I remember the first day I was introduced to womanhood. I was so excited about the idea of my body changing, developing, and transforming like the other girls’ bodies had in my class. They were obviously fuller and more developed in areas that were pleasing to my male classmates, whom I had discovered were attractive. Then there was me, a 107lb (wringing wet) young girl with darts in all my pants and tissue in the bra that my mom passed down to me, because I refused to go into the 9th grade wearing training bras.

But praise God! The struggle was finally over. Who knew a visit from “Aunt Flo” for the first time would bring such excitement! Lucky for me, my symptoms when shared with others in my class, were mild compared to the numerous sick days banked due to it being “that time of the mouth” for other female classmates.

For the first time, I FELT like a woman. I could already feel my boobs getting larger by the minute!(huge exaggeration, lol) My body was beginning to do some interesting things on the inside, as well as the outside, and I was ready to explore!

It wasn’t until my freshman year in college that I revisited what it meant to be a woman. I had managed to make it through high school with what some would consider a boring culmination of four years that offered little to no promiscuity. I had my fun, but thanks to my growing number of nieces and nephews, I knew my limits. I also had the pleasure of witnessing the residuals of poorly executed decisions that led to unplanned pregnancy and diseases for classmates and friends, which I knew I didn’t need at that age.

But college, you ask? It was Temptation Island, reeking with hormones and handsome MEN. Because you know, by that point, no one referred to themselves as teenagers anymore. We were GROWN men and women with more freedom than we needed, and a credit line just waiting to be depleted. Okay!!!!**slaps five.

My new wardrobe was stocked with shorter skirts and tighter dresses to accentuate my new found curves (which still wasn’t that much, lol) and noon was the time chosen to display the piece of art (that is me) down our college plaza for everyone to see. Boy, was I seen!

I was seen by every guy that my big brothers told me to stay far away from, and after a few short interactions filled with pleasantries and “game,” I was next in line as their prey. One bad move in the heat of the moment allowed me to be reintroduced to womanhood a second time. This time it was with a speculum inside my “you know what,” followed up with the dreadful question. “Did you use protection?”

“Oh my God what was I thinking?! I could be pregnant! I could have AIDS!!” That rang through my mind, louder than ever. Some things never seem real, until it’s your REALITY. And even in that moment of questionable fate, I knew one thing. I was NOT ready to be someone’s mom.

Some things can’t ever be explained, besides it being GRACE and MERCY that covers us all, even when we don’t deserve it.

I turned 31 years old a month ago and could not help but reflect on how much I’ve grown over the last 10 years since graduating from college. It’s interesting to see how life and wisdom has offered me different/new perspectives about womanhood. As a kid, you see things surface level, not because you’re ignorant, but more because you don’t know, what you don’t know. You’re naïve and see the world exactly as it portrays itself to be.

When I was 13 years old, womanhood was merely looking the part, and in my world that was having the “boom-boom-pow” body. At 21 years old, it was understanding what it meant to be a female on the inside along with acknowledging the consequences that goes with it.

At 31 you ask? It’s so much more than that.

I find womanhood to be all of those things mentioned above, but also having a strong sense of who you are and what you stand for. It’s having strength and resilience to withstand the struggle that comes with being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. It’s having self-love and being extremely intentional about how you treat yourself and how you allow others to treat you. It’s walking with your head held high with a confidence that no one can take away from you.

Womanhood is about taking care of YOU first, understanding that your overall well-being is critical to the lives of those cared for the most.