I received a facebook message from an old acquaintance a few weeks ago. Arcadius was someone I knew from University. We also belonged to the same Christian group from Campus called Concert but other than that we don’t talk much so it was quite a surprise to hear from him. He wrote to tell me about this new non-profit organization that he had just started called Career Advisory Center. What the organization does is to have professionals in different fields visit different high schools and give career talks. Arcadius further explained that the talks aim to show the students that to succeed in life in any way; they will also need to have the right values.
I was very happy to get the message and the invitation to be a speaker at these career talks. I felt like it was my chance to give back and most importantly inspire someone. There is nothing as good as knowing that in a way, you are making a difference in the world. It gives your life some sense of purpose. You feel like you are actually doing something meaningful and not merely living. I know it seems like I am placing a lot of significance into it but when you really think about it, you haven’t really lived until you have made a difference in the world or in someone’s life. Or at least tried to…
So anyway, I had my 1st high school visit last Saturday at Gitwe girls. In Barney Stinson’s words, I suited up and looked the part of a successful career woman, if I may say so myself. To be frank, I may have been a little overdressed but then again, I had decided to go all the way. I woke up very early in the morning and met the rest of the professionals in town before 8am. We had writers, journalists, architects, lawyers, hospitality professions, graphic designers, engineers, accountants, publicists, bankers, lecturers and businessmen and women. It was a good and impressive mix of young professionals.
Long story short, we were well received at Gitwe girls both by staff members and the students. I truly believe that the talks we gave were inspiring to the girls. It was interesting seeing them participating, asking all kinds of questions and even sharing their dreams and ambitions with us. In my group, there are quite a number of girls who made an impression on me. There was this one girl who was really fascinated by investigative journalism. However, I think she also wanted to be a doctor or rather felt that she should be one. It took us a long time trying to explain to her how it may be a little difficult to be in both professions due to the demanding nature of both careers. At the same time, we had to ensure not to discourage her and therefore, we explained to her that anything is achievable and if she really wanted to do that, she could.
There is another girl who said that she had wanted to be a reporter since she was a child. I really felt connected to her. Not because of the reporter bit but because she reminded me of myself at that age. Like her, I was skinny, awkward and had a huge problem maintaining a good hairdo (my hair was always looking windblown even when there was no wind) but I was still a dreamer. I knew that I loved to write even from a young age.
There was another girl who also reminded me of myself. She loved to write and explained that she could write about anything even if not related to schoolwork. She described herself as being creative with an active imagination. Her story brought a smile to my face, that girl was me and still is me. I write about random things, I write to clear my thoughts, I even write instead of to talking to friends. I write down what I would have said in a conversation with a good friend. I even write down my prayers instead of saying them at times. That girl reminded me of me. I truly hope that she will not give up on her dreams but will live to see them turn to a reality.
There was another girl who told me that she has been writing a book. This also reminded me of myself. I wrote one too when I was in primary school. I wish I had kept it with me. I would give anything just to see what Diana was really thinking about those days. They say, at that young age, we don’t have inhibitions and are more expressive. I really wish I could get that book back. However, that ship has sailed but not for this girl. I truly hope that her book will see the light of day in being published and that she will go far with her writing.
There was another girl who wanted to be a radio presenter. She described herself as being talkative and true to that, she really had a lot to say and managed to keep things very lively. However, she was worried about the part that looks play in ensuring a successful career. She believed that industries such as the Media, only work with people with good looks. The whole class seemed to agree with her. There was even one “Mukorini” girl who told us of how she had to leave the Journalism club because her peers convinced her that she could never become a journalist with her clothing and the religious headgear. It was discouraging to hear all these and see young girls already discouraged even before they got out of school. We talked to them and tried to convince them that they can achieve their dreams no matter what. I truly hope that we managed to change their thoughts a little bit.
I have a lot of things that I could write about those girls and also the young professions that I met. I was inspired by Arcadius leaving his job and starting an organization that tackles an issue he is passionate about. He took a risk, followed his dreams and now, he is making things happen and making a difference. In the group, everyone touched me in a way. There was Mike, a journalist who is very passionate about his work; he also knew from a very young age what he always wanted to do. There was Gloria, another writer who I truly connected with. There was Janet and Eddy, the couple who went into business together. Everyone had an inspiring story and I am truly grateful to God and to Arcadius for allowing me to be part of that experience.
I know this post is too long but there are a few things that I thought about while I was at Gitwe girls. If I could go back to high school knowing what I know now, this is what I would change:
- I would be more appreciative of my English and Kiswahili teachers who used to really encourage me in my writing. I remember one teacher used to read out my compositions every time in front of the class. She would then encourage me to participate in class more. In my young naïve mind, I thought she was picking on me.”Why can’t she ask someone else to do it today?” I always wondered. I resented her for all the attention she gave me, right now; I wish I could just get a chance to thank her. She saw something in me and tried to make me a better person.
- I would be more focused in general. I used to think that going to school was just something one had to do like a social norm of some sorts. I would be invested this time though. I would study hard even when the teachers were not around. I would still read novels in class under the desk but then again, I would cut the time spent in other time wasting activities.
- I would stop hiding my passion for writing and stop treating writing as a hobby as I focused on more “serious” careers such as being a lawyer. For a long time, I thought I should be a lawyer and was truly fascinated by the profession. I didn’t have an interest in law really. I simply thought it was one of those careers that successful people went into. Lucky for me, I never attained to cut off marks to get into law school after high school.
- Another random thing I wish I knew is that I wouldn’t be skinny forever. It seems like a stupid thing to even say but being in high school and looking straight and flat like a little boy without any curves was difficult. I used to envy the other girls who looked more like girls or rather, young women. Right now, I am struggling with weight loss and desperately trying to get rid of my curves which are now a bit too much. If I lose weight and someone ever tells me that I look straight and flat like a little boy, I would hug them tightly and thank them with everything I have .I miss being skinny!
- I wish I knew that the boy I was dating was just the first one. There would be more of them, good looking ones who say the right words and some who lie a lot. In high school, I really thought I would marry my then boyfriend. He was my world then and I remember treating his letters like treasures, spending hours daydreaming or talking about him. I also used to use all my coins over the holidays standing at the phone booth for hours talking to him. 100 heartbreaks later, I am wiser (I hope I am) and I know puppy love is just that.
- I would appreciate my parents more and listen to the advice that I got back then. I used to think that grownups didn’t really know much about teenagers. They didn’t get us. I thought their advice was outdated. Now, I know better.
- Another random thought, I would sit back and enjoy being young. I would stop rushing to getting older. In addition, I wish I knew that school uniform is just school uniform. uniform worn on a regular Monday, uniform worn on visiting day, uniform worn on closing day and especially uniform worn when the boys school was visiting. It is just uniform and frankly, only your peers know the difference. This would save me a lot of times spend on taking care of my special occasion’s uniform.
Oh the worries that I had back then seem so trivial now. Most of the things that used to worry me would not worry me anymore. Being a teenager is supposed to be simple. If I knew that then, I would sit back, go to school and study and simply be what I was expected to be, a teenager.
As I conclude this really long post, I want to thank Arcadius once more for the opportunity. At the same time, if you are reading this and want to get a chance to give back by being a speaker at the career days, talk to me and I will link you up with Arcadius. If you also deal with organizations that give sponsorships to students to pursue higher education, also let me know. If you have any ideas or would like to help Career Advisory Centre in anyway, please also let me know. Make an effort to make a difference. You never know, you may just be responsible for inspiring young people (or even just one person) to make the right choices that will greatly impact positively on their future lives.