"we started from the bottom” but you have a family crest...

the art of owning your story

Picture this.

It’s 2012 and you’ve just rushed home from a long and mentally draining day of Year 9. Life is hard but blissful. You dive onto the couch and practice how you’re going to tell your mum that you’ve already obliterated your new Kickers. The ones that were supposed to last the whole year, and it’s only October.

To calm your nerves, because she’ll be home in precisely 1 hour and 24… oh sorry 23 mins, you switch on the TV and press 609 on the Sky remote. You’re just in time to catch the closing minutes of a ground-breaking piece of cinematic history: Let It Shine. You witness the most legendary rap battle of the 21st century and… actually you can see this for yourself (video above).

22-year-old me now looks back at the movie and realises that all Cyrus, a.k.a. Truth, was doing was job shaming even though a taxi driver probably earned more than a busboy. Anyways…

The issue that Truth had was that Lord of Da Bling wasn’t being truthful (see what I did there). He wasn’t living up to the life he proclaimed. And uni was my first experience of this.

Fresher’s week was the perfect time for a new uni student to start their reinvention arc. Josiah and Aaron were now J1 and A-Fizzy. Guys who spent most of sixth form and college in the library were stating that they were “known in ends” and we should “go and ask about them”. We all know that infamous Ghetts video.

People clung to this struggle aesthetic but when they went home for Christmas and Easter, I was seeing places that I didn’t even know were in the UK. ‘Shire’ this and ‘Farm’ that.

“I’m basically from London”. No, you’re from Hertfordshire, Surrey, Slough, Kent, and Essex.

All jokes aside, I remember telling someone an idea I had for a spoken word video. He told me that this was very “raw and gritty”, so I needed to shoot it outside of a council estate. However, I had an issue with this.

I’ve never lived or grown up in a council estate/flat. Now, I’m not saying I think I’m better than anyone because I haven’t experienced this or trying to devalue anyone who has lived in council housing. I’m simply stating that this isn’t my reality.

Someone’s reality isn’t my aesthetic. I remember my sister saying this to me. I’ve grown up in Ghana, Crawley, Birmingham, Enfield, Waltham Cross, Dagenham, and Basildon. That’s my reality. I can’t talk about anything else outside of what I’ve lived and experienced.

Guys were talking about spending nights on the strip. BRO, your mum had you in church every day of the week. And I would know because I was there too.

Owning your story is accepting the fact that it may not be the normative example of living for people who look/act/are like you. But it’s yours.

Owning your story is being comfortable with your past, present, and potential future. You don’t have to change this to fit into someone’s pre-crafted mould of what you should be like.

You’re from Shropshire. The closest you’ve been to “ends” is bumping into a Top Boy character at Glastonbury. And that’s okay.

Your story is enough. Your story is complete. It doesn’t need embellishment.

One must not only accept their story but embrace it. Live it. It made you what you are. It moulded you.

The quicker you embrace and own your story, the quicker you discern what spaces and people you are comfortable being your true self around.

As I grow older, I’ve come to realise that my story is what is it. It’s mine. Without any additions or gaps missing, it is still wholesome, and it is still valuable. It may speak to someone else’s life, or it may not. Either way, it’s still worth telling and holding onto.

You don’t have to rap along to Meek Mill and say you started from the bottom when you know you’re trust fund could pay off someone's mortgage. Own it, be proud of it and find out ways in which your story can be a help to others. To those who relate to it and to those who may not have been fortunate to have the story you did.

This week, consider one aspect of your life that you’ve either kept hidden or not been so truthful about. And if you’re confident enough, tell one person the real story.

Example. You used to tell people you were bad in school. An animal. Uncontainable. But in reality, when it was time to write a statement about an incident, you were asking the Assistant Head for more paper. You would go back to class acting like the man. If anyone asked you why you were so late in coming back you would say, “They tried to get me to snitch but I couldn’t snake you man.” These times you’ve already given up their mum’s National Insurance number. Extreme, but you get the picture. Try it this week and let me know how it goes.

I wrote a piece called “My Story” and you can have a listen to get some sort of idea about who I am. But until next time, take care everyone.

Love, Peace, & Blessings


As I Grow Older
As I Grow Older
Abaka Debrah