Stepping Out, Part One.

“So, Mwabe… Unaenda kusoma?” (So, Mwabe … what are you going to study?)

“Hata siko sure…” (I’m not sure…)

“Mpaka saa hii??” Words filled with disappointment, mildly masked by a fake condescending grin. You still haven’t figured it out? All this time? -insert eyes that make you realise you should have probably gone with the lie you have conveniently invented about your (imaginary) interest in investment banking-

Leaving home was a leap of faith for me. Many asked me why I had made a decision like that – to take two years off and not go to uni, and in all honesty I didn’t know the answer to that either. I knew there was something more to life, and I couldn’t settle, but I really had no idea what I wanted or why. And so I took a risk, and it truly paid off. Leaving allowed me to define what I truly value. And when that shifted from self-interest to the desire to contribute, I knew that there was NO WAY I was going to pursue a career because I’d earn a good living, or because of the status it came with, or because it just sounds nice when you say you study medicine (no offence to doctors whatsoever, btw – you understand what I mean).

When you make a decision to follow your heart, there is no turning back.

I do not anticipate homecoming as much anymore. Mostly because time changes people, and when you’re away, there is a chance that your change took a whole other tangent. Suddenly, the expectations get scary and overbearing; suddenly you can’t breathe.

That’s how it feels every time someone asks me what I want to study. Suddenly my tongue gets stuck at the roof of my mouth as I attempt to explain my way out of that which I still haven’t figured out.

How do I explain that I know where I want to be but I’m not sure how to get there? How do I start saying my passion for the arts is a bit too larger-than-life for me to summarize it in one sentence and so I refuse to say anything about it? When everything is driven by, “Which career is marketable?”, how do I convince the world that all I want to do is teach, that my dream job lies in a classroom, being the mastermind behind the powerful brains of six-year olds, or simply sticking golden stars on reports when they’ve done a great job? Or the fact that I know exactly what I want even though I do not know what I want – Indecisiveness isn’t exactly a jaw-droppingly attractive trait to have sometimes.

It takes stepping out of what you know to see who you are. The only problem that accompanies that kind of self-discovery is realising that at times it doesn’t align with what everyone expects you to be. And sometimes you have to make peace with that. You have to be okay with the fact that not everybody understand why, but not everybody has to. You have to understand that when others’ approval defines who you are, and the choices you make (career or otherwise), you limit yourself to all you can see in front of you, when on the other side lie endless possibilities, beyond your wildest dreams.

I write this to remind myself every time I consider following something because it will make me look good, or important. I write this to remind myself that approval comes and goes, leaving you with the same empty feeling you had when you first began. I write this to dare you to do that thing that’s been on your mind for so long, but have been afraid of what others will think of you if you do. Look at your journey. Focus on the track. Trip on the laces if you have to, but continue to fearlessly love the shoes you wear.

Defend it by saying no every time you’re about to walk in someone else’s.

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