Chris

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She said, “it sounds like abuse to me.”
“Well,” I said, “it didn’t feel like abuse to me. Particularly because I initiated it.”
“But she was older!”
“Yeah, but not that much older. She must have been 18 or 19.” I said. “I was lingering around teenage.”
“Still,” she insisted, “that was abuse.”
I shrugged nonchalantly. “I didn’t feel abused, to be honest.”
“Of course, you were a child.”
“It was an adventure.” I insisted. “An improper adventure.”
She rolled her eyes and said abuse can’t be an adventure.

She was referring to a story I did here many moons ago about how me – and, really, a generation of boys in the 80s – had a little nookie with the domestic help. That our initiation into sex was most likely with a live-in domestic help. She was horrified by it, made me feel like a victim. I wasn’t, to be honest. I was the aggressor, as aggressive as a 12-year old can be.
She then confessed that she was abused. I said, “Whaat?!” The reason I was shocked was because I foolishly imagined that the abused would somehow wear the scars on them, that they would exhibit tell-tale signs, something to show the effect of the abuse. She seemed well adjusted; driven, well spoken, confident and decisive. The only “odd” thing, if you pressed me to identify, was that she was a serial loner. Those people who go on holidays alone for a week, only carrying a book and sunscreen and not talking to anyone other than to say, “Can I have another mojito, please?” Or those people who can stay in the house for a whole week, not leaving, not talking to anyone, not staring out the window. (Hello, Pat, knock the wall if you are alive). Or people who drink Gin.
The plan was for me to write her story, but then she’s a closeted writer, so I asked her to have a crack at it. It could be therapeutic, I said. “Pour it on paper,” I urged. “Let it stain it.”
***
This isn’t a sad story. At least because I don’t see it as such. But it’s a story that starts with a penis, an erect penis that I first saw months before my sixth birthday. It was a houseboy’s penis. He catered to a house belonging to Brian, my then friend. My childhood was normal; we played, we threw rocks, we caught bugs, we slept, we ate, we had birthday parties and we spent days convincing each other that one party was bigger than the other. We were kids.
I was closest to Brian, mainly because he lived adjacent to us and thus we spent more time together either in our house or theirs even though my mother was against it. She always insisted that we keep the playing outside and not inside anyone’s house, but I rebelled.
If I could go back and change anything in my life, I’d go back to the morning in question. It was a school holiday and my mum, headed to work, left strict instructions for me not to leave the house as it was raining. After lunch I decided to break the rules and go look for Brian. He was in bed sleeping, their houseboy – let’s call him Mtu – suggested that I stay and wait for him to wake up. Prior to this, Mtu had gone unnoticed. I don’t remember much about him as a person other than he always had sweets on him, particularly Goody Goody, which we all loved and he’d give them out every now and then.
Mtu asked me to join him on the couch where he was seated. Adults scared me, I knew disobedience was grounds for beating and any adult at the time could do it. So when he asked, I did. I don’t remember the particulars of Mtu; if he was blind in one eye, if he had a limp, if he had all his fingers, or if he wore shorts or trousers. All these features belong to a memory lost but what I do remember, is shape, size and colour of his erect penis. Which he held and stroked while I sat next to him.
Though I wasn’t looking at him directly, I could tell what was going on in my periphery. His movements were slow, his breathing was heavy and he kept inching closer to me. I remember it feeling like I was intruding on a private moment and wanting to leave, but I never did. I just sat, quietly.
After a while, there was silence. He had stopped moving and his breathing was normal again. I thought whatever he was doing was over and I was now free to leave. So when I turned to look at him, wanting to ask if I could, I found his eyes on me which was disconcerting. I stood to leave, but he reached for my arm and pulled me to him. To it, and asked me to touch it. I remember hesitating and pulling back but his grip grew tighter.
The mind is mysterious in how it chooses to recall some things and forget others because…I remember him telling me that it’s ok to touch, that Brian did it all time. But despite that information, I was still reluctant. I remember him threatening to tell my mother and I’m not sure why that sounded like something I should be scared of.
I remember holding it, but I don’t know for how long, a minute? Two perhaps? Maybe more? But however long, it was enough for him to move my hand up and down. I remember feeling his other hand on my thigh and his fingers walking up. I remember feeling afraid, apprehensive, teary and confused.
I don’t remember how long it went on for though, or exactly what happened after. Or what made him stop because he suddenly did. Even though I actively tried to never be alone with him after that afternoon, I failed, because I remember it happened a couple more times.
The art of keeping secrets, is it innate or learned? Why are some people good at it and some people really bad at it? Are those that are good, become it, as a result of not wanting to share their lives?
Whatever the case, that was my first secret, among so many others.
My mother and I soon moved from where we were in shags, and into the city. Her for the job opportunities, me to join class one. As soon as I joined school though, I realized that I didn’t like it. It was not for me, there were too many people, too many nosy kids who wanted to know every aspect of my life. When I didn’t satisfy their curiosity, they tormented me by following me around and questioning me incessantly. They kept an intruding eye on me and everything I did or said until I broke down or cried or both.
I couldn’t blame them though because I was that kid; reclusive and defiant and I hated social interactions. I preferred being around adults than my peers and this is what led me to spend quite a lot of time with, The Couple. Since my mum worked late on most days, I was required to stay over at her friend’s house, a neighbour whom she’d gotten close to in our new neighbourhood.
Hellen was a short, light-skinned, Luhya woman who loved to chatter and would do so ceaselessly. She would weave mundane stories and make the experiences exciting. I didn’t mind since we complemented each other due to the fact that I barely spoke. I mostly communicated via head nods and head shakes and occasional chuckles.
