Last week, on the 30th of May, I was opportuned to talk to a number of young ladies at Aunty Ayo secondary school.
A few days prior to the program I'd asked one of the most talented and brilliant public speakers I know the three most important things he would say if he was speaking to teenage girls aged 14 to 19. Rather than answer what I'd asked, he said he didn't think I should engage in mentorship programs for now as he felt that at this moment in my life I should be extremely selfish with my time.
"But what about the fulfillment it would give me?" I asked him.
"Your fulfillment right now should be watching your monetary investments have children"
LOL. Of course I paid him no mind, but still I was fidgety. I went to him for advise because I had no clue what I would say to them.
You see, I've been scared silly of teenagers especially the female ones, so I generally avoid them. Days leading to the event I started to wish I'd told Clare I couldn't make it. I couldn't quite fathom what I was going to say to them. I wrote note after note but everything ended in the thrash. The night before, I decided, you know what, just go and talk to them the way you wish an adult would've talked to you when you were 17.
And that was all I needed. I'm so glad I didn't chicken out because It was probably the most fun I've had in agesssss!
I was surprised to find that these girls were eager to learn and hungry for information. I noticed that they flourished and their faces lit up in the face of the attention they were getting.
I noticed also that many have dreams but may stick to the lawyer-doctor path, if they further their education, because they think that that's what's expected of them, while ignoring their own dreams and passions.
I was surprised to learn that some are already leaning towards entrepreneurship. This one girl came to talk to me. Her parents want her to study medicine, and while she doesn't mind, she would also like to be able to make and sell her Ankara bags and slippers, a craft she learnt while interning during her last holiday. Her parents have forbidden her from doing this as they think it's a sign of poverty, they think the only noble course is university then white collar. You could tell that sending her to Uni would be a huge financial burden on them so the girl is frightened to do anything that would upset them.
I was quite sad to hear this. It's ironic, as these days well-off parents are actually encouraging and teaching their kids to learn crafts, finances and the basics of business. I've attended a few trade fares in the Lekki/VI environs solely for children to display and sell their wares which are often baked goods, handmade jewelry and accessories, just like the ones the young girl above dreams of selling.
Talking to and listening to these teens was a real eye opener for me. I would encourage anyone who has teenagers around them not to ignore them as many of us, especially me, are wont to do. Instead, talk to them and actually LISTEN to them. Honestly, there's a world of reasons why this is important.
For instance, this apathy towards teenagers is the reason a lot of them worldwide are getting involved with games like the #Bluewhalechallenge. It's this game for teenagers that gives them a new instruction with each stage they conquer. When you get to the final stage, the instruction is "KILL YOURSELF" and at least 130 teen suicides in Europe have been linked to this game. Barely months ago, teen friends aged 15 and 16 jumped to their deaths from the roof of a 14-stores building. The younger one left a note saying "End" on her social media page after she posted a picture of a blue whale.
This is just one of the tons of reasons why we need to talk to, listen to, mentor and guide these younger ones. I honestly think teens are the most ignored demographic in the world.
On the other hand, I also learnt a lot listening to Oyinda (Miss Pynk of www.pynk360.com), our other speaker. In fact I think I needed that talk more than the girls did. LOL.
I look forward to doing more of this. It was truly rewarding.