Why You Should Stop Worrying
A True Story
on Sep 18, 2019
On April 2007 when I was leaving Starehe Institute and was about to matriculate at the university in JKUAT, I once came across a poster on a noticeboard in Starehe. The poster was advertising a certain music school that was located in downtown Nairobi. Upon seeing the poster, I suddenly became interested in having a part-time piano teaching job at the school, so I noted its location as was printed in the poster.
I went to the piano school a day or two later to ask for the piano teaching job I wanted. And I had with me an official letter I had penned in which I had written my qualifications and expressed my interest to be a teacher in the school.
At the music school, I found a friendly lass named Grace who informed me that the owner of the school was away in Japan. She gladly accepted the letter I had penned, which had my name as well as contacts, and promised she would get back to me after consulting her boss who was in Japan.
A couple of days later, Grace called me to inform me that her boss had agreed to grant me a piano teaching job in the school. How lucky I was!
When I presented myself to the music school ready to take up my job as a teacher, Grace treated me with enormous kindness as if she had known me for years. She gave me a key to the music school room. And she introduced me to her boss when he came back from Japan. The boss was a generous and good-natured man called Shemaiah Mwakodi, or Shem in short.
Later on in the year, I felt proud when Grace handed me a bunch of business cards with my name on them indicating that I was a piano tutor in the school.
Well, I didn't teach many students at the music school that year in 2007 because I was mostly away at the university in JKUAT. I only taught one person. But I loved spending my weekends at the music school where I practised playing hymns and instrumental pieces on the piano. Had it not been for my access to pianos at the music school, I doubt whether I would have passed my Grade 5 piano exams that I took around June 2007; there were no pianos in JKUAT.
As life would have it, I ceased teaching at the music school in 2008. Later on in early 2010 after I had dropped out of JKUAT, I again became interested in teaching piano. So I went to the music school only to find Grace had left. I approached Shem who readily told me to tutor whoever had interest in learning music in his school. This time, I taught two students but only for a short time.
Although I used to feel terribly lonely and bored in the music school in early 2010, I appreciated being there because it saved me from dull menial tasks that Mum asked me to do at home: such menial tasks as milking cows and fetching firewood. I also appreciated being at the music school because I got to drink plenty of juice that Shem stocked in the school. But after about three months in the music school in 2010, I again quit the job.
Then when I enrolled at the University of Nairobi later on in 2010, I developed a habit of dropping by the music school which was just next to the university. I would sometimes make myself comfortable in the school by sitting down and reading a book. What I didn't realize was that some people new to me, who were now sharing the music school rooms with Shem, were unhappy to see me "idling" in the rooms.
Those people who were new to me didn't know I had been a teacher at the music school two times since April 2007. One day when I went to relax at the music school that time I was at the University of Nairobi, they asked me to go away. The day took a turn for the worse when as I was leaving the building that housed the music school, a guard instructed me to never again use the entrance reserved for cars. What a miserable day it was for me!
As I was trudging away from the building feeling gloomy and rejected, I met a high schoolmate of mine called Edward Were who was then pursuing a degree in Medicine & Surgery at the University of Nairobi. On seeing how gloomy I looked, Edward asked me to smile and cheer up, after which he continued with his walk towards the university.
Fast-forward to this month: I woke up about two weeks ago in the morning to news on Facebook that Edward Were had died in a tragic road accident as he was rushing to perform a surgery on a patient. Edward's death did sadden me that much since he wasn't a close friend of mine but it did remind me of his sage advice he offered me nine years ago when I was feeling gloomy and rejected: that I smile and cheer up.
His untimely demise has also made me understand how unexpected calamities can arise. I am sure his family has been forced to prepare for a funeral it hadn't anticipated. So I have thought to myself as a wise man would think - if such unexpected calamities can arise, why keep on worrying about the bad things that might happen?
My dear reader, you could be worrying about the possibility of your aging parent not living to see you achieve your dreams only to lose your youthful sibling in a tragic road accident. You could be worrying about your plans not working out only to unexpectedly meet the soulmate of your dreams on your walk to the grocery. Or you could be worrying over what some folks think about you only to find out those folks have their own set of challenges they are grappling with.
I therefore beseech you to train your mind to neither worry about the future nor regret the past. Yesterday is in the tomb and tomorrow is in the womb; it's only today that is in your hands - please use it constructively. Adieu!
