Where do you see yourself in a few years is a question often asked and whose answer is in most peoples’ finger tips – Usually, a well mapped out life plan. What would you do if things changed and went totally different from what you had planned or expected?
We spoke to five individuals who shared about their detours, lessons they learnt that they would probably not have learnt if their lives had remained the same and how the change has since shaped their lives.
NAME: CAROLINE GATHUNGU
Age: 27 years
“Death. That was the last thing I expected to change the trajectory of my life. My dad and I had a great daughter to father relationship –we played scrabble together, tackled math problems together and shared many stories and interests. He was a super dad.
When I thought of my wedding, he was the person at the centre of it -walking me down the aisle. I had seen him play with my elder brother’s kids and being the doting daughter that I was, I knew that my kids would have an amazing grandfather. I couldn’t picture a life without him. Then, what I couldn’t bring myself to think of happened. He died last year on February 1,” she says.
Caroline is an introvert and who likes to have control of her life, emotions and environment. However, when this happened, she lost it . She couldn’t handle the attention, the responsibilities and the emotional void.
“At some point, in May, I even considered suicide to put to an end to my suffering. I had a suicidal note written and a plan mapped out on how I would do it. But, for some reasons, I still chose life. On some occasions, I would just take my phone and dial my dad only for the call to go unanswered,” she recalls.
Being the last born in a family of two, losing her dad called for her maturity as she had to take up some responsibilities and also help her mum in managing their family properties.
“His death taught me one big lesson – that you cannot have it all figured out and some things are beyond our control. I also learnt that I needed to loosen up and let people in. My friends were very affirming even when I wasn’t conversational. Some supported me financially when I went for counselling sessions. God cares too, I learnt,” says the accounting graduate from KCA university.
Now, she already has someone in mind who will wear her dad’s shoes and walk her down the aisle.
NAME: DAN BRYTON
Student, Multimedia University
Born and bred in South B Estate, Nairobi, Dan Bryton had what he refers to as an admirable lifestyle. He was a happy child. Then when he was five, the unexpected happened. His parents separated and his dad re-married. His father later sent him and his step mother to their rural home in Nyamira.
He describes life in the village as miserable. He was denied food and forced to brew chang’aa, seeing him miss school on most days. Sadly, none of his relatives believed he was being mistreated.
“One day, I woke up and left home. I walked for hours until I found a place I would call home for the next one year, inside a tea plantation,” he explains.
Dan survived on begging for food in the nearby Sotik Shopping centre and stealing bananas from farms in the neighbourhood.
On many occasions, the tea farmers had tried to nab him but each time, he escaped. However, one day, he wasn't lucky enough. The owner of the tea plantation caught up with him.
“I explained to her why I was stealing and she empathised with my situation. For the first time in a year, I spoke with my mother,” he says, adding that on several occasions, people had denied him their phones when he requested to contact her.
Back at the tea plantation, his wish was to go back to school, get good grades and become a journalist. To his amazement, the lady was willing to enroll him in a primary boarding school.
“She faithfully paid my school fees and during the holidays, I would go visit my mother and my three siblings. Sadly, my guardian angel passed on in 2013 when I was in form one leaving me with two choices - dropping out of school or figuring a way to remain in school,” he offers.
He says his good demeanour and rapport with teachers and administration staff, saw him get through secondary school without being sent home for fees. But by the time he was sitting for KCSE, he had accrued arrears to the tune of Sh 57,000 which he has since managed to pay. Bryton is currently a first year student at Multimedia University taking a course in Political Science.
“ To pay fees and meet my expenses, I work as a clerk in a bread manufacturing company based in South B. My day starts at 3:30am. I work until 6:30am then go back to the house to prepare for classes. In the evening, I work from 7pm to 10:30 pm,” he explains.
When he is in school, his two employees are busy distributing loaves of bread within Nairobi’s estates fetching him a profit of at least Sh 1500 every day.
“My life has had many twists and turns since my parents separated. However, it has been a learning journey. Now I know that I am the master of my own fate,” he says.
