outlook on life, a different way of thinking and more often than not, a new sense of style.
There is something about taking back your autonomy that feels insanely powerful, but it can also leave a bitter taste in your mouth if you are still mourning innocence lost.
This article is not about figuring out how to explain to people the new woman you are; we have done enough of that already. It is about reconciling with yourself while still having love for who you used to be.
It is completely okay if your younger self wanted to become a doctor or nurse or some other “good” profession and now you do makeup for tv or write for a lifestyle magazine. It’s also okay if you’re unsure of what direction you would like to go in and are still exploring options. The world gives little space for growth so you have to be the only person to grant yourself that space.
In this context, the phrase “party girl” refers to the woman you are; more informed, self-aware and in control (sort of.)
The first step to accepting yourself is, well, accepting yourself. Changes can sometimes be drastic and sudden; things you’re not ready for. And that can be really scary. If you are someone with a support system, reaching out for assurance is one way to build yourself up. Sometimes you might not have a support system or the assurance might not hit the spot. Sometimes hopelessness follows, so it is always important to gather yourself. As my mother would say na only you know as e dey do you, so pick yourself up and give yourself all the words of affirmation in the world. You are the main character in the story, your own baby girl, and the way you speak to yourself should reflect that.
Step two, forgive yourself. You might be asking, what for? But we sometimes carry guilt in our hearts for disappointing the people around us. These things might not be obvious at first, but they drag you down. The fact that you are a person who took your life into your own hands is all you need to keep in mind. Be not afraid of mistakes and thus make them crimes, because some of the worst crimes are the ones committed against yourself.
Step three, make peace with the fact that people will disagree with the person you have become. Explanations and conversations only work when the other person is willing to understand. A lot of people give advice without wanting to listen and changing their minds is not your job. They will be fine.
Step four, build your support group. This life thing get as e be and nothing sucks like having to do everything on your own. Having people to fall back on for advice, emotional support or just to carry you outside on a shitty day can make a world of difference. As important (if not more) is having the right people in your corner. Not everyone has your best intentions at heart or is in the right place to be someone else’s support system and that’s alright!
Finally, enjoy being a party girl. Metaphorically and literally. You have one life. The first step is taking it back, and now that you’ve hit that milestone, actually live life. Don’t know what you like? That’s okay, make a list of potential hobbies and try them one after the other. Go day drinking and try out things you would never have on your own. Not every experience will be good and coming to terms with that is the first step to enjoying life. A bad day or week or even month, because life is insane, does not mean a bad life.
In this transitional stage of your life, nobody can understand exactly what you are going through but you and other people who have been there, so be your own strong fort and make sure to show up for yourself, even when it’s hard.
Good luck with this life thing, party girl. You’ll need it.