Akunna Ofodu Doesn’t Take No for an Answer
Often times you see people living out there dreams and you silently tell yourself that life must be easier for that person. You reason that, of course, if you were given the same circumstances they were given then you would be living the dream too. But ten times out of nine, life was not and is not easier for that person you see reaching their goals, rather their predicament and accomplishments are the results of never taking no for an answer and never giving up.
Like so many, Akunna Ofodu planned to go to law school immediately after graduating with her first degree. Yet the semester before she graduated college, her plan quickly became seemingly impossible to achieve. But, with perseverance and faith she made her dreams a reality.
Her tests and trials throughout her life, thus far, are sure to remind you that nothing is impossible when you choose to keep going despite your obstacles.
You’re the oldest of 6, what was it like growing up in your household?
I grew up in an upper middle class, predominantly white, area in Kansas City, Missouri. As a Nigerian American, growing up in a Nigerian household my parents made sure that my siblings and I had a proper upbringing, infused with Nigerian culture. As the oldest and the first daughter, there was an immense amount of responsibility for me to be the “second-in-command” to my mother. My parents instilled in me that I should always take care of my siblings and our home. I was taught that everything I do is for my family and that I am the primary example for my siblings. My mother always told me that (God forbid) if she dies tomorrow, I would have to be the parent and that I should live my life in preparation to hold down the house. When I was younger I hated having that pressure on me, but as I have gotten older, I understand how it shaped me to always want to do really great things so that my younger siblings would follow suit.
Growing up, did you struggle with any insecurities? If so, how did you overcome them or how are you currently dealing with them?
I struggled with many insecurities and to this day I still have them. As I mentioned, the area that I grew up in was predominately white. The people that lived in my town weren't exposed to different cultures, which caused them to be ignorant towards me and my family. My name is Ozichi Akunnaya Ofodu, my dad refused for me to have an English name. From the third grade until around high-school, I hated my name. People would make fun of it. They would say that my parents watched Lion King before they named me. I would pronounce my name in a way that was more comfortable for those around me. I eventually learned more history of my name and the reason I was given the name, which helped me learn to love it and embrace it.
Like most young women, I struggled with my body and being “pretty.” My body developed pretty quickly. I was the tallest black girl in my class. I was taller than everyone. I always had braids and developed breasts faster than anyone in my class. I distinctly remember one of my elementary teachers telling me that I was “too big” to play around with my classmates and that I should relax. Once I got to middle school, I was too tall and too ugly for any boy to like me. I constantly heard that I should “go back to the zoo” and was always told to bend my knees in pictures in order to give the illusion that I wasn’t as tall as I was at the time. In high school I was “badly built” and would find it difficult for any black boy to like me because I didn't have the hips and butt that they liked. I let the words of others around me determine how I looked at myself.
Today, I still find myself bending my knees and sucking in my stomach so that I look more desirable. My friends, my family and my faith are how I got over my insecurities. My family and friends noticed how my insecurities were taking a hold of my life and constantly reminded me that I am more than enough. Once I learned that God made no mistake in how I am and that I am wonderfully made, it became easier to embrace and appreciate everything about me. I realized that I was worthy of love and was already loved by God. I, of course, have moments where I don't feel as pretty, or wish I was shorter, but then I remember how much better the air smells as a tall woman!
You graduated from college last year, how did your college experience impact who you are today?
My college experience was probably the most impactful season of my life. I changed each year and who I am today is far from who I was when I started school. I developed my relationship with God and learned about the kind of woman that I am and the kind of woman that I aspire to be.
The most impactful experience in college would be my senior year. I have always believed in God, but my senior year was a time where I was angry with him and lost my faith in God. At the beginning of 2015, I was denied by a slew of law schools, my parents were going through a tough time, my sisters had their own separate issues, my cousin was diagnosed with cancer, I was fired from my internship and I was told that I would not be graduating that semester. All of these situations happened within a couple of months. It felt like every day I was receiving some terrible news.
