Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Five pieces of advice I’m happy I didn’t take


"Everything in moderation, including moderation." Oscar Wilde



All my life I’ve been surrounded with people trying to give you their two cents. Most of them had good intentions but some of them didn’t. Some was solicited advice and some not. As a young girl, you generally tend to listen to those that seem older, wiser and like they’ve been there. It took a whole lot of years and growth to realize that not all advice is to be taken at face value. It took lots and lots of mistakes to know that it won’t always turn out for you like it did for the one advising you, and it took a whole lot of confidence to know that all advice is to be put into consideration but not all of it is to be acted upon. I have found that for me and the specific set up that is my life, most of the advice given works better with a slight twist.

If I had to group all the advice I’ve been given over the years that I’m happy I didn’t take into five categories, it’d fall under the following;

1)      Better the devil you know than the angel you don’t know
This goes hand in hand with other common sayings like “An old broom know all the corners”, and thinking inside the box. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people even to this day still dish out this advice and I get it; it’s safe, you know exactly what you’re getting into and you can control it from start to finish. This advice was given to me in reference to friends, romantic relationships, business opportunities, travel, beauty products, name it! But guess what, the devil you now know was once an angel you didn’t know. Here’s another fact for you; you can’t control everything in life no matter how hard you try. Here’s another even truer fact; nothing great was ever achieved in a comfort zone. You have to take some risks. I’m not saying throw caution to the wind, but allow yourself to step out of your box of comfort and try something new. It can be a calculated risk (there’s professionals now that can do that for you). Life in itself is a risk because you could die at any minute. I’m glad I didn’t take this advice so literally because some of these “angels I didn’t know” turned out to be some of the best decisions I ever made!
Twist: Give the angel you don’t know at least one chance and then make an informed non-biased and open-minded decision.

2)      When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Spoiler alert; sometimes even the “Romans” are looking for fresh ideas! They are looking for someone with a fresh perspective to shake things up a little bit. I must warn you that this has a lot to do with timing. My friends and colleagues have told me repeatedly to try to blend in. Keep your head down and do what others do but I can assure you that I’ve seen this piece of advice disproved over and over especially in the work setting. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always a good idea to first find out how the “Romans” have been doing it and why they’ve been doing it that way, but after you have this information, don’t be afraid to respectfully speak out about the ideas brewing in your mind that could improve efficiency where needed. I remember this one high school I went to where girls were allowed to wear their hair long but only if it was in its natural state. This was a time before we had easy access to all these amazing Natural hair products on the market today. Because of the natural texture of African hair, water is like the worst enemy for most hair-do’s. By the time I joined this school, shampoo was persona-non-grata on the Beginning of term shopping list. Washing your hair while at school was A CRIME. When I inquired as to why no one ever dared to have shampoo, it was because no one needed it since no one was going to risk washing their hair in school. Everyone believed that if you did, your hair would shrink beyond redemption. So when I began to carry shampoo with me to school, the other girls watched from a safe distance as I embarked on washing my hair at least once a week. Yes the hair did shrink but it would be back to its normal state within a day. It wasn’t long before shampoo was appearing on the shopping lists of more girls in that school. I’m not saying your new-age ideas will always be accepted with open arms but the worst that could happen is your idea being rejected. On the flip side of that coin, the potential benefits are limitless.
Twist: When in Rome, find out why the Romans do what they do, then “pimp that joint up!!”

