DAY 18: I Stood My Ground.
“I don’t have the motivation to study physiotherapy.” I said calmly in a conclusive tone. This was the first disagreement I had with my mom. In that moment, turmoil of mixed feelings ached my heart. The sharp pain of being torn between, giving in to her request that I study physiotherapy and my desire to pursue Statistics, wrenched my heart the most. Since class seven, when dad dragged me to boarding school and my perspectives of life shifted, I had promised my parents I would become a physiotherapist.
The results of examinations backed my resolution to achieve my dreams and grounded their faith in me. Subsequently through high school, I lived by my promise. Their faces told a story of pride and relief; finally, after a mischievous childhood, they had a focused son to count on. My dad was the happiest, and my greatest motivator. From wanting to drop me out of school in class six, he transformed to buying me all the books I needed without hesitation. Most importantly, he was always there for me.
Consequently, over time, I created a picture of the future where I was a physiotherapist and dad and mom were retired. Grey and old, I was taking care of them. But in form three, God removed dad out of the picture. My dreams crumbled. My passions diminished. Around this time, I had loved for the first time, and lost. Around this time, in form two, I had been appointed to the student council and I was still struggling with identity crisis. Amidst this tempest, only mathematics and poetry kept me sane.
My mathematical aptitude has always been effortless. But in the middle of the storm that I found myself in from three, I did calculations not as a curriculum requirement but as a refuge from reality. And my love for the subject grew. During the holidays I would google the stories of Euler and Fourier, the names I heard my in elder siblings’ discourses, and I would marvel at equations that made no sense to me then. Their stories were captivating, their works enticed my soul.
In my fourth form, I decided on Statistics in JKUAT as my undergraduate program. I informed no one, not even mom. How could I bring myself to break their hearts for the second time? How was I to explain that the day dad was laid to rest, my physiotherapy dream was buried too? That I didn’t want to be associated with the field of study that would remind me of his absence for the rest of my life. If I were to pursue physiotherapy, I imagined hearing talks in the line, ‘dad would have been proud of you’, on the graduation day. These thoughts pained my heart even more.
After clearing high school, I had moved to my brother’s place in Nairobi. I desired to practice my art in poetry composition and story writing. The move to Nairobi presented just the right opportunity. The national examination results release found me in Nairobi. I had qualified for both Physiotherapy and Statistics. On the courses and university selection day, my brother having no knowledge of my change in heart, filled out Physiotherapy at Moi University in the first three choices and then passed to me the laptop to fill out the rest.
Here was the chance to tell the truth of my heart. I looked at the screen. At his choices for me. My heart knew exactly what it wanted. With three clicks, I changed his selections to Bachelors of Statistics JKUAT. I hurried to click the submit button, not knowing that he was looking over my shoulders. “Wait!” He ordered. I hesitated, my fingers mid-air over the enter button. Numerous questions followed, but I remained adamant. I offered no explanation. Irritated, he picked his phone and dialed mom’s number. After fumbling to describe my obstinacy, he handed me the phone.
“Your father would have wanted you to study Physiotherapy.” She said. Trying to sound cheerful. In her voice I sensed pain, disappointment and warmth of unconditional love.
“Yes.” Is all I could come up with. The line went silent for a long moment. My brother towered over me in the background. In that moment, I felt small. The wrenching pain I had buried for that long gushed to the surface and swallowed me whole. A tear trickled down my left cheek. I looked away from my brother. I broke the silence and said out loud, for his benefit, “Dad would have wanted me to do what I love.”
I wish I had known it then that what I deeply love was, and still is, arts. I still love mathematics and statistics. But I am of the opinion that humans are multi-intelligent beings. Our potentials can’t be limited to one dimensional way of thought and practices. Hey, but sometimes we lose the way to find our way. Yesterday I woke up with the desire to analyze data with R software and Python, and so I did. Today I yearned to express myself through drawing, and so I drew. Tomorrow, when the passion to pour my heart in a poem burns strongest, I will stop everything and compose a poem.