We all have those phases in life that make a huge impact on our lives. The 8-4-4 education system has been one. In between the ‘8-4’ part, we interacted with a lot of pupils and students. Some of us attended boarding schools while others decided that day-schooling was the best.

Well, I attended a boarding school and at a tender age. Curiosity was what took me there. I thought it was so cool to be in a completely new environment. New land, new people, new experiences, and a new family very different and very far from the one back home.

It was a good experience at first but as days went by, life got harder by the day. As a social being as I try to be, having new friends was not a problem. We talked about our origins, our former schools, and all trying to dig deeper into each other’s lives in pursuit of getting to know each other at personal levels.

Growing up at home, I knew the poor lived in mud houses, houses made from wood, paper, and all. That was every kid’s stereotype then. Well, the friends I had made had their own opinions too. They said that poor people and average ones also lived in concrete houses. They made it clear that the rich ones lived in mansions, owned cars, wore fashionable clothes, ate pizza at least four days a week, took sandwiches for breakfast, and had cool phones, etcetera.

I did not have any of the above. I didn’t know what pizza tasted like, my parents did not own a car, we lived in a bungalow, had sweet potatoes for breakfast, bread, cakes, and mandazis made my days too. I didn’t at once come to think that all these would never matter at some point in my life. Like I could make a sandwich with just bread and a few veggies or whatever.

With all this new perception of life, I became a different person. Seeking validation and attention from my ‘rich’ friends who lived in Nairobi. They were light-skinned and had it all. At times I hated that I was dark because apparently, dark wasn’t beautiful.

It is crazy to think that anyone would just be a whole other person in a matter of days. The people we surround ourselves with, the environment you find yourself in will always affect you. I mean, this is either how we grow and blossom or burn ourselves to ashes. Growth is a long process though.

As my life progressed, through primary school to high school, from adolescence to a grown lady, from teenage to adulthood, I could see things from a broader perspective. My vision grew and I no longer wanted to live in Nairobi or live in a mansion so bad. To date, I laugh at myself for hiding during visiting days so people could not see my parents were not yet driving.

I discovered that everyone has an equal chance to everything in life only that we all choose what we want to do. There are priorities. At the time while I was still in school in my teenage, I was my parents’ priority. My siblings and I were the ones at the frontline all the time. Our studies mattered a lot then than some luxuries we wished so bad for.

Being an ‘ushago’ kid on the low and a loud ‘city kid’ on another end, really got to me. Pretending to be someone I didn’t, became exhausting. My self-esteem was shuttered at some point because I had lost a sense of self. My grades deviated but I could only care less. All I cared about was a new pair of toughees every time I got scolded by my class teacher.

Funny how life shapes someone into a whole different person. Opinions change. Friends change. You change how you speak and interact with people. You become a wiser person. Your goals get bigger and before you know it, you are bolder and confident with what you believe.

Getting to a point I am no longer scared is my end game. My demons are in check. Condemning myself is no longer my morning sandwich. My mental health is my cup of tea. I deal with things as they come. It’s disappointing sometimes when you realize you are the one dragging yourself down. But if you are aware of yourself, changing becomes an easy task. Once most of what you wished for is at your disposal, then, you can understand life.

Patience is a gift but I take it as a skill not everyone has mastered. It takes time to become the person you once pictured. Everything comes in a good time. It is a gradual process. All you have to do is use your energy to build yourself, trust your instinct, learn as many new life skills as you can, interact with people you look up to, and expect the best out of your hard work.

I believe that every stage in life comes with changes. Change is inevitable, they say. How you deal with the change is what shapes you into the person you become. A better version of yourself, or a bitter soul with a lot to regret than to celebrate.

Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change, to be perfect is to change often.”

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