3)      Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve
I have to admit that this advice was accurate more times than I preferred. For a long while it felt like every time I didn’t listen to this advice, I got burned. For me, it translated into “don’t trust people” and “never give your all because you will be disappointed”, and let’s face it, in this world, there’s enough disappointment to serve seven billion people. One thing kept me coming back though: PASSION.  I couldn’t bring myself to do things just for the sake of it. Passion was literally what drove me, it was my fuel. Without it, I was like a car with no engine and that would have been of no use to myself or those around me. It took me a while but eventually I developed a healthy balance that allows me to be passionate in whatever I do. I learnt about forgiving those that misused my trust. I learned that you can still love people from a distance. I learned that trust is earned not just given. I learned that wearing your heart on your sleeve does not necessarily mean being as sweet as a Georgia peach 24/7. I learned what to say and what to keep to myself and how to differentiate the two. I also learned that there will be times when actions spoke louder than words and other times when words would be of greater impact. I learned that not everybody wished you well so sometimes you have to tread carefully. I learned that even after learning all these things, you will still get disappointed every now and then and that’s ok. But I learned all these with heart. And passion. This is the one advice that I’m ever so glad I didn’t take because it has helped me GROW into the person I am. It has made me strong and brave and “full of life”.
Twist: Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve, but wear it somewhere anyway.

4)      Money changes people
Wow. This is the most complex of all pieces of advice. Even to this day, I feel like I’m still discovering the entirety of what it means. It could mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, then they start to act like they are better than everyone else. It could also mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, they expect to be treated better than everyone else. It could also mean that when someone starts to make a lot of money, you need to treat them better than anyone else. Now I am a firm believer in the Bible and it says (to paraphrase) not to treat someone better because they are rich or worse because they are poor but we all know that’s not the reality we are living in. I will say this however, from my observation, even before this rich individual changes, the people around him/her start to change. Once you start to become more successful, people change the way they talk to you, the way they treat you and even the way they talk about you. For me, it looks like money doesn’t really change you the person as much as it changes those around this person. And this refers to making money as equally as it does to losing money. Usually, the person in question will change in reaction to the change in the people around him/her. So maybe before you start judging a person for their good (or bad) fortune and how it has changed them, first be sure that it hasn’t changed you more.
Twist: money changes people, but not before it changes those around them.

5)      A leopard never changes its spots
The final piece of advice I’m glad I didn’t take is this one. For me, it talks about not only giving second chances but also the gift of acceptance. Now as a person that has received more second chances in this life time than I deserve, I admit I may be a little biased. But which one of us has never messed up so bad that you would do just about anything for a chance to turn back time and do it all different, for a chance to make amends? Which one of us can say they are the exact same person they were five, ten years ago, nothing at all has changed in their character? Why is it that we are so lenient with ourselves and not the same with others? Why is it that we believe we have changed for the better but the evil person you knew ten years ago is always going to be that way? I am not ashamed to say that I am a leopard whose spots changed and continue to change for better! This goes back to advice #1 above. I mean I’m not going to trust you with my bank details if the last time we met you conned me and cleaned out my account, and I definitely won’t write a recommendation for you for your job as a cashier, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give you a place to crash for a few days when you’re in a tight spot, or attend your child’s christening. I will give you the benefit of a doubt and allow you to prove yourself. These chances have a limit in number of course (I’m not Jesus. Although I’m working towards that. Can I get an Amen?!) But you can be sure it will be more than one. Because from one leopard to another, spots can change. Sometimes all the leopard needs is someone willing to see that.
Twist: Some leopards never change their spots, some just need you to look closer.

I’m grateful to have people in my life that take time to drop some wisdom on me, but for the five pieces above, I’m even more grateful that I never listened.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The successes we can't see

How do you know when you’ve made it? When can you confidently call yourself a success? According to current societal trends, there’s about five distinct ways to find out. If you’re swimming in a ton of cash. It doesn’t even have to be cold hard paper, but if you’re making money by the millions, you’re considered successful. If you have a great job that allows you to pay your bills, you’re successful. If you excel academically and have exceptional academic accolades, you will be considered successful.  As you grow up and reach a certain age, having a family would put you in the successful category. From beauty, to fame, to exposure and number of friends, the categorization of success differs wherever you go. However, one sure way to know that you’ve succeeded in some way is if people are coming to you for guidance. They’ll want tips on how to get where you are, and to know how you approached a specific situation. They’ll want to dress like you dress and talk like you talk. They’ll come to you for advice and hang on to every single word you say because in that particular way, you represent success.

