I have realized that people will often attack your identity first to get to you and not only is this demeaning but it can deter one from achieving his or her purpose. They will doubt you and ask you questions that will end up causing you to ask yourself questions about whether you are worth anything. You are alive for a purpose, so of course you are worthy. Many times, I have sat down to think about who I really am, my roots, my achievements, my experiences, and right there, that is where I found my identity.
I was raised by a single mother. That's a circumstance, it is not who I am, and even though I have been classified as an orphan before, that is also simply a circumstance. Who I am is the daughter of advocates (both my late father and my mother) and perhaps someone may have parents that have absolutely no education but what remains important is what have you taken from them that has made you a better person. The reason I mention my mother's profession is because she used that to teach me a lot of things that have shaped me today. To speak for myself, to never let the opinions of others cloud mine. She also taught me to listen to others but never let them intimidate me. That is who I am. An open minded, opinionated young woman who is not shaken by people's superiority complexes.
After my mother's passing I was raised by my grandmother, another single mother who instilled the concept of education even in times where I had no other option but to study under a candlelight because we had no electricity for a couple of years. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is the reason why I worked twice as hard and graduated high school at top of my class and 9th in the whole of my country and got accepted into what is the first interracial school in Southern Africa during the apartheid era. Yes, I am that girl. I have a learned spirit and do not refuse the opportunity to learn. Now that defines me. My mother used to tell me that what I say can and will be used against me; it was funny but also true. For that very reason I have grown up constantly reminding myself to not make statements that will offend people and because of that, I have been called kind-hearted and a person who is easy to get along with. I am that girl.
Also, my grandmother had no obligation to raise me and my sister but because of her humility and compassion, she simply did not let us live in the streets and she sacrificed every bit of what she had earned and achieved so that she could put me and my sister in some of the best schools during our elementary and high school years. Currently, I have ran campaigns and volunteered in organizations that take care of people less fortunate than myself and continue to find means to support those that do not have the opportunity and the means to do so themselves. Yes, I am that girl!
You determine your identity, your circumstances do not! It is my wish that each and every one of you rises above the social perceptions and circumstances that make us doubt ourselves and the reason for our existence. Life does get better, only when you want it to and make it. Your identity is entirely up to you to shape. Take your experiences, learn from them and rid yourself of whatever makes you falter. Life really is that easy.
I am not saying that I have it all figured out, I am excited to learn more about myself and may 2014 be a year of self-discovery and empowerment.
Keneuoe Mphutlane is a Sophomore International Political Economy major from Lesotho.