During this time, I didn't believe that God had my back or that he was even looking out for me. I would go out with friends and drink a lot just to cloud and ignore what was happening. Each night throughout the entire semester, I would cry until I fell asleep. I had stopped praying; I had stopped believing that God could pull me from my situations. I never dealt with anything, I found things to do to distract me.
The day that I lost my internship and was told that I wouldn't be graduating from school on time, I broke down, got in my car and just drove with no destination. The thought of failing my parents was crippling. All I could think about was how much my parents had sacrificed for me and the idea of not graduating on time made me feel as though I had failed them and my siblings. It’s interesting how God works though, that same day my mother happened to be flying into Houston for a thanksgiving at my aunt’s church. After my family found out about my situation, my aunt and my cousin left Houston to come pick me up from school. A good bulk of my family happened to be in Houston that weekend and they surrounded me. No one had hugged me that entire semester—until that day. Just by being in my mom’s arms that day and feeling the love of my family, I knew that I wasn't alone. Within a matter of weeks, I was able to get another internship, my parents and siblings had worked out their own situation, my cousin became cancer-free and I graduated and was accepted to California Western School of Law. God really turned everything around for me and to this day I don't know how. I left undergrad believing that there is nothing in this world that God cannot pull you through. Trust him. Always rely and fall on him—not your friends, not partying, not anything but God.
Wow that sounds like a lot but it’s so awesome to see how God turned your life around. You just finished your first year of law school at California Western School of Law. Many people wish they could attend law school right after graduation, tell us about your experience getting into law school.
When I had decided to go to law school, I had a plan and you know how they say that when you make a plan God laughs? Well I think that may be true. I bombed my first LSAT and the second time I took it, I improved a little bit but not enough. The LSAT is the most annoying exam and I had decided to just apply with the scores that I had, my GPA was good and I had a good resume. I was confident that I would get into lots of schools. I had applied to around 12 different schools and each week I was getting rejection letters. It got so bad that I started to just expect schools to tell me “NAH.”
California Western had waitlisted me and when I talked to admissions they told me that I probably wouldn't get in and that I should consider applying next year. At that point I was numb to the rejection I was receiving and started preparing myself to get an apartment in Houston, find a job and start the entire application process all over again.
I was out eating with two of my close guy friends and we were talking about “getting our lives” and preparing for the real world since none of us had plans post-grad. I was riding back home with one of my friends when he got pulled over for speeding, I was waiting in the car and checked my email to see that I had received a newsletter from California Western School of Law. I checked my other emails only to discover that I had been admitted to start school that fall – with a scholarship. I could barely make it home without falling to my knees, crying and thanking God. It was one of the best days of my life.
On your worst day, who or what keeps you motivated?
My mom. My mother is my best friend and number one fan. She has always supported me. She has gone above and beyond what most mothers do. She’s my superwoman and I want to be half of the woman that she is. Knowing that I have her and my family keeps me motivated to keep going. Even when I stumble and fall, my mother and my family always help me get focused and reassure me that I can always do it. Today I don't fear failure as much as I use to but I do want to make them proud.
We all aspire to be successful, what is your definition of success?
My definition of success is being content with every aspect of your life: your family, your love life, your career and your relationship with God. When people here “be content” they attach it to “settling” and that’s not it. Happiness is a fleeting emotion and moves with the tide but contentment enables you to relax and be comfortable with your position in life. Most people have so many buckets of life and something is always “not enough” or “more than enough.” When you're overly focused in one area of your life and not focused enough in other areas of your life, issues are sure to arise. When you aspire to reach a level of contentment in your life, you can relax and ultimately enjoy the life that you've been blessed with.
What a wonderful way to look at success and we know that you will certainly achieve your goals and aspirations, Akunna! If you are interested in staying up to date with Akunna’s life journey follow her on Twitter, @akunnamata and if you would like to be featured reach out to us.