3 important lessons that I learned in 2016

 Don't mistake kindness for love...

I was supposed to do a 2016 resolution post on the last day of the year but my mind wasn’t prepared to write a resolution of feelings that were not ready to be concluded. I normally spend new year’s eve with my family or somewhere getting drunk with my friends but I had always this dream of spending that special night with a special person. It finally happened but he is not special... It’s funny how life makes everything seem so clichê for allowing me to enjoy the company of a person who I met on the first day of the previous year...so romantic right? Not!

Let’s go back to that first day of 2016 when I was partying so hard that I had expired contact lenses on...and this beautiful guy with the prettiest smile approached me for no particular reason (apparently) and said the corniest thing and I felt for it...Since that day I wondered why me? I used to be very insecure but this time it wasn't my lack of self-esteem returning, it was something else...I had a feeling that something was not right...As the relationship evolved I became aware of the type of person he was but I decided to ignore it because I was kinda happy...at least I thought I was. Even though he is considered attractive, I wasn’t attracted to him and as time passes and I started to see more of the real him and there was no bone in my body who found his appearance excited.

I didn't like his personality, character, ambitions or lack of it, family, background, education and anything related to him but still, I couldn't leave him...for a year I was stuck in this relationship and I couldn't move on.

When I was young I used to play with a cousin who hated me, he punched me, pushed me, called me every bad name and I think he was the first person to start the trend “ I don't like Lunga”...before him I was the most loveable person on earth. One day I asked my mom why he didn't like me and she told me that he had a crush on me...Since that day I learned that when someone liked you he treated you badly...This notion ruled my life...I have been to different relationships with people who treated me in a way that made me develop bad guys syndrome. If he treated me well, he didn't like me, if he didn't, he loved me, that was my theory...

I know I am stupid and insane but people believe in what they are taught or accustomed by. I watched a movie where a girl allowed herself to be beaten by her boyfriend because her mother and grandmother told her that's what man do when they love a woman. Hopefully, I was never fond of domestic abused and never experienced it...

When I became mature I finally realized that I was wrong and I reversed the theory, which made me wrong again but I was too delusional to figure out things. So, my new theory was based on that guy who treated me well, loved me...But that wasn't the case...Respect does not always come with affection.

He treated me with a kindness I never experienced before and that’s what made me stay for so long, to endure such a loveless relationship...he was very persistent, every time we fight he would always try to makeup, he was patient and supportive...and you know why? Because people commit to their goals more than love. He was not interested in love or anything related to emotions and feelings towards me...There was a price for his kindness...I can only say that some people are not loyal to you, they are loyal to their need of you and sometimes that need is not to love.

A few years ago having a good-looking man who said beautiful things was enough for me, someone who I could expose on social and pretend I was happy was everything I wanted..but 2016 showed me that I am more than I think of me. I am brave! I couldn't settle for just an idea of a perfect relationship...I needed more! There's more to life than being in a relationship and I hope I will never allow my loneliness to betray me like that...

I need to forgive myself and move on...

There was a girl from my middle school who everybody used to make fun of and even me. One day I saw her outside of school, I was at the beach with my family and my mom introduced me to the girl's family. I know we are supposed to use sunscreen to protect ourselves from the sun but we never use it like we are all supposed to use condoms or not eat too much fast food but we don't care. She had a lot of screens on her face and her dark skin looked white, and I and my cousin were making fun of her. At the moment was fun but now it doesn't taste the same...A few years after I started to stalk her on facebook so I could entertain myself and continue to bully her but I was astounded to learn that she had autism. She kept posting about it and at first, I was skeptical about it because she was crazy then I googled it and it made sense...her anti-social behavior and everything matched...I became obsessed about the disease, I started watching movies and documentaries about it. My heart broke and I hated myself so much for doing whatever I did to her...

I decided to contact her for no reason, just to chat...maybe I wanted to confirm she had the disease, maybe I was secretly a fan all of this years but definitely I had no intentions to bully her...she was very open about it, she didn't even remember who I was, she knew we went to the same school but she didn't know all the things I did to her. Was that a quality of autism? Autism is like being blind and dead towards feelings.

