Here’s a fun fact, I am a mutant baby. I was born with 6 fingers on each hand. Only the children that came after me posses this genetic trait, I most likely contaminated our mother’s womb. Having just celebrated my 27th birthday last week, I have been reminiscing a lot.
I volunteer as a mentor and life-skills coach in Kibera and in 2016, one of my students was fatally electrocuted. Everyone was broken by the news. It made me question my reality. Was I adding any value to their lives? I decided to create and find purpose- a niche that was mine in this world. I understood that in order to effectively help the students heal, I needed to do some healing myself.
After belittling myself for so many years, I summarize my life in 3 points; I am peculiar, I am lazy and I am insignificant.
Growing up; I was born 3rd of five children; 4 girls and 1 boy. Though already taller than me, my brother and I have a 12year age gap and a sister in between us. For those 12 years, I played “acting son”, for our extremely traditional father, whose heart ached for a son and so I filled that void. In this family, I had always felt different.
Always in victim mode, I found myself lying and stealing around the house, constantly headlining for the wrong reasons; bad grades, bad behaviour…much to the contrast of my sisters. I was the personification of a headache. During adolescence, my body didn’t develop as fast and efficiently as all the girls in my year. So, to protect my ego, I’d hang around boys all day while in school. Having grown up in a house full of girls, I found myself naturally drawn to them because just like me, they too were different.
My father had to resort to discipline to better mould and shape me. A tough but necessary move; considering that I am presently a Biology graduate whose obsession is edible insects and how one day these can revolutionize Africa through their conversion into animal feed to sustain our love for everything meaty.
After years of just existing through daily life; body, mind and spirit riddled with depression, I was introduced to the concept of the “Inner Journey” and the healing patterns it promotes. Having been called lazy for so long due to my nature, I was awoken to the fact that PROCASTINATION IS NOT LAZINESS!
It turns out procrastination is not typically a function of laziness. It is a neurotic self-defence behaviour meant to protect a person’s self-worth! You see, procrastinators tend to be people who perceive a strong association between their performance and their value as a person. This makes failure or criticism unreasonably painful, naturally leading to hesitancy when it comes to doing anything that reflects their ability – which is pretty much everything.
This made me overly aware of my inner struggles and the fragility of my mental state. So, I actively challenged myself to break down the internal walls I had built and maintained since even before my adolescent years.
Having always believed myself to be “shy” it dawned upon me that I was actually introverted, with a large serving of social anxiety, a loner, something that’s not as abnormal as I once thought.
This is where true humility is born, when you are able to find the calm in the middle, right in between self-worthlessness and egotism. Where your personal problems are small in relation to those of the world, a place full of perspective and love. This journey brought a whole lot to the forefront.
Two years down the line, I notice a positive shift in my outlook on life. After battling these demons, I embraced the idea of becoming a Mental Health Advocate by introducing this concept of self-awareness to the children I work with.
So, I actively told my story. Opening up, made me aware of just how much a need there was for such discussions. I started Amini Vijana – a series of classes on Mental Health Awareness to introduce students to the importance of their mental health and teach them how to unlock their potential by embracing their differences. Through them, I have learnt to better love and acknowledge myself. There is power in being different. I encourage them to be unapologetically them.
We are so unsatisfied with our lives, yet there are many dreaming of a life just like ours. Learn to embrace simplicity in life…for, those who live simply, sleep soundly. Live simply, walk humbly and love genuinely. Mental health should be a priority; for dreams are only valid if we’re well prepared for them.
Author: Winnie Akara
Winnie Akara is a social innovator, change maker and mentor. She is passionate about young people and is driven by the vision of seeing them take charge of their lives and actualize their talents. She is a tutor, mentor and coach at ROCK – Reach Out with Compassion in Kibera and actively involved in building partnerships towards their success. Volunteers and Partners may reach out on firstname.lastname@example.org