I am a 21 year old woman living in Cape Town, South Africa, and recently I started experiencing growing pains. This morning I once again found myself crying alone on my bedroom floor. My sadness hadn’t come out of anything unusual, this was not the first time a girl had been left broken-hearted, her trust in humanity demolished. But to me, in that moment, I was alone in my pain. A pain I was conditioned to bear in silence. I am not a victim of some human rights violation, or abusive parenting, I am not even a victim of an abusive relationship. I am simply a woman and the more I experience life the more I realise that as woman, we hurt.
In the aftermath of my breakup, I felt myself carrying a new sense of bitterness and anger. A weight that made me realise that through my pain I had lost my naivety and innocence, my soul had aged.
Being angry and bitter reconnected me with a part of my soul that I had let drift into the background. The part that helped me understand and relate to women in my life.
It seems to be the curse of the female population to find ourselves putting up with mistreatment and disrespect. We, the gentle care-givers and mothers of the world, are beaten; cheated on; abused and emotionally drained by the men in our lives. I have heard this story too many times but, I must confess, I was only able to internalize the heaviness of its reality once my soul had been aged.
I’ve never seen my mother cry, the immensity of this fact was wasted on me until this morning. While I was in tears on my floor, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very wrong, that I must have missed something … so I called a therapist. Not because I didn’t have any friends that would provide the shoulder I needed but because I was brought up with the understanding that I was a strong dignified African woman and we do not show our weaknesses. I was brought up surrounded by strong African women who bore the sadness of life with grace, poise and discretion. While I was trying to explain to this woman (therapist) how I didn’t understand my pain, and how I couldn’t show it because more was expected of me, she said something that I caught me off guard because it was raw honesty. She said “as women we hurt, you are young, you have so much to go through, it may only get worse”.
What she said was like a slap in the face. Not because it was a revelation but because it explained so much about my mother, my sisters and every female soul singer I have ever listened to and mostly because it was something I already knew but was struggling to accept. She then said, “welcome to the world” and I said “thank you”. It was only after I had put down the phone that I realised I thanked her because it is a humbling honour to be a woman. I proudly accepted this invitation to stand beside all other women, an invitation to stand tall, dignified and majestic as we share the burdens of guiding the children of the world, fighting the chains of patriarchy and forgiving those that dare to underestimate us.