Developing Hope & Optimism
A True Story
on Sep 6, 2020
When I was in Starehe Institute in the years 2006 and 2007, we used to have what we called Dean's Talk - weekly meetings between students and staff of the institute. I have fond memories of the speeches I delivered during those Dean's Talk meetings. And I remember, too, what the teachers would tell us, such as exhorting us to refrain from watching adult films in the institute computer laboratories.
A male teacher once told us, during one of those Dean's Talk meetings, of a friend of his who would think of road accidents before embarking on a journey in his car, his reasoning being that such kind of thinking would reduce his chances of getting involved in an accident. I now think the teacher's friend had a point in his way of thinking after it has dawned on me lately that most of the stuff we anticipate doesn't happen; it is those things that we don't expect that regularly happen. Have you also discovered that?
But coming to think of it again, I don't find it wise to go around in a droopy face expecting bad things to happen. We ought to be filled with hope and optimism as St. Paul advises us in some of his epistles in the Bible. Hope that good things are coming our way; optimism that all things are working out for our own good.
To be honest, it has not been easy for me to be hopeful and optimistic. There have been times I have imagined traumatic experiences happening in my life, traumatic experiences like a loved one being diagnosed with a terminal illness or there being a funeral at our home here in Kiserian. Whenever I have caught myself imagining such trauma, I have pinched myself painfully and whispered to myself, "Thuita, stop dwelling on the bad stuff that could occur; focus on all the good things that could happen."
Recently, as I lay in bed at night waiting for sleep to come, I caught myself worrying what I would do if my laptop broke down. Where would I get money to buy another laptop for listening to hymns and doing my blogging hobby? I wondered. And I don't know why the thought of my laptop breaking down entered my mind; maybe it's as a result of the way my laptop has slowed down since I upgraded its operating system about two months ago. Anyway, when I caught myself worrying about my laptop breaking down, I tweaked my left arm and said to my mind, "Thuita, think of what could go right, not what could go wrong."
I don't know about you but for me, there are quite a number of wonderful things that can happen in my life such as meeting the woman of my dreams, receiving a donation for maintaining this blog or coming up with a beautiful melody for a great hymn. Given the way I am regularly pinching myself in an effort to remind myself of all those wonderful things that could happen to me, it is now apparent to me that hope and optimism are like muscles; they have to be practised regularly for them to become stronger.
Talking of strengthening muscles, I am reminded of an experience I had in the last decade. Back in 2012, I purchased rollers for firming up my abdominal muscles. But guess what! Whenever I stretched with the rollers for three or four days, I would feel in my stomach muscles an excruciating pain that would force me to give up using rollers.
Around September 2017, I again began stretching with rollers. Like in my previous trials, I did feel pain in my belly muscles after several days of stretching but this time I persisted, for I was serious about losing weight. And wow! The pain in my belly muscles gradually disappeared as I continued exercising with rollers. I have kept doing the exercises since then. These days, I stretch with rollers 12 times daily without feeling any discomfort. And I would probably be stretching more times had my senior brother Joe Kagigite not warned me that over-exertion with rollers can cause severe back problems.
Now that stretching with rollers has become second nature to me, I do it with the ease of a fish in water. But I know if I cease using rollers for a month and then start stretching with them again, the excruciating pain will come back. That's why I am always keen to keep on using rollers each passing day.
Hope and optimism work in a similar way as the stomach muscles. They have to be practised every day if they are to become second nature. And once we have infused ourselves with hope, we still need to keep thinking optimistically because the news and challenges of everyday living can easily erode our hope. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story about developing hope and optimism, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Developing Courage". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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My Brilliant Brother Paddy
A True Story
on Sep 1, 2020
About two or three weeks ago, a friend of mine named Dennis Makhandia shared with me a video clip on Whatsapp. At first, I ignored it because I don't like watching videos on social media; I prefer going through information in text format. But two or three days after Makhandia shared the video clip with me, I decided to view it, albeit briefly, just so that he wouldn't think I had declined to view the video.
