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What I Do When Happy

With permission, I have extracted this photo from Takyou.com. All rights reserved worldwide.

My dear reader, which nursery rhymes do you remember from your years in kindergarten? Me, I remember two or three of them, including one which used to go as follows:
If you are happy and you know clap your hands,
If you are happy and you know clap your hands,
If you are happy and you know and you really want to show,
If you are happy and you know clap your hands!
I am sure you can tell how the other verses used to go like if you are familiar with that nursery rhyme, can you?

Today, I found myself singing aloud that nursery rhyme. And it then set me thinking about the things I love to do when I am happy: walking, singing aloud, playing the piano, reading a book, reciting poems and passages from memory as well as browsing the dictionary in search of ideas and expressions.

Did I say I love to recite poems and passages from memory? Yes, I do. Like I sometimes recite the following recommendation letter for Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space:
Modest; embarrasses when his humour gets a little racy; high degree of intellectual development evident in Yuri; fantastic memory; distinguishes himself from his colleagues by his sharp and far-ranging sense of attention to his surroundings; a well-developed imagination; quick reactions; persevering; prepares himself painstakingly for his activities and training exercises; handles celestial mechanics and mathematical formulae with ease as well as excels in higher mathematics; does not feel constrained when he has to defend his point of view if he considers himself right; appears that he understands life better than a lot of his friends.
I have come to love that recommendation letter so much that I have committed it to memory. It's one of the passages I love to recite aloud when I am happy, whether alone in my room or out there in the streets walking.

Earlier on this year, I became concerned about what others thought of me when they saw me talking to myself aloud as I usually did when reciting poems and passages. Fearing that they may perceive me as mad or something, I tried to suppress that urge to recite poems and passages from memory when happy. I even reasoned out that President John F. Kennedy, one of my heroes, wouldn't go around talking to himself as I did when happy. You see, when I was a first-year student at JKUAT in 2007, I came to admire a photo of President Kennedy looking calm and composed that was on the cover-page of Theodore White's The Making of the President, a book came across in the university library.

So for several months this year, I suppressed that urge to recite poems and passages from memory.

Guess what! Later on this year, I found myself feeling very happy one afternoon while walking out there in the fields. With the happiness came an urge to recite a passage I had saved in my memory. At first, I fought back that urge but after some time when it became too much, I gave way and started waxing lyrical to myself. Since then, I have come to accept talking to myself as one of the things I love to do when happy.

And coming to think of it, I now don't consider talking to myself as a sign of madness. Maya Angelou, one of my literary heroes, said that if you are always trying to be normal, you'll never know how amazing you can be. Then Isadora Duncan, the great American dancer, once counselled, "You were once wild here. Don't let them tame you." And then H. Jackson Brown Jr., in his inspiring Life's Little Instructions Book, advises, "Be an original. If it means being a little eccentric, so be it."

I have therefore vowed to continue with my eccentric habit of reciting poems and passages when happy. And just so that people don't think I am going mad or something, I will be dressing smartly and keeping my hair well-combed. Adieu!


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The Doors God Closed For Me

This is me, circa August 2008, after I graduated with a Diploma in Information Technology. Even though I was a bit naive and confused, I was commendably skilled in web-design and computer-programming - skills that have wonderfully enriched my life. To this day, that diploma remains my highest academic qualification.

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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