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When I was in high school, my best friend and I would dream about how our daughters, named Kenya and Imani, would grow up together—and be best friends too.
Life took us in different directions, in a variety of ways. Twenty-plus years later, neither of us have children , but we remain the best of friends.
As I look back over the years at the path my life has taken, I have come to realize that the things I envisioned for myself have actually come to me in unconventional ways.
Kenya and Imani, birthed in our imaginations, still dwell there today. But life did this funny thing—it gave me the daughter I dreamed of in another way.
At 23 I moved to Washington D.C., sight unseen. After a few emotionally jarring years in and out of college, it was time for me to make major changes to allow myself to stand fully on my own two feet. Moving to a city I had never been to before was the swift kick in the butt I needed to jumpstart into full adulthood.
I had a job, got a place, and started to reimagine my place in the world.
Working for a property management firm, mainly made up of slum lords was an interesting introduction to D.C. Never a stranger to hard work, I dug in and gave it my all. One day while semi-happily humming along to a massive amount of filing, I was introduced to a young lady who would be helping out in the office for the summer: Kenya.
It would not be until several years later that I would realize the gravity of the moment I met this young woman.
I got to train Kenya on the work of the office and fill her in on the gossip. We bonded quickly. I am not sure when I decided that I had enough to pour into this sweet 17-year-old girl, but I know that at some point I saw myself in her and wanted the best for her.
Kenya was sweet, timid, self-conscious, fun-loving, and unsure of her place in the world.
I related to all of it.
I had just set off on a journey of self-discovery and independence and was almost immediately met with a version of myself that I had not too long outgrown.
Who was I to think I had any wisdom to offer this young girl?
Seventeen is such an interesting time in a woman’s life—and I was not too far beyond who I was at that age when I met Kenya.
Kenya had come to D.C. from Mississippi to re-establish a relationship with her estranged mother. The words “estranged mother” seem oxymoronic in nature. A vast majority of women never experience this odd phenomenon, but this was a shared experience that Kenya and I had. I suppose that is one of the key factors in why some small part of me moved into immediate action to take her under my proverbial wing.
Throughout Kenya’s college career, we remained close. I took her in, fed her when she needed, gave her my “hand-me-down” clothing items, and hugged her when she cried about the things that troubled her.
I was the woman that I needed growing up to this girl who was me at 17.
I got to be a part of Kenya’s journey through college from her getting her first job and apartment in D.C. to meeting the love of her life. I took her wedding dress shopping and did her makeup for her wedding (in addition to some wedding planner duties over the wedding weekend!).
She eventually moved away and started a family, and she called on me every step of the way. Her life was tracking so positively just behind mine, and I was elated to watch her grow.
The sense of pride was as if I had birthed this girl myself.
As I experienced hardships within my journey, some distance ensued; however, the love and contact never ceased.
Over the years, I have felt together and as if I will never have it “all together,” never thinking I had anything terribly special to offer in the way of wisdom. I have questioned my own judgment in hindsight, many times. Even today, I still feel like I am figuring it all out.
I look at the woman Kenya has become, and I am in awe.
She is fierce; she is self-assured; she is brilliant; she is unafraid to stand alone. She is a wife—she is a lioness of a mother and a business owner. There is nothing she can’t do!
I always saw myself in her, but she became so much more than even I could have ever imagined. I am overjoyed to have been a part of who she has become and adjacent to the family she is building. She is the best version of myself that I saw in her. Kenya is my wildest dream come true.
When I become tempted to dwell on the things I do not have, I am reminded by the amazing people placed in my life of how, in every way, my heart’s desires have been fulfilled. It may not be in the ways that I envisioned, but I have all that was meant for me.
The life I planned and the life I have lived, on the surface, do not really seem all that extraordinary. When I take the time to look back over all the things I wanted but did not get, I can say that I truly received beauty for ashes.
I was not blessed with a tight-knit family, but I have an absolutely fantastic group of friends who have invited me into theirs.
I was not blessed with children, but I have so many children in my life who are special to me, and I to them.
I did not give birth to the Kenya developed in my imagination so many years ago, but I was absolutely blessed with a real-life Kenya by the grace of God.
I met a girl who grew up to be an exceptional woman. By being the woman to her that I needed at her age, I was able to aid her in her path to healing and wholeness—while also healing that part of me.
The good we pour into the world comes back to us. We must accept that the good we receive will not always look the way we wanted it to.
Life often does not turn out how we plan, but it certainly can be beautiful when we take stock of the things given to us and accept them rather than lamenting over what we wished we had.