Reacting to Setbacks
When I was applying to top colleges in the United States a decade ago, I noted the colleges were not only interested in knowing a student's academic record and extra-curricular involvement but also in such qualities as maturity, integrity, creativity, self-confidence, sense of humour, warmth of personality, concern for others and reaction to setbacks. I am really working hard to cultivate those qualities in myself these days.
Yesterday evening, I faced a disappointment, which I wish not tell you about, that forced me to do a self-evaluation on how I react to setbacks. And from the way I have successfully dealt with that disappointment to the point of feeling at peace a day later, I have come with the following game-plan on how I will be reacting to setbacks in the future:
- Trusting God: After facing that disappointment yesterday, I reminded myself that God loves me and that His plans for my life are better than mine. Just thinking that way filled me with some peace. I also remembered the wonderful, old hymn His Eye is on the Sparrow whose first verse goes as follows:
Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart be lonely?
And long for heaven and home?
When Jesus is my portion,
My constant friend is He,
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.
- Taking a rest: Yesterday evening after I suffered the setback I've mentioned to you, I went to bed and fell into a deep slumber till today in the morning. As a result of that restful sleep, I have been feeling refreshed and clear-headed today.
- Going for a jog and a walk: After waking up in the morning and taking a shower, I went for a jog and a walk to my home-town of Kiserian which is about three kilometres from where I live. That physical exercise was therapeutic because it energized me. And I have now come to agree with Nelson Mandela that physical exercises are not only the key to good health but also to peace of mind.
- Re-reading a favourite book: When I came back from my jogging and walking to Kiserian Town, I turned to my favourite books which I found a good refuge from the feeling of disappointment following yesterday's setback. Would you be interested in knowing which books I read? Well, I browsed my Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary in search of ideas and expressions, then re-read some pages from Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
- Counting my blessings: I did this exercise today afternoon and I am now feeling blessed to have good health and to be surrounded by a supportive family. The good thing about counting blessings is that it fills us with peace and love. It also makes us feel elated to be alive.
- Writing about the setback: This is what I am doing now. And I am finding that the process of writing is helping me reflect on the experience and put things into perspective. It is also bringing my zest for life back. As I edit this story, I am feeling at peace with myself and the world as if nothing negative has happened to me in the past one month.
That's my game-plan of how I will be reacting to setbacks in the future which I have come up with following the way I successfully handled the disappointment I faced yesterday. And we all face setbacks once in a while as we journey in this grand adventure called life. So I beseech you to also come up with your own mechanisms of handling frustrations and disappointments. Over to you!
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While my parents did a good job in raising us up by instilling us with a passion for learning and a sense of discipline, the only important thing they neglected was creating a loving and heavenly home for us to live in. My siblings and I grew up in a somewhat village environment. We cooked meals in a sooty kitchen using firewood. We milked cows using our bare hands in muddy cowsheds. And we farmed crops the traditional way by waiting for rains and using hoes and machetes to till our farm. I guess it's as a result of being nurtured in such an environment that I got to grow up as a villager.
Yes, I grew up as a villager. And I behaved like one because several people used to make fun of the way I walked, the way I talked and how I conducted myself. I used to walk in a stooped position like a chimpanzee, was regularly confused, couldn't pronounce some English words correctly and my heels always had cracks.
In the year 2000 when I transferred to Kunoni Educational Centre, a school for pupils from affluent families and where I finished off my primary school education, one of my new classmates called Joseph Muriuki said this of me to other classmates, "I instantly knew Thuita was a villager from the way he walks."
Even at home, my fellow siblings didn't spare me from criticism. Like my eldest brother Joe Kagigite used to chide me for behaving like a villager. I recall vividly at one time in December 2001, he ridiculed me for not knowing how to feast on a meal of ugali and cabbages.
I continued receiving criticism well into my years at Starehe Boys' Centre where I had my high school as well as college education. Numerous schoolmates at Starehe commented on how confused I looked and how I walked like a chimpanzee. I remember one evening in the year 2002 when I was in Form One as I was heading to my dormitory after a meal of supper, one school-mate called Simon Chakar ran up to me and bluntly told me, "Thuita, you are always confused and you walk in a stooped position."
And then one morning when I was in Starehe College in 2006 while I was walking on a highway of the school, I happened to meet a Biology teacher called Mrs. Kiprop who promptly commanded me, "Walk uprightly!"
As they say, it's very easy to remove a boy from the village but very difficult to remove the village from the boy. So even after Starehe plucked me from a village environment, it took me years to shed the village in me. I was still a confused young man even when I was at the university in JKUAT in 2007. And my heels still had cracks. That year in 2007 when I was in JKUAT, my peace-loving room-mate called Mikhail Mbelase said this of me to a friend, "This Thuita is always confused. He reminds me of the Form One students I used to see at Alliance High School." Those words stung me deeply.
By the way, my cracked heels used to be a source of shame and embarrassment. Whenever I lay on bed during the day, I had to cover my legs with something to hide the cracks. They were very very embarrassing.
Over the last eight years, I have worked hard to transform myself from a villager to a civilized man. As a result of that hard work as well as due to good breaks, I am proud to say that I am now a civilized man. I shower daily, changes my clothes everyday as well as apply oil on my hair, lotion on my skin and deodorant on my armpits. And I have also gotten rid of the cracks in my heels that used to embarrass me badly.
Above all, I have now become a clear-thinker. I have come to develop a love for God, for myself and others. For to be civilized is not merely dressing neatly and using perfume but living with kindness and compassion towards yourself and others. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on getting civilized, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Developing Mental Clarity". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.