The "Mosquito" Problem
A True Story
on Nov 6, 2020
I suppose everyone once in a while suffers from what I call the "mosquito" problem - that is, a problem that appears small and inconsequential but can cause embarrassing or devastating consequences just like the way a mosquito appears small but can inflict such life-threatening diseases as malaria. (When I talk of mosquitoes and malaria, I am reminded of an emperor who called himself "Alexander the Great" yet he was killed at a young age by a mosquito.)
For some, the "mosquito" problem could be dressing smartly and then forgetting to zip up the fly. For others, it could be taking great effort to oil their bodies with expensive lotion and sweet-smelling perfumes only to be told that they have bad breath. As for me, my "mosquito" problem has been forgetting where I keep my things. It is a problem that has featured in my dreams at night. Over the past few years, I have had several dreams in which I have been frustrated by my inability to recall where I have placed something important.
And I have had this "mosquito" problem for quite a long time. Back in 2008 when I was on a university holiday, a farmhand who was employed here at home and with whom formed a close friendship, observed I had that weakness of misremembering where I placed things. He brought that weakness to my attention and informed me that he also had had a similar problem. The two of us devised an exercise that could help me overcome that weakness of forgetting where I placed things.
This was the exercise: I wrote numbers 1 to 10 on different pieces of paper and then put the papers in various locations at home before heading to church at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi for choir practice. On coming back home from church, I would fetch the pieces of papers starting with the one I had written number 1 on it and take them to the farmhand one by one.
Although I succeeded in remembering where I had kept the pieces of paper in the few times we carried out the exercise, I don't think it helped because on several occasions in the past five years, I have forgotten where I have kept my things. Allow me to tell you of two such occasions. Only two.
One evening in 2016, I prepared porridge with my electric heater and filled some of it in my cup. Then I got sidetracked by my phone after which I decided to sip my delicious cup of porridge. But alas! I couldn't see where I had kept the cup of porridge! I searched for it in every nook and cranny of my room to no avail. It was like my room had been invaded by devils (what my fellow countrymen call "mashetani") that had made away with the cup of porridge.
Later on that evening, I found the cup in the living room of our mansion and realized I had left it there when I went to talk with my parents. And I hadn't filled it with porridge as I thought. What a poor memory I had!
The other occasion when I forgot where I had kept something happened about three weeks ago when I went to the living room of our mansion to socialize with my eldest brother Joe Kagigite who had visited us with his family. Just in case any idle moments arose while socializing with Joe and his family, I carried with me Billy Graham's The Secret of Happiness to re-read during those idle moments.
I had a wonderful time talking to Joe and his family while occasionally going through the passages I underlined when I first read the Billy Graham book I have mentioned to you. As I was conversing with Joe's children, I headed to the kitchen to check something for them. And lo! When I went back to the living room, I couldn't locate where I had kept the Billy Graham book. That confused me a bit, something which bothered me because I am very sensitive to confusion these days.
Yes, my inability to recall where I keep things has been my "mosquito" problem. I fear that the "mosquito" problem could cause me shame in the future in the same way Alexander the Great was brought down by a mosquito. How? Maybe I will cut my fingers while operating a farm machinery. Or maybe I will forget where I have kept car keys before heading for an important speaking engagement.
Since I have faith in the power of prayer, I have asked God to help me overcome this "mosquito" problem of mine. And because I believe in the non-biblical saying that God helps those who help themselves, I am making a conscious effort to remember where I keep my things including such minor possessions as my biros and bookmarks. With such kind of effort and with God's help, I know I shall overcome my "mosquito" problem sooner rather than later.
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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.