Nnwa, it is said that if you lie down for them to walk on you, they will say you did not lie down flat enough. Nobody is born wise, but it should not take you half a lifetime to realise that you matter. And yes, for you, you should be first.
Selfish. Yes, I said it. Be selfish. Lack consideration of others enough to first consider yourself. Serve yourself first. No matter what the voices will tell you, there is no shame in putting yourself first.
You will be a girl first. And then you will be a woman. All will have to fight many demons in this life but none more than you. When I birth you, they will give me blinkers. They will tell me they are for your own good, blinders beautifully laced, but that will not change what they are. They will say you need them because you are a girl. You may be distracted or panicked by this life, and so you do not to see the side or the rear. They will tell me, and later you, that this or that is because you are a girl. You will be a woman. Therefore you have to be a certain way.
These unsolicited voices will tell you how to walk and who to walk with. They will tell you what you should look like and how you should be because a girl, who will become a woman needs to be a certain way. They will say a girl, who will become a woman many times as though such multiple declarations will stop you from being the shoe you were (unknown to your mother and to you), purposed to grow into.
They will be pleased when you succeed a little or enough. With the same voice cheer and feign pride, they will tsk tsk and say you are too much for a girl who will become a woman. Too loud. Too smart. Too decisive. Too aspiring. Too ambitious. Too feminine. Too much. They will say it with their words and with their eyes, and if they do not say it they will whisper it with their words and with their eyes, and if not, they will whisper it they will write it with their words and with their eyes. Because you are a girl, who will become a woman. And they will invariably say you need to be a certain way.
They will tell you to be selfless. To give of everything you can give because a girl who will become a woman should learn to give selflessly. Give without expecting to receive. It is just what a girl who will become a woman should know to do. They will tell you to do as told because questions about why now or why ever are not becoming of a girl who will become a woman. They will teach you how to say yes so much you will not know to say no is equally as freeing. They will show you a girl who will become a woman should shut her legs, but they will also teach you a woman is only as much as her bottom power. They will teach you to say yes Nnwa, they will teach you to give of yourself without abandon until they also ask why you gave so much, why you never said no. They are the voices. They will say this until they decide to say that.
You my child, will be a girl who will become a woman. And from the time we will have you until the time we will leave, you will be smothered by voices that will say this until they decide to say that because they will say but this is what a girl who will become a woman should be. Nnwa, this is why you should learn to be selfish. Yes, nnwa. Selfish. Be selfish but do not forget if you are filled with pride you will have no room for wisdom. I will not have a foolish child so listen proper Nnwa. You will not be proud or haughty or lack empathy. You will not lack love or happiness enough for you and others. You will be your mother’s child. What your mother is saying is that just as your right hand will be quick to offer to another, it should be ready to first give to your left. Just as you will build others, you will remember that first, always first – you build yourself.
No one will ever claim their neighbour’s house just because they laboured for its foundation. What is theirs is theirs. So even as you give, remember what is yours is yours. Just as you will remember to love another, you will know to first, selfishly and unapologetically so, to love yourself.
Do not stand in the open fields and let the winds blow parts of you away. Run in the wind, lay in the sun and remember, when it blows it takes. When it shines, it burns. They do so not because they have no heart but because it is who they are. It is what they do. So run in the wind and lay in the sun but cloak yourself so even if some is taken or given, if some is burnt or lost, most remains.
At the end of the day, only you are responsible for you. And building every other at your expense will, like dusk, only heighten the crickets songs about you in the cool. But when the sun returns, they quiet. And you will be alone. What will you dance to if you do not know enough to have had your own song?
You do not teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. That is why I am writing to you now. Before your ears learn to listen Nnwa, I have told you – be selfish. Concern yourself chiefly with what will fill you simply because in all truth no one else will.