NAME: IVANNA WAWERU
Founder: Weza Dada Foundation
“Your story is your mission”
At 18 years, Ivanna admits that she was quite mischievous and got expelled from school two times. However, one thing remained uncurving - her relationship with the opposite gender.
“I was principled and only had platonic relationships with men. As such, thoughts of getting pregnant never crossed my mind because I knew that I was too careful for that, or so I thought,” she says.
When Ivanna’s mum got tired of her bad behaviour in secondary school, she opted to home school her in a quest to keep a cautionary eye on her. To Ivanna, it meant more freedom and more friends.
Although she had some disciplinary issues, she knew that she wanted to finish school, get married, have kids and live happily ever after. There was no way she was having kids before settling, at least not at 18 years.
“Three months to my IGCSE exams, I discovered that I was pregnant. I was devastated, confused and shattered. For many days, I kept thinking of facing my mum but each time I tried, words failed me. I decided to keep it to myself until I sat for my exams,” she explains.
But in the midst of the confusion, she was certain about two things - she wanted to keep the baby but wanted nothing from the baby daddy.
“The news that I was expectant changed my world in an instant. I quit going out with friends and instead stayed at home feeding on a lot of fruits as thoughts of my own betrayal haunted me.
Her mother was appalled when she broke the news and the first question she asked was, so you are getting married? A question so weighty that she lisped in her response.
“She quarreled me over it, said many heart wrenching things but still accorded me her support with a condition that I continued with my education, “she says.
Yet, for the next nine months, the affirmations were entangled with scolding and sarcastic comments.
“I could be asking about something as direct as what we are having for dinner and comments like, ‘did you ask yourself questions when you decided to get pregnant’ would come before an answer. People around me were talking in hushed tones; admonishing me for ruining my future adding that I had brought shame to my mother who had single handedly struggled to raise me. It was such a difficult time for me,” she says.
As if to make a reparation, Ivanna enrolled for a Diploma in counseling psychology when she was seven months pregnant, all this time doing all the household chores.
Sometimes, I felt like my mum didn’t care much about me or my situation but looking back, it was also hard for her. I was her only child and she had great hopes in me.
Now at 22 years, Ivanna says that the whole experience made her distance herself from the male gender but it also shed light about her own life.
“The awful things I was doing in school were a call for attention. I am emotional while my mum is logical. Since childhood, I had an emotional need that wasn’t satisfied. The experience taught me about self-love and it enabled me to love myself more. It also made me realise of the importance of sharing your struggles with other people so that they can learn from them,” she notes.
The Bachelor of Arts (Counselling Psychology) Fourth year student at Tangaza University College runs a support group, WEZA DADA FOUNDATION that offers vocational and life skills and counselling services to young mothers as well as organising mentorship sessions for young girls in a quest to reduce teenage pregnancy.
“My life didn’t turn out the way I had planned but I like the detour it took. I have learnt a lot in the journey, lessons not just for me but also for posterity,” she offers.
When Isaac agreed to take up the responsibility that his colleagues had bestowed on him - to form and be the administrator of their WhatsApp group, he did not imagine that his world was about to make a shift.
“The month was April 2017. I was working at a local five-star hotel and there were many changes happening- new management, terminations, resignations and new rules and regulations. As employees, we had much to discuss and explain to each other about the impact the changes had on us so we decided to have a meeting,” he explains.
Due to their different work shifts, they decided that the best place to meet would be online. Isaac was tasked to form and add his colleagues to the group.
“I had worked as an engineer for 15 years, seven of which were in this particular hotel. Even in my weirdest dreams, I didn’t see myself quitting engineering. At the hotel, life was good. I interacted with people from all social classes. If anything, I envisioned promotion and pay increment since I had gone back to a local university and studied a degree in counselling psychology -I enjoy helping other people. I completed the course in December 2016 and graduated in November last year, he offers.
A few days after creating the group, Isaac was summoned by the boss, ordered to close it and a termination letter came two days later.
