I am typing this from the 40-40 office seated on a couch that isn’t even ours. Uhm, no we did not steal it 🙂 These chairs belong to the landlord and although we need the, he set a price that is quite high. Since we can’t afford them yet, we have decided we’ll custom-make our own set of chairs when the shillings trickle in. In the meantime, we are storing the chairs safely. Win-win! Side note: They are really comfy! My legs are stretched out and if my sleep wasn’t for beckoning by reciting petitions, calling an intervention, taking spiritual baths and chanting spells- I’d probably be dosing off by now.
These ‘borrowed’ chairs are a significant change from the mats we used to sit on during meetings. If you arrived early, you could snug yourself a cushion to comfort your behind. If you didn’t, you’d suddenly know the number of bones in areas you did not usually give much thought.
I vividly remember wondering where we’d get the money for 6 months rent before we set up shop. We needed an address. We’d registered the organisation and opened a bank account. Can you imagine before that, our budget depended on how much Banura and I had on our mobile money accounts? We’ve certainly come from far. An office seemed like the biggest step in the world. It was at the time. Thankfully, dad gave me half the amount, and I got soft loans from other friends who were willing to take the ‘risk’. Bless them.
It has been three years since I took a leap of faith, quit my job and staked all I had (and didn’t have) on 40-40; and here we are. My feelings are all over the place. I am happy. I am sad. I am confused. I am emotional.
This period coincides with my date of birth. I am fast approaching the big 30. In a couple of weeks, I will be one step closer. As you can imagine, all this comes with deep retrospect and quite often, regret follows. Thankfully for me, I am too busy musing at how things turned out to even feel remorseful.
See, I have accomplished NONE of the things I thought I would have by now. None. This means professionally, spiritually, relationship-wise and everything in between. Do I sometimes look over the fence, with envy watching my peers’ green grass? Certainly. Do I let that deter me? No. Everyone is entitled some moments of weakness from time to time. No? Now, when Fred purchases yet another piece of land and Joan starts construction of her new house; when Rachel is promoted and Melanie brings her third angel into world, I celebrate them fiercely. We all have different journeys and oh what joy to watch how the stories unfold. My friend Suzan says when I die, the one thing I should leave her in my will is my 7,213 notebooks. I have come to accept that these are, in fact, my only ‘assets’… for now.
I’ll just zero down on two themes from this past year and the two before.
Who are you?
Do you know who you are when you are in different environments? Do you take the time to understand what makes you tick, what annoys, how negative/positive vibes affect you? In my opinion, the best way to figure this out is by being alone for a while and critically thinking about it. *If you haven’t already, please create this time, as a gift to yourself*
This year, I was away from home for 3 months. During that time, I learnt quite a bit about myself. I’ll highlight only one lesson for the post’s sake. The best gift I gave myself was a gift in the art of letting go. Until this period, I’d shunned all opportunities that required me to be away from my people and my work for long periods of time. Even when I applied, I secretly prayed I didn’t get in. Guess what? I didn’t! This time I allowed things to happen naturally. I kept my distance. I was content with receiving updates about 40-40. Many times I was tempted to suggest that things be done a certain way. However, I controlled myself. My way definitely isn’t always the right way. I accepted that even if what I am saying is ‘right,’ sometimes people need to make mistakes themselves so they can learn better. If you can afford to, let them. I got to watch from the side-lines (something every leader needs) and was very proud of what I saw.
Once you learn exactly who you are and how you flourish(or not) around certain things and people, you are more in control of what you do, whom you let in, what you give your attention/avoid and it can be very liberating.
What are you doing?
Very close to who you are is what you are doing..or for some, what you should be doing. While I was thinking about this piece, my friend John shared this letter which I agreed with entirely. Do you find yourself wondering what you want to do with your life? Do you feel inadequate or worry that you are ‘running out of time?’ I know many of us do and this fear is often heightened around our birthdays or the end of the year. At least it does for me.
In that letter, Hunter. S Thompson explains that we should pay more attention to who we are and not our goals, because essentially our experiences change us and our perspectives also change. <Look to the man, not the goal> So here we are, counting 4 months to the year’s end and thinking how unaccomplished we are when we should looking at ourselves, our changes, our experiences.
When people tell me they want to leave their jobs or start a non-profit/start-up and thus need my advice; the first thing I do is to assure them that no two stories are the same, might be a bit similar but the variables are diverse. Some people excel as leaders, others are better off following. We need producers as much as we need consumers and the list goes on. That is how we achieve balance.
This brings to mind the story of Irene. Irene believed NGOs are a lucrative ‘business’ and decided starting one would fill a void in her life and also give her a quick buck. When I spoke to her, I explained that her image of Executive Directors driving 4×4’s visiting projects once a month and living the good life wasn’t the full story. Unfortunately, like most people, she had translated 40-40’s media attention to mean great wealth on my part. The first thing she asked when I arrived for our meeting was “Why are you using a boda, don’t you have a driver or something?” I laughed so hard! She was genuinely ‘concerned’ when she found out I don’t earn a 6 figure salary. Dear reader, I know the look of pity all too well and of all the ones I’ve seen, Irene’s is etched in my memory for life. I decided to give her a short class since I have met too many ‘Irenes’ over the past few years. I started unbundling the myth for her bit by bit. In fact, I made a strong case for her to keep her day job. The last thing this country needs is another person deluded by wealth, willing to disguise their greed in a nicely coloured coat. By the way, do not get me wrong, we all need to make a living and indeed good intentions don’t put food on the table; but wouldn’t it be much more meaningful if that which you chose corresponded with who you are?
Once you know who you are and what brings out the best in you, you can easily choose a path that best utilises your personality, skill and true being. I am fortunate enough to have stumbled upon my path, almost accidentally. When I think about it, everything that I am doing espouses who I truly am. My love for people and affinity for children; my attraction to stories and storytelling, planning events and seeing things grow out of nothing. I derive so much pleasure from seeing other people happy and I couldn’t think of a better way to attain it than through what I do.
The truth is that this kind of life can be really challenging, probably even more than the ‘let’s see how this goes’ lifestyle. The satisfaction it brings though, I cannot relate that to any sensation yet.
This month I celebrate another year on the planet, and another year of not having a boss, a regular salary and of course pretending I don’t like shopping 😉 My broad and eclectic experiences have made me who I am and I’m even more ecstatic about the future <also quite scared but the glass is half full>
I started by admitting that I haven’t achieved any of the goals I set for myself way back when, what I didn’t tell you is I am glad I haven’t. I would not trade what I have now for anything.
“A man who procrastinates in choosing a path will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”
Enjoy September and may the last quarter of the year be kind 🙂