Hellen had a boyfriend, Chris, a stout looking Congolese man with a penchant for loud shirts. Many evenings after school, I’d head over to Hellen’s to finish my homework and help her with her chores. She’d regale me with stories of her day. Chris would chime in with stories of his own and they’d banter on and on as though I wasn’t there.
I enjoyed being the third wheel. I still do.
They were quite childlike those two. They liked having fun and would chase each other around the house while giggling. They also spoilt me. Their movie collections included those that I loved to watch, Jumanji, Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, and Sister Act 1&2. They had plenty of snacks that my mum was against me eating often due to the sugar rush. (One bite of chocolate or a few biscuits later and I would be climbing the wall.)
We often took long walks on Saturdays, sightseeing the town we lived in. They loved listening to Koffi Olomide and would often dance to his tunes, they taught me how to dance Ndombolo, which I’m still quite good at. They spoke French fluently but it was Chris who introduced me to the basics. Hellen taught me how to cook and eat mrenda and matumbo.
Sundays, after church, were reserved for watching movies and gorging on ice cream.
I was happy with them and slowly I could feel myself thaw and let loose. While in school or elsewhere, I would look forward to being nowhere else but in their house and always made sure that I spent as much of my free time as I could with them.
In addition to the fact that they were always together, they also loved touching each other. Whenever I stole glances, I’d either find Chris’ hand in her blouse, or Hellen’s hand on or in his pants. They also didn’t seem to mind going at it on the couch while I sat inches away.
I remember being curious about what they were doing or why listening to them felt arousing ( I didn’t understand that what I felt was arousal until much later).
They never at one point forced anything on me.
They were quite cognizant of the fact that I was uncomfortable when touched. So they made sure that I was pretty comfortable whenever I was around them. And so over time, I’d gotten used to watching them go at it or do their thing and I would simply ignore.
Now, I’m not sure if everything that happened after had been planned from the start, or if things just unfolded as they did. Initially, my only participation in this peculiar triad was my observation, like the philosopher who was sent up to observe and document the Hindu lovers. I was OK with that as long as they didn’t involve me, but all that changed one evening.
It was Chris who called me to the bedroom one evening after school, he had bought me dresses and he wanted me to try them on. (He was always buying me things). He asked If I could change into the new dresses. I hesitated but eventually I took off all my clothes except my undies and began to try on the ones he had. Then, I didn’t have breast for a bra, but they were there.
It was while I was trying on a ridiculous complicated black and lace dress that I felt a finger touch my nipple. I remember feeling jolted at the foreign touch. A bit awkward.He stopped immediately when I stepped back and took off the dress (which was still stuck atop my head) and placed it on the bed he was sitting on.
When I started leaving the bedroom he promised that he wouldn’t do it again. I believed him, and through the trying of the five dresses, he talked about his day and marveled at how nice the dresses looked on me and more talk about his work and he asked me how school was. After, I put my dress back on and we went back to the living room where Hellen was setting up dinner.
Though he kept his word and didn’t touch me that night, I remember being distracted at how nice I felt when he touched my nipple. When I look back to those moments, I realize, their method of, what I later learned as sexual abuse, was a slow burn. Calculated so well that I didn’t feel intruded upon. I felt like I was part of their relationship.
My curiosity after that evening was spiked. I wanted to know what that feeling was and I wanted to know if that is what they did when they touched each other. But, without asking, I sought it. I stopped seating inches to the TV and joined them on the couch.
As time went by, there were many episodes of Chris playing with my breasts while we watched TV. Of Hellen stroking my inner thighs. Of the pressure and pleasure of a finger inside me. Plenty of time, Chris would start touching me but finish off with her.
Then I remember starting to feel envious and wondering why he paid her more attention. I remember wanting more attention. I remember being available and not coiling away when attention was given to me. We spent many evenings and weekends doing these things I knew were wrong because I was not allowed to tell anyone.
Then Chris died. I remember attending his funeral. I remember seeing the adults mourn his death. I mourned him in private, feeling sad, like I lost someone special to me. I mourned him in private because he was another secret I had. By the time I was joining boarding school in class 5 I had retracted into my old shell. Kids around me seemed shallow and simple. I felt I didn’t fit. I was tired of being a child and treated as such.
I remember internally lashing out and pushing wanna be friends and teachers away. I kept to myself. Rarely spoke unless spoken to. Head shakes and head nods became a fluent language of mine. I was quiet and distant and I think because of it, or because I was just a good target, I was bullied quite a lot and in different ways.
All the items I went to school with were stolen. I occasionally found my books missing from my desk. I more than once went to bed only to find my mattress in the bathroom section. I missed Chris and Hellen a lot and I don’t know whether it was their loss or my bullying but I cried myself to sleep most nights. Since my crying was audible, I was taunted for it the next day.
Loneliness and I grew pretty close. I know her better than I know the alternative. I was miserable and hated being alive. I was a coward to do it myself but if anyone offered to off me, I wouldn’t have stopped them. But no one offered. So I lived.
Time passed; past high school, college and now I’m in my 30s. The pain faded but the memories are well hidden under my skin, behind my smiles and under my laughter. I speak in the past tense, not because I am healed, but because in the journey of my healing, I have learnt that life is one big wheel. Half of the wheel is made up of the bad and the other half is good. Just like a wheel, life is much better and less stressful if you don’t hold it but rather let it move.
So would I change my past? No. But Maya Angelou said it best. – You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that, I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
So instead of wanting to change the past, I would like to use my experiences to inject some positivity to anyone who feels like their past really screwed their present.

