Allow me, my dear reader, to begin my story by asking you a question: "When you are alone in your room or out there in the streets walking, do you enjoy your own company?"
As for me, I sometimes have enjoyed my own company when alone. But at other times, the emotion of guilt has hindered me from doing so.
I vividly recall my first experience with guilt. That was one day in 2009. I had been discharged from JKUAT hospital and was considering of dropping out the university after the engineering course I was pursuing turned out to be Greek to me.
The evening of that day, I felt very guilty for no apparent reason. It was like I was at war with myself. My friend Sammy Murong'a tried to cheer me up by taking me for a walk during which I pretended to be interested in whatever he was saying. I found his company a much needed escape from the turmoil that was simmering within me.
That same year in 2009 when I decided to re-apply to three top American colleges, I would at times feel guilty when coming from revising for the SAT exam in Nairobi. Some voices within me would tell me that people were laughing at me for applying to top American colleges for the third time when my age-mates were in their third year at the university. Whenever I felt such guilt, I would look forward to when I would get home so that I could collapse on a seat and read Myles Munroe's The Principles and Power of Vision which I had found very encouraging.
Then later on in 2010, a guilt complex seized me when I turned up for choir practice at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi. Imagine I felt so guilty that on my way back home, I avoided walking on some streets in Nairobi for fear of meeting people I know. It was like I was running away from people who weren't pursuing me.
And then in 2011, I felt horribly guilty as I left the University of Nairobi's clinic where I had been admitted after I foolishly sent messages to my family that I wouldn't go back home. That time, I felt like the whole world was criticizing and laughing at me.
Over the years since 2011, I have continued to experience recurring emotions of guilt which have hindered me from enjoying my own company. Of late, I have been striving to overcome them by talking to myself affirmatively: that I am a wonderful person. Different ... yes. Imperfect ... certainly. But nonetheless valuable.
I will continue talking to myself affirmatively. By talking to myself, I mean the mental conversations I hold with myself all day long. My goal is to enjoy my own company, now and always, whether I am alone in my room or out there in the streets walking. So help me God.
If you've liked this story of mine on enjoying solitude, you might also like another one I wrote sometimes back on "Slaying the Dragon of Guilt." Just click on that link in blue to jump straight into the story.
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Lessons From Colin Powell
There is this friend of mine called Ben Sang who I once teased on Facebook, "Which song did Ben sing?" He must be a talented computer programmer because he successfully pursued a degree in Computer Science at JKUAT where I failed to complete my degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering.
I visited Ben Sang during my last days at the university in 2009 in his room where I found him engrossed on something in his personal computer. After exchanging pleasantries in a spirit of brotherhood, I sat beside him to continue reading My American Journey, the endearing and well-written autobiography of Colin Powell - a black American born of immigrant parents and who rose through the military ranks to become the National Security Advisor under President Ronald Reagan.
As I became hooked to the autobiography, Ben Sang interrupted me to ask, "Now, how will that book help you?" Apparently, he thought programming books were the only meaningful materials to read. But I didn't get discouraged because I continued devouring the 606-page paper-back edition with the zeal of a he-goat on heat.
I could feel myself absorbing Colin Powell's clarity and fluency of thought as I read the book which led me to be the great writer that some people say I am. And I ended up learning a number of valuable lessons from it. Okay, let me tell you what I learnt from book.
First, I learnt that no one ever made it to the top without getting into trouble. That was an encouraging lesson given the way I have messed up on a number of occasions in the last ten years of my life.
Secondly, I learnt to never be buffaloed by experts; I should be ready to challenge them in their own backyard. That's a lesson I have strived to apply in my life.
Thirdly, I was touched by Colin Powell's description of great leaders in his reference to President Ronald Reagan with whom he worked on ending the Cold War that would have potentially led to a nuclear holocaust. He wrote, "Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers who cut through arguments, debates and doubts to offer a solution everybody can understand."
Perhaps the best lessons I gleaned from Colin Powell were his rules that he hid at the end of the autobiography. So if I had gotten discouraged by Ben Sang from reading the book, I would have missed the gems of wisdom which were pertinent to a young man like me who was contemplating his future. The rules of Colin Powell were, or rather are:
- It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
- Get mad, then get over it.
- Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
- It can be done!
- Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
- Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
- You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours.
- Check small things.
- Share credit.
- Remain calm. Be kind.
- Have a vision. Be demanding.
- Don't take counsel of your fears and naysayers.
- Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
If you've enjoyed this story of mine on lessons from Colin Powell, you might also enjoy another one I wrote on "Lessons from Ronald Reagan". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
 I have extracted these rules of Colin Powell from page 603 of My American Journey by Colin Powell, published in the United States by Ballantine Books in 1995.