In the journey of marital adventures, looking back often creates an accumulation of insights, rich with strands of discovery and gems of wisdom.
Imagine if you could send to your younger single self, whispers of enlightenment delicately penned with the ink of experience, revelations, and nuggets of truth you wished you knew before saying I do. What would you say or write?
These letters transcend mere words on a page; they stand as a mirror reflecting the knowledge acquired, the unconventional routes navigated, and the sincere counsel we all desire we had received at the commencement of our adult journey.
This is 'A Letter to My Single Self'—a feature that beckons us all to meditate on our journeys, accept our history, and find solace in the sagacity that emanates from both our achievements and our challenges.
‘Marry your best friend’
Mumba Mwansa-Mbewe, 33, a journalist and communication specialist, married for four years
“It feels surreal to pen this letter to you, the woman I was when single, now that I'm immersed in marital bliss.
Four years ago, you walked down the aisle – and it was a mixture of elation and daydreams. I remember you pondering whether the unfolding events were reality or just a beautiful mirage, as you were about to unite in marriage with your soulmate. You had journeyed through six years of dating, and building a foundation solidified by friendship.
Meeting your husband wasn't just an unforeseen event; it was the realisation of your aspirations, a manifestation of the partner you had been wishing for. He won't be just another checkbox on your list but rather the embodiment of your vision for a lifelong companion.
As you are aware, marriage isn't a walk in the park but a journey requiring continuous effort and nurturing. Marrying your best friend seems the perfect antidote to the inevitable challenges ahead; a comforting embrace amidst the storms you will navigate together – and you're mostly right.
You see, trials are inherent in the journey of life, posing challenges that may sometimes find you at opposing ends. Like my husband and I now fight over the 'small' things like not addressing each other appropriately in public, how one dresses, what to watch together on TV. We often reach a compromise.
I'm glad you knew that the companionship with your best friend would be your shield, cushioning the impact of every disagreement and every test that came your way. It's clear that the fusion of friendship and love was the secret potion, the elixir when navigating the entwined paths of marriage.
However, I wish you knew that marriage is not child's play. In our language (Bemba), there is a proverb that says, ‘Ing'anda ushilalamo baikumbwa umutenge’ which loosely translates to ‘the house you don't sleep in, you admire its roof.’
No one can prepare you for so many things that go on in marriage. For instance, adjusting on how to prepare everyone before yourself for work and school in the morning, being mindful of how you treat your partner or even how to resolve conflicts.
I wish you had known the importance of high tolerance. Marriage merges two adults, raised differently and with different values and perspectives. Relinquishing your own viewpoints for the sake of the other can be a difficult task at times.
Relocating to Kenya from Zambia, you will have to choose between enduring a long-distance marriage or putting your career on hold to nurture a unified family. It's a junction where personal aspirations and familial bonds will intertwine, requiring thoughtful contemplation and shared decisions.
After lots of heartfelt discussions and reflections with your husband, you will finally reach a compromise and join him, putting your career on hold. And you know what? You won't regret it.”
‘The responsibility of being you solely lies with you’
Dear Joy* Akeyo, 44, media personality, married for 21 years
“Before moving in with a man at 23, I wish you knew that there was ‘you,’ the individual and ‘us’ the couple. The responsibility of being you solely lies with you. That at the end of the day, you will be counted as you.
Joy, don’t waste your productive years being a wife or doing stuff as a wife, invest in yourself, growing you, deciding by yourself and showing up for yourself. Quit worrying whether your husband will approve of whatever you are doing or not. Just do you! And as they say, the ‘world will adjust.’
I wish you knew how to resolve issues from the word go. To state what you do not approve, don’t like, can’t take, what you want, how you want to be treated, or called, and what you can do or can’t do. This will cushion you from taking in a lot of stuff hoping your husband will change because he won’t and instead you will be the one to change. You will be ‘forced’ to adjust to accommodate someone else.