Which is why I was perplexed for the longest time about the lady next door. I could see no way in which she was successful. Tall, dark-skinned and over-weight, she wasn’t employed and had not been since she had her second child. She often dressed in ragged old clothes and walked around the neighborhood with unkempt hair and muddy shoes. Her phone conversations could be heard all the way from the main road. Her children were more often than not loitering around the neighborhood naked, muddy and usually with snot running down their nostrils. A quick look at her front yard might have you confusing it with a dumping site; the overgrown grass failed to cover up used diapers, black polythene bags with week-old water stagnated in them and fresh fruit peels littering the compound. Her husband, also unemployed, could be found at any given time on any given day of the week, sitting outside a bar or next to one of the local kitchens ordering for the famous “rolex”. It probably was his coping mechanism to get away from his ever-crying children and several utility company field officials that often came by to hand him a disconnection notice due to failure or extended delay in paying the bills.

What left me perplexed in particular about Ms. Lady next door was that people came to her for advice! It wasn’t uncommon to find one of those very large fancy cars parked right outside her gate, the owner an equally posh and refined lady or couple. Probably due to a semblance of shame, she would seat her visitors on plastic white chairs out in her front yard in the grass-less patch that was once a gully for water but had been enlarged by children playing in it. (I once went over to congratulate her upon the birth of her second child; the inside of the house was not only smaller, but also worse than the outside of the house.) These guests often purchased some of the ‘organic” home-made juice she sold and carried it home along with the advice she dished out. It was also not uncommon, during one of her broadcasted phone calls, to hear her give advice to a breast-feeding mother on how to properly breastfeed, pregnant ladies on how to handle the transition from delivery, mothers who were having problems with getting their infant children to eat healthy as well as wives with marital issues. Each of these conversations was always punctuated with several loud and high pitched laughs, various exclamations of surprise or shock, and sounds of chewing on something.  I wondered how, after seeing the mess that was her life, any one could take advice from her! Wasn’t the reason people got advice from someone who had it all together because they had it all together, or at least appeared to? Weren’t you supposed to be successful?

For months, I wondered silently and curiously. Did these people not see what I saw? Did they just not care? Were such conditions a normal occurrence in their lives and so not a shock? Or did they not even notice? Was this lady conducting some sort of con-artist business in broad day light? Was there something she was putting in that “organic” juice?

It wasn’t until I had an unexpected run-in with the children that it all made sense. Ms. Lady next door might not be BeyoncĂ© or Indra Nooyi but she was successful in her own right. Her children, once cleaned up, were really polite and friendly. She was pursuing her P.H.D. Her husband was a good father, always playing with the children whenever he was home. And they were happy! Not one night would go by without hearing laughter come out of their home. She had some little sure victories tucked into her belt; you just had to look a little closer to see. Those who did saw it, and kept coming back.


It’s so easy to dismiss someone because they are not shiny on the surface. It’s so easy to over-look someone because they don’t tick any of the “successful” boxes. But if you took the time to dig just a little deeper, you just may be surprised. 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Dear God...

Dear God,

This is a thank you note.

Allow me to elaborate.

My grand aunt (if that’s even an English word) was a single mother of five. Her husband, after over a decade of marriage, woke up one day and decided his five children did not mean that much to him anymore; he got himself a new wife, and went ahead to have four more children with his new wife. At the time this happened, her eldest child (my aunt) was about eleven years old.

This tale is vivid in my mind because I looked up to my grand aunt in all matters spiritual. You could cut her up, limb by limb and she would still not give up her faith in Jesus.

