To all the “awkward” people

To all the “awkward” people out there:

They don’t know. Those people around you have no idea. They’ve never known what it’s like to spend your entire life being uncomfortable. They will never understand. You will try to bend yourself and break yourself and mold yourself into something that makes sense to them, because to them a person like you does not make sense. You will try to fit into what they think you should be and how they think you should behave. But they will still never understand. Because even at your best level of pretense, you cannot be good enough for them. Something is still wrong with you. There is something you are still not doing “right”.
The worst part is that you will not even know. You will not know the hold they have over you, you will not know how much they affect you, you will not realize that the reason you are trying to morph into something you do not understand is because they got into your head. You see, they do it so well. It will take you years to realize that the problem is not with you but with them. You will spend your energy and time confused about who you are and frustrated about life and think you really do have a problem. Why are you different from them? Why don’t you think the way they think and act the way they act? You will struggle and toil and sweat.
But there is good news. One day you will realize that the world is a beautiful place because of one thing: variety. You will learn that everyone is different, you will learn that you are unique, you will learn that the way you are is beautiful and wonderful and the world needs you in your true form. You will learn that there are many things you can do better that those who feel like only people like them should exist, and the day you learn that will be a day of explosions of colour in your mind because you will understand that your peculiar passions have their own important place and purpose. You will one day begin to discover yourself more, you will one day learn to build your confidence in yourself and be secure in the knowledge of who you are: a unique soul made to be itself and not anyone else.
Some days it will be easy. On those days your passions might give you so much fire you begin to seem great and important and everything seems bright and amazing. On other days it be hard, because a “flaw” of yours will constantly be pointed out and it will be like a thorn repeatedly pricking your flesh in the same place ten thousand times. They will say it should be easy for you to speak in front of a crowd or to play a certain sport or to approach someone you’ve been secretly wanting to talk to, because for them, it is. The way they are makes it not a big deal. For you, it will take staggering amounts of courage and they might mock you when you panic and embarrass yourself because they can never know and will never understand what you went through just to try. Many times your personality will feel like a defect. Why are you like this? Why don’t you do that? Why don’t you like this? They will think that the way you live your life is a mistake because it is not like theirs.
Worse still will be that sometimes even not-so-good things will become something for them to be proud of. The fact that you are the kind who keeps a low profile and never gets into trouble or does anything outrageous will become a burden. Yes, there will be a point where they will think you are really unfortunate and quite stupid and will feel sorry for you for not being more of an experimenter, or for refusing to get caught up in what everyone else loves, sometimes even for having your own set of principles. It will confuse you so much you will want to lock yourself in a room and hide.
I have one thing to tell you: do not be afraid. They are strong, but you are strong too. You do not have to apologize or compromise. Be you, but also allow for growth. You will never be fully comfortable – “awkward” people were never meant to be – but you will come to a point where you can stop just living and start to thrive.

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The conductress

woman

Credit: Daily Monitor

I never realised how easy it is to assume things until I caught myself doing it sometime back. I got into a taxi to head back home, and the taxi got full and started to move without a conductor. I thought, well, this must be one of those awkward situations where the driver does the conductor’s work too and when getting out a passenger has to stretch their arm like “omujiini” to pass the money over to the driver himself. I accepted this sad situation and began to work on a way of easing life by getting out the exact money required so that the driver wouldn’t have to search for change. I was feeling quite happy with myself, what with being well-prepared, until my neighbour asked me to do her a favour by giving her my 1500 so that she’d pay for the two of us at once with her 10000 note in order to do the same thing I had wanted to do: to ease the change situation. I gave it to her and then from nowhere began to feel bad. I had done my part not to make the driver suffer and now it was reversed because of Madam Neighbour. Then I became angry: why doesn’t this ki taxi have a conductor anyway???
And then lo and behold, I see someone handing money to the woman seated where the conductor would normally sit. I see her give the person back his change. I see her pulling a bunch of notes out of one of those waist strap bags. I see her ask other passengers for money. My God. We have a conductor all along. A conductress.
I am, in this particular order, shocked, glad, confused, elated and then perturbed. How could my brain have so automatically refuted the possibility of her being the conductor? I mean, I had seen her sit there in the conductor’s place, and no other conductor had come in. How hadn’t it occured to me?
A thought became clear in my mind that had been swimming there for a while, blurry and formless: there’s a reason for stereotypes. There is a reason why it is a little difficult for my mind to wrap around the fact that this woman was the conductor. And why is this? Because not many women, actually barely any even do this job at all. So when one is shocked by it they don’t mean that a woman can’t be a conductor, they just mean it’s not common and they are not used to it.
The conductress has began to make sense to me in lots of things. There is a reasonĀ  why many non-Africans think Africa is only populated by hungry, begging, war-ravaged people and why many Africans think all white people are rich. There is a reason why some groups of people are seen as thieves and others as cheats. Not because everyone of them is. But because, many of them, too many, exhibit this very same behaviour, and because over time, this is the part of them they show most to others, despite not being entirely like that. There is a reason for stereotypes. I realised that nobody wakes up in the morning and creates a stereotype just because, but that it instead comes from something people notice over time and begin to get used to. Of course some stereotypes are exaggerated or over-used or plainly ridiculous. But most come from something at least close to reality in one way or another. I have realised now that much as societies and peoples and tribes and genders need to learn not to view each other through stereotypical lenses, it is also the responsibility of the group of people being stereotyped in a way they don’t like to change this stereotype, because others will never change how they see you until enough of you are different enough to break the mold. Some will say it doesn’t matter what other people think of you, but I don’t think it’s entirely true. Simple things like these affect so many aspects of life, even in ways we do not notice. They might affect if you get a certain job or not, if you get awarded a contract, if you are given the position of treasurer at your local church, or a million other things.
The conductress broke a stereotype for me. I never thought I’d see a woman do that. Frankly, I’m inspired. Not that I’m about to become a conductress any time soon, but I feel like I should open up to many more opportunities that I would have previously ignored because of the stereotypes I harbour about my own self.
A toast to you, Madam Conductress.