By Noella Muhamiriza

It’s Thursday morning in Northern California, “NorthCal” as we like to call it here; just the thought of having a day off from school and work has me dancing around my small apartment. I’m getting ready to go out and I put on my new killer jacket; it’s a vintage, it’s unique, it gets me tons of compliments around town, I’m feeling good in it and I’m loving my life. I only have one important meeting to attend later that day, so I’ve got lots of time to put on make up, put on my new wedge boots my best friend bought me and, of course, I need a few mirror selfies before I leave…my mini dress-up party is going smooth until my phone rings. After a few seconds on the phone, I quickly realize how bad of an idea it was to pick up. The conversation sounds  like an interview.

‘’So hey, tell me, why are you not getting married? I mean, you are a beautiful lady, educated, a solid christian with a great reputation. What’s wrong?’’

How does a young women like myself answer those kinds of questions when they come from a relative? I quickly laugh, ironically, to ease the awkward tension.  I’ve become a pro at this. I know how to quickly change the topic with ease; I laugh and convince myself that such questions are not a big deal. You see, my excuse has always been making sure my friends and relatives feel heard and valued, even when questions like those make no sense and hurt like hell. I’m in my 20s, but I’ve been asked this question since I was 17. I, like many of my African girlfriends, joke about this subject until someone ends their evening hurt and depressed.

So here I am, standing in front of the mirror, empty eyes staring back at me as I hang up the phone. How can a short conversation change my mood so drastically? I make up my mind then and there to break the silence. I can’t let these words from family and friends have this kind of power over me; words that lead us to second guess ourselves and to question whether it’s valid to dream high, or if dreaming beyond marriage is worth it at all.

You see, when you are an African girl, you spend lots of time pushing through lies and reconciling your mind with the truth that you were born for more, more than being someone’s wife and mother. And in the midst of trying to believe this, you find yourself constantly having to fight disappointments from friends and relatives, who won’t give up on pulling you down, because somehow your desire and right to dream an inch further than the average is seen as pretentious and interpreted as refusing to settle for a “normal” life.

While I do not claim to know everything about theology, allow me to be an amateur for a second; if it’s true that our words create worlds, I don’t know what kind of world we’re creating for our African girls. Perhaps a world full of fear and self limitation.

I am a firm believer in the saying, ” It takes a village to raise a child”; however, it’s not the words our girls hear in the streets that shape their view of the world, it’s the kind of support they have among their people. So we either propel them into their destinies or crush their wings. Greatness isn’t magic, it’s a result of nurturing of all kinds.

I think it’s time we stop selling our girls short with questions and statements such as ‘’When are you getting married?’’ and ” Marriage is the only value tag of a woman.” In a world where you can be an amazing wife, a phenomenal mother AND so much MORE, having such a concern is so 1920.