A True Story
on Jan 22, 2023
As I have narrated again and again on this lovely blog of mine, I aimed at getting into a top American college during the two years I was at JKUAT, a local university where I had enrolled in 2007 to pursue an engineering degree. I eventually dropped out of JKUAT in 2009 due to my preoccupation with wanting to study in an elite American college.
Those who have read my account of what happened to me at the university may have thought it foolish of me to focus on flying to America when I had a golden opportunity to acquire a lucrative degree at JKUAT. One lass, with whom I briefly shared my JKUAT story on one sunny afternoon in 2014 as we walked home, told me that she would have caned me if I was her son.
Even Dr. Kitili, the psychiatrist who handled me when I went off the rails at JKUAT in 2008, used to remind me of the English proverb "a bird in hand is worth two in the bush" whenever I shared with her my dream of studying in a top-flight college in America. Her point was that I should have made use of the chance I had at JKUAT instead of chasing other opportunities that I wasn't guaranteed to get.
What most of my friends don't know is that wanting to study in a top American college during my JKUAT days wasn't the first time I had trained my sights on a great achievement. I have always aimed high ever since I was a boy in primary school. And it is that aiming high that took me to JKUAT in the first place.
During my high school years at Starehe Boys' Centre, I aspired to top the national secondary school examinations known as KCSE. Even though I didn't realize that aspiration, at least I scored an 'A' in the KCSE exams, a grade that earned me a spot at JKUAT to pursue a degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering.
It is also my habit of aiming high that took me to Starehe Boys' Centre, one of the best high schools in Kenya during my time there. When I was preparing for KCPE exams in 2001, I set my mind on emerging top nationally in the exams. Such high aspirations made me get excellent KCPE marks that had me admitted at Starehe.
We can therefore conclude that aiming high worked for me in primary and secondary school but when it came to university education, aiming high worked against me since I didn't get into any of the top American colleges I applied for admission in three application rounds. Worse still, I dropped out of JKUAT because applying to several top American colleges kept me from giving the engineering degree I was pursuing at JKUAT the attention it deserved.
Come to think of it though, aiming to get into an elite American college made me a better thinker and writer through the essays I had to write about myself. And revising for the SAT exams, whose results were required by American colleges, moulded me into an avid reaader. So, aiming high kinda helped me during my JKUAT days.
I have come to discover that not everyone has a habit of aiming high. Back in 2006, I phoned a former high school classmate named Douglas on one night to inform him that I was intending to apply to MIT, Cornell, Stanford and Dartmouth. Douglas discouraged me from applying to the colleges, citing that only students who topped in KCSE exams got admitted to such top-flight colleges.
Although Douglas was brighter and more clear-headed than me throughout our high school career, he didn't consider himself worthy of applying to MIT. I know of one guy called Beneah Kombe who ranked behind him in KCSE results and got accepted at MIT. If only Douglas had believed in himself some more!
By thinking himself unworthy of MIT, Douglas deprived himself of an opportunity to test his potential and learn something in the process. William Shakespeare had it right when he quipped:
Our doubts are traitors,That quote by Shakespeare has inspired me to keep on aiming high. These days, my dream is to become an internationally acclaimed blogger and get mentioned in such high-brow newspapers as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Should I fail to achieve that dream, I will at least come out a better person.
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt.
My beloved reader, I challenge you to also aim high in whatever career you have chosen to pursue. Believe in yourself, work hard, work smart and passionately present your best self to the world. And always remember the words of the late Norman Vincent Peale who said, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." Ciao!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed the story above on aiming high, you might also enjoy another one on "Inspiring Mottoes" that I wrote about six years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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A True Story
on Jan 17, 2023
When I was in primary school in the '90s, some of my classmates were fond of asking each other, "Do you eat to live or do you live to eat?" I have over the years heard that question so many times that it now sounds like a mere cliche to my ears.
Recently though, I found myself pondering on whether I eat to live or live to eat. That triggered in my mind a series of thoughts that transported me back to my childhood years.
I grew up with a weakness for food. As a boy, I had the habit of gormandizing the meals we had at home as if there was no tomorrow. My tendency to overeat meant that we rarely had left-over food in the house.
Later on in my boyhood years when I started visiting the homes of affluent families, I would wonder how they kept tempting food in their mansions. In November 2001 for instance, on the day before we began our national primary school exams, I passed by the home of my classmate Nicholas Onyancha. And wow! Onyancha's siblings welcomed me warmly and treated me to some refreshment of juice and biscuits they had kept in a cupboard.
To be honest, I was envious of the opportunities of eating sweet delicacies that Onyancha had in his home. While I can't clearly recall what I thought of the juice and biscuits I was given, I must have wondered how such delicacies could stay idle in their mansion. Had someone brought juice and biscuits to my home, I would have gobbled them, hardly sparing a morsel for tomorrow.
So much did I have a weakness for food that when I proceeded to Starehe Boys' Centre in 2002 for my high school education, I became a notorious "combiner". (In Starehe parlance, a "combiner" was someone who ate extra food on the table.)
Interestingly, I never used to put on weight in spite of all the eating I did at Starehe. Even when I volunteered to work at the Attorney General's Chambers in Nairobi during the 2003 December holiday, I didn't grow plump despite wolfing down plates of chips at 10 o'clock, at lunch time and at 4 o'clock. That was in addition to the breakfast and supper I took before and after reporting at the Attorney General's Chambers.
But then came November 2008. During that month when I was admitted at a certain hospital, my body never forgave me for the much eating I did at the hospital. My weight just ballooned, putting years on me.
After I was discharged from the hospital, I continued having a weakness for food. I would succumb to the temptation of eating in between meals. While at home, I would go for whatever food was in the house. And while travelling, I would buy delicacies from food kiosks by the roadside.
My weakness for food would sometimes become so strong that I would wake up in the dead of the night and make a beeline for whatever was left after supper. Not surprisingly, I would be unable to shed those extra stubborn kilos in my body that I was exercising to lose.
About two years when I couldn't tolerate being fat anymore, I worked on overcoming my weakness for food. I limited myself to only three meals in a day. And when I ate, I avoided stuffing my plate with food and going for second helpings. If I felt hungry in between meals, I drank water. As a result of that disciplined eating, I succeeded in losing weight.
This year, I have resolved to keep eating moderately. I will also avoid chips, sweets, biscuits, mandazi, chocolate bars, carbonated drinks and other foods rich in fat and sugar. In an effort to avert the boredom that tempts us to eat in between meals, I will channel my energies into developing my mind and soul by indulging in my hobbies.
My beloved reader, I beseech you to also form the habit of eating moderately. As former U.S. President Bill Clinton pointed out in his autobiography, decreasing food intake will prolong our lives since many people die sooner than they should because of eating food that is in excess of what their bodies can process in a timely manner. So don't live to eat. Eat to live.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on eating moderately, you might also enjoy another one on "Overcoming Gluttony" that I wrote a few years ago. Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the store.