She Leads Africa

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“True friends are like diamonds—bright, beautiful, valuable and always in style.”

– Nicole Ritchie

Coming of age and navigating the tumultuous waters of adulthood, I was a big fan of the TV show “Sex and the city” as my friends and I looked to the show for advice on how to model our lives in a way that was fashionable and fun. As I grew older, I realized that there was another important “f factor” I needed to be on the lookout for when choosing friends, fulfillment.  There comes a point in every young woman’s life, for me it hit in my late 20s as the dreaded 3-0 loomed closer, where you realize that it is time to put aside childish thoughts and ways and begin to think seriously about laying a stable foundation for your 30s and working towards the manifestation of that.

In the last decade I have lived in 5 cities in 3 different countries. I have been a student, a traveler, a freelancer and full-time employee. I have gained, and lost, more than my fair share of acquaintances, kindred spirits, fair-weather and lifelong friends. The more I think about the different periods of my life and the people who were present during those times, the more I realize the great, and lasting,  impact these people have had on my life. The ones that stand out in my mind and the ones whose friendships I still cherish are the ones who were with me laughing, crying, cursing, loving, losing and believing with me all the way.

When I first watched the hit web TV series “An African City”, beyond the glamorous lives of these returnees, what struck me was the strong bond of friendship that existed between these 5 women, individually and collectively. Perhaps, wrapped in each of An African City’s complex character are a few lessons we could all learn about the types of friends every modern African woman needs to successfully navigate her late 20s and early 30s.

The Lifer/Memory Keeper

“An African City” is told from the viewpoint of NanaYa, who returns to Ghana with her parents after spending most of her life in America. We learn about the other characters through NanaYa’s insightful observations and it is clear that she is the glue that holds the group together. Every girl needs friends who can tell you the who/what/where/why of most of your major life moments, possibly because she has lived through most of them with you. The Lifer friend is someone who has been there with you through thick and thin and is not going anywhere, ever. You may choose different paths in life and there may come a time when you will be separated by distance and other relationships and commitments, but this is the friend that would drop everything to be by your side if you ever needed her. She will be the godmother of your children and the adopted daughter of your parents, she will be the one sitting next to you on a porch 50 years from now reminiscing about life and all the joy, sorrow, triumphs and failures it brought you both. Cherish the Lifers and Memory Keepers you have in your life.

The Hustler

The Hustler is portrayed by Zainab who moved to Ghana to start her own natural hair product business. She pours all her time and energy into making her business successful. Even through the trying times, Zainab always manages to keep her head above the water and proves that she deserves every bit of the success she has achieved. Every girl needs that Hustler chick among her circle of friends who is killing it professionally. Not only will she inspire you to aspire to greater heights, she is a fountain continuously springing forth invaluable advice on the dos and don’ts of navigating the business world. Your Hustler friend will have contacts and resources that you can tap into and before you know it, you might become the Hustler in your group as well.

_mgl1713_wide-16b39b505429f67d404daefba78df5598988f424The Uplifter

The sheer amount of change you will experience in your late 20s and early 30s is enough to leave anyone dazed and confused wondering why up is down and down is up and just how in God’s name you are supposed to make sense of it all. When I was about 25, I remember feeling like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. I was expected to graduate with honors, find a great, well-paying job, move into a nice, furnished apartment. Add to that I was to work long hours and still be out on the town every weekend having a good time, then get married, have a few babies all the while remaining a successful career woman. If it wasn’t for the grace of God, family and uplifting friends I would have gone crazy a long time ago. In “An African City”, Ngozi is the Uplifter, that one friend that you can always count on for an encouraging word when times are rough, the friend who not only listens attentively but also supports all your hopes and dreams, even the crazy, impractical ones. The Uplifter’s favorite word is “yes”. Sometimes it seems like the world is screaming no to all your efforts and that you are constantly being met with closed doors. When you’re just about ready to throw in the towel, it is refreshing to have that one voice that always says “”Yes, I believe in you”, “Yes, you can do it.”

The No BS’er

Say what you will about Sade’s character but she is actually my favorite character. While she appears to have many vices, Sade is the one character in the group who is always willing to call a spade a spade. And I believe every girl needs friends who will always tell them the truth, even when it hurts. Often, to keep the peace, girls avoid telling each other the ugly or painful truth. In the worst case scenarios, rather than telling the truth to the one in question, we tell it behind their backs and by the time the truth finally comes to light, it causes even more pain and drama than it would have we had been straightforward from the beginning. Here’s where the No BS’er comes in. While it may feel like the No BS’er friend’s sole purpose in life is to burst or bruise your ego, with time you realize that they’re not trying to be rude or malicious and it is all coming from a place of love. By always keeping it real, the No BS’er helps you to see a different perspective and encourages you to keep growing and changing. Isn’t that what life should be all about?

The Unlikely Friend

Now Makena’s character was a little harder to pin down into one type. She is a delightful medley of so many types: the social butterfly who seems to know where you can get just about anything at any point in time, the risk taker who left a high paying job in London to return to Ghana, the bad influence with a smoking habit and questionable taste in men. All of these combine to make Makena the Unlikely Friend of the group. One of my favorite authors, Anais Nin, has a quote that I absolutely love. It says, “Each friend represents a world in us, a world not possibly born until they arrive”. Whether it is choosing a girlfriend with a different nationality, culture, background, interests or life views, having that Unlikely Friend will only serve to expand your worldview and enrich your life in ways you could never have possibly imagined.

Are you a fan of “An African City” and could you spot any other friend types that we might have omitted from this list? What type of friend are you in your group of friends? Join the conversation and let us know what your thoughts are in the comments below.

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