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You’re More Than A Single Story

Written by: Bwalya Penza, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As I write this I am filled with excitement and inspiration, coming off the bat of watching a Ted Ex video of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, on the ‘single story’. As I listened and watched I identified so much with Ms. Adichie, I felt some kind of kinship with her. While she reached the realization at an early age that we don’t all have that single story, this fact has only dawned on me now, at the tender age of 40.

I’ve always wanted to write, but the story I have wanted to write has been a difficult one, surrounded by the pain and sadness of abuse, loneliness. Would anyone believe this story? Why is it so difficult for me to write it?

A few years ago, I attended a writers’ workshop where the facilitator offered to read a piece of our writing. Finally, I thought, it was time for my story to come out. When I shared it with her, she seemed disappointed. During the workshop, we had done several exercises and what she shared about me, was that I wrote very well from the voice of a child, so she had expected that would be my natural inclination. However, the piece I shared with her was dark and depressing, definitely not for the audience of a child. I was taken aback by this; ‘this is the story I’m meant to tell! This is me, why can’t she see that?’ I didn’t write again after that, not for a long while.

But as I listened to Ms. Adichie, it dawned on me that I was so hell bent on telling this single-story, that I could not see what others saw in me. Sure enough, this facilitator had boxed me into this category of children’s writer, and really anyone who knows me well would say that is a natural fit. In a way I also knew that this was true, but I was so adamant about sticking to my single story that I refused to see it at the time, and since then I have resisted my calling to work with children. I would start something child-centred and then as soon as it started to get real, I would take a step back. Say to myself, ‘do you really think this is going to work? Why would anyone bring their kids to you?’ Funny thing is, while spending time with children and going through the workshops with them, I’m in my element, loving every moment of it, and afterwards, I’m buzzing with ideas of what to do next. Then ‘reality’ sets in, really B, this is what you’re meant to do with your life is it? Then the conflict kicks in. ‘What about being the voice of the girl child? you never had someone fight your corner when you went through what you went through. What about all those girls you can help have a voice? Are you just going to abandon them? Then I stop in my tracks, and I do nothing. Until today, it hadn’t dawned on me that I didn’t have to write about all the bad stuff that happened to inspire children to live their best lives. It hadn’t dawned on me that it’s not necessary to go through darkness to appreciate the light. Until Ms. Adichie mentioned the struggling writer story, none of this had dawned on me.

I’m not going to deny the abuse I experienced as a child and say that it never happened, but I will acknowledge that that’s not my single story. I had so many happy joy-filled moments as a child. I just dwelled in the darkness like so many of us do, familiar in the pain of that story, and all that dwelling in the darkness did was bring me to different forms of darkness in the rest of the formative and later stages of my life. Today, I can declare that I am not a single story. I have the image of the dyed raffia basket Ms. Adichie mentioned in her talk, and I see that I am that basket, made from love and passion and creativity, woven from pain and hardship, but also from joy, laughter, and happiness. A beautiful creation with all these intertwined within me. I am grateful for this realization. I’m grateful to Ms. Adichie for sharing that story and her many stories. And to my friend Mwaba for sharing that Ted Ex talk with me.

I wrote this 5 years ago, and since then I have embraced my multiple stories, that honour the very essence of who I am. I work on projects empowering women and children. I have a thriving business, as a certified Adventures in Wisdom coach, I guide children on how to live their best lives by giving them tools on how to navigate through the ups and downs of life. As a certified Day Job to a Dream Job coach, I help adults to transition from their current job into the job (life) of their dreams. I write a coaching column for SKY Magazine a magazine that encourages teenage girls to stay true to themselves. I’m a contributor in Brainz Magazine. This year I wrote and published my first book (yes, a children’s book) called KASUBA’S INNER SAFARI QUEST: A Journey of Self-Discovery & Overcoming Your Fears by Being True to Yourself. The funny thing is, I feel like I’m only just getting started, there’s so much more that I want to do, so much more that I have to give.

What about you? What’s your story? I’m sure you have many stories to tell. For those of you that stick to that one single story, that dwells on that one moment that you feel shapes who you are. I want you to know that you are so much more than that. You are like that raffia basket with many stories both beautiful and sad woven into the wonderful creation that you are.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Bwalya Penza, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Bwalya is a certified Adventures in Wisdom Coach and author. She helps children to overcome their fears and be true to themselves through coaching and story, so that they can feel more confident and thrive. Children’s potential and ability to learn has been underestimated. Using story-based coaching, Bwalya gives them the tools to show them their own power by helping them trust and be guided by their inner compass, find direction and create a life they are really excited about.

She founded Inner Safari Quest to help children to rediscover their true selves, and just be.

"KASUBA'S INNER SAFARI QUEST: A Journey of Self-Discovery & Overcoming Your Fears by Being True to Yourself" is her first book, which she plans to turn into a series.

Her mission: Just Be, because being who you are is all that really matters.



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