And wow! The video clip turned out to be about my immediate elder brother Paddy. It spoke of his prowess in playing the piano and how he graduated from the University of Nairobi with three degrees: a BSc. in Anatomy in 2008, an MBChB in Medicine & Surgery in 2011 and an MBA, also in 2011. As the narrator of the video clip continued waxing lyrical about Paddy's exemplary achievements, she said, "At only 34 years of age, [Paddy] is now the CEO of Jubilee Insurance-Kenya."
I felt proud of Paddy to see him being spoken highly of in a video clip that was making rounds on social media. And later on, I couldn't help reflecting on Paddy's life and the humble beginnings he has had to overcome.
Paddy and I grew up in a modest home where we were expected to help in cooking and farming activities. We used to graze cattle together, till our farm with hoes and machetes, plant maize and beans whenever it began to rain, fetch for firewood and prepare meals in a sooty kitchen. And we shared the same room at home; a room that had a pot-holed floor, wooden walls and a corrrugated-iron roof that would amplify the patter of rain.
I remember one time in 1999, a plague of safari ants invaded our room in the still of the night. The safari ants climbed onto our beds and began to bite us mercilessly, jolting us out of our slumber. We sprang out of bed, switched on the lights and warded off the ants. Despite the interruption of our sleep, we woke up in time to attend school the following morning. Such are the kind of humble beginnings that Paddy has had to overcome in his journey to becoming one of Kenya's youngest CEOs.
On analyzing Paddy's life, I have been able to discern that he owes his success not only to his brilliance of mind but also to his character. He has always believed in hard-work, not entitlement; in self-reliance, not self-indulgence. Not once did Paddy ever beg for pocket money from our parents when he was pursuing his degrees at the University of Nairobi. Instead he used to earn his upkeep from the part-time jobs that he did as a side-hustle.
There was an afternoon in 2006 when I paid Paddy a visit in his room at the University of Nairobi and found that he possessed a desktop computer as well as a piano-keyboard. He must have sensed that I envied his possessions because he was swift to inform me that all he had was as a result of hard-work.
When I matriculated at JKUAT university in May 2007 to pursue a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering, I tried to emulate Paddy by moonlighting as a piano-teacher in a music school where he had taught a few months before. But you know what? Three or four months later, I gave up doing the part-time job. Unlike Paddy, I lacked the intellectual stamina to juggle work and studies at the same time.
What amazes me most about Paddy was how he paid his way to getting an MBA while he was still a medical student at the University of Nairobi. Imagine when I matriculated at the University of Nairobi in September 2010 to pursue a degree in Political Science & Economics (I dropped out of JKUAT in 2009), I found myself in a quagmire of where to get fees for the degree. I approached several people for financial help but none came through to my aid. And there was Paddy studying for an MBA at the same university without seeming to worry about money. What a contrast!
After he graduated from the University of Nairobi with three degrees, Paddy kept on working diligently so that he could become the self-reliant gentleman he has always aspired to be. And he has encouraged me on several occasions to also strive to be independent.
Like during a family get-together on Christmas Day in 2014, I mentioned to Paddy that I was scouting for a donation for publishing a book I had authored. In a tone of disapproval, Paddy strongly advised me against begging for donations and asked me to earn the money for publishing the book. His disapproving comments made me quickly regret why I had mentioned my plans to him.
Then on another evening in 2015 when I phoned Paddy and told him that I wanted our Dad to apportion me land for building my own home, he suggested that I work for money and pay Dad for the land I craved to get from him. This time, I took his comments in my stride.
Truly, Paddy believes in hard-work, not entitlement; in self-reliance, not self-indulgence. Is it any wonder, then, that he has quickly risen through the ranks to become the CEO of one of Kenya's biggest insurance firms?
NEW! NEW! NEW! For those of you who missed my social media update three days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new song that is available in the videos' section of this blog. Just click on the "videos" link on the menu at the top of this blog to listen to the song.