 I was an eager and curios child of maybe fifteen, a very impressionable age if you ask me. A group of about five of us were seated in a living room of her village home in Western Uganda, listening  intently to grand aunt tell this tale. The look in her eyes was one that said ‘I don’t expect you to believe me but this actually happened”. It was a cold night so we were all covered up in different kinds of warmers, all eyes on her, no one daring to breathe too loud lest we miss even a word. As she spoke, eyes darting from one person to other, she leaned forward into all of us, one thin hand holding her evening cup of tea, the other gesturing for effect. Every two minutes or so, she stopped to seep from the severely diluted cup of milk tea (she liked it that way- diabetes and all that), a smile playing on her lips. The story was narrated in our local language; I suspect it was to make sure we pay attention and to add dramatic effect.

Back in her time, the road network in villages was not as extensive or developed as it is now. She was a Primary School teacher and her second born son was just about to sit for his Primary Leaving examinations. By this time, her estranged husband was about to have his third child with his new bride. Her candidate son had not paid school fees. It was a Sunday and she was embarking on a journey from the town where she taught in one district to the boarding school her son studied in another district, hoping to beg for mercy so they could let her child sit the exams and allow her to pay the school fees later. The Primary Leaving Examinations were to begin early the next morning and if she didn’t arrive today, it would be too late. So after her classes that day, she got into one of those small taxis that ferry people from one district to another upcountry. The taxi only went as far as the district town Centre. From there she would have to walk a journey of about ten kilometers on a dirt road through a swamp to reach her son’s school.

With all its various stops for passengers, the taxi arrived in the district past seven pm. She was determined still, and after waiting about thirty minutes at the stage, hoping to hitch a ride with a passenger vehicle that may be headed the same way, she decided to take her chances and walk before it got too late. About 4km and an hour later, her hope was starting to fade. It was terribly cold, mist all around because of the swamp and only the sound of a thousand crickets for company on that dark road. She was cold, tired, hungry, and scared.

At this point, she stopped to take a sip from her cooling cup of tea.  I used the opportunity to change posture as my leg had started to feel pins and needles.

It’s past nine pm now and she is only about half way the journey. At this point, all hope is gone and she breaks down and starts to cry and pray to God. She won’t make it to the school alive, and even if some strange men don’t rob or kill her in this swamp, they will never let her into the school at that time. Even if they let her in, her son’s teachers would be asleep already and where would she spend the night? Her son would have to go through the class again and she would have to pay fees for an extra year with money she didn’t even have. “Why was she going through this”, she asked God.

At just that moment, she spots a church about half a kilometer away. It’s the only place with electricity she has seen so far so she decides this is where she will spend the night and deal with tomorrow’s troubles tomorrow. At this point, she can barely drag herself up the church steps, and is even more exhausted from all the bitter crying she has done.

She sits up during the narration, switches her cup of tea to the other hand, adjusts the shoal covering her legs, widens her eyes, and with all certainty, without blinking, says, “That’s when I saw the angel”.

It was a man, very tall and big with large wings and with so much light coming from him that he lit up the whole church compound, all the way down to the road. At first she wasn’t sure what was happening and when she did realize what was happening, she was too dumbfounded to respond.

The details from this point are not clear but the angel informed her that not only would she make it to the school but her son would excel in the exams he was sitting for the next day. He doesn’t remember how she did it but with renewed vigor, she walked the remaining kilometers to the school and found a teacher that let her spend the night and went on to assist her sort out the P.L.E issues the next day.

My Uncle sat for his Primary Leaving Examinations the next day and went on to become the best in the country that year. He is currently a surgeon in the United States. My Grand aunt eventually became the headmistress of that school but has since retired with various businesses. All five children are actually doing exceptionally well. Even now, you won’t go to her house and leave without hearing about Jesus.

I remember how for the longest time I prayed and prayed to God that I too would see an angel but the prayers became less and less until they were no more. For a long while, I thought that maybe You didn’t answer that prayer because I would eventually see angels when I get to heaven and it was all a lesson in patience but it hit me recently that I’ve been so wrong all this time.

