(I know we do this on Friday mornings, but my other daytime job will be taking me out of town tomorrow, so why not do this this evening? Call it Thursday Special if you may).
I don’t play football. The thing is, I never mastered the skill as a boy. See, I was the smallest kid in my Std. 1 class. I am already small bodied as it is, so try to imagine me without twenty years worth of growth. I was a tiny six year old midget. Worse, most of my classmates were older than me. Most were either in their teens, or approaching the teenage. That means that even those who were supposed to be my size were bigger than me thanks to their superior age. Those who went to public day primary schools know what I am talking about. Those were the days when Std. 7 and Std. 8 pupils were usually bigger than the school headmaster. Because you went to school late, then you repeated classes so many times (and ran away from school several times as well) so by the time you reach the last class, you are an ancestor’s uncle.
Anyway, football was played with your classmates. One of the rules of the game was kuthumana. Meaning, if you miss the ball, you don’t miss your opponent’s foot. I also need to say that in public schools pupils didn’t wear shoes. So their feet were rock hard after regular steady interaction with the surface of Mother Earth. But my mother ensured I always had shoes, even if they were cheap mitumba shoes. So my feet were soft. And the rules of the game were that you couldn’t play with shoes. So after being injured in my first game with my classmates, I gave up on football.
Now, playing football is an identity of sorts for boys. During break time that is all they did. Girl’s played katie while boys played soccer. How else could it be? So if you couldn’t play football, you were an outcast of sorts. What kind of a boy are you? Boys and girls actually looked down on you. Because duh, boys should play football. Everyone knows that. The only leverage I had was that I was always number one in class. From Std. 1 to Std. 5 I was unbeaten in class. And I did it without much effort. I only lost my perch in Std. 6 when I changed schools and went to an academy where I met competitive pupils. Topping the class earned me respect from my peers. Plus, I was the class prefect from class one to class four. Yea, the tiny midget was lording it over the bigger boys and girls. I only lost the post in class four when teaching practice teachers decided to hold an election, and all the girls rallied behind my cousin Betty and so I lost. Girl Power. But I was still top of the class so I didn’t lose my identity.
The problem is, the curse of not playing football follows you throughout your life. In many team building retreats, the men will endure ‘mickey mickey mouse mouse’ songs for a while then dash off to play football. And you will be listed as a center forward because you are a man, and duh, all men know how to play football. Worse, women are increasingly playing soccer. It is okay to be a tom boy. But a man cannot afford to be feminine. And not playing football is being feminine.
The thing is, human beings are social beings and tend to find validation in social approval. My sour relationship with football had the capacity to break me, because it meant that I couldn’t be accepted by my peers. But my academic performance saved me because it made me feel worth for something, and also earned me the much needed respect of my peers. But then getting validation from academic prowess also proved to be a tricky affair. After finishing Std. 8, I had no school fees to progress to high school. Look, it is one thing to end schooling at Std. 8 because you are not interested, or because you have reached the conclusion that you are not cut out for it, but getting 438/500 and lacking school fees is a different kettle of fish all together. I was getting depressed. The only thing that kept me and my mom going was my grandma Joyce’s unwavering faith in God’s provision. She assured me time and again that God would not have brought me that far only to abandon me. And sure enough, He did provide at the last minute and I joined Ikuu Boys.
But in form 2 my results made a nosedive. I slipped out of the top 20. And for a guy who found validation in academic prowess, this was not easy. I mean, from Std. 1-5 I was always position one. Everyone was jostling for position 2 because the top post had an owner. Even from Std. 6-8, I was always in the top 3, save for the two times I was number 5. In KCPE, my worst subject was Science, and I had an 84%. So here I was, in form 2, with an E in Mathematics. 29% no less. I never recovered all the way to form 4. But I still found validation. First, I had subjects I was performing very well. I was the best in the entire class in History, Business Studies and English (Girl subjects again for the boy who couldn’t play football?). It is the Sciences and Math that were letting me down. I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, so I didn’t get why they made me stick with the sciences. I hated, nay, loathed the cluster system. I also found validation and acceptance because I was still in leadership. Throughout high school, I had several posts, ending up as the School Head Boy and the CU Chairman.
