By Sang Kromah
15 is a tough age. Or at least it feels that way when you’re there. You’re not quite a kid, but definitely not an adult. Everything feels like it’s the end of the world, and sometimes, those issues might be, in fact, bigger than our peers can understand. And at the same time, 15 can be the most exciting age. Opportunities and possibilities are endless, and if you’re my age (and NO, I won’t dare tell you how old I am), you look back and realize being 15 was the best time of your life and wish you had embraced it more, instead of complaining about being too young to do anything fun.
I spend a lot of time talking to girls in high school about this, trying to paint a picture of how much I was like them and how I went through some of the same things they’re encountering now. Some listen, but others find it hard to believe, so if my stories aren’t enough, what about the stories of other women from around the world as well?
#NoteToSelf is a fun way for women to revisit their younger selves, face their pasts, and relish the women they’ve become. Most importantly, this is a great way of letting today’s girls know that it does get better. Each week, we’ll interview a new woman from our global community, ultimately answering the question, “Have you become the person you needed at 15?”
Project GirlSpire (PG): Describe your 15-year old self in fifty words or less.
Brenda Brewer Moore (BBM): At 15, all I knew was I knew EVERYTHING. I felt I could outsmart my mom. At 15 I wanted freedom. To be me. To be able to do what other 15 year olds were doing. I felt stifled by my mom’s strong religious beliefs and impositions. At 15 I felt I knew a lot, yet, I felt confused.
PG: Where were you at age 15? (Physical location)
BBM: At 15 I lived in Monrovia, Sinkor, 15 Street, right behind the UN Drive Supermarket. I considered that location superbly ideal because it was close enough to town that I could run there to do things and close enough to Paynesville where my best friend, at the time, lived…another preacher’s daughter.
PG: Where are you now? (Physical location)
BBM: Now, I live around the Robertsfield Highway, Monrovia, Liberia. Not so close to town, but in a community that is relatively quiet, except for Sundays when the neighborhood boys decide to play soccer loudly most of the morning; when I want to just sleep in, with no noise.
PG: Did you know who or what you wanted to be at 15?
BBM: No. I didn’t. but I did know what I wanted to have accomplished at 25. Haha…You see, I had my life mapped out. By 18, I would be out of high school and by 21 I would be out of college. I would then get a really savvy job and meet this nice guy and we would have two kids and live happily ever after. Ha!
At 15 I was a bit shy, but also outgoing. It sounds contradictory, I know. I got active in a lot of school activities. At one point, I was queen for my school and at another point, I ran for student council president, which I won. I was president of the youth department and quite active in the church and in the choir.
PG: 15-year olds tend to hate everything, what was going on in your world that you hated and wanted to change?
BBM: I hated the compulsory and believed restrictions my mom had on me. I come for a strict religious home, and so a lot of things my other 15 year old girl friends considered normal, were a luxury for me. For example, I was not allowed to wear pants. I was not allowed to go to parties. I was not allowed to hang out with boys. Makeup was an abomination. I was compelled to go to near daily church services, sing in the choir, lead or be a part of the youth ministry. Fast, pray. I didn’t like that I had to do those things and resented that. That led to my quite interesting and memorable rebellious teenage years. I cringe remembering.
PG: At 15, we always think it’s the worst of times; were they really the worst or were they the best of times?
BBM: It was neither, I would say. In hindsight, it was probably the easiest time in my life. Considering I didn’t have responsibilities at the time. It was also the most daring time, I think. I did not understand life. The forbidden seemed the best and tantalizing. Luring. It was a time of sneaking away with my friends and cousin to go on the beach, day time night clubs and long afternoons after school at Rivoli Cinema, watching long tear jerking movies. Ah, Snake Girl! Who remembers that movie?
It was also a time of fear, because we were constantly on the run from the many civil unrest in Liberia at the time. It was a time of uncertainty, of trying to be always ready to run at a moment’s notice.
It was a time of flirting (I didn’t know that was the name for the act back then. Hahaha) with cool looking boys and being daring by wearing calf length skirts. Scandalous, huh?
PG: What were the top 5 songs on your playlist at 15?
BBM: “Tomorrow robins will sing” by Stevie Wonder, “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston, “Practice what you preach” by Barry White, and “You mean the world to me” by Toni Braxton.
PG: What literary, movie or TV character did you identify most with at 15?
BBM: None really. I used to love reading those medieval novels and would like the stories, but hated the whole damsel in distress plot. To me, at the time, even then, seemed so helpless. I didn’t feel helpless.
Pop star maybe, I liked Madonna. She seemed cool. Uncaring of the world’s perception of her. She seemed to be living her life… on her terms. As someone who was internally rebelling against my parents, she seemed like a cool role model at the time. Ha!
PG: At 15, what was your idea of a dream job?
BBM: Hmm..I had not thought about a career, but I did see myself working in an office and giving instructions. All I knew at 15 was that at 25, I would be happy, with 2 kids, a boy and a girl. Married to a handsome man and live in a beautiful home.
PG: What were you reading at 15?
BBM: Gosh! Everything! Barbara Cartland, Danielle Steele, Jackie Collins, James Patterson, Encyclopedia, law books, Jeffery Archer, Sidney Sheldon…anything that was interesting.
PG: As far as high school stereotypes go, which category did you closely fit into?
BBM: Popular. Funny. Queen Bee. Clique leader. Instigator. I was many things, but never really a follower. Lol But I was never mean. Naughty to authorities, but never mean to my peers.
BBM: Today. Hahaha. I am many things and I like to tell people, “I am simply me”. What makes me successful is knowing how to interact with people, being a good listener, knowing how to motivate others to get the best out of them. Doing things that make me happy. Truly make me happy. Like writing when I can find the time. Today, I work as a Human Resources Practitioner and I also run a national nonprofit organization. I am a mother and a friend to a man I have cared for deeply from the day I saw him. I indulge in other activities that also make me happy, like finding ways to develop myself. Pushing myself to learn new things and to be a better version of myself.
PG: What achievement of yours would your 15-year old self be most proud of?
BBM: Perhaps being the mother I wanted my mom to be to me.
PG: Today, are you the person you thought you’d be at 15?
BBM: Yes I am. 15-year old Brenda would be smiling, grinning even, if she could see 35+ year old Brenda. She might even listen to an advice or two from “wise ole me”. Ha!
PG: If you could say anything to your 15-year old self, what would it be? (Your answer can be however long or however short, you wish it to be)
BBM: My mom always used to tell me, “The best years are ahead”. I didn’t believe her then, but now I do. So I would say to my 15 year old self, “the best years are truly ahead. Appreciate the now.”
There is no book to motherhood. You learn by experience, almost trial and error even, so go a bit easier on your mom. Adulthood is inevitable so no need to rush to be an adult. Enjoy the joys of childhood. The best years are ahead.
Interested in learning more about Brenda and her nonprofit, visit KEEP Liberia!
If you’re interested in being featured in Project GirlSpire’s #NoteToSelf series, email Sang at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tina at email@example.com!