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When this prompt comes up the three-word advice I usually give is, “love yourself first.” I decided to think along a different path today. If I had stayed in dance school back when I was 18, I can’t even imagine how much different my life would be today.

Would I still have met my kids’ father? Having my daughter was pivotal. Everything changed. Going from a single young adult to a mom of two in three years means an entirely different way of living and thinking.

When I decided to have children, I switched the setting on life into hard mode, (nightmare mode 😅). I’ve never felt like life was easy for me but being a single mom with no self-generated income was miserable. That misery fueled my desire to make a change by any means necessary.

At some point I knew I had to fight for a better life or else I’d live and die depressed and unfulfilled. Even 14 years ago, I knew I was capable of and interested in working as a software developer. I chose that as my career path. I spent years, through pregnancy, and through having a baby on each hip, to finish my training program and get certified through my community college.

Y’all, I’ve been working on getting into tech for 14 years. It wasn’t happening for me. It just happened in a real way a few months ago.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened but sometime between dropping out of dance school and today, I became a fighter. Dancing was the only thing I had stuck with long-term. My tech career comes in second.

I don’t know what life would have looked like if I kept dancing but I know that developing the will to live fully needed to happen. I was miserable at 18 too. I was in a self-imposed prison of doubt, fear, and insecurity. I wouldn’t have made it as a professional dancer that way. I had so much to express through my body and it was always blocked.

So I’m going to change back to my go-to answer. Love yourself first, young Nikema. I needed life to show me that I had something worth fighting for and something (or someones) that I would never, ever, give up on. Maybe it was my kids that taught me that I was worth saving myself.

Honestly, I probably loved them before I loved myself. I wanted to be happier, more stable, and healthier so that I could be a better mother to them. Today, I know that I’m my own source of love. I don’t need a reason or to make my children be the reason why I deserve a joyful and prosperous life. I’m here and that’s enough reason why I’m worthy of all that and more.

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