The moment we realize that the course of our lives is solely in our hands, is the moment when everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, changes.
We stop believing that some people are simply inherently good at what they do. We stop thinking that we need to ‘know our place’ in society and humble our ambitions. We stop staring at successful and famous (for the right reasons) people, wondering, “Well, how the hell did that happen?”
Yesterday, there was a crazy storm that passed by Lang’ata region. I thought I was lucky because I arrived just when the first drop of rain was falling, but quickly realized I was not, when the lights abruptly went off because, well, this is Kenya. And being the middle class and highly westernized family we are, my father and I lamented at length over not having access to the internet and our devices, because where I’m from, when the lights go off, they carry along network with them. So after grumbling for quite sometime, we decided to light some of our kerosene lamps, and do something we rarely did- enjoy each other’s company without social media distraction. After a few minutes, we realized this was not working, and Dad went off to the car to get a copy of TIMES, the magazine we both loved but had both neglected for the past few months. And, surprisingly, Kanye West was on the cover, with the heading ‘100 most influential People in the World.”
Naturally, I refused to believe that these 2 things could coincide( sorry Kanye, it’s just….how?), so I promptly grabbed the magazine, teared off the transparent cover and skimmed through the pages for about 10 seconds before Dad duly snatched it back (“you’re not the one who bought it, you know”) and, with a torch in one hand, began to read out the names of the chosen 100, as marked by their countries and states of Birth on a worldmap.
As he continued calling out these names, I would respond whenever I knew the person (in the process, I realized knew way waaaay too much pop culture). These were people from diverse backgrounds and careers; from actors, to neuroscientists, to activists, to our very own “Yeezus” rapper ,to Governors, to Biologists. They certainly didn’t have the same gifting. So what made them part of the distinguished 100? And not in the rest of the 7 billion crowd? What made THEM stand out?
You see, I do not believe in blessings. And I believe that luck and talent will only get you so far. People get recognized in public for what they have been sweating blood in private to accomplish. And the people who graced the pages of TIMES were, simply, good. They were amazing at what they did. And not because they were child prodigies. It was because they fully understood the net cost of sacrifice and dedication needed to attain their goals. They understood that to get where they wanted to in life, they needed to realize that people’s opinions of them were worth absolutely nothing if they were not building them.
And see, I don’t think we fully understand this. I know, a few years’ back ,I certainly didn’t. I was a product of peer pressure and the desire to fit in in my younger teen years. Believe it or not, being liked by everyone formed a big big part of what drove me in life. I was the quintessential people pleaser, who didn’t want to show that she was too ambitious, or too courageous, or too outgoing. I didn’t want to be a ‘kimbelembele’. I believed that the more I played down what I wanted, and what I was good at, the more ‘humble’ I would be perceived as, hence the more people would like me. But after spending quite sometime in the shadows as that ‘clever but quiet and always friendly but never assertive’ girl, I realized that shadows were not fun. They were not fun at all. I was stuck in a zone of regret, frustration, bitterness, envy and lost dreams. And I wasn’t about to spend the remaining 60 or so years of my life being a pathetic, washed down version of myself. No siree.
So, just like that, I had a paradigm shift. I decided to be ambitious and outgoing; to consciously let words slide off me, and to live life like there was no rewind button. Because you know what? There isn’t. Life is short- ridiculously short. And I don’t know what will happen after I take my last breath. Nor do I know when I’ll take my last breath.
So why waste the limited time you have on this blue planet trying to please other people?
I’ll be honest. The quality of my life has never been higher than it is right now. I’m heading off to the school of my dreams, I’m surrounded by friends with the same level of ambition as mine, and they constantly challenge me to improve myself. And I refuse to be coy or shy in saying that. Things are going great. I’m not about to slow down for anything, anyone, or any circumstance.
Because all you need is a mindshift. That’s what makes the difference between the doctor and the patient. That’s what makes the difference between the School Captain and the average student. Between the President and the ordinary citizen. Between the subscriber of TIMES magazine, and the person on the cover.
So, what’s your excuse?