Joy, you should marry a man who is financially stable. One who has plans for financial solidity and freedom. Do not get me wrong, this is not marrying for money but letting the man be one from day one. Security from a man means he can provide. Whatever you bring to the table is surplus and can be channelled to other stuff but it should not be part of the family’s financial plan.
Do not substitute a woman paying bills as a primary responsibility. No! Remember minus the bills, it is your mandate to keep a home homely.
Note love is overrated in marriage. You’d rather get married to someone you are friends with than one you are in love with. The latter is not sustainable. Love withers, leaving you with the reality of a whole lifetime together.
Plan to have your children early in your marriage and within a short time. This is because children will slow you down as a person. The earlier you get them out of the way, the more room you have for raising them well, your personal growth and building a relationship with your spouse.”
Lots of love, Joy
‘Embrace being single before marriage’
Dear Kezia Omuodo, 35, a nano influencer, who guides women through life after motherhood, married for seven years
“As I write this letter to you, I hope you can listen to the song All Along by Jonathan McReynolds. It reflects the idea that even when life seems uncertain or when things do not seem to be going as planned, there is a higher power or divine force guiding you and has been with you all along.
Having been married for seven years now, I wish you could understand the value of embracing singleness before stepping into the sacred union of marriage. Bringing a healed, wholesome self into a marriage is fundamental. Seek therapy, grow, evolve, and understand yourself as an individual before intertwining your life with another’s.
It’s important for you to understand that marriage can sometimes feel like a battlefield. Witnessing the experiences of others might give rise to concerns.
Conversations with married friends about resilience, the strength needed to uphold the marriage, submission, the mutual financial roles— all these aspects can seem daunting. But instead of fleeing, face your marriage, and confront the complexities inwardly, even though it seems absurd.
Understand that with the right partner, marriage is not a burden but a beautiful journey. In a world where monogamous relationships seem to be dwindling and multiple partnerships are becoming the norm, choose to stand out. Remember, that infidelity is not a product of marriage but a reflection of individual choices and mind-set. It is not inevitable. I hope you realise that faithfulness is a choice, a commitment to your partner and the bond you share.
Marriage, with its sweet and sour moments, becomes a harmonious dance with the right partner. I hope you choose to be steadfast in commitment, to build a marriage that stands the test of time and challenges, being faithful and true to one another.”
‘Don’t quit your job for love’
Martha Kitui*, 65, homemaker, married for 45 years
“As I sit down to write this letter to you at 18, I am flooded with a myriad of emotions. I hope this message reaches you in good health and high spirits. There are so many things I wish I could go back in time and tell you, my dear single self. I hope you can feel the sincerity in these words as they flow from my heart.
First and foremost, I want you to know that it’s okay. It’s okay that you rushed into marriage at such a young age, blinded by the excitement of love. I understand the allure of it all—the romance, the promise of a shared future, the belief that he was the one. But looking back, I wish you had listened more closely to the advice of your parents. They saw what you couldn’t at the time, and they were right. He will not be the right match for you, and you should have heeded their wisdom.
You see, Martha, you should not have quit your job to become a housewife. You were so eager to embrace the role of a loving wife and homemaker that you forgot about your own dreams and ambitions. You let your career slip away like sand through your fingers, and you lost a part of yourself in the process. I want you to remember that it’s essential to nurture your own passions and dreams alongside your relationship. A balanced life is a fulfilling one.
Martha, another thing I deeply regret is not dating more people before settling down. You see, I married the first man who proposed to me, and while it seemed like a fairytale at the time, it wasn’t. I wish I had taken the time to explore different relationships, to understand myself better, and to discover what true compatibility means. Love is a beautiful thing, but it’s vital to make an informed choice when it comes to a life partner.
Moreover, Martha, you should have considered financial compatibility as well. Love may conquer many things, but financial differences can lead to stress and misunderstandings. I should have sought a partner with a bit more financial stability, someone who could share the journey of building a life together without constant worry. Starting over with someone and witnessing their success can be beautiful, but it can also strain a relationship if not managed with care.
