This week, we go soul-to-soul. With the myriad of challenges around us, we take note of the bright spots, reflect on them and celebrate the victories. To help us do this are five young people who so graciously let us into their intimate spaces. This is also an invitation for you to look back and pinpoint just how much you need to be grateful for as the year comes to an end and what practical steps you need to take to achieve the goals that you look forward to achieving.
YVONNE JAKAILA, 27
OPEN WHEN YOU ARE DISCOURAGED
“I doubt there’s any single person who has never been utterly discouraged, dismayed if you may, like I once was. In my 27 years of existence, I have never been in so much despair like I was a few years back.
I had just graduated from university and had applied for numerous jobs. My qualifications were top notch, so I did not understand why no job was forthcoming. Then immediately I got a wonderful job offer, I lost my sister, then friends deserted me, and my relationship ended, in that order. It made me believe that at any one point in my life, when I have something good, at least one thing will go wrong. I immersed myself into reading novels, dancing, a little bit of modelling and taking road trips.
I loved taking the morning and evening trains to Syokimau and back. During one of these train rides, I started to realise that my discouragement stemmed from comparison. Comparing my success to that of others. They have progressed more than I have. So what? I’m happy for them and their successes, but it’s their time, mine will come too. God blesses each one of us differently. A car might be important to me, but not to you, however, more income could be. It’s never all gloomy if you look closely. Life will come at you fast. That’s a guarantee. No one knows what will happen next and no amount of money or security will protect you from the uncertainties of life. The most practical thing to do is to accept this reality and take it one day at a time.
I still feel discouraged from time to time, but a few practical steps have more often than not helped me get back up. I take calculated breaks off social media (Instagram to be specific, because that place can make you feel so unworthy.) I cannot live without twitter though. I talk to my few trusted friends and I’m learning to speak up about my concerns without fear. I pray, a lot.
I also joined a book club and attend mentorship sessions. I dance too, and finally I have a gratitude jar that I still haven’t got to use. The jar is supposed to be filled with notes of gratitude every day of the year, then at the end of the year, one goes through the notes to see how far they’ve come. The jar is my only resolution in 2019.
A point to note is that mental health is a serious concern in today’s world, and I would encourage one to seek the help of a professional therapist if the feelings of discouragement are unbearable.”
BOERA BISIERI, 25
OPEN WHEN YOU ARE AFRAID
“Life is full of fear and overcoming,’ that’s what my grandmother used to mumble to herself. Well, this never meant anything to me until I had lived a few more years after her death. My fear came in my quest to be a great if not perfect actress.
I remember the first day I joined a theatre group at Kenya National theatre. I was just from high school where I had made it to the nationals several times and had tons of certificates to show for it. I had even been selected to join a sponsored acting academy where my performance had been brilliant.
But attending the rehearsals for professional acting was a turning point of my acting. Every time I went on stage, the director would cut!
One day after enough of the director’s scolding and as I sat weighing between dropping a resignation message and going back to the theatre the next morning, a friend from the theatre called. I still believe I owe my acting prowess to this guy. He encouraged me and told me to go through my lines and internalise them before the next rehearsal time. I did. That night I went through every scene the director had blocked that day, trying to recall all the moves and lines by myself. I went through my lines again and again until I had them in my head.
The next day, I still forgot my lines and missed my cues. But I remained positive. I started by being very attentive at rehearsals and taking notes where I felt necessary. When I went home, I would go through my lines and then act them out in front of a mirror, trying to pull the necessary character. Moving forward, every role I am assigned I have to research on.
If I am acting drunk, I would watch different scenes of different people acting drunk differently. I became very observant and aware of my surroundings, so I can build my characters from watching people. They say art is a mirror of the society, observing what goes on in our day-to-day life has played a great role in improving my acting and creative skills.
Every time I get a chance to be the audience rather than the actor, I grab it. Watching other actors do their magic on stage has helped me to see things from different points of view and even to evaluate myself by evaluating the mistakes and creativity other actors make on stage. Doing these over the years has given me the confidence and strengthened my acting prowess.
While acting is a lesson you learn every day, I can judge by different avenues I have acted and still am acting, be it stage plays, films and TV that I overcame my fear of being a half-baked actor and that I am now a fully baked one that shakes the feelings of my audience.”
NEWMAN AMBANI, 27
OPEN WHEN YOU ARE AFRAID
“Life is like a maze, intricately designed. You never quite map out the correct path. If you do, you realise, quicker than you thought, that there are no shortcuts. Every path you take might lead to a snag, a dead end, just like in a maze, there is never a comfort zone. As soon as you navigate one challenge, another awaits.
I have been afraid ever since the pressures of everyday life crept on me. Fear seemed to always lurk in the shadows. It was a nagging fear of the unknown, a fear that I wasn’t good enough, a fear that tomorrow’s promise might never be realised. Fear chewed me up. It spat me out too, what was left of me, just to chew me up again. An endless cycle.
Life is a tough process. Failure accompanies success. Things can either fall out of place only to later fall in place, or they can fall in place only to later fall out of place. That’s the duality of life. I grew up with knowledge of all this, yet I never fought the fear inside me. Part of it stemmed from comparing myself to my peers. I never measured up. Maybe I was too hard on myself. It took me a while to find the antidote to my fear.
