I was brought up by parents who believed in education as the solution to human suffering. I do not blame them. They suffered long in their growing. My mother grew up in another home. Her mother had done the abominable, she left her marriage. She had been in a marriage with a polygamous man who beat her a lot. He sometimes would throw her out at night when wildlife was a threat and she eventually decided to leave. She had battles with her father often as my mummy reveals. She would confront her dad bitterly for marrying her off to a man who was bad. You know how African marriages happened then. We all found my dad however together with mum in this home. My grandfather was an authority, it was threatening to hear him speak. He beat his wives all the time and my dad claims to have earned a fair share of his beatings in his growing. He did not help them facilitate much education and my dad shares of his suffering throughout his education. He worked in farms and missed a year class due to his inability to pay fees he shares. He was helped a lot by teachers he says, the stories of people around his age tended to be the same struggles. There were few educated people in my community.
My mum ensured I was the cleanest and smartest. She shares with me the story of her life. How she forego her education to allow her brother and sister get an education. She eventually learned tailoring skills which she seemed to have perfected in my school uniform. I was evidently the cleanest and smarted girl in school. I tended to be the special kid. You know my dad was one of those people who left the village to work in faraway places. He worked in Moyale for some years a place that experienced a lot of conflicts. He was an Agricultural extension officer. He seemed to be well travelled, he told me that he had not gone to only one district in Kenya a dream he wanted to one day achieve. He had stories of how he got into each district and in each I felt the value of education. Through these stories we became close friends with my dad. He liked to make representations in numbers and I grew a love for mathematics. I performed generally well in school. I had big dreams. Academies was just a new term in my village. My dad took me to All Saints Kebulonik Academy. The school was considered to teach well. ASKA we called it was a school at the hill. It lay behind a rock at Sang’alo. Behind it was a rocky forest. Sangálo was in an area near Kapsisiywo. This is where the Talai family of the Orkoiyots are said to have lived. Orkoiyots were feared people. It did not help that religion depicted a concept of the demons in their power. I always thought they killed by mental powers and I was always trying to fight against them.
I performed well in the new school. Teachers dedicated hours of time in our education. I spent most of my time reading text books. I did a lot of calculations in the then mathematics syllabus. For some reasons I fought demons of the Orkoiyots in my head. But I was not alone. There were so many stories that went around school about how they were powerful. One of the stories was that Talai River had been separated by a conflict over land between an ordinary man and an Orkoiyot. Apparently the Orkoiyot had separated the land by lightning. But Nandi district was generally a hilly and rainy area. We experienced thunderstorms once in a while and I remember one day in an Arts and Craft class lightning had struck and it scared the whole class including our teacher Mr Bett. I was made the Headgirl in school a coveted position and this gave me a lot of power. I took it as my responsibility that others behaved well. It didn’t help that Kipnyolei the headboy and I would be punished often for faults of others. Kipnyolei was from the area. He was the son of the Chief a respected man. The Chief had given his office to be used by the school. It served as our offices as well and we were not allowed into the offices during the Chief’s days and it often was Tuesdays. The teachers made good use of this office and discipline was a paramount aspect. They used ‘no one taught’ also ‘black teacher’ a rubber well curved for the purpose of whipping. I tried so much not to be on the wrong. Most of the punishments were from performing poorly academically.
School had so many experiences, our class also served as a dormitory and after our class we would pull out our beds for the night. I missed home a lot and I had nightmares of sneaking and being found. Those who had attempted sneaking and found were brought back and beaten merciless that they dared not engage the thought of sneaking again.
As class eight drew closer my dreams grew more vivid and I knew I wanted to be in a National school. After all I read a lot. I performed well in the exams we did. I remember I would score up to hundred percent in Math and I earned the mathematician title. I was praised a lot for beating boys and it created a perception of competition with the boys and I seemed to always be better than them. I was often the best or second best girl when district competitions were done. During holidays, my former primary school Chepkunyuk engaged me a lot as a teacher to the pupils. I was getting drunk in the glory and soon I started to perform poorly. I eventually got 392 mark and that marked the start of my feelings of failure. I felt like a failure for not attaining 400 marks and all through high school it was almost impossible to salvage this feelings I had of myself. I enjoyed life in high school, less traumatic compared to Primary school. I wished to go to the University and like every other child wanted to be a doctor. I knew education had the power to save lives as had been instilled to me by my parents and what better way of saving lives that treating diseases. As you all already know my dreams did not reach actualization, I eventually studied psychology and not medicine. Down the line, I have worked successfully as a therapist and been impactful in different aspects. I however for a long time, felt like a failure for not meeting my Primary goal. I did not realize how this little thing that happened some years back in my life had such impact that I was developing patterns of impostor syndrome. Sharing this with my friend made me realize how holding on to an event of a past, a onetime failure had made my every move a self-fulfilling prophesy of a failure I had labelled myself to be. Holding back keeps one from achieving full potential as the mind wheels back in time trying to change that past we feel we failed in. I shared this story with my friend who is stuck at her authoritarian father’s influence of her life. She has been trying to quit her addiction but the experiences of her childhood have been a defining factor in her every decision. You may be having a story that holds you back. It is time for a fresh start, a new story and that requires letting go.
