Why is it so hard to accept failure?

I had coffee with a friend a couple of weeks ago. Things haven’t been going well for me for a while and this came out as we were catching up. Usually, when someone asks, “How are you doing?” I plaster a smile on my face and say, “Fine.” That’s usually the end of it and since most people love to talk about themselves, I steer the conversation back to them. But this guy insisted on knowing how things were, so I told him.

The surprise came when he wouldn’t let me label the stuff I had tried that hadn’t worked out as “failures.” He insisted that these were little bumps on the road to the smashing success that I will achieve. I’m sure he was trying to make me feel better. But his adamant insistence only made me feel worse and regret getting into the conversation in the first place.

Positivity warriors can be very irritating. Tossing out statements like “Winners never quit and quitters never win” rarely motivates the recipient. In fact, they end up diminishing other people’s feelings, to have their struggles dismissed so casually. It’s the reason I don’t read motivational books. Most are filled with cheap theatrics and prescriptions that don’t actually work in real life. They only benefit the author (through book sales) and make many readers wonder what is wrong with them that the author’s advice does not translate into similar success in their own lives.

The bible thumping brigade is just as bad. “God has a plan for your life and it’s wonderful.” I know God has a plan you nitwit. But right now – in this very second, minute or hour – that plan sucks. I feel like crap and want to wallow, even if it’s only for a short time. To acknowledge and recognise the pain that comes from knowing that you put your heart and soul into something and it didn’t work out the way you planned. Continue reading

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Turning 45

I turned 45 several weeks ago. The day passed quietly just like any other. I’ve never made a big deal of birthdays. Then I thought, it might be fun to compile a list of what I’ve learnt about life so far. I’m single with no kids, but not your typical career driven woman either. So let’s dive right in.

1. You control nothing, so get used to it.

Picture this. I’m in the last few months at Precious Blood Girls, Riruta. Our class teacher Mrs Chege has brought university application forms, which the rest of the class is busy filling. Meanwhile, I’m doodling in my notebook, forms untouched.

“Where are your forms?” Mrs Chege asks, a frown creasing her face.

“I don’t need them.”

“You can’t get into university without them.”

“I’m not going to university.”

“What? Why not?”

“I’m going to Utalii College to do hotel management.” I lean back in my seat with a confident smile. Mrs Chege shakes her head in disbelief.

“Everyone wants to go to university,” she insists in a firm bossy tone, lent even more weight by a hand on each hip.

“Not me. I’m going to Utalii.”

I have nurtured that dream since I was a little girl. The day I watched my uncle Joseph Wanganga, an executive chef at Jadini Beach Hotel, bake a cake using a sufuria over a charcoal jiko (we were poor and didn’t have an oven), I was captivated. I decided then and there that I was going to work in a hotel. He always let us eat the dough mixture left in the plastic basin after pouring it in the sufuria. Licking that basin clean was the highlight of the baking session.

Mrs Chege and the headmistress tried to convince me not to do something foolish. Nothing doing. So I applied to Utalii and then the worst happened. I failed to get a place despite scoring a B-Plain in the KCSE exam. I moped around the house for weeks, barely talking to anyone.

One day, dad finally placed my university admission letter on the dining table and asked me to go check it out. A few weeks before the Utalii heartbreak, the minister of education announced an extension for university applications due to some irregularities in schools. Dad convinced me to apply in the new window. “Just as a back-up, Utalii is still our main focus,” he assured me.

So I did B.Com and by a very winding road ended up as a creative writer. Is that a 5-year plan I see you compiling so diligently? Just know the universe is about to piss all over it. Don’t tear it up yet. Keep it and look at it in a decade or two. It will provide a good laugh when you see how far you’ve strayed from it. Continue reading

The ambulance

I was in deep thought, completely absorbed in planning the second issue of the magazine we would soon be launching, when the sound startled me back to the present.

A siren. Really loud. A minute later I saw it. An ambulance. Exactly the same model as the matatu I was sitting in but without the yellow stripe across the middle. Cream in colour, strobe lights flashing, siren blaring. Continue reading

10 things I’m grateful for

I was watching a documentary the other day which had all these celebrity women drumming up support for the end of negative cultural practices that many women go through in Africa and elsewhere. It made me think of all the stuff I’ve taken for granted my whole life that other women can’t do. So here is a list of things I’m grateful for. Continue reading

Conversation with God

If you had an hour to spend with the Almighty what would you talk about?

Many people, worried about whether they would be dispatched to heaven or hell would beg forgiveness for all their sins. Others would bargain for more time on earth.

I would seek answers to these 5 questions. Continue reading