At first, it was nothing more than a fleeting thought. Then it turned to a niggling voice: Life’s a process. Why not trust it? It has turned out fine so far, after all. Why would the future be different? It dawned on me that I needed to face my fear head on. The only way was to show up, build an incredible work ethic, hone my skills and stay ready.
Buoyed by this, I became liberated. The embers of a dying fire were ignited inside me. I began stocking the flames by beating my craft and constantly building momentum, one day at a time. I fed the fire in me, relentlessly. Slowly the fear was replaced by confidence. Are you a slave to fear? Do you sometimes doubt how your tomorrow will be? No more. Success and failure are slaves of the same master. Both make us thrive, however the dice rolls, there is no reason to fear.”
MAKOVO MBATHA, 28
OPEN WHEN YOU NEED INSPIRATION
“As young man clothed with passion for art from Kangaru High School, I looked forward to a bright future in acting. Sounds easy until the rubber met the road.
A couple of rejections in a number of auditions gave me a thick skin, more so made me learn that drama is quite distant from professional acting. Well, I got a couple of breakthroughs having learnt my craft through interactions with experienced directors and of course my will to go on.
My mentor Lumara Kunaka was of much assistance as he partnered with me to run Do Arts Centre. He would sell the vision to the actors and then leave. His frequent intentional absence put me on spot to forge the unit forward and make them believe in Our Vision. I desired to run one from scratch by myself. Well, nature has a way to attract what you think of mostly.
So Whispers of The Night, a vision born of continuous talk with Omondi Odhiambo and Tony Tot, who I worked with in the production had to see light of day. The pressure in me to give it life saw me produce it. I had to face the fear of selling the vision to a panel of ten. Our first mails to a venue we wished to host the event were futile. The date was set but there was no vision.
Rehearsals had just begun when our director, Tony Tot, was brought down by Chickenpox. The production manager, Omondi Odhiambo, doubled as the media person for our just newly born page and also an actor in Whispers of The Night. He had much in his cup. Creating marketing ideas, story concepts for the show and funding the project was not easy.
The greatest challenge was keeping the team intact and with the same fire as the event peeped a week and no piece was ready. Our director still lay in bed sick; we could not take the chance as this was chickenpox but we had no money to hire another director. A few knocks on God’s door and we did piece up the show two days to the event. I had pestered a couple of organisations to support this. Luckily, some did.
I have learnt that finding the right team matters. On November 30, I produced Whispers of The Night. Thanks to my partners Tony Tot, Omondi Odhiambo, Sally Vurage, Beril Oondo and Angie Makala. Quoting my mentor Lumara Kunaka, “The journey’s challenges are overcome by constant focus of the satisfaction of reaching one’s destination.”
SALLY WAWERU, 25
GOSPEL SPOKEN WORD ARTIST/ AUDITOR
OPEN WHEN YOU GET A CHILD
As a child, I had fantasies. “When I grow up I want to become a doctor”. See, I wanted so badly to become a doctor so that I could perform operations that saved lives. I wanted to become a pilot too. So I could fly high. Literally. Then I dreamt I was an astronaut. I would be the first to discover another planet.
So I went to school and discovered a subject called Chemistry, only to discover that we had no common bond. The only element I loved was chlorine, because swimming was my favourite hobby. So I said goodbye to being a doctor. To become an astronaut, I had to discover a planet. But the only planet I discovered was Planet Yogurt, which I love to the moon and back. And that is pretty satisfying. The only way I could become a pilot was if I was very good at geography. But I guess that is history, a story for another day. Twenty-five years down the line, I grew up. I found out that sometimes, reality is far from fiction, but, that doesn’t prevent me from dreaming.
When I eventually have a child and she tells what she wants to become, I will smile and encourage her to follow her dreams. I will shift occupation and be her teacher. I will tell her that she can be anything that she wants to be. She can be a tailor. Using the tape to measure the ties that suit society. She can be a baker, farmer, designer and a teacher. Baking with ingredients like integrity, honesty, excellence and a pinch of sophistication as she uses her hands to uproot the weeds in the society and plant seeds of hope.
And when she gets confused about what she wants, I will hold her little hands and encourage her to seek contentment not in titles, but in purpose, to be the best of what she will be.
And on rainy days, when rain falls on her tiny palms, and there seems to be just a ray of sunshine, I will remind her that her beauty symbolises that of a cute little bow. So she will always be my little rainbow. And when thunders in her life storm at her, I will teach her to reign.
To reign over situations that threaten her peace of mind. To reign over people that steal her thunder. I will remind her to always reign. To forget the dark clouds and focus on becoming the definition of greatness.
So when she tells me to help her to choose a career, I will look into her eyes and tell her to become a carrier of light. I will tell her to be a city upon a hill. I will tell her to be the light because sometimes, this world loses its flavour. I have seen curriculums written but never a syllabus on how to hold a pencil while writing for the first time. “Some things, my child, you will have to learn using first-hand experience. But I promise to be there to hold your hand when I notice strong enough to hold your own pencil.”