Most importantly, I should have trusted in God and sought a deeper understanding of my faith. God’s guidance and strength can carry you through the most challenging times in life. I wish I had cultivated a stronger connection with my spirituality, as it would have provided me with the strength and resilience I needed during the difficult moments in my marriage.
Martha, life is a journey filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. While I may have regrets, I also want to remind you that every mistake and every experience has shaped me into the person I am today. I’ve learned, grown, and become stronger through it all. So, don’t be too hard on yourself, my dear.
As you continue your journey, remember these lessons from your older self. Cherish your dreams, explore your options, and have faith in God’s plan for you. Life is a beautiful adventure, and I have no doubt that you will navigate it with grace and resilience.
Oh, I almost forgot. You should have had more fun, travelled a little, and explored the world. Life is not just about responsibilities and commitments; it’s also about embracing joy and adventure. Travelling and experiencing different cultures can broaden your horizons, create lasting memories, and help you discover more about yourself.
As you continue your journey, remember these lessons from your older self. Cherish your dreams, explore your options, have faith in God’s plan for you, and never forget to infuse your life with laughter and adventure.”
With love and warm wishes, Martha Kitui
‘Finish your education and chase your dreams too’
Judy Njoroge, 51, stay-at-home mom, married for 28 years
“I hope this letter finds you well and brimming with the kind of enthusiasm that only youth can bring. As I sit down to write these words, I want you to know that my intention is not to burden you with regrets but to offer you some pearls of wisdom that I’ve gathered along the way.
Looking back, there’s a lot of wisdom I wish I could share with you, especially when it comes to studies and relationships.
The greatest regret for me is giving up my education. Back then, we didn’t fully appreciate how crucial it is, especially for us women. We treated our studies somewhat casually, without the seriousness it deserved because we knew we were just going to get married and raise a family. Oh, how I wish I could turn back the clock and whisper in your ear, “Don’t take your education so lightly.” It’s the foundation upon which your future is built. I know it might seem like fun to let a man come along and sweep you off your feet, but resist that temptation for now. Finish your schooling first. Education opens doors, and you don’t want to close them (doors) prematurely.
Remember those dreams you had, the ones that sparkled like distant stars in your mind? They matter. They are worth chasing. Don’t let anyone, including yourself, convince you otherwise. Your intellect is a gift, a powerful tool waiting to be honed. So, study hard, explore your interests, and embrace the joy of learning. The world is vast and exciting, and your education will be your ticket to explore it fully.
Speaking of relationships, as young women we were so eager to prioritise them that we sometimes lost sight of our goals.
Judy, a romantic partner can be wonderful, but don’t let them be the reason you give up on your studies. Yes, love is magical, and the idea of someone sweeping you off your feet is enticing. But remember, not all promises are genuine. Some may make grand pledges only to leave you later when you need them the most. So, be cautious. Build your future, stand on your own two feet, and when you’re more established, then think about settling down.
I know it’s tempting to let your heart guide your choices, but listen to that inner voice too—the one that reminds you of your dreams, your ambitions, and the woman you aspire to be. A healthy relationship should complement your life, not hinder it.
Lastly, I want to tell you about friendships. Not everyone who smiles with you has your best interests at heart. Be discerning about the company you keep. Surround yourself with friends who genuinely care about you and support your ambitions. It’s better to have a few true friends than a crowd of fake ones. Trust your instincts, and if someone shows you their true colours, believe them. You are deserving of genuine, supportive friendships that uplift you and inspire you to be your best self.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my husband and children with everything I have, and I wouldn’t change a thing about my family. They are the greatest blessings in my life. But to do better for my family, I wish I had focused on my dreams too.
So, dear younger self, take this advice to heart but also remember that life is an unpredictable journey filled with joy, sorrow, and countless surprises. Embrace it with all your heart, make mistakes, learn, grow, and cherish every moment. And when you look back on your life someday, may you do so with a heart full of gratitude for the path you’ve walked.”
With love and the wisdom of hindsight,