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Lessons from 2017- Thuku Muthui

I had an ambivalent relationship with 2017; a love-hate relationship. I loved 2017 because it brought a bountiful basket of fun, amazing people and detailed in-look. The best moment was when I discovered me, my purpose; that alone makes last year’s rate the highest on any scale. I also hated 2017, and I still hate it. Like a Math’s teacher, 2017 taught me life’s most important lessons in the most raw, hard and straightforward manner. I reached the most bottom part of my life which most people call rock bottom. I choose to ignore the bottom and emphasize on the rock: I am built on a rock and since I established my bottom is a rock, I can create a future without fear of collapse.

Retrospectively, allow me to highlight imposing moments of 2017.

1. May 2017

As a campus finalist , I joined a group we call “Ignite” which is mandated to bring together senior year university students and professionals into a discourse about the future. One of the main lessons learnt is Personal Development. Purpose identification is discussed widely, and I got to realize who I am, and why I am around; to travel the world to experience and learn from different cultures and finally to share what I got with my community.

As simple as it sounds, it can be expounded into a whole chapter. I love to keep it simple though, it reflects me. Simple is fun as it allows us to enjoy life’s small pleasures more.

2. Ndakaini and Stanchart Marathon

2017 was a running year. A fitness year. I had heard enough of praise and stories of previous Ndakaini Half Marathon Editions, and I had to test the waters. For me, it was to challenge the status quo , Ndakaini is imperious. A good analogy is when a friend comes.
“Thuks, there is this fresher girl. She looks like the full moon, let’s see who’ll get her first. Nani tried but nothing worked out, not even a phone number!”

The adrenaline rush, the expectations and the zeal and to se e what you are made of. So Ndakaini got me singing Billy Ocean’s When the going gets tough the tough gets going. The rolling hills of Murang’a do not roll anymore, they stand steep. My lungs ached after the first six kilometers; the air at that altitude is dense and demands rigorous breathing. The oxygen debt incurred by my muscles was way higher than my erythrocytes could settle, in the end, I was gasping . Something, may be the charm of the land, the green tea gardens on the undulating hills and valleys, the happy children who waved at us, the women who stopped to watch us run, the sentiments from the folks or the longing for the satisfaction associated with completing a task, kept me going. With Ndakaini for amateur athletes, winning is finishing. The finish line of a marathon is like a labour ward; overwhelming pain and sheer happiness exist in a beautiful symphony. After finishing I stood under a mapera tree, eating of it and watching as women collapsed into open arms of husbands or family upon completion. I listened to the celebration from the growing crowd, watched a man wince after every step before falling into a clumsy bundle by the roadside- caring less for the onlookers. I followed as village boys-in their tiny shorts with patched buttocks pitch to make a sale of fresh fruit, sugarcane and chicken to the visiting town folk. Their faces glistened under the sun when they nailed a deal. Children- temporarily alienated from their parents jostled the adults in their frantic search.

Stanchart was uneventful but customarily colourful. The highlight was that we got to run through KICC without a million security scans, and the steam bath! The rain had pounded the previous night but not once did I feel like forgoing the event. It’s the biggest marathon in the region, and I pledged to participate as long as both of us exist. I collected a life lesson I will live to treasure. No matter the intensity of obstacles and impossibilities that come your way, do not think of quitting.

Then there was this lanky gentleman with a music player in his bag. He was playing Reggae music. He ran at an average pace, soaking in the beauty of the day and seemed emotionally aloof to the overlapping and shenanigans along the tracks. His music was what appealed to my senses, Ain’t no giving in by Chronixx (Tropical Escape Ri ddim). In the heat of the marathon, the creaking knee joints and the never-ending distance- I listened to the lyrics of the song, the determination in the tone and words, the spirit of the undying hearts. I swore then not to pull out of the race. Not even when my knee coll apsed and I tore my healing hernia. I pushed myself to the finish line, albeit a whole 45 minutes after my personal best, I still made it. No matter the difficulty along the way, pay a deaf ear and blind eye to beckoning exits, remain on course, tune your mind to think positively and push your body to complete a course.

In the first Marathon (Ndakaini) I started off with a friend we met at the starting line. He is an elite runner, and for the first three or so kilometers, I kept up with his pace, though I was slowing him down. I had not done enough preparation to warrant such a swift kick off, and I knew well it would be short-lived. Eventually, I let him go only to reunite later at the finish line. In marathons and long-term projects, you have to prepare months or even years prior the real day.

Another lesson is to pick a struggle you are fit for. I can do a half marathon comfortably within two hours running at a moderate pace all through. The whole idea of stretching my abilities to fit into another person’s was detrimental at all costs. With proper preparation and patience, we can become better and even compete but engaging bluntly will only exhaust our energy reserves and fatigue us long before the journey is over.

3. My Community comes first, I am part of my community.
The most honest, long lasting and divine satisfaction will not come from lucre. The best of smiles, those that culminate into hearty laughter and happy cheer can only be experienced with people. 2017 exposed me to diverse clusters of people. The people in turn made me aware of the assorted lifestyles there are. In the end, I was a better person, a less naïve person. Interacting with people as I learnt requires a lot of care: people rub off on one another. It is good to accept all, to listen to the least and to be intentional about making networks that impact. Honoring this has also taught me that letting people go is an interpersonal skill as well. As an individual, I have struggled in gelling with most . Quitting is not always pride or inability to cope, it’s a way of empowering principles and establishing a character.

Do not settle for mediocre for the sake of making friends and fellowship, set standards and like-minded people will tag along.

4. The Church is a good place.
Stop smiling at the being good complement. We have great.

I am sceptical about sharing this lesson due to its sensitivity but I will anyway. The discipline of Christianity is excellent, that is a fact. The teachings of Christ are real and vital. The church is a pillar that a vibrant society can be built upon and just like a pillar it can be corrupted and can tumble down. I am planning to read a book, Good to Great by Jim Collins and what captured my attention is a phrase from Chapter One. ‘Good is an enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great.’

If we continue to have good churches, then we will never have great churches. Churches have a tender spot in my heart because they are built on faith. Faith has seen me move from uncertainty to certainty, from dreaming to achieving, from surviving to living, from compromising to letting go. This lesson is a wake-up call to me and you, to build great churches because a church has never been the building, or the pastor or those in leadership but a team united under Christ.

5. Writing
2017 has been a year where I have written so much. From random and petty Facebook status updates to intimate blog articles, to reports and my Undergraduate Research Project. I may sound like I am boasting, but I am marveling at the very much I have left unwritten. I am ashamed of the sub-standard stuff I have written, ashamed of not waking up to write ideas at 3 a.m, that I am not living a creative life. Creativity should surround me like the atmosphere but I haven’t kept still for it to settle.

That was 2017, a year that saw me fall and rise, fall and stay down and stay up when all expected me to fall. I can give stories, hilarious ones about it but I gave few that made and left an impact; those that I was able to learn from, those that exposed my flaws and those that I can build on for a better 2018.

Your story is valuable, for you it’s history, to me it’s a testimony, but to them it’s motivation.

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