Nina and I first year of college

I had just turned 21 years old the previous October and just returned from England the summer before about to embark on my last year of college when I dropped out.

I had gotten into college at 16 years old, studying for a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science which is what my mother had chosen for me. She told me that my uncle had studied Computer Science in Canada and she thought it was the route I should go. At 16, I was sassy, but I generally did what my mom said. So, Computer Science was what I signed up for January 2002 (I think it was January…my memory plays funny tricks).

I was the youngest in my class and was very “green” as we call naïve people back home in Ghana. While not that uncommon to have kids in college at 18 years old in Ghana and Nigeria, at 16, I was the youngest in my class. Yet, there I was about to begin on my University career because I had passed the entrance examination. I was still such a shy kid who hid her shyness behind a facade of nonchalance. I had no friends at school and have me tell it, I wanted none.

Well, I had Nina. We had been friends for years because our moms were friends. So, I inherited Nina from my mom. Nevertheless, I loved Nina and still do. She had my back when the other girls would talk about how strange I was. I mean yeah, I was strange. I had convinced the administration to exempt me from the mandatory hostel living for newcomers (freshmen). Living with a bunch of girls wasn’t an option for me because I had convinced myself that they’ll hate me so, I made sure that didn’t happen. I got myself a cute little room just outside of campus and convinced my mom to help me furnish it. I loved that little place with its outdoor kitchen and latrine.

That first semester was when I met this beautiful guy that would come to be my boyfriend. We hit it off, he could look past my hard exterior to see the shy girl who lay within. He was a year ahead of me so when he asked me to be his girlfriend, I was in shock! I said yes, and we were inseparable after that.

Whenever you saw him, there I was, not too far behind. I loved him so much and reveled in playing house. He’d come to my little one bedroom abode where I’d make him show off my cooking skills by making him his favorite dishes. This was our life for the first 2 years of school until I had to leave for London.

I had applied and gotten a work visa to London and the plan was to take the summer off from school and go work to earn money to bring back home to Ghana. You see, this was an opportunity of a lifetime and at 18 years old, I was beyond thrilled to go. I knew I was going to miss him but, we had a strong bond that I was sure would survive the distance.

And survive it did! I ended up working the whole summer of 2004 in London. I also managed to bring home exactly zero Pounds because I was shit at money management lol But I wasn’t too perturbed because I already had a plan to go back to London after the next semester of school to remedy that disaster.

When I came back from London that first time, he and I went back to being the duo everyone expected. When I love, I love wholeheartedly. I cling to love with everything I have in me. I would often find myself worth in if my partner loved me. I remember my mom’s constant warning about the perils of losing myself in another. But, that was the only way I knew how to love. In fact, I thought she was jealous of me because, she’d been single for as long as I could remember. I was on a quest to prove to everyone and most especially, my partner I was lovable. To prove to myself perhaps that it wasn’t my fault that my father left us.

So, I clung to my boyfriend with everything in me. I clung to him through another – much more successful – trip to England and back. This time around, I stayed for 6 months. I had deferred a semester of school you see. I came back in 2005 at 20 years old, excited to finish up my last year of school. This was when he got the opportunity to leave for America after his graduation.

This was a great opportunity but a bittersweet one because I had no clue how the future we had planned together would materialize with him in USA and me in Ghana. I busted my ass helping him get ready for the trip while already planning how to get a visa to the US.

As the universe would have it, I got approved for an American visa about 3 months after he left. This was the best news I could have ever gotten because it meant that I could join the only person in the world I felt understood me. There weren’t thoughts of my family or the fact I still had a semester left of school.

I got my visa, bugged my mom until she gave me the funds to purchase a plane ticket and off to America I went. At 21 years old, I had been with him for 4 years and I couldn’t wait for the rest of our lives.

I arrived in New York July 21, 2006 and got on a greyhound bus to Chicago, where he was based. We moved in together eager to start our lives together. I didn’t have a distinct plan how things would go. I just knew that I was with him and I felt whole again. I never had a definite plan of not going back home or back to school but as the months went on, the thought of school became a distant memory. I had become a college dropout.

This broke my mom’s heart, but it wasn’t about her was it? I couldn’t imagine living without him and I didn’t have to find out. My pervasive lack of self love wasn’t clear to me then but as the months went on, he grew tired of my clinginess. Our fights escalated to be a point of us recognizing that not being together was the best course of action. So, less than a year after arriving in the US and almost 5 of us being together, he moved out.

Since then, and after almost 12 years in the US, last week, I started back in school to earn my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree and it got me feeling sentimental. For the longest time, I had such shame surrounding the fact I was a college dropout I would keep it from people or lie I had a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science as my first degree and an Associate’s in Nursing as my second degree. In fact, it took almost 2 years of being with Ginele (my fiancé) for me to come clean with her about the fact I was a semester short of that BSN that I’d always claimed.

I’ve grown a lot over the years but it hasn’t been until the last 2-3 years I’ve sought to unpack the trauma and self loathing I had because of growing up without a father. The self loathing that often had me holding onto relationships with men despite the dysfunction that existed in it. And although I’ve known I was a lesbian since I was 8 years old.

I am so glad for choosing to do the hard and often painful work of unpacking all my baggage from past traumas. I realize how much developing self love has been paramount to accepting myself as worthy regardless of unearned degrees or parents’ abandonment.

I’m still on the journey, but it’s a journey I love and excited to be on. Developing self love has permeated every aspect of myself. Which is why I’m passionate about encouraging women to find it in whatever aspect it’s lacking. From loving their bodies, repairing their relationship with food, to learning to use movement as a healing balm and the list could go on and on.

Yes, I’m back in school pursing a BSN in nursing 12 years later, but this time, from a place of self acceptance and fierce self love that grows fiercer by the day.

We’re all in this together and the work and journey will look different for all of us but together, we’re stronger and able to handle it all with the utmost grace.

xoC.