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My Struggles With Poor Social Health
A True Story
on Sep 15, 2019
To shine and to excel in academics, these were my goals when I was in primary and secondary school. So I read a lot everyday during those schooling years, sometimes waking up as early as 5.00am to create more time for studying. Although my reading efforts were never fully reflected in school, at least I aced my KCPE and KCSE - the most important exams in primary and secondary school education here in Kenya.
The worst mistake I made in my quest to excel and shine in academics was neglecting my social health. I grew up as a shy and reserved teenager - traits I carried into my adult life; that probably explains why I haven't been as successful as I'd wish. What I find interesting about my teenage years is how I could address a group of hundred people confidently as I did in high school but feel shy when talking to one person.
Yes, I grew up as a shy and reserved teenager. I hardly ever talked to girls even though I admired a number. And I used to feel awkward and aloof in social gatherings. Like in one outing that was organized by some families in my homearea and that was held in December 2003, I felt lonely amidst the group of family friends. I remember thinking that a high school classmate of mine called Rocky Mbithi would have faired better than me in the outing. My mind must have conjured up the image of Rocky during that outing because of how socially outgoing I had found him to be.
By the way, some years later in 2007 when I went to pitch a business idea to one Mr. Kevit Detsei in his office in Nairobi, I was impressed with the way Rocky had become a prominent employee in Mr. Detsei's company after only about a year in the job. I am sure his social skills played part in his rise in the company. Owing to my poor social skills, I was unable to win Mr. Detsei over to my business idea. He only listened to me for a minute or two, and probably after noticing I wasn't clear-headed, he called for Rocky and asked him to deal with me.
Other times I recollect feeling lonely in social gatherings were during meetings of my hometown Catholic church youth group of which I was a member for about two years. I particularly remember one youth group meeting we had on a Sunday afternoon in December 2005. Everybody in the meeting seemed happy and cheerful apart from me as a youth group member called Tony dished out small folded pieces of paper with questions written on them. What was required of those given the folded pieces of paper was to open them and answer the question in it aloud to other youths in the meeting. The questions covered a range of issues pertinent to youths. One member received a piece of paper with a question that asked her to tell us about her sex life.
While the confident Tony dished out the pieces of paper one at a time to cheering youths during that meeting, I was feeling fearful and nervous that he would pick on me. I must have wished the whole meeting would end given the tension that was simmering within me. Fortunately, Tony never gave me a piece of folded paper, so he spared me the agony of addressing my fellow youths.
Another social gathering with the youth group I recall feeling alone was one held a year later in December 2006. A few of the youths were having an informal discussion during the social gathering as I read a Time magazine celebrating the life of Pope John Paul II. One of the youths I like calling Cyrus the Virus said this to the others during the discussion, "There are some people who read a lot but can't socialize with others." Cyrus the Virus didn't mention my name when he uttered that remark but I instantly knew he was talking about me. A social wreck I was.
As I have said, I carried my poor social health well into adult life. When I was in my first year at JKUAT for instance, I was unable to strike a conversation with a lass I admired in the university. Imagine I once went to sit close to the lass in a canteen at the university on one night but failed to gather the courage to initiate a talk with her - interesting, isn't it?
My poor social health was clearly brought out when I served in a choir at All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi during my time at JKUAT. On some days while on my way to the cathedral, my heart would start beating like a tom-tom for fear of how I would relate with my fellow choristers. And because of my timidness and my apparent confusion when in the cathedral, some of the choristers suspected I could be stealing materials from the church. I was smart enough to notice the suspicion, so I was keen not to take any book from the cathedral.
Yes, I grew up with poor social health in my teens and well into adulthood which was apparent in the way I felt awkward in social gatherings. And I don't know what or who to blame for it. Maybe it's due to the criticism I received at home and at school where I was often compared to my more brilliant siblings. Or maybe it's due to the confusion that people saw in me, especially at Starehe where I had my high school as well as college education.
Whatever the cause, I am gratefully glad to report that I have grown into a socially healthy young man. These days, I love seeing and meeting people when I am in my elements. And I have discovered that the secret to good social health is working on thoughts. When you correct your mind, everything falls into place.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on my struggles with poor social health, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "Improving Social Health". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.