If you were to ask a teenaged Kristina Green to tell you who she was — she would say she was no one.
It's a far cry from who the 38-year-old is today — a criminal defence lawyer who was admitted to the bar in Whangārei High Court this week after completing eight years studying law and health science at the University of Auckland.
"I cried yesterday because I just couldn't believe what it means to be in that room and sign that book.
"It feels like I am legit, but also that I have a really prestigious tohu that actually is the foundation of how this whole country works.
"I think of my baby, my son. I knew that I would make it right and it's okay that it has taken me 20 years to get my life on track."
Green was raised in Otangarei. It was "hardcore" at times, and there were parties and violence, but she remembers the sense of community and the local kura which gave her a grounding in te ao Māori.
"My dad doesn't speak [te reo], my mum is Pākehā. My dad's mum spoke Māori but they were like 'na, the way forward is through the Pākehā world' so the only place we got that was through school and I loved it because it really shaped me into who I am today."
Green said she carried a lot of intergenerational trauma growing up. She and her sisters were determined not to let those issues hold them back, but they didn't know how.
"You would look around and there were no role models. Nobody had been to university in our families so when you're asked 'what do you dream about?' you look to TV.
"Because how do people cope? You have a bad day, you drink. You can't handle it, you punch somebody. We knew there was a different way - and I feel like that was a wairua guidance - but trying to find a path was really really hard."
As a teenager Green, who had moved to Whananaki, attended Tikipunga High School.
She often had to stay home to look after her younger siblings so if she made it to school three days a week - that was good.
Her teachers told her she had potential, but she didn't believe them.
"I thought I was nothing, nobody wanted me. That's no diss to my parents, I think that's how kids were raised back then. Like you were in the way."
Then when Green was 17 she became pregnant and was sent to Bethany's, a girls home where young mums would go to have their babies.
After giving birth to her son she moved back home. Green said she felt like she was being led by her tūpuna. Things happened which she couldn't explain.
"I had this hard clear truth that nothing could smash. Bad things happened to me - abuse and things like that - that really could have smashed me over and finished me, but I just kept going."
Green did a six-month business course and got a job with Work and Income. It was then she realised she had the smarts and ability to learn.
"I would see these people around me in higher up positions and they had university degrees so they had more room to move. I wanted that."
She continued working there but still used alcohol to deal with her trauma.
"It blew up in my face and I had to address it. I was like 'what am I doing here? I'm not living a life that I want' and that's why I had to get so pissed, to live in it."
So one day on her lunch break, Green - 24 at the time - bought a ticket to India and quit her job.
"I went to India and it was the first time in my life I had seen people celebrating without alcohol. They had these huge parties and ceremonies and people would be eating and dancing and there wasn't a drop of booze. I realised there was a whole other way of living."
She returned to New Zealand and later met her husband at the time, who was German.
They moved to Germany and lived there for a few years. There, Green realised the way she was raised was not the only way of doing things.
"There was different parenting styles, different coping mechanisms, different tools. And it was that experience with that German whānau that made me go 'right, there are things I need to change majorly'."
So when they returned from Germany she asked her husband if they could live in Auckland so she could study.
At 28 years old Green enrolled at the University of Auckland and ended up studying law and health science.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do because at every stage you get revealed to yourself through your education."
Last year Green completed her studies and she now works in Manukau as a criminal defence lawyer.
She said her connection to her whakapapa has grounded her along the way.
"It actually meant I had knowledge that my family are more than drinkers, that we are healers and prophets and in the esoteric arts. There is mana or strength in that space.
"It gives me hope for the people I see to say, actually you could be the one in your whānau to restore yourself to your true mana."
Today, Green's description of herself is much different.
"I am Kristina and I am a mana wahine. I am a Māori woman and I stand non-apologetically in my power. I know that my ancestors are with me and that my tūpuna flank me wherever I go. I know I am not alone."