***
Mine will be small. I have two announcements today.
*Taps microphone*.
First, all those people sitting on chairs meant for visitors. Please, let’s be hospitable to our visitors and vacate those seats.
Second. Safaricom is sponsoring the next Online Creative Writing Masterclass kicking off for five whole days between 20th – 24th of this month. (Assuming you are reading this in July 2020). To register please email [email protected]
Lastly, I have taken over the blog section of Fairtrade Africa for the next three months. I will be writing stories about coffee, cocoa and bananas and things. But with people in them…preferably drinking coffee or holding a banana. Or both. But you never know. We are calling it Friday Story Box. Check out the first entry

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95 Comments
  1. First, all those people sitting on chairs meant for visitors. Please, let’s be hospitable to our visitors and vacate those seats. “watu wa nyumbani wasimame waachie watu wa nairobi viti na soda”

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  2. “But Maya Angelou said it best. – You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that, I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” My take home….

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  3. Children must be protected. When I read stories like this, it makes me understand why my mum was hostile to anyone and everyone (adults, save for family) who tried to be friendly to us as kids. Come home with sweets from whoever and she would demand to know who this person was. You would point her in their direction and off we would go. This person would get a scathing reading and the sweets would be returned to this ‘potential child abuser’

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  4. I like how she ends her story, positive vibes and accepting that the past is what it is. It’s more like a line I really love, ‘We are the fruit of what we’ve done and what has been done to us, as you turn the page do better today than you did yesterday.’

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  5. Sigh, sigh, sigh.
    As I lay in bed today morning, I was having a conversation with myself and I remember being excited that today was Tuesday because I get to read Biko. Reading Biko is always a/the highlight of my Tuesdays. I had promised myself not to comment today because it’s getting addictive, but here I am.