Letting go to allow a start
Year in year out has been a review of your annual plans. You recently sat down and drew resolutions for the year. There are some resolutions from previous years that you were unable to meet and you are here wondering whether a repeat of the same will be happening. Previous years have come with baggage, life seems to be getting more difficult and nothing seems to work towards your dreams and self-expectations. New Year messages streaming your way and you are hoping this year becomes a better year.
A lot of times we hope for the future but are not willing to let go of the past we are holding to. Every change in time comes with a new creation in us from the interactions we hold and the thoughts we have. The past seems however to be this powerful magnet that seems to hold us to it denying us the experience of the present, the here and now. We cannot blame ourselves for that as neuroplasticity claims that what we engage our minds more on changes the structure of our brain. You are looking for someone to pull you out of this position you feel stuck in, that you may realize your 2018 goals. All friends you share with are telling you to let go, to just stop, to try…. But holding on soothes you and the familiar is comforting something they a lot of times miss to understand. If you are looking for that hand to pull you through, you have to be willing to ease up and explore the world. That hand may just be a force in you.
Where am I
Alain de Botton points out in his theory of status anxiety that despite the developments humanity has made, many people report being unhappy. A lot of times we do not recognize the space we are in and therefore fail to give gratitude. Research shows that giving gratitude increases the level of feel good hormones and motivation in individuals. Today, you are able to read and share in my thoughts at almost no cost contrary to some years ago when information access was limited to a few. There have been huge developments in health interventions, poverty eradication and societal response to situations compared to a hundred years ago when wars constituted most of human interactions. If then there is this much progress, why aren’t we happier? Ideally we should be. However, most of us are not conscious of the state of affairs as we are focused on the few aspects that have shaped our views of self. Most of us are holding on to the past despite the many changes in human interaction. We however are not able to develop adaptive values such as trust, interdependence and self-awareness that would improve our sense of self and others. To experience this happiness and joy of living one needs to sharpen perceptions. This calls for self-reflections and asking the question.
Who am I?
The most valuable question to ask self, is who I am. Our perception of self is our medium of value in interaction. There is a generally traumatic past that we share that has shaped our perceptions of self. We therefore hold beliefs of humanity and of ourselves based on the traumatic incidents while ignoring the progressive changes that have occurred as a result. Our experiences are the resources that fuel new adaptive creation of us. Every interaction we have changes who we are. After reading this article, there will be a change in your perceptions and thereafter neural pathways. Each day presents new information that changes who we are. We are new every day and this is a reality that we need to be willing to live with. Our experiences shape the people we become, yet there is an urge in us to automation. An urge that makes us want to flow with emotions and impulses. This is explained by the major changes that the human brain has undergone over the years. The human brain in the evolutionary aspect has increased in mass. This is as a result of the development of the prefrontal cortex. Before that, there was only the amygdala which is responsible for reflexes, instincts, emotions, reactions and impulses. With the prefrontal cortex, humans are now able to plan, pay attention, have self-control, make choices and follow through. We are always becoming and holding on to who we were is counterproductive energy to becoming.
To let go is to be, to be is opening your senses to the reality of your world. As the New Year starts, how open are you to the world around you? Every minute opportunities present around us but only those with an open mind to different perspectives will see it. Your senses are the windows to which you experience your world. Self-awareness is the key to experiencing the joy living. By understanding and being conscious of our emotions, thoughts, strengths, weaknesses, values and perceptions we are able to build the courage to face life struggles and the resilience to live through life experiences. This is the definition of triumph. With letting go we open ourselves to love.
What are you holding on to? Share your thoughts with us!!
By Brenda Sharp
Psychologist and life coach at Sharp Perceptions
(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)