“I was astounded. In the seven years I had worked there, I didn’t have a single disciplinary case. If there was anything wrong I had done, as per the laid out procedures, the Human Resource manager would take note of that and give me a formal warning instead. However, at the end of the month, I was fired.” He says.
With the severance pay in his bank account, questions and thoughts reeling in his mind, Isaac decided to keep the dismissal a secret from his family until he had figured out the next move.
“For the better part of May 2017, I would dress up and leave the house like I was going to work. I had been used to that lifestyle and besides, with the uncertainty that was my future, I didn’t know how to break the bad news to my family. I waited until I had a way out. Thankfully, my friends were there to support me and they prodded me to focus on the counselling path as I was passionate about it.
Today, Isaac is an author ‘In Pursuit of your dreams’ and the founder of Greatness Assured Consultancy, a company he founded early this year. In there, he offers training, counselling and mentorship services.
“When I look back, I am grateful that I was terminated because I really enjoy what I currently do as a counselling psychologist. At the end of the day, I sleep a fulfilled man,” he offers.
He notes that the detour enabled him to learn much about himself, purpose and life itself.
“Loss is a difficult thing to overcome and were it not for the great support system that I had, I would have probably sunk into depression. It enabled me to realise what potential I had within me and my capabilities,” he says, adding that when life takes an unexpected turn, take time to relax before thinking of the next move and if need be, see a counsellor.
“It might be a cliché but when life gives you lemons when you expected some oranges, don’t throw them away. Make some lemonade.” He says.
NAME: DANIEL NJOROGE
Age: 25 years
Student, Moi University
For the last three months, Njoroge, 25 who is on long holiday, leaves his house in Kiandutu slum, Thika at dawn. On his hand, a bucket full of groundnuts, a cap on his head and a white butcher’s coat completing the look.
Some days, he positions himself within Thika town but on most days, he operates along Thika road, mostly on foot, selling groundnuts to passengers or pedestrians along the way.
However, after the three months’ break elapses, like he has done in other years, he stores away his tools of trade and off he leaves for Moi University, Eldoret. There, he is a fourth year student taking Mathematics and Business studies.
“This is how I get my school fees. My mother cannot afford to put me through school and what I get from HELB is not enough. Each long holiday, I make about Sh 70, 000 selling groundnuts,” he says.
But his life wasn’t always like this. He was born in a well to do family and as a young boy, he grew up visualising himself as the president of Kenya. However, the separation of his parentswhen he is still in primary school left him under the care of his jobless mother pushing him to fed for his school fees in this manner.
According to Njoroge, it is an escape. One, from his pre-determined destiny after the separation and two, from a trend that sought to define his family.
“I am the sixth born in a family of eight and I was the first to get a calling letter to a university. Also, it’s a first in my extended family. I knew that I had to do something about it,” he says.
Before then, in 2007, Njoroge was on the same fate as his relatives. He sat for his KCPE and scored a dismal 171 marks out of the possible 500 marks. He forgot about education, got himself a job as an errand boy in Thika town and it was while there that he decided to change the path that his life had taken.
“I kept telling people that I wish to become the president of Kenya someday. While most laughed at me, one of them pointed out to my grades and told me that if I wanted to become the president, I had to get back to school. I decided to repeat classes and in 2009, I did a repeat KCPE and scored 341 marks.
Due to financial challenges, Njoroge couldn’t join his school of choice and settled for a local day secondary school.
“I would leave school every evening and go to Thika town and run errands such helping carry shopping bags to help my mother pay the fees. Needless to say, it was tough. I was constantly being sent home for school fees, but I perservered” he notes.
Even then, he did well in his KCSE exams in 2013 earning him a place at Moi University. He, however had to defer for one semester in search of school fees.
“I am committed to change my life and that of my family. Out here, most people respect what I do and wish that they did the same thing when their lives took a detour. The resilience to change the history of my family has brought me here and I won’t stop forging ahead until I accomplish my childhood dream- to become Kenya’s president.