You did send me angels, not one but many. They may not be ten feet tall or shine like the sun. They may not have big wings or leave me dumbfounded. However they do help me up when I fall, and give me strength to go on when I am sure I can’t. They support me and make things possible. They encourage me and accept me. They renew my vigor to walk this journey. They show me that my grand aunt’s tale is true. They show me that you not only heard my prayers but you answer them.


So God, this is a thank you note. For all the angels you’ve surrounded me with, and for the others that I will see when I get to heaven. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

Enervated

Wolf and lamb in the same skin
My protector and my murderer are one and the same
Love and anger wrestle in the same dark small cubicle
Pain; the feeling of having your skin peeled off as you watch
Of someone taking your four fingers, pulling each two apart in opposite directions until the skin reaps
Until there's blood everywhere and the smell of putrid raw flesh fills the room
My healing lies within my suffering
You should have known. You should have intuition about these things; how couldn't you tell?
If we are joined at the hip, aren't we joined at heart as well?
Isn't my sin your sin? Don't you hear the words in these tears falling down my eyes?


I need for you to fix it, to nudge me forward and take me back to the beginning
Where it all started, and where it ended
To stay by my side and leave me alone
Reverse time; make it so none of it ever happened, so we still have that picture perfect I saw the first time I looked in your eyes
Take me back to innocence, where I could look the world dead in the eyes, a stare-down where only I could have won
My savior and condemner wear a shared face
If you weren't here, would I have felt all this pleasure? Would I have felt all this pain?
My fate is sealed; I must carry the heavy shadows on my bent back down this dark narrow winding path
I must wade through the muddy knee-high waters underneath the bridge I once rode on, the stone bridge I paved myself with bruised hands to keep me from drowning
My darkness is my light.
Will you relieve me, my captor and my hero?




Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Journal from the past; You're okay!

Nothing in life is a coincidence. I believe that everything happens at a particular time for a reason; you just have to be sensitive enough not to miss the purpose and whatever life is trying to impact on you.

Just this week, my sister decided to do some re-organisation of the bookshelf at home. The most interesting article she found(at least to me) was this journal I kept from 2012.It's deep blue in color with each page divided to cover three-four days. It's branded because it's one of those company diaries. You can tell from the worn edges that it was well used. Most of the pages are pretty full; I clearly had a lot to say. Most probably, I just had a lot of time on my hands.





After my sister handed me the diary, it lay on my bedside table for a few days. Just yesterday, while I was lounging around, I saw it and thought, "Why not?" So I opened the first page and begun to read. Most of it was pretty dramatic, I was a dreamer and I saw the world in HD/full color. I was young, without experience and with such an appetite for life. I was hungry to do, do, do!! I had such high expectations from myself, my loved ones and life. I had seen nothing!!! On one of the first pages one of my statements caught my eye....






"I wish I could fast forward to five years from now and see what happens then. Or just to skip this part anyway. Living one day at a time sucks".

Guess what, It's almost exactly five years from the day I wrote that. And I want to reach out to me five years ago and just give her a long, tight and warm hug. If I could talk to the Kullein of 2012 (insert some time-travel stunt from any movie), here's what I'd say...

Enjoy that phase
It probably feels like it's dragging but you'll miss it, at least parts of it. You will one day look back fondly at that time and laugh at how simple it all was...

Slow down
Pace yourself. Don't be skipping any parts and trying to look for shortcuts. I know you're trying to get to a place people took 2 years to get to in 2 months. It's not a bad thing. Just try be present; fully feel and enjoy where you are NOW.

You're on schedule
You're doing better than you or anyone else ever thought you would be doing at this point. You've gone over and beyond and will bag some remarkable achievements. You have a great support system; you're in love with an angel, your friends are loyal and your family has never been closer.

Don't stop dreaming
Never lose your hunger and appetite for life. Don't ever feel like it's a disadvantage because it's not something everyone has. It might get you into sticky situations some times, but you will live a full life.The future is so much better than you can see right now.