    Thankyou so much for sharing your story with us. You know a few days ago, a friend of mine was talking to me about how sometimes we are abused by people close to us but we don’t realise that it’s abuse because they are close to us.

    She gave me an example of a partner who pressures you to have sex with them since you’ve been seeing each other for ‘long’ and they therefore feel entitled to having sex with you despite the fact that you say you’re not ready. Or a partner who has sex with you when you are drunk.
    This conversation got me thinking a lot and now this story has me going back to those thoughts

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    1. Sadly though everyone always presents it like the boychild is always but the aggressor and never a victim. I bet Brian’s experience went unnoticed to most of us

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    2. You guys attach too many conditions to sex, this thing should just be had……when you are drunk and excited, mtu asikule mbegu?

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  6. Sexual abuse is the most guarded and most regretful sin, meaning SEX is more than just PHYSICAL..

    It’s unfair to destroy a minor’s childhood while you enjoyed yours…

    Childhood scars should not define but we can use them to REFINE us and other people.

    Nice piece BIKO

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  7. Hmmm, insightful reading…i have recently started a column, published weekly in a newspaper…on GBV. this story resonates some i have published. The world is sick. My heart bleeds.

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  8. 9 out of 10 girls will tell you a similar story. Its unfortunate but these days I’m actually surprised if I hear a woman in her 20s or 30s say she’s never gone through sexual abuse. We are older now and we can’t tell If the abuse affected us in any way, yet in the back of our minds we constantly ask ourselves what if, who would I have become. The question that only matters now is what are we doing about it

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    1. You’re absolutely right! As long as we’re ok now, in our 40s…I guess we survived it but the question lingers..what if!

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  9. ….”I would like to use my experiences to inject some positivity to anyone who feels like their past really screwed their present.”

    …preferably drinking coffee or holding a banana. Or both….the things that make me laugh aki Hahaha

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  10. Abuse… Funny that no matter how old we get we remember the strains of each episode. But your perspective is healing, it’s healed me actually. I shudder for parents, how do you protect your kids?:/

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  11. Read this while stealing glances at the photo of my 2 year old daughter which is on my desk.
    For sure its most painful to the young girl but as a parent I do not know how much I will have to swallow if this ever happens to her.
    Good read SB as usual.

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  12. ‘… Or those people who can stay in the house for a whole week, not leaving, not talking to anyone, not staring out the window.’ Yes

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  13. Yiiippppeeee!!
    Thanks for the shout out Biko on Friday Story Box series! We are thrilled to undertake this journey with you.

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  14. I do pray you heal before you cause damage. Those adults took away something very special from you. ‪Maybe people have to be taught the psychology of sex cravings….stolen sex is adrenaline driven till it’s free.‬

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  15. Is there a pro parent?
    I am not a parent yet but this makes me feel like parenting is a game of chance. It takes luck to have the right people take care of your children. But the Christian that I am is reminded of God in heaven…!

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  16. I can’t imagine a lady is actively leading on young girl to be abused. I thought she would protect. Maybe I am from Mars! Huh.

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  17. This conversation of sexual abuse shakes me to the core! As a parent there is only so much you can do to protect your child. Truth is, you cannot be with your kids 24/7. I am glad you can talk about it. More grace to you!

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  18. My heart bleeds for you, the young you, but I am happy that you are on this journey of healing. I am also traumatised, or scarred, one of those, but definitely terribly sad. I have a daughter of my own, 4 years, who is with the house help more hours than she is with me. Only God can protect our children…

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  19. You are so captivating.I read so intently to the end.Sad how instead of mentoring and inspiring,relevant people choose abuse.Worse still is that,they are the least suspects.
    Oh,i pray we individually change the narrative by each of us deciding in our guts to stay true to self.

  20. It’s hard to accept such a past but it doesn’t help to keep digging up old wounds. I’ve found new strength reading your story and my wish that I could change my own past has been silenced by the inspiration of your positivity. It never really heals because of the memory but as you said keep the wheel rolling. Thank you.

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  21. Every man existing today was formed by the child he once was.
    Your child could be very good at being GOOD,
    Or very good at being BAD.
    That depends on what you expose them to.

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  22. Thank you Biko. This was my take home today.

    Maya Angelou said it best. – You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there.

