I’ve met a lot of people in my 24 years but none of them are quite like Vee. As university students at Oxford, we spent many nights staying up late listening to music or watching sitcoms. From Vee, I learned a lot about how to balance being an activist with my studies and social life.
I also learned about her incredible personal story, which she’s now sharing with the world in her first book, Empowered: Live Your Life with Passion and Purpose. Here’s a preview:
From experiencing grief and leaving her home country of Zimbabwe for the U.K., to attending disruptive state schools and working long hours to support herself and her mother, Vee Kativhu has faced much adversity.
But through personal hardship, she has triumphed, using her experience to help young people recognise their own talent and achieve their goals. From attaining a bachelor's degree from Oxford and a Master's from Harvard to spreading her message of education, equal access and opportunity and empowerment to a global audience of over 300,000, Vee's incredible journey has inspired students around the world in need of a boost of confidence, motivation and practical life advice.
In addition to learning about her personal story, Empowered readers will also learn Vee’s tips for setting goals and staying motivated. So as we start to think about our plans or resolutions for 2022, I’ve invited Vee to share some of her advice with Podium readers.
Malala (MY): Congratulations on publishing your first book! How does it feel?
Vee Kativhu (VK): It feels surreal and I think I’m still in shock that this is all real. The most overwhelming feeling I am experiencing right now is gratitude, gratitude that I can now say ‘it’s out and is no longer this thing that has only existed in my brain and on my computer. It’s now real, physically present and something that other people own and is sitting in their homes, on their bookshelves or on their kitchen counters. That’s crazy! I also feel extremely proud to have poured my time, energy and heart into a project based on something that I care so deeply about (Empowerment).
MY: What’s the hardest part about writing a book?
VK: The most difficult part during the writing process was definitely hitting writer’s block. Knowing that I had nothing else to write at that moment and staring blankly at the screen but not knowing the way forward. At the start, I used to try and force myself to sit there and try to write because I had set myself chapter deadlines, but I quickly realised that this was not the way forward. I learned how to take breaks and write in a healthy, productive and enjoyable way. I would try to work in chunks and take breaks in between rather than trying to write thousands of words in one sitting.
Another thing that I found difficult was writing about the sad parts of my life journey, like the passing of my father or being separated from my sister. Those were difficult to write because I had not yet dealt with those topics in my daily life so to be confronted with them through writing was difficult at first. But I also learned that writing into what you are trying to run away from can be extremely powerful and writing about it can be therapeutic.
MY: I was lucky to get to see a preview of the book and give feedback. Were you nervous to share it?
VK: Yes, you were one of the first, if not the first, people to read it. I was extremely nervous to share my words because something about it feels so scary. I felt safe sharing it with you because I knew I could count on your honest but gentle feedback. I already knew how much you had supported me from the start so sharing it with you felt like sharing it with myself, I just felt safe. However, I was really worried and nervous to share it with everyone else, even other friends and family. I was scared they would think I wasn’t a good writer or that the book did not flow or make sense. I was worried there would be spelling mistakes, punctuation errors, or worse, that it was just boring to read. Every fear seeped into my mind before sending that mass email sharing it with my close circle.
However, after I’d pressed send, the fear disappeared. I felt a sudden sense of calm and pride, pride at knowing that no matter what anyone said, I’d done it. I’d accomplished my dream of writing a book and no amount of criticism would alter that fact. It’s safe to say my worries were for nothing, my family and friends loved the book, offered me constructive criticism and shared their excitement for the world to read it.
MY: What do you want readers to take away from the book?
VK: I want readers to close the last chapter and no longer feel alone. I wanted to write about the lives that so many lead but don’t often see written about, I wanted to write about the many, not the few and showcase that when people do not reach their full potential it's typically due to a lack of opportunities, confidence and often, love. I want readers to realise how precious life is and how deserving they are of their deepest passions and dream lives. I really hope that by reading this book and following the practical guides and tips, they begin to live their lives unapologetically. I want them to not just live with themselves but to also love themselves by standing tall in who they are, becoming the change they want to see in the world and pursuing the things they care about. Overall, I just want every young person that reads this book to begin to see their self-worth, their talents and stop asking themselves, ‘what if I fail?’ and instead ask, ‘what if I fly?’.
MY: I wanted to talk about goal-setting because you’re good at making plans and going after what you want. For people looking to accomplish their goals in 2022, what advice can readers expect from the book?
VK: I’m glad you asked me this because I really do love goal setting and designing my life. I like knowing that I am in control of the things that I want and that I have a plan that can guide me throughout my year. But equally, and this is why I love my goal setting methods, I love knowing that my plans allow me room to adjust and pivot according to what matters most at that point and to what changes are occurring in my life. The book will provide the readers with the practical tools to centre their goals around the things that make them feel fulfilled but also still give them a means to financially sustain their lives. The advice the readers will receive will help shift their mindset about how they view their goals, and instead of seeing them as something that locks them into a pathway, they will begin to view them as a tool to their freedom and happiness. The goal-setting systems I recommend ensuring that the readers do not burn themselves out, that they maintain a healthy relationship with achievements and that they understand their capabilities.
MY: Do you make resolutions each year? Do you have any for 2022?
VK: Yes, I do, not necessarily because I believe that is the only time of the year that you can make a ‘resolution’ but because I am used to it and something about it feels liberating, like a fresh start. Every year I take my time to sit and really think about what I want the year to look like, how I want to feel by the end of it and what happiness during that time looks like for me. I love setting those new goals because it means the journey of discovery is about to begin. I get excited thinking about what each of the new goals will teach me, how they will stretch me and help me become the best version of myself; even if they do not work out. I feel there is a beauty in failing, a beauty in discovering what does not work for you- so set your goals as deep as your desires run. Do not hold back from what you really want because you will always wonder what if, so shoot for stars, the moon and the universes we are yet to discover.
My personal goals for 2022 revolve around my studies. I would really love to get accepted into PhD study in America where I can continue learning about education and how best to solve the urgent international crisis for girls. I also hope to continue learning how to give myself the grace to fail, be unsure and be on the journey of becoming. More often than not we are kinder to strangers than we are to ourselves and my goal is to continue showering myself with love and empowerment.
MY: Last question — what are you working on next?
VK: Currently, my focus is on my book and ensuring I spend the majority of my year sharing it with the world and reaching as many people as humanly possible. I also want to continue to develop my YouTube channel into a study and empowerment resource for young people throughout the U.K and beyond. I also really hope to one day have a podcast where I can have my amazing friends come on to share stories about their moments of failure and how they bounced back. Lastly, I want to travel the world and do voluntary work within the girls' education space. Overall I just want to use my voice to become an international agent of change who advocates for girls' education and rights through social media and voluntary work.