Just before joining secondary school, my mind felt like it was hosting a rowdy conference of conflicting thoughts and fears daily. The fear of being bullied was the most terrifying. I had heard stories of seniors defining first years as pregnant mosquitoes with characteristics of mad dogs….and taking them to toilets to do breathing exercises! Thoughts of new classes, stricter teachers, many difficult subjects, and exams without multiple choices begged the question: How will my family, friends and former classmates and teachers treat me if I didn’t make it? The thought of a new environment full of strangers gave me giant knots in the stomach fomented by the unsettling fear of getting lost, of losing the friends I had and of having to make new ones. Would I survive separation from family and familiar neighborhoods? I was very afraid of this transition.
When I finished primary school, I was a 14 year-old rural village boy used to schooling under a tree 50% of the time and in grass-thatched and mud-walled classrooms, the other 50% of the time. For my entire primary school life, I carried a small wooden stool to school to sit on as I used my thighs as a desk to write. Every Friday, we grabbed buckets and basins to collect cow dung and water to give our dusty, dilapidated classrooms a facelift. I was fine through the years; had warm village friends and teachers and I was the darling of many. I was brilliant, at least according to my rural world, always top of my class. My classmates admired me and my teachers liked me.
On 8th February 1993, I started secondary school in Kisumu, wearing my first ever pair of trousers and shoes and carrying a blue metallic box containing assorted boarding school prescriptions. The enormity of the school, with many new locations to know, many subjects to study and a plethora of strangers to socialize with overwhelmed me. I was a small, quiet and shy boy which made me an easy target for bullies. My bed was the upper deck of a double-decker and my bedmate was a Form Three boy who gave me his unwritten two-rule constitution. One, that if I need to turn in bed, I should first get down, turn and get back. Two, that I should wake him up whenever he felt the urge to go to the toilet. How was I supposed to know? One day, a group of boys locked the toilet door while I was inside and asked me to pray and sing praises like Paul and Silas till the door opens. I was in an emotional rollercoaster driven by rioting hormones at the peak of adolescence and a radically changed environment. I couldn’t connect how being in school related to my future. At the end of every class throughout my first, I couldn’t remember anything the teacher said. A boy who topped 99% of the time in primary school was now comfortably leading from behind 99% of the time. From Form One to Form Three; I scored an average mean grade of an E every term. My family and teachers scolded me and friends wondered who I had become. To the majority, my poor grades were indicative of either laziness, lack of seriousness, bad company or mental retardation. But while my performance bothered everyone, deep down, I knew I wasn’t a fool. The transition was very difficult.
A new sense of transition started to reawaken in me towards the end of third term in 1995. I was like Saul heading to Damascus seeing this light carrying a message of a dim future if I was to persist in the path that I had trodden for nearly three years. My time in school was nearly up. I started thinking about my roots…the poverty and the hopelessness. I started imagining a bleak future and the disappointment of my family. I shed several tears. In the moment of fear and anxiety, I summoned my mind to a meeting to formulate a plan to catch up on lost time and save myself from imminent doom. I decided to start burning the midnight oil, till 4am. I loved the nights as their stillness and tranquility satisfied my desire for maximum focus and concentration. When Form Three third term results were out, I had my best grade ever since joining secondary school: a C (minus). As the clock ticked towards end of Form Four, family, teachers, friends and strangers started noticing my transformation. For a boy who was always scoring Es in nearly all subjects, I started registering A’s in such subjects as Mathematics and Biology. When secondary school curtains were drawn, I was among my school’s top 3 in the 1996 KCSE exam. My family and teachers were pleasantly surprised and friends reinstated their respect. I had successfully retraced my steps and my sense of direction and I was now facing the future with confidence. The examination results reinforced my belief in Napoleon Hill’s quote that whatever the mind can conceive and believe the mind can achieve. All you need to do is work at it with a disciplined sense of focus, persistence, and determination. It was a major turning point.
While waiting to join university, I got a Biology teaching job in a secondary school in Nairobi. It was my turn to bully! One afternoon, while teaching Form Ones Classification, I remember illustrating that a mosquito is in a Class called Insecta and it cannot be pregnant like us mammals. We cannot be mosquitoes! We can only be human – higher beings with higher consciousness! While tackling the Brain and the Nervous System, I taught Form Threes that a call of nature that manifests in a visit to the toilet, is one of the processes regulated by the brain autonomously. You don’t have to depend on anyone to wake you up from sleep to empty your bowels. I created a turning point for others.
My transition continued and I soon joined the University of Nairobi, graduated with an honors degree, I’ve acquire recognized professional certifications within the banking and accountancy space and risen up the corporate ladder in Risk & Compliance management. To date, I attribute my success to the 1995 decision I made to take charge and create my future out of the tough situation I was in and the experiences I had had several years earlier. That decision, and the experience that followed, have always been one of my greatest reference points in challenging times. By deciding to summon my mind to a meeting, I found the solution within me and crafted a plan to implement it. What decision do you need to make to create a turning point in your life?
I think this is what the founder of analytical psychology Carl Gustav Jung meant when he said, “Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart: Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens”