KIM EMENIKE - "I Am Unstoppable!"
"Barriers in my opinion are designed to be overcome" - Kim Emenike for PWR Issue 03
PHOTOGRAPHER: ESI MONGO | STYLIST: STEPHANIE HUMPHREY | CREATIVE DIRECTOR: JEDIDAH M. | SET DESIGN: REMA KAHSAY | MUA: ANGELA JOAO
Recent graduate from Loughborough University and now government employee, Kim Emenike, shares with us some of her experiences of being a care leaver and how resilience plays into her drive and ambition. At 23, she reflects back on some of the hardship she has faced and expresses how she can now use her journey to touch other people’s lives.
PWR: Describe yourself in 3 words.
KE: Ambitious. Tenacious. Hardworking.
PWR: What does resilience mean to you and can you share an experience where you had to be resilient?
KE: Resilience to me is a mindset, I would argue that it is a state mind in which someone is facing some form of hardship, adversity or obstacles and irrespective of these external forces they keep going. I would definitely say resilience is more looking at external forces/constrains that you can’t control that one may experience and they don’t allow it to get the best of them and they use it as motivation to keep going. An experience of where I have had to be resilient…Oh my goodness, where do I start? I would say my life…even post university, post being in the care system. My life generally. I think life is about demonstrating resilience, life in itself is a journey so with journeys there’s highs and lows, just everything. But to pinpoint one experience, it’d definitely be either living in a hostel or going through university. I would definitely say post-16 was that period of my life. So, from about 17 to about 22, that time was probably where I had to demonstrate resilience at its most. When I look back, at the age of 17, I was a baby, I was a child! When I look at 17-year-olds now and people at first year of university, I still feel like they are children. I look at them so young and naïve with not much experience of the world or of reality. Being that age and also having to face hardship of what people some of my age wouldn’t have to be dealing with, definitely demonstrates resilience. When I look at it, at that point if the average person was in my position, they would have given up. When I was living in a hostel, I remember some residents had extreme mental health issues, three of them had just come out of prison for various crimes. One had just come out of prison for attempted murder, someone else had a rape charge, somebody else for robbery…like I was around vulnerable people who are under the age of 25. But they were all in that limbo stage where they didn’t really know what they were doing with their life. So, for me to be in that environment and still have to work through doing my A-levels, I even had a part time job at one point. It was tough doing four A levels whilst working. Being the only person in that [hostel] who wanted to go to university, at that point in your life you need as much motivation as you can get. I had to be my own self driving force. I had to drag myself out of bed every day and say, ‘look you’re going to school, you’re going to the library.’ I really had to push myself to do that. I definitely had to be resilient. When I was living in one hostel, it was infested with mice. My biggest fear is rats and mice! Imagine. There was no wifi. Imagine trying to do your A Levels without wifi? It’s mission impossible. I had limited resources; I was at a disadvantage to everyone else that lived at home. I could not afford to pay for wifi. The goal was I had to get to university because going to uni was my way out of the system. I wouldn’t have to come back to this same environment [the hostel]. I had to be tenacious. You just have to keep going. I had to get to university, there was no other option for me.
PWR: What advice would you share with care leavers that you wish you had heard?
KE: Positive advice as well as realistic advice. Firstly, you’re going to face obstacles and hardship and the journey of your life will be different o the average person. There’s definitely going to be times when you feel down or where you’re not motivated. Or you experience an obstacle and you won’t know how to overcome it. Had I known, I would have been able to better prepare myself to get the right help and support. On the back of that I’d also highlight that all these obstacles, hardships and hurdles; one it’s a part of life and two you can overcome them. These barriers in my opinion are designed to be overcome. I wish I was told there were obstacles but you can overcome them. Sometimes people give up because they don’t realise that with the right help and support you can overcome adversity. I am a big believer in signposting people to different organisations and platforms. There is so much help and support out there but people do not know about them. I wish people had put me in contact with charities or others that have had similar experiences to myself. Or put me in contact with people who are ambitious and have a similar background to myself, you know, black and a care leaver, just to give me some inspiration. I think a lot of care leaves lack inspiration and it’s because we don’t have enough role models in this system. Also find your passion and pursue it. Aim for the top. The sky is the limit. If you work hard you will be successful, it’s all about that winners mindset and telling yourself you can do it. Something I always say to myself is ‘I am unstoppable.’ I believe in words of affirmation. Use your obstacles that you have overcome in the past to motivate you to keep going and exceed additional obstacles that may come your way. Once you come out of a situation, you come out stronger because that situation did not defeat you. I wish someone told me this when I was younger.
PWR: What are you looking forward to when lockdown begins to ease?
KE: Gurrl! This list is so long I don’t even know where to start and finish. I am itching for a worship night. I want free space, just on your knees, crying and worshiping. When you think about what we have actually been through in this past season… The fact that for me personally, no one in my family has died. Some people have contracted it, and even my cousin, she contracted it and she was pregnant. They had to put her into a coma, take the baby out of her and couple days later she woke up and that, I give God the glory because that in itself is a miracle. Throughout this pandemic I have been able to finish my degree, came out with a 2:1, I’ve got a job in government, I’ve got my own flat, I’ve been furnishing. The fact that all my friends have got jobs…there’s just so much to thank God for, this season has been a hard season. There have been trials and tribulations, but God has been a Promise Keeper. Also, I’m ready to eat at every restaurant. I just want to sit down, dress and heels and enjoy. I just need to eat. I just want to be able to see my friends and family and hopefully everyone has the vaccine and just not feel that fear of ‘oh my gosh, I can’t see you’ or ‘i’m breaking rules’. I can’t lie, sis needs a holiday! I’m excited to do anything and everything. It’s that fear of the unknown that I want to wake up and not worry about.
PWR: What helps you to keep going to stay motivated and 'resilient'?
KE: I’d always say my faith. Being a Christian I know there is hope, light at the end of the tunnel. It helps me realise that I’m going through something now but I’m going to come out great. That story is going to be my testimony and it’s going to touch so many people’s lives. I believe that I don’t go through these things by accident or in vain. I know there’s a reason and it’s linked to my purpose. My second reason is my purpose and goals. I am a goal setter, so, for me when I am in hardship or facing an obstacle, I know that there is a goal that I need to achieve. It doesn’t matter if I take route A, B or C, I’m going to find a way to reach that goal. That’s what keeps me going because I know that reaching that goal either betters my life or somebody else’s. When people have a goal, a direction and purpose, it is so much easier to keep going because you know what you’re going through is for a specific reason.
PWR: Name a book, movie, or show where a character has had to persevere through the odds, essentially being resilient.
KE: We cannot speak about resilience or beating the odds without talking about The Pursuit of Happiness. That movie from beginning to the end! I’m pretty sure I watched that movie when I was 7 years old. I’m 23 now and I still remember every single thing that happens. [Will Smith] just wants to achieve something, sell the machines and try to get a job. He literally went through obstacles. I remember one scene where he and Jaden were sitting in the toilets, but that didn’t stop him. I think Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happiness, hands down. That movie touched me different, because wow, the power of continuing!
PWR: Any final notes that you’d like to share?
KE: Just to keep going. Have mentors, a team of advisers. One of my biggest regrets is not speaking out about the issues, the trauma and the abuse that I went through. If anyone is in a situation where they feel they can’t speak out or experience something they know isn’t right, please speak out! Do not suffer in silence! There is funding, there are resources, there are people, there are organisations…there’s so much out there, you just need to connect with someone that knows and that can help.