    Everything influences each of us, and because of that, I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.

  23. This story scared me and made me very very sad. I think child predetors make parenting very hard and I think alot of times we take for granted the need to be overly protective over our children.

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  24. Of the 33 odd seats reserved in hell, number 1 to 10 are purposely reserved for child abusers and molesters.

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  25. Eventually, you believe that you either were a lesser person for such things to have happened to you or that it was meant to steal whatever future you would have wanted with an imaginary partner. Thank you for your story.

  26. I once worked in some of the slums here in Nairobi and the stories I heard about child abuse still give me shivers to date. Nowadays it’s not just girls that parents need to look out for but boys as well. And child molesters are no longer male but also female. It’s not just adults who abuse kids but older kids are sexually abusing younger kids when they go for sleepovers, in school, when playing even or when visiting each other.
    I always tell people to teach your children not just girls but also boys that no one should that certain touches are bad and if anyone ever touches them they should report to mummy or daddy. Teach kids to never let anyone touch certain parts of their body. Most cases of defilement first happen in the home by family members. Teach them not to ever be scared to tell even when they are threatened that something bad will happen. Most importantly teach kids that when someone tells them its a secret, they can always tell mummy or daddy.
    Some family friends taught their children from when they were 3 years that they should never allow anyone to undress them unless its mummy or daddy. The mother to those kids does not allow anyone to bathe them unless its her or their father.

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  27. First, for the love of all things good, DO NOT EAT BANANA AND DRINK COFFEE – you will fart for eternity!!
    Second, the abuse story resonates with many and I believe the woman was groomed to perfection! it’s one of those societal evils buried under carpets and I try to dismantle them in my weekly blog http://www.thingsihear.co.uk check it out.
    I love Biko and one day he will look for me. Until then keep safe, COVID is the devil!

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  28. You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there.

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  29. “…I remember him telling me that it’s ok to touch, that Brian did it all time.”

    Abuse also happens to Boys by male house helps. It happened to me. It’s still a secret.

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  30. Things that when we remember and comprehend as adults, bring an eerie feeling and sometimes leads to withdrawal.

  31. As I read this story I felt like someone had, in my sleep, opened up parts of my brain, captured them and sealed it silently, only for me to wake up to it on this post. I especially identify with being the loner that this character is.
    I like this story.

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  32. Life is going to knock you down sometimes, and that’s ok. But what’s not ok is when you let life keeping you down…….

  33. ‪Get those uncomfortable toad bumps out the way.‬ Where is your mother as all these things are going on? Is she now aware since you have decided to open up.

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    1. Easier said than done Sherry. We all heal differently and not so easy going to your parent especially if you aren’t close or have set certain expectations of yourself in their eyes

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  34. This broke my heart. People need to do better and be better. Guardians should also be more aware of who they trust with their kids. I’m glad she chose to focus on the positive ♥

  35. This one made me sad, brought up some old wounds which i thought i’ve healed from but….. fudge! I’m not going to cry today the sun is bright and beautiful 🙂

  36. What a sad story. Many women have history of abuse that they have kept secret. Trouble being it significantly affects their present and future life. Many problems like trust issues affecting unions today are borne out of past abuses. unhealed wounds. I urge women to seek God. He presents the best healing platform

  37. Brian is probably somewhere, after thoroughly being abused repeatedly by Mtu, a person carrying wounds he’ll never recover from. Because he is a guy and guys don’t talk about these things. Let’s look for Brian.

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  38. Amazing..looks like most children are abused and lied to that it’s their own mistake yet it isn’t…similar to the book Blue by Danielle Steel….it has a similar genre

  39. “Just like a wheel, life is much better and less stressful if you don’t hold it but rather let it move”
    felt that

  40. As I read this, I imagined of my soon to be 6 year old and said a sient prayer for her. I also remembred growing up and all the stuff I have kept secret to date. This one hit too close to home for unrsolved traumas.

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  41. You know Biko,I grew up in a children’s home-a boys only children’s home- and the director used to crawl into our beds at night. Some shit I thought I had gotten over but now I’ve just lost my appetite.

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  42. This was so deep for me “So would I change my past? No. But Maya Angelou said it best. – You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that, I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
    So instead of wanting to change the past, I would like to use my experiences to inject some positivity to anyone who feels like their past really screwed their present.”