Believe it or not, this is a story about rice and potatoes. As with any good story, let’s start at the very beginning.

When I was a little girl, I was special. My mother said I was, so I believed it. I was beautiful. My mother said I was; I believed it. I was clever. I could do anything, be anything. My mother said I could. I believed it. Obviously, back then I had no working concept on how mothers are wired to consistently think that their children are the best at everything and in turn reaffirm this belief in those same children.When I was a little girl, I was a parrot. My father said so. I always make a joke about how he grew to rue the day I said ,”Dada!”, because once I started I never stopped. (Sorry,Dad.) When I was ten, my father called me an activist. I got really offended because at the time, I had no idea what it meant and I told on him to the authorities…(read as:my mum). Then I learned what the word meant and realised, he was right. I stood up for people even before I knew what it meant.

When I got to high school, that annoying place jam packed with students who are jam packed with hormones accompanied by an unsafe potential to commit strange acts of foolishness, the peer pressure started. I was overwhelmed by this need to “fit in” and belong. I just wanted to blend in and go unnoticed because all those things my mum and dad said were good about me, (well,my dad just said them about me he didn’t see the need to qualify his statement with adjectives like “good” or “bad”) .Anyway, all those things that made me who I was, were getting me into trouble. 

As a result, I tried to fit in and be less of what my mother said I was.Less of who I knew myself to be. I gave less and less of my opinion and expressed less and less of my thoughts. I asked fewer questions. I made fewer friends. Slowly, I began to worry about what people would say if I spoke up and I spoke up less. I began to look down when I walked and I became afraid of looking people in the eye when I spoke. All this because one day I spoke my mind and someone said, “Shut up.” I took a picture and someone said, “You look bad.” I said what was on my mind and someone said, “You’re rude and arrogant.” So I chose to cover up. 

Then I got to campus where it’s all about political correctness and skepticism. Where believing in anything is apparently more foolish than asking bizarre questions about everything from why you have ears to why fish have fins. Everything must be questioned. You never have the right answer and you will never say the right thing. So every time I stood up for something I would get, “You’re so close minded.”, “You’re so judgmental.” Made me wonder whether my life purpose was to just be a receptacle for all these baseless theories with no traceable beginning and no foreseeable end. 

I chose to cover up by keeping to myself and staying silent and I almost convinced myself that what I felt and what I thought did not matter. I chose to make fewer friends and get to know less people because I don’t know how not to stand up for my friends and be there for them. I’m a bit like a dog in that way and no, that isn’t me abusing myself. Dogs are loyal. More loyal than a few human beings I’ve run into in my short life. So, go get offended on my behalf someplace else. Now, where was I? Yes…Like a dog… I also began to do this thing where I picked on myself regularly and consistently,so that the next time someone called me “fat” or “ugly” or “arrogant” or “rude”, I’d be way ahead of them because I would have said worse things to myself. Mostly, I became unhappy.

(Where are the rice and potatoes,you ask? Patience, grasshopper. Patience.) 

I got sad. I even mentioned to someone the other day that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in pain. I kept making friends and being in relationships that forced me to be who I was not. People who insisted on moulding me into someone I couldn’t be. And it hurt. It hurt because other human beings do a really bad job of making other human beings…outside of biology.

Only God can make you who you are and who you should be. God made me myself so there’s really no one else I can be. I learned and important lesson that day: be yourself or be unhappy.

Be yourself or be unhappy._ msichanawanairobi

This came to me three weeks ago when a friend of mine, who I just love to bits, gave me a plate of rice and potatoes. (Yaaaaay! Finally, the juicy stuff.) I was low that day. I didn’t want people to know and I was planning my undercover exit when I ran into her and she blessed my heart and stomach with that plate. The best plate I’ve had. I still have memories. 

That plate was simple. Sure, the rice had been sauteed with a few onions and the potatoes had been fried in a sauce, but at the core of that plate…the rice and potatoes were just that: rice and potatoes. I remember thinking,

“How simple. How authentic. How unapologetically original.” (Yes, I have such deep thoughts when I eat.) 

The rice tasted like rice, regardless of the onions, though I’ll admit they were positively complementary. The potatoes! Those potatoes were the most potato potatoes I have ever had. And they satisfied me. They did not go through three cooking techniques and 501 spices, but they satisfied me. Whatever was added to them enhanced what they really were at their core: Rice and potatoes. They were simple and they satisfied me.

I left that place wanting to be like that simple plate of rice and potatoes. Unapologetically myself. I didn’t want to cover myself with 501 Spices in the forms of people’s expectations of who I am to be. I didn’t want to keep trying to live up to this world’s generic version of originality. I wanted to leave it to the Chef, to God. The only one who knows what to change and tweak in me to make me who I should be and who I really am. That’s the only way I’ll truly be satisfied.

I’m tired of being unhappy. So, I’m going to be that plate of rice and potatoes:who I am.


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