The Doors God Closed For Me
I believe we are all meant to learn from one another. So today, let me tell you in a nutshell about the doors God closed for me. For my regular readers, forgive me if you think I am repeating the details of this story too much; I just can't help thinking about it in a different way.
When the results of the KCSE exams I sat for were released in early March 2006, I was somewhat satisfied with the grade I scored: an 'A' of 82 points. So I didn't bother to pay for re-marking as some of my class-mates did even though I had expected an 'A' of 84 points.
Scoring an 'A' of 82 points disqualified me from the Actuarial Science degree I had applied for admission as my high school years came to an end in November 2005. The Actuarial course required an 'A' of at least 83 points. My neighbour Joseph Likam, who had connections to the board tasked with assigning high school leavers to university courses, went and smartly changed my first choice degree course to Medicine & Surgery which I had qualified because it required a minimum of 82 points, like the 'A' I had scored.
Then as I was pursuing a Diploma in Information Technology in 2006 at Starehe Institute prior to joining university, I figured out I'd be better off working on computers than on human bodies. So when the opportunity to change university courses was announced, I switched my preferred degree course from Medicine & Surgery to Electronics & Computer Engineering.
I reported at JKUAT on a lovely day in May 2007 to pursue the engineering course I had selected. To tell you the truth though, as I joined JKUAT, I set my sights on eventually acquiring my undergraduate degree in America. I had already applied to colleges in the United States before matriculating at JKUAT and gotten rejected. But because I am not a person who easily gives up, I was determined to apply again to the colleges which I did when I was a first-year student at JKUAT.
As it happened, I didn't get accepted to any of the U.S. colleges where I submitted my applications. Then I had trouble with enjoying the engineering course I was pursuing at JKUAT. You see, I had come to believe that true learning should be intellectually and emotionally arousing; a principle that I found difficult to put into practice in the engineering course. It's like I didn't have a natural aptitude for the course.
My difficulty in understanding engineering, coupled with the rejection letters from top American colleges among other issues, led me to ignominiously drop out of JKUAT in my second year in 2008. Actually, I didn't drop out. I just stopped attending classes while still hanging around the university without communicating home.
When university authorities and my family caught up with me, they forcefully admitted me to hospital which I think was a good thing to do because I wonder what would have become of me if I ran out of money while hanging around the university. After I was discharged from hospital and went back home, my family prevailed on me to return to JKUAT and resume with the engineering course I had selected. I yielded to their pleas.
So in May 2009, I reported back at JKUAT to repeat my second year which I hadn't finished the previous year. And then again, I had trouble with cramming engineering concepts, let alone enjoy them. When the exams neared and I realized that I would badly flop them, I approached the Dean of Students, an understanding gentleman called Dr. Mbogo, and explained my predicament to him. Dr. Mbogo called my Dad. One thing led to another, and I peacefully dropped out of the university around August of that year.
On dropping out of JKUAT in August 2009, I swiftly began applying to top colleges in the United States for the third time. My applications were unsuccessful which didn't come as a shock to me given the way I dozed while revising for the SAT exams that are a requirement to applying to those colleges.
As the year 2010 rolled on, my family still wanted me to acquire a university degree - something I also desired. My brother Paddy suggested I pursue the Diploma in Information Technology I had acquired at Starehe Institute to degree level. That sounded like a good idea which I tried following through.
Eventually though, I chose to matriculate at the University of Nairobi (UoN) in late 2010 to pursue a B.A. degree in Political Science, History, Economics & Public Administration. I came to love my new course, so much that I scored six 'A's out of seven units in my first semester.
But then, financial constraints came into play because unlike when I pursuing engineering at JKUAT, this time I wasn't on a government subsidized degree program. And oh my, how costly that B.A. degree was! My father really struggled to raise my first semester fees. On my part, I tried sourcing for financial help from several people, including friends I had made at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi, but none came through to my aid.
Because of those financial difficulties, I went bonkers again as I had at JKUAT. This time, I texted my family telling them that I wouldn't go back home again. That alarmed them, and when they eventually tracked me down, I was forcefully admitted to UoN clinic for several weeks.
For many months afterwards after I discontinued my B.A. degree due to lack of finances, I kept receiving pleas from friends that I acquire a basic degree, which I found understandable because a university degree has become a requisite for entry into most well-paying jobs.
But I have come to find it boring to keep on being a first-year student again - studying Communication Skills and all those other 101 courses - at a time when my classmates at JKUAT and UoN are working, getting married and having children. I like to think that acquiring a university degree was a door God closed for me. And as someone said, when God closes one door, He opens another.
So as for now, I have purposed to continue honing my talents in writing and music - which I am praying will lead to financial breakthroughs that will not only make me self-reliant but also enable me to pay the HELB loan I borrowed during my three-year stint at JKUAT. And who knows? If I hone my talents in writing and music well, I could end up going back to the university - this time to receive an honorary doctorate. So help me God.
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Treating Life as a Gift
While leafing through a colourful, uplifting History book at the Kenya National Library in Upperhill, Nairobi, a couple of years ago, I came across a startling fact that the Sun will cease to burn about five billion years from now. (Yes, you heard it right - five billion years from now!) That means life on Earth will also cease to exist at around that time because it is the Sun that sustains us all in this grand and magnificent planet.
Methinks that when life on Earth will be about to end, God will summon the living and the dead for final judgement. And on that Judgement Day, God will not first ask us to recite the Ten Commandments. No. Instead, He will first inquire, "What did you do with the life and talents that I gave you?"
Yes, life is a gift from God. So are the talents that we all have. And like any other gift, we are the ones in charge of making our lives and talents meaningful and beautiful.
Take for instance a vase. If someone was to give us a vase as a gift, we can choose to hide it under the bed where it cannot be seen and broken. Or we can choose to put some water as well as flowers in it and display it in the living room where visitors can see and appreciate it.
Hiding the vase under the bed for fear of it getting broken has not made productive use of it. And nobody will ever appreciate it. But putting some water and flowers in the vase and showcasing it in the living room, where everybody can see it, has given the vase some meaning and purpose.
Similarly, the life and talents God gave us are meant for brightening the lives of others. We are all created to bring hope and inspiration on Earth. So we ought to utilize our lives and gifts bravely instead of hiding them for fear of criticism, rejection or ridicule.
However, there is a catch here: A vase is good for showcasing flowers but will break easily when used as a hammer for nails. Likewise, other than knowing what our gifts are, it is also important we have insight on where to apply them most effectively.
I don't know about you but as for me, I have already identified my talents. They are:
There you have them: my talents, that is. What is most wonderful about them is that they are diverse enough to make each day of my life prosperous, healthful and interesting. I am praying to God to help me convert utilizing those talents from something I have to do to something I love to do. (Spotted the difference?) And I am also praying regularly that God opens for me doors of earning a living from some of those talents.
I beseech you to also join me in this exciting journey of using our talents. Identify them. Take time to develop them every day. Persevere when things seem not to be unfolding according to your plans. And remember what you want to do with ease, you must first learn to do with diligence. Over to you!