I may be British, but that doesn’t make me any less Zambian

I know it’s been a while since I last posted but I was having an existential crisis. Between life catching up with me, having to finish my masters and starting my graduate job, I got to a point where I needed to remove myself from everything…

I’ve talked before about how much I’ve loved growing up with two cultures but recently though, I’ve really struggled.

I have a HUGE family! My mum is one of 9 and my dad is one of 11. I have more than 40 first cousins around the world but in the UK, I happen to be the only girl. I genuinely never thought being a girl could be so frustrating!

I was raised mainly with a brother and two male cousins so growing up, I had to deal with the fact that I’m sometimes treated differently just because I’m a girl. I’m used to having to prove myself but recently, I got to the point where I started to think, no matter what I do and how hard I try, it’s never good enough. Sometimes it feels like the boys can do what they want whilst I’m left to try and justify every decision I make and if I go against the parents advice, I’m the child that never listens…

In my culture, you wouldn’t really go to your dad to talk to him about boys or anything too sensitive but I tell my dad a lot. As I’ve mentioned before, we have a bond I can’t explain. Out of respect, there are some topics I could never bring up, after all, he’s still an African man but I guess on both our parts, we sometimes forget that we weren’t brought up in the same environment/culture so we like to assume the other person will understand where we’re coming from when an issue arises. That certainly isn’t always the case.

When I can’t go to my dad or I need a different opinion I’ll go to my mum who deals with situations completely differently. My mum is a lot more cautious in everything she does, especially when you compare her to my dad.

Like I said, my mum grew up as one of 9. She is one of 8 girls (I know) which means whatever happened with her growing up, she had her sisters and cousins to advise her, all of whom understood her position from a Zambian background and cultural point of view.

Now, my problem is that I haven’t grown up in Zambia, I don’t have anyone to teach me everything from a Zambian point of view and I think that my parents forget that sometimes and assume I always know where they’re coming from so I shouldn’t question them. Anyone that knows me knows I’m the “why” girl. EVERYTHING I do in life needs a justification. It used to annoy my mum so much, she started making me say “how come” instead of why.

I’m all for tradition, but the whole point of growing up in two cultures to me, is that I pick and choose the parts of my cultures that I like and resonate with the most. I respect my parents so more often than not, if they tell me to do something, I will. Growing up, that wasn’t so easy. I can count on one hand the amount of times I went to or had a sleep over for example.

I grew up with my friends telling me “you don’t have to do everything your parents tell you” but that didn’t stop me from listening to my parents (most of the time anyway) because that’s just not what you do. Even now, Sean asks me why I do so much for my parents. Unless you’ve grown up in similar circumstances, I know how hard it is to understand but you respect your elders and that’s it.

What I’ve really found hard to deal with recently is the fact that I’ve been independent for years. I’ve lived alone, run a business alone and generally just learned how to be alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always need my parents and they still do so much for me but the dynamics have changed and they don’t seem to be dealing with it very well.

You’d think I’d never done anything on my own the way they are at time and yet if you compare me to my brother and cousins, I seem to have my s***t together a lot more sometimes when compared to them.

I don’t have grand parents, I wasn’t lucky enough to meet or grow up with them so no one has ever really intervened when things began to go south. No one was ever there to tell them to let me go to that sleep over or go out with my friends or simply for them to give me a break.

I got to a point where I’d never genuinely felt so lonely. I know it sounds stupid because I’m surrounded by such fabulous people in my life but it just felt like no one really understood where I was coming from or how I felt.

I get that my parents want nothing but the best for me but the way I see it, I am not my mum or my dad and I’m not my aunties or uncles.  To me, parents are their for guidance. I can’t always keep them happy by doing exactly what they want. I may have some of their traits but I have my own thoughts and opinions. That means I have to make decisions and (moderate) mistakes sometimes so I can learn.

What really gets to me is how I have members of my family that tell me they support my decisions but that’s where it ends. How are you going to tell me I’m doing the right thing but you won’t actually stand up for me when I need you the most?

I’ve learned that sometimes in life you have to be selfish for your own sanity. Like I said before, I have a lot of great people in my life that I can speak to about various things. There’s a finite amount of people I can open up to, especially when it comes to cultural stuff because although people may say they have your back, it may not always be in a way you’d like them to.

My problem has always been that I want to prove I’m as good as any man and I want to please people but that’s not always the right thing to do. I’m learning how to deal with being a woman in a mans world. I’m learning how to be a Zambian girl, alone in a westernised culture but most of all, I’m learning that I can’t please everyone and that as long as I try to be good to the people around me, my happiness should come first.

I may be a girl, but that doesn’t mean I can’t look after or provide for myself. I may be westernised in some ways, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value my African traditions. I may have grown up in England, but that doesn’t make me any less Zambian…

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