Ease up on yourself
Give yourself a break. Give your loved ones a break. It's not as serious as you think it is, and yes, you will recover from the mistakes. You will learn so much that you'll even shock yourself. If you could see yourself five years from now, you'd be so proud of you. You're on the right track,

You're not fat!!!
I probably can't convince you about this no matter what I say but just for the record, it's true.

Last but not least, don't quit on the journals
Look at how handy this one came in. I know at some point in the future you will give it all a break, but do resume when you can.


There's no such thing as coincidence. This diary re-appearing in my life at this exact time is no coincidence. It's God's way of saying, 'Hey, you're okay'. He is saying 'I still got you'.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Majority knows best!





Slow down child
You skip and you slip 
without a care in the world
You swish and you sway
and say all your thoughts out loud
You shouldn't be so happy
You should carry some worry

Slow down child
lest you meet your fall 
We were once young like you, you know
we thought we knew it all
But life will shake you up good, it will
show you who's who in the larger scale of things
You shouldn't be so full of hope

Slow down child 
you will get your heart broken
It may seem like it's for forever right now 
but we can tell you it won't last
Haven't you heard it said,
"All good things come to an end"?
Don't you dare trust fully

Slow down child
follow the pre-defined steps
There's a reason why these things are in place;
Majority knows best
There's no need to fix what isn't broken
or make better what's working fine
Try to not be so adventurous

Slow down child
You risk and you believe
trying to shape your own way
You question and you doubt
and want to try everything out
keep your head down and try to fit in
Don't try to stand out, it will only do you in

Slow down child.
We know what's best for you
Slow down child.








Monday, 13 February 2017

Courage in the time of fear

“Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy.”


Some messages never grow old. There are some topics that after I’ve read two or three posts about them, I’m done. Being bold is not one of those topics.

Naturally as human beings, we are comforted by routine. The safety net it brings allows you to feel like you’re in control of your life and what tomorrow will bring. It becomes your identity, how you describe yourself and how others define you. It becomes your main frame of reference when making decisions. It allows you to fit into a certain social category; heck, it even gives you new friends. When that safety net is suddenly ripped away, you’re left exposed. You’re suddenly vulnerable and lost, like a chick that was separated from mother hen and siblings when crossing the road. You start to look left and right, looking for anything that looks familiar or accepting. The doubt then starts to set in; were you even ever what you thought you were? Are you sure you weren’t a phony the whole time, an act that got so good at the scene that it looked real? Are you anything without that safety net? What about your friends; will they really still be your friends even after you’re no longer under the same net? Was it the right decision?



The truth of the matter is Fortune favors the bold. No one ever got anywhere without taking the risk, and trust me it doesn’t matter who you are, risks scare everyone. Nobody said you wouldn’t be afraid. The trick is to do it even when you are afraid. Choose to focus on the little courage you have and drown out all the fear/doubts. I’m not talking about that action that you know will hurt everyone around you and put you in trouble. I’m also not talking about those whims that come as a result of watching too much soapy television. No. I’m talking about that itch that keeps you awake at night. That thing you can’t wait to get up and do in the morning. That thing that brings you so much fulfillment because you know that you know that you know that this is what you’re supposed to be doing! You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Nah, this ain’t for me. I’m way too unimportant. I have too much to lose. I couldn’t possibly be able to pull it off.”

I wish I could tell you that it will all most definitely work out but I can’t. It will probably be hard and you will most probably go through some days where you wonder if you did the right thing. But if you don’t, you will spend each and every day of your existence half alive. You will grow resentful and angry and lose all sort of motivation. You will simply drift from one day into another and ask questions like, “What day is it?” and it won’t be because of a crazy night out the night before. One day 20 years down the road, you will wake up and wonder where your life went. All the things you were afraid would happen if you did still happened when you didn’t. You will carry around the pain of a loss so great that it will show in your empty sad eyes and your stooped walk.


Do it. Take the plunge. Today is only the beginning of the rest of your life.