Early this year, I attended an interview that was being held at Parklands sports club. I actually received a call from Githinji Mwaura, one of the volunteers who sat in the United World Colleges (UWC) Kenya, national committee. I had to travel all the way from Eldoret; my current town, to Nairobi; my birthplace. I had feelings of both excitement and uncertainty ulternating ruthlessly in my mind. This was actually the first, real interview I was attending. The other ones, the mediocre ones I had attended at school when I was vying for Deputy president, did not appear to be those that had you worked up, stressed out and utterly exhausted.
I boarded the 10 pm bus. I had never travelled late in the night before, so I had to be watchful, owing to the fact that I had heard that some bizarre things usually happen during these travels. My phone was tightly tucked in my jeans’ pocket while my earphones snaked up my shirt to my ears, and as always, I was listening to Kari Jobe. We had earlier on been warned about cocking our heads out of the windows. I mean, that was so obvious! Why would a self respecting person dare to do that whilst it was cold and very late? I even doubted whether that driver was aware of what he was saying. Well I sat there, my arms folded across my not-so-broad chest and enjoyed the sweet, soft voice of Kari Jobe.
Hours later I was in the heart of the CBD. Lights, vehicles and many people stained the city. When people talk about ‘working around the clock’, I totally understand because that’s exactly what I saw. I quickly plopped into the taxi that was nearby and was on my way to Eastleigh. I arrived minutes later and quickly unpacked every luggage I had so that I could at least catch some sleep and head to the interview hours later, needless to mention that it was already Saturday.
“Wake up!” Screamed my stupid alarm. I could not dare snooze it lest I’d be late for the interview and also the traffic, there is no need to talk about that, right? I wore a pair of simple pants and a decent shirt. My document wallet (seriously, how many documents does a form four leaver own?) was clutched tightly under my arm. That day I had sworn that I’d carry myself nonchalantly because it would have done me no good to be tense.
I briskly walked into that boardroom where other intellects had already settled. I mean, any random person would tell that these interviewees were certainly smart courtesy of how they behaved and were dressed. Everyone shot a glance at me as I mad my way past the door. I ignored it and found a vacant seat where I plopped myself onto. I found myself spontaneously talking to the lad besides me, who told me that he was called Collins and that he had finished Form Four from The Maseno School.
“Good morning everyone! We’re about to start but first, I want us to introduce ourselves, that is: Tell us your name, the school your were in or currently are in, and just tell us something interesting about yourself.” Said one of the panelist, whose name I had not gotten right because when she asked us whether we still remembered her name, my colleagues twanged her name, and that really baffled and irritated me. Who did they think they were? I know, a bunch of insensitive intellectuals that had no sense of respect for their naive counterparts.
Most interviewees took less than a minute to introduce themselves, I personally remember stuttering all those details in a matter of seconds. I even wondered if I’d still hold on to that oath I whispered to myself earlier on about carrying myself nonchalantly.
Once the introduction was over, I remember letting out a sigh of relief and ‘thanking God’ under my breath. We continued with the other group interviews which were done outdoors. I had to admit that I’d never played charades before. I found it interesting and educative too. The other activities that succeeded charades had us sitting on the clean marble floor, cross legged, Indian style as we discussed the pros and cons of Devolution, a system of governance that had recently set its roots in every county in Kenya. I was baffled by how articulate my colleagues spoke, they actually inspired me, to say it modestly.
The interviews were finally over. It was Saturday by the way and as if that was not enough, it was Valentine’s. I totally had nothing better to do. Wait, I had my smartphone and free Wi-Fi was available. In retrospect, I had a lot to do that day as I waited for the phone call I had been promised.
A month later, I received that call that I’d really anticipated. The lady’s voice on the other end was calm and casual. I had to muster enough courage and confidence whilst I spoke to her. Well, the news that hit my ears was not good. To put it plainly, I had not been accepted!
I lay in my bed and had these melancholic thoughts erupting in my mind. I had failed. I was nothing but a big failure. In Steve Jobs words, I’d say that,“…that was bitter tasting medicine, but I(the patient) had to take it…” I had to accept the truth and live with it. I later found out that Collins would soon join UWC Singapore and I felt proud of him.
In March, that was some weeks after I had gotten over the whole thing and I remember swearing that I would live life forward and later come to connect the dots backwards. I got Noah’s number from his brother. He was my longtime friend that I had been separated from for half a decade since we moved to Eldoret. We had a lot to talk about but I never told him my aweful story. Then he spontaneously broached the subject about PACE, an acronym that stood for Promoting Access to Community Education. I had no idea what that was and I had to go offline while I ran a quick Google search and found out what it was about. When I came back online, he asked me whether I would be interested in joining the organization, the response I gave was quite obvious.
“Yes, I’d love to!”
I soon became a PACE fellow in May. After a successful interview that I’d gone through. For once, I believe in my capabilities. I accepted the fact that sometimes it did help to fail. I came to see this blessing in disguise objectively. I sort of felt like this was my intuition and I had to follow it.
I remember meeting new people who’d later turn out to be incredible people. I remember the countless trainings that I attended and even played charades, but this time, with some bit of idea of what the game was all about, I would make up all the signs until people wondered how I knew that. I would tell them that I had learned it from UWC, but I would not dare mention that I failed in that interview because it was not worth living in the past while you could confidently enjoy the present.
A year was enough for me to clearly understand my niche. However, this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t failed. I wouldn’t have found my intuition if I hadn’t stumbled in my pursuit for achievement. I dare you not to fear failure. I mean, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and a little bit taller.
Sooner or later you’ll come to join the dots. I wouldn’t be surprised to see you grin while you look back at some of your mistakes that turned out to make you who you are today. In fact, I’ll be delighted to share in your reflection and perhaps pat you and encourage you to move forward never minding if you’ll make mistakes or not.
P.S. What a great way to end the year. It has been a crazy year! Now I can’t wait to go to school, seriously!