My parents died when I was 16 and I had no choice but to raise myself. I like to think that I have not turned out too badly although I am certain that many of the mistakes I made could have been avoided with a bit of parental guidance. In the decade since the death of my parents I managed to complete high school without much incident. At 19, I got accepted into university where everything that could possibly go wrong in the life of a wilful teenager proceeded badly.
I fell in love for the first time, fell pregnant and got kicked out by the relative with whom I’d been staying (no hard feelings, it was all standard practice really). I then moved in with the baby daddy and duly declared married by elders on both sides. At 20 I was a mom to a son and dropped out of varsity to take care of him.
The plot of my story sounds rather familiar to many people and the course of my life seemed to have taken the hopeless and predictable trajectory that inevitably comes about when you get a teenager with no parents, having an unplanned pregnancy then remedying that by getting married prematurely.
If I stopped my narration here, I have no doubt that many of you would attempt to fill in the blanks and in many versions of how my story goes. I suspect I would be pictured as a housewife or a mother of several children (seeing as I got started at such an early age), holding down a minimum wage job that is consistent with the average college drop out.
If the death of my parents taught me anything, it was that I had to fight for myself, to make the decisions that would work for me or else others would decide for me.
I encapsulated this lesson in the words of Shakespeare who wrote in Hamlet:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follows, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
We don’t have the luxury of choosing which tragedy strikes us, but we get to decide who we become in spite of it all.
I have tried to the best of my ability to live by this maxim; to check my motives and to examine the sincerity of my intentions because I was conscious that I could choose who I would become, even if I had no way of changing who I had been. And I had been a fool. In my defence, I could please that I was young and did not know better that is no longer the case.
In the decade since my parents died – I weaned my 6-month baby and left him to go back to university. I completed my degree and got work as a journalist. I created an opinion column that got me recognised among Zimbabwe’s top 10 innovative youths and represented my country in the semi-finals of a reality TV show. In that same decade, I started a blog that won me recognition as one of Africa’s emerging young women leaders and got me awarded a continental leadership fellowship and a chance to give an address at the United Nations.
In that same decade, I was recognised as one of the most influential women in media by the Matabeleland AIDS Council and as one of the top 20 emerging global new media leaders of 2011 by the Washington Foreign Press Centre.
Raising myself taught me to seek the answers from within because everyone else is trying to figure out their own life and trying to make sense of their own story. I hated being an orphan. I still hate it. But the thing with accepting what you can’t change is that you finally being to heal from whatever loss you have incurred.
So in the last decade, besides making mistakes – I have healed. I have learned and laughed and loved and lived and dared and fought and questioned and above all – I have accepted. We don’t have the luxury of choosing which tragedy strikes us, but we get to decide who we become in spite of it all. To your own self, and to your own good conscious – remain true. Because in the words of Tracy Chapman, “all that you have is your soul” so don’t sell out. You are your own best.
Delta is an unapologetic feminist and overachiever who suffers from the occasional bouts of imposter syndrome. She lives as she believes; obsesses over social justice, cares deeply about free expression and delights in all things digital. She is a Zimbabwean blogger and journalist, a 2014 Internet Freedom Fellow as well as a 2011 Global New Media Leader who holds a Masters in Gender and Media, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Media. She is also a closet romantic and sapiosexual who spends far too much time on Twitter.