We started talking often and I became sensitive towards her struggles and I considered myself as her protector...I wanted to be there for her and be a good friend...I pretended I was strong so she could look up to me and count on me for everything. I really liked her as a person, I don't know if her personality was defined by autism but she was very cool and easygoing at least on social media where she told me her social anxiety didn't hurt that much. I could talk to her about anything...as years went by we lost touch but I always felt a great deal of commitment towards her. I think I should have tried to reach her but I didn't I was too focused on my perfect life without autism.

Last year my mom told me that she has gotten worse and she was facing a mental breakdown... I totally lost it. I felt that it was my fault and I should have been there for her. I drowned myself in tears, I was devasted...I didn't know what to do, how to contact her because my mom told me she checked into a hospital...This thing killed me for days and like any other thing I go through it didn't let me breathe.

I decided to not think about it since my whole year was based on finally understanding that I should think about myself and not others but I couldn't because I owed my loyalty to her and I had to pay the price of bullying her. This was eating my soul, I couldn't stop thinking about it and I couldn't figure out what I should do. I decided to reopen my facebook and send her a message, she didn't answer me for weeks and my mind went back years ago at the school and all the times that I consistently harassed her.

A few days later I went to the clinic where I was doing a skin treatment since I have the worst skin ever and I told the doctor that my skin wasn't getting better. She told me that I wasn't following her instructions which were using sunscreen daily like she told me. I told her I couldn't walk every day with my face covered with a white paste and that people would make fun of me...and she said: “sometimes we have higher purposes that are unknown to people but mean everything to us”. I think this was a sign from Yousseny (the "girl") and her way of saying that she was ok and she had forgiven me for what I did to her back in school. I think for the first time I forgave myself for being human and today I am forming my organization against bullying in Angola.

I am African!

Those who know me are aware of my obsession towards YALI (Young African Leader Initiative) and that it changed my life. I refuse to stop talking about the experience and 2016 was all about it. I think I never felt more accepted in my life and I wondered how I could continue to live my life without experience it. Yali allowed me to see the beauty of being African and be proud of it. I don't think I have ever received so many compliments in my life. They either loved my hair, my skin tone, my accent or anything about me. I vas very welcomed and comfortable to be myself and I wondered how because one thing Uk taught me was that I could never feel welcomed in a foreign country. But YALI changed that perception and I finally realized that Africans are welcomed in African lands. Do you know that I never received any compliment living 5 years in the UK? Not one! Instead, they would look at my hair, my strong features and wonder why I was different from them...but different is good, now I know!

When you speak another language and even worst when you have a Portuguese accent people think you are retarded... I always wondered if it was a personal matter against me. Did I face racism or I had a racism complex? I didn't want to bring the race card because when you do, everything becomes about race...I didn't get along with them because of my race...I didn't have good grades because of my race...but that's not true and I know I wasn't the most social, committed and devoted student.

Whatever screw me up in that country it wasn't my race, it was me...I wasn't in control of my life and my lack of maturity and knowledge of the real world easily allowed me to drown in a path of auto-destruction. Introducing myself to an African mindset saved me! I am not afraid to fully accept my African roots, features, and culture anymore because I understand that I come from ancestors who learned to grateful for everything. I never met anyone so appreciative of having dark skin, strong accents, kinky hair...They have fight for everything they own and they are natural born leaders.

Everything is valuable to them, from family, education, values to money. I always thought African people were shallow but Yali opened my eyes to the true reality. Have you ever wonder why there are so many decimals in South African rands?...for example 10 dollar is equivalent to 100 rands, and for them 100 rands is a lot, not only because the number 100 is 10 times 10, which represents ten times they have fought harder than Americans but also because they value what they have.10 dollars means sacrifice and ownership.

I finally understood why it felt like I had autism in Europe, it wasn't my land! Yali was definitely a wake-up call and I will never forget why I am African. I am currently living in South Africa and I hope I will never settle for a relationship based on taking selfies; bully people and underestimate my African brothers.

2017 please be good to me :)

Lunga Izata

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