But the reality hit home when the 2007 KCSE results were announced and I had a B of 60 points. Getting a D+ in Math, a C in Chemistry and a C- in Biology contributed and not in a small way. Law School wasn’t happening. I hadn’t even qualified for any degree programme. And my parents couldn’t afford to take me through a parallel programme. I was officially a failure in life. But around that time, my friend Arnold Karani gave me a book to read. It is the book The Magic of Thinking Big, by Dr. David Schwartz. After reading the book, I resolved to go back to school and give it a second shot. Arnold had also been displeased with his 67 points and came back with me.
The Principal, Mr. Mugambi Kanga, took me back even though I had huge fee balances. He believed in my abilities, and told me so. He actually told me I was an A student, and that I should get off the blocks and unleash the potential. I had 7 months, from March 2008 when I went back, to October when the exam would be sat, to make good my academics. But I had Arnold and another friend called Gabriel, and we fired each other up. And it paid off. I did in 7 months what I had been unable to do in 3 years, from form 2-4. I rose from a D+ in Math to a straight A, from a C in Chemistry to a straight A and from a C- in Biology to a B+. With slight improvements in the other subjects, I got an A- of 77 points. I was through to Law School. Arnold got 79 points and could now do his computer science. He went to work in Equity as he was the best boy in the district, and Mr. Kanga (Now Dr. Kanga of Chuka University) gave me a job as a peer teacher. Yea, to coach form 4s in Math and Chemistry. Because I was now a guru. (By the way Arno, we should visit Mr Kanga before the year ends).
The validation bug hit again when I finished campus and could not find an internship immediately. You know, going to class fellowships and everyone is talking about the law firms and corporations they were working in, and you are jobless. It is not easy. Even getting the fare to go to those class fellowships was not easy. Several times my friend Harrison Otieno, who had gotten a job at Strathmore University, bailed me out. And going back to Parklands campus, perhaps for a Sunday Service, and the students would be like:
“So Maro, where are you these days?”
Ahem. In my house in Kabete whose rent I am not even sure where I will get.
But this was the turning point for me. It is during this period that I made the profound discovery that my destiny is not pegged on my academic performances. Or a white collar career. Because God has a purpose for me in my life, and it is up to me to rise above the challenges and pursue it.
That is why when I finally got a job, in a small law firm in Rongai where I was earning 8k, I walked tall and with a swagger. Because I knew that neither my job, nor my salary defined me. And I stayed on until I got a better job and quit. When I was dumped by my girlfriend of two months, I simply dusted myself and moved on. Because my destiny is not defined by the affections of any woman. And when I flunked two of my bar exams, I simply wrote a blog post, applied for re-sits and bought notes.
Make no mistake. I want to be admitted to the Bar, and that is why I did the re-sits. And I love my current job and my current boss. She is constantly giving me material to improve myself, largely based on the law and management. From blog posts, to her personal books to video clips. And honestly, if I am given an opportunity in the future to manage this firm, I will take it. Or start my own. And about getting dumped, I have not given up on love. When I find a girl with whom I can share love, I will certainly settle down. I certainly want you guys to read my blog posts. That is why I write them.
What I am saying is that those things no longer define me. I no longer seek approval from the society based on my academic performances, or my legal career, or the woman I am dating. Nope. Those are just vehicles that may help me get to my destiny. But they are not in themselves my destiny. So if my legal career fails, if this blog collapses or if I get dumped over and over again, I will still rise and dare to dream again. Because God has given me enough positive energy to pursue my purpose.
And my life purpose, the way I see it today, is not even grandiose. For me, my life purpose is to touch someone’s life. And it starts with something as simple as encouraging you people to be better persons by sharing my life and thoughts through this blog, while putting a smile on your faces every now and then. Or challenging outdated and misplaced cultures through books and this blog. Or paying school fees for a kid who is daring to dream like I did. Or simply providing a loving home to my wife and kids. I cannot tell the full extent of the lives I will touch before I leave this world. Because that will depend on the opportunities that God will present to me. Mine is to do the small bit I can every day, and leave the rest to God.
I don’t know what your life purpose is. But I know it is most likely not in those places you are seeking validation. To use Dr. Kanga’s words, get off the blocks and do what you have to. People will always talk. That is why they have mouths. But you have the option of ignoring naysayers while in pursuit of your destiny.