A True Story
on Nov 1, 2020
When I joined Starehe Boys' Centre in January 2002, I was so psyched to learn and excel in academics that I started reading before we commenced our high school studies. I would go to the library to read books on such subjects as Chemistry and then take notes on what I was studying. But guess what! In spite of the psyche I had in learning and excelling, I ended up in position 32 out of 35 in my class during my first term at Starehe.
I felt ashamed of being position 32 because I had never sunk that low in academic rankings since I began schooling in 1993. As I headed home for holiday after that first term in Starehe, I feared how my family members would react to my performance, for they had always placed a premium on academic excellence.
Just as I expected, my family panned my academic performance when I arrived home for the holiday. Dad had me do extra reading, especially on Mathematics. At one time over that holiday when Mum instructed my younger brother Symo to leave me alone to study, Symo sarcastically replied that he would also become position 32 so that he could get the same sympathy Mum had on me.
A friend of mine named Francis Kariuki, who I regularly met in my hometown Catholic church, also joined the fray of those who criticized my academic performance. Francis lamented on how ignorant I was on some high school subjects and then mistakenly concluded that students from his little-known village school could beat those from Starehe Boys' Centre. At the time, Starehe was one of the best high schools in Kenya.
Looking back, I see no reason why I should have felt ashamed of my academic performance in my first term at Starehe. First, I had done my best; as a matter of fact, I had started reading high school books before we commenced classroom learning. Secondly, I was competing with the brightest boys in the country. Lastly, I still had plenty of room for improvement.
I did improve academically as my high school years wore on to the point of scoring an 'A' in the 2005 KCSE exams. But I seemed not to have learnt a lesson in rejecting shame because when I started taking SAT exams in 2006, I felt as shamefaced of my results as I did in 2002 when I ended up position 32 in my class. Imagine I sat for the SAT exams four times in a span of three years and never managed to score past 1940 marks. And 1940 was a low mark considering that most applicants who were accepted in the American colleges I was applying for admission scored over 2100 marks.
After I first took SAT exams in 2006, I was so embarrassed with my results that I cleverly covered my score on the result slip with a white-out. Then in 2007 when I sat for the SAT exams for the second time, I personally went to collect my SAT result slip from an institution in Nairobi because I feared it might be mailed to my Dad's postal address thus making my family know how I had fared in the exams - my score was just mediocre.
These days, I am striving to reject shame over my past mistakes or my present weaknesses because I now accept myself as an imperfect person, just like any other mortal who has ever walked on this planet. Like I am now not ashamed to say that I am still living with my parents. And I am 32. (Yes, you had it right - 32!)
One reason I am still living with my parents are the challenges I have had to overcome. Challenges such as shyness, timidness, confusion, megalomania, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. So before you go out there to gossip on how I am still living with my parents, walk for a mile in my shoes; feel the fears, heartaches and frustrations I have gone through - then you'll realize how hard I have worked to overcome my challenges.
Another reason I have chosen to live with my parents is because I am yet to meet my future wife, and I would hate to leave my parents' home to go live alone as that would attract poverty of the soul. And I believe it is better to wait long than to marry wrong.
Having accepted myself as a late-bloomer, I am now working hard to become the independent person I desire to be while praying for breakthroughs and that divine connection to my future wife. And for so long as I am doing my best, I see no cause for feeling ashamed of my present circumstances.
My dear reader, I urge you to likewise reject shame. Let people know the authentic you, and don't be afraid to admit that you are less than perfect. Remember it is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not. The only thing you should be ashamed of is shame. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on rejecting shame, you might also enjoy another one I wrote about three years ago on "Learning It The Hard Way". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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A True Story
on Oct 26, 2020
Sometimes I appreciate it when little bad things happen to me because they awaken me to all the good things in my life that I take for granted. Like last Friday, I was having a wonderful time in the evening listening to Franz Liszt music on my laptop when Mum called me to go assist her on something. I paused the music and hurriedly put my headphones on a nail where I hung them. In my hurry, I missed the nail while putting the headphones and lo! The headphones fell on the floor with a thud and two pieces of plastic attached to the earphones came apart, exposing the magnets and wires on both sides.
Seeing my headphones come apart saddened me a bit for I love using them to listen to hymns and classical music. And the headphones are damn expensive. I bought them more than four years ago at Ksh. 600, which to me is a lot of money considering I could buy a good book on the streets of Nairobi with that money and still have some cash left. When the headphones came apart, I became more thankful that I have a laptop which I use to listen to my favourite music. I now consider that to be a big blessing and will endeavour to remain grateful for it.
Then on a Sunday evening a week ago, I started coughing as I was reading a book on the back porch of our mansion. That had me worried because coughing is not the kind of illness I would like to have in these times of Covid-19 crisis; people may think I have the dreaded disease. Thankfully, my urge to cough died down as the evening wore on. Just so that I could not cough again, I drank a cup of hot water. Afterwards, I thanked God for my good health which I will now be more grateful for.
And then about two weeks ago, we had a power loss in our home area for more than twenty hours. Due to that power disconnection, I missed listening to music on my laptop. I also got concerned that my phone battery power would get depleted thus making me unable to check my email and social media accounts. Encumbered by such worries, I asked Dad to inform the workers at Kenya Power Company that our area had no electricity. Dad reported the problem and when the electrical fault was rectified and power came back, I felt instantly grateful for access to electricity. And what a big blessing electricity is!
It's not only the physical problems that awaken me to the big blessings in my life but also emotional ones. There are moments I feel irritable and insecure, either because people have let me down or as a result of immaturity on my part. Those feelings of irritability and insecurity make me more grateful for those occasions when I am alive with peace and happiness.
Perhaps my most baseless emotional disturbance occurs when Mum calls me every now and then to go do things for her. You see, Mum was crippled by stroke, so she always depends on us for almost everything she needs done. Because of her poor education, she also relies on us for guidance on how to use her smartphone and how to turn on our telly. I sometimes get annoyed when Mum keeps on calling me to go assist her.
These days when Mum gets on my nerves with her persistent pleas for help, I remember the wonderful hymn "If I Could Only Hear My Mother Pray Again" which was composed by someone who missed his departed mother. Remembering that hymn makes me all the more grateful to have Mum still with me, and that helps me ward off the feelings of irritability I have towards her. I know a day will come when I will also wish I could hear my mother pray again.
Yes, I have come to appreciate the little bad things that happen to me because they make me more thankful for the big blessings that I take for granted. As a result of those little problems, I now want to make gratitude my way of life by focusing more on my blessings than on my problems. And I have a lot to be thankful for such as good health, access to electricity and a family where I belong.
My dear reader, I beseech you to also embrace gratitude as your way of life. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for such blessings as food and joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on cultivating gratitude, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "Choosing Gratitude". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.