I got married at 22 going on 23 ( yes I started making love legally at an early age) but what did I know then.
As far as I was concerned marriage was the next step after graduation. It was what was expected from me and though I didn’t know much, I knew I had met the person I wanted to share my life with.
So in-spite of the initial parental disapproval, we persevered and got married after all its better to marry than to burn. (Yes I was a funky SU ). I thought then that I knew myself and what I wanted but I was to learn much later that I didn’t know me as well as I thought.
Marriage brought with it all its duties and responsibilities and immediately I began to see that it was not what I thought it was all about.
I don’t know about you but I believe that when we get married something switches in our identities. Our dreams of what we thought marriage is, comes to the fore and many a times clashes with our realities.
At first, I carried my duties and responsibilities with much joy and relish and for some years I was satisfied with being wanted by my husband and children as I tried to satisfy their needs and desires. My roles consumed me and I gave my all to them. I was active in the children’s lives and schools, learnt about Mr Aisi’ s work, his students etc. and was his cheerleader. It was difficult being there for everyone but after a while I learnt how to juggle things. I outsourced those things I couldn’t, though the responsibilities for it all never left me.
I entered my 30’s becoming aware of a discontent growing within me, I couldn’t place it at first and it took a while to articulate but I was becoming more self aware, coming to terms with myself, knowing what I liked or didn’t like, knowing what I would take and wouldn’t take, my happy places and sweet spots. I was more mindful of who I was and I was becoming resentful of the fact that no one was looking out for me like I was for them.
So where I had meekly submitted, I became more vocal about my wants and needs, where I had followed, I wanted to be heard, where I had needed permission I took charge.
It became an issue. I was no longer willingly to be the gentle, naive, people pleasing person that I had been before and shortly after we married. I had come to my own, paid my dues and demanded to be heard.
The children grew older, had their own lives, went to boarding houses and with more time to myself, I followed my heart freely and as Mr Aisi said I became “independent”.
I was still doing all the things I had done for my family but I was doing more for myself too. I was saying no to things I didn’t want because I didn’t like them. I was more vocal about my feelings instead of ignoring or explaining them away, I was letting my children face the consequences of their actions without stepping in to save them all the time.
I realized that to be happy, really happy I had to unleash the real me. I had gotten to a place where my feelings and how I felt about myself, my circumstances mattered and I wanted to be happy without feeling guilty for being happy. I had fallen in love with and accepted myself. ( I would never be an Agbani and it was alright). It is a beautiful and fulfilling place to be and no one could or had the right to take it from me.
If you are middle aged like me, I am sure you have gone through all or most of what I have described and the question I have to ask us women is – why does it take us so long to live life for ourselves? The men know from an early age what they want and go for it but we women are bashful, we come shyly to the table, enjoy life in small doses, then become angry when the buffet is cleared just when we are ready to eat.
I am still discovering myself and I know loads of women who are in this stage of life and the men in their lives are wondering what has come over them, why all of a sudden they have changed and are trying to make them feel guilty for wanting more for themselves.
Sometimes the guilt feelings are self imposed because it feels strange to be happy and to come to terms with the fact that we can and should be happy without our significant other or children.
I am blessed because I began the process of finding myself a bit early in life and I also had a husband who gave me the space to be me even though he felt threatened, didn’t understand or accept the new me but I find so many women still at this stage in life where we try to suppress the feelings of discontent we have about our lives, drowning ourselves in religion, service and work.
The downside of all this is that one day we will wake up and feel cheated and used. Our sacrifices would not be viewed in the same light as we viewed them and there is the likelihood that they may not even be appreciated.
But there is nothing to be ashamed or guilty about, especially when you have given so much of your self, there is nothing wrong with self love and being self aware.
So today, seek as much as possible to be understood but don’t let go of your dreams, your likes, wants and desires.
You matter a lot and deserve to be happy.