Jessica Ireju: The Four Kinds of Women Who Changed My Life
There’s something about being a woman, it’s hard to describe. Maybe I’m partial because I’m a woman. It’s the melting point of different roles, dreams, and desires being housed in one body. I’m always in awe when I meet (or stalk on Instagram) another woman living authentically. Sometimes she’s nothing like me but every time, I can find bits and pieces of my stories in her. It’s in how she shows up for her life, her commitment, her fears, the dreams she has, and the fact that she just is! In celebration of International Women’s Day 2021, I wanted to spotlight the 4 kinds of women who have changed my life simply by living authentically. It’s extraordinary how their stories have shaped me, their creations have changed me and by living their dreams they’ve given me permission to be.
The Women Who Raised Me
They say it takes a village to raise a child, the women who raised me did so, not by insisting or ordering me about but by simply living! My maternal grandmother, in 2021, would give modern entrepreneurs a run for their money. How do you raise 7 children alone after the civil war ends? How do you refuse to get married just to have a man pay your bills? I have so many memories: I can see her sitting out in front waiting for us to arrive during the holidays, serving us fisherman soup and, the next morning, hauling her net to fish or selling her drinks. Talk about #BossLady moves!
My paternal grandmother taught me strength isn’t always loud, it isn’t rude, it’s staying true to who you are no matter the circumstances or who tries to make you act uncertainly. She was quiet, gentle, and a woman of deep faith. She taught me I had the power to choose. I could choose to love, to forgive, to give even to the people who I considered undeserving – it was my choice. Anytime I acted like someone I was not because I was angry and wanted to get even, I was letting them choose for me.
My mother is a composite woman. Tough, yet vulnerable. Always a lady and always ready to get her hand dirty. Kind but not a pushover. My sister is one of the single biggest influences in my life. Then there are aunties, friends that have left me pieces of themselves in the way they love, live, and laugh.
The Women Who Write
I weave words together to share stories. Like Berry Dakara would say, I string words together. Most people call it being a writer, it’s not a word I use carelessly. When I think of writers, I hear Ifemelu’s laughter every time I read Chimamanda‘s Amercicanah, I think of Buchi Emecheta‘s ability to create vivid pictures in your mind like Nnuegos’ walking steps in The Joys of Motherhood and how refreshing Betty Irabor‘s morning dew column was in Genevieve Magazine. Atoke‘s features for Bellanaija made me understand how powerful words are in creating a community. I think of Funke Egbemode’s back page features in the newspapers my Dad brought home, I remember she was one of the few female journalists I knew writing on the coveted back page. These women who write have created a world for me to dive into. Their blog posts have left me in awe. Their Instagram captions are a truckload of insight into living – like Laju Iren – and witty captions – like Torera George‘s. Their writings have shaped my thoughts, allowed me the permission to create a career I love and has given me a passion that’s become purpose.
The Women of Faith
My faith is deeply personal, the journey to finding it has been fraught with confusion, fear, and timid steps. These women have guided me with their sage wisdom, their ability to distill pages of scripture into timeless truth. Learning to hear God with Joyce Meyer‘s guidance, learning to fall recklessly in love with purpose watching Funto Ibuoye live authentically, calming my fears of not fitting into the mould every time I hear Sarah Jakes preach or see Bunmi George‘s coloured hair on IG videos. Heather Lindsey‘s videos got me through the silent seasons of my life as I learned to trust God unwaveringly. Tolulope (Solutions) Adejumo‘s YouTube videos remind me to shine my light in an often dark world. These women have taught me to believe in my purpose because I didn’t choose it for myself.
The Women Like You and Me
Then there are women like you and me – dreaming, living, confident, unsure, brave, and afraid. I know so many, and there are those whose name I don’t know: the stranger who smiled at me and complimented my hair extensions; the single mother; the struggling entrepreneur; those trying to climb the corporate ladder; the survivors of domestic violence and rape. Then there’s the woman who does many things but isn’t always sure of who she is; she is me and I am her.
I wish I could say thank you to all the women who have changed my life by naming them but I have a word limit. You can help me by naming the women who have changed your life in the comment section, there’s no limit on that! So thank you for living, thank you for being, thank you for sharing.
Happy International Women’s Day!