Head of Linguistics at St. Austin’s Academy on Overcoming Insecurities in Life

The just ended vacation granted my daughter a ceremony to christen me ‘ Human Siren Alarm’.

The December holiday was characterized by a mixture of emotions that can be equated to a pendulum- for me. The tranquil atmosphere created by the beautiful sunset had chastened my spirit from a somber mood that had been brought up by the reception of the body of one of my childhood friends in the town hospital. The death of our neighbor, friend and mentor was a blow to the community since Tim had risen up from a village boy to a city Advocate and had excelled in his judicial career and robbed by untimely departure. As I drove back home with my daughter, the nostalgia of my home stretch filled me up with several ideas that I could pen once I resumed work. At one point, I picked up my phone and dialed the number of the institution’s digital marketer-Vanessa and promised to deliver a good piece as soon as school reopens. My-oh-my! The script was altered that night not in simplicity but tremendously!

I had just finished my evening ritual of tidying up and setting up for the night, put my baby to sleep and wished my eldest daughter ‘ good night’ in the next room:

I stretched out in bed, rested on the pillow and reflected upon the day as usual in an effort of reconciliation. In the moment of deep silence in solitude as the members of the family sighed and breathed in slumber did l hear a loud bang at the back door. The bang was followed by a huge explosion and reverberation which prompted me to call my eldest daughter and ask her if she was playing with the door. She replied that she was hearing the shaking of the door too. The sound grew louder, wild and wicked which sent me shivering but there was no space to panic instead act. I screamed at the top of my voice, carried my baby, dragged my confused eldest daughter across the room, pulled my phone from the charging cord almost ripping the cables and we rushed across the room.

My niece who was in the company of relatives in the living room was calling out that the door should be opened since someone was knocking. We woke up my mother in shock and the members echoed my chorus. We chanted, cried, yelled and true the neighbors responded. My baby recoiled in shock. She must have been wondering in her world on what exactly was happening and what had come upon her mother particularly. The evil mission was aborted courtesy of the human alarm siren.

The shock from the ordeal appointed me as the assistant surveillance officer for the days that my father was at home.

I found it my duty to report any suspicious movements either on his mobile phone or l would walk physically to his door and describe the kind of noises around. When father was not present, I assumed the position of the commander- in -chief of area security operations. I executed my duties despite trembling in fear. This role became the point of humour in the family for a while. I could not avoid occupational hazards like the ankle injury that I sustained. Let alone the dryness of the mouth. After the screaming episode, it felt as if I had been sucking up gallons of sand but all I could remember was the deep voice that I garnered.

In fact my nanny urged me to sign up for the position of ‘professional mourner’ immediately. It was hilarious and scary at the same time.

The madness was real. My cousins had to comb-out the vicinity including the rooftop when I told them that I also heard sounds from there! (This sounds like the proverbial boy who cried wolf). No one could believe that it was my first time screaming like that in my life. I did a thorough job and indeed scared the burglar and team away! We were left with a shaky almost broken door handle but all of us were safe!

It may sound heroic but that is very far from the truth. I was scared, frightened, shaken, shocked, shattered and any other adjective to explain reality of fear. There are occasions where I have dealt with fear but I had not experienced such fear before. It was new and scary and it heightened to anxiety. There are days when I needed escort to the executive chambers within the house!

It was my father who pressed the buttons in my earlier days that helped me unravel fear. In my ‘Letter to all the Students’, I whispered that adults, teachers included have had a share of their fears and insecurities. A multitude of things do happen in families; both positive and negative. However, there are memories that we hold close to our hearts for the rest of lives. During Mentorship Sessions at St. Austin’s Academy, we address these matters boldly and this Term will be no exception. Our parents and guardians play crucial roles in shaping us to be the people we are today and my gratitude goes to my patriarch for the special gift he imparted in me.

I remember vividly, three occasions in my life among others that my father stood out to celebrate me rise above my fears and insecurities. While in Grade 1, I played the role of the Angel during the Christmas Festival in our local church, a role that older children had declined. As I entered the stage before a large audience which included the entire extended family led by my late grandmother, my mother as one of the judges-being one of the teachers in the community, I caught the eyes of my father and his broad smile. That was enough to get me into character and remain in it as I echoed the heavenly voice which was an extract of Saint Luke’s Canonical Gospel to the shaking shepherds at the end of the stage, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” When I had executed my role and flew out of the stage characteristic of an angel, there was a genuine applause from the congregation and I spotted my father elated by my performance.

In many occasions, I have told my audience- my students-, almost a song, now that “The best things in life are free “. I ransacked my archives recently to find my primary school file and inside it is a floral melodic success card which my father wrote to my as I sat my End of Primary School Examination and he was cheering me up that I should not fear the assessment since I had what it took to perform well. Indeed, my father’s best wishes saw me through. In the same spirit, my father had found time to psych me up during one of my performances in Secondary School. I emerged the first in Rift Valley province Verse Speaking competition because my father had whispered to me as I entered the stage “ Don’t fear anything “.

Our mother demystified FEAR for us in our teenage years as an acronym for: False Evidence Appearing Real.

It is also the basis that I have used to encourage the people around me whenever fear creeps into our system. Nevertheless, I admit that fear is real and it can cripple us if not dealt with. Until recently, I had never shared with anyone my childhood fears of darkness, snakes and trucks. I remember running off the road, crossing the fences whenever an ISUZU truck was approaching. There was one labeled ‘ Ogopa Mungu’ swahili for ‘ Fear God’. On my way to the shopping center, trucks made me lose the shopping list as I ran out of its sight and that made me deliver the wrong goods to my mother; you all can guess the repercussions accurately! In my little mind the front appeared like a monster and trucks that had lost their central bolt made my fears worse because it looked like it was raging out towards me!

During one of my escapades of climbing trees in the village, my hand landed on something unusually supple and cold. I felt a chill and when I looked up something was looking down at me- eyes of a snake, resting comfortably against the bark of the tree. The innocence of a child spared me from its venom as fear rose through my spine and my limb hands left the tree trunk. I landed on the hard surface of the ground numb by both fear and deep pain. I was shaken and kept the encounter to myself for two decades. This caused trauma to me and whenever I spotted any crawling creature I leapt frantically. The museum visit or television shows were enough to scare the senses away from me. I dread darkness or what’s in the darkness as many would profess. It takes logic out of me. There are many other reasons to evoke the strange feeling in me.

The fear of death, the unknown and uncertainty.

In the same breath, I have overcome fear. Life has presented me ugly situations that I did not have a choice but to deal with fear. It is weighty, unpleasant and unpredictable but as human beings we must accept co-existence with what is fearful in order to survive this unruly life. I choose to write about my experiences and do hope that I will reach out to someone in our community. As we begin the Term here at St. Austin’s Academy, let us face our fears. Fear of failure, fear of addressing a crowd, fear of rejection or fear of overcoming an addiction? We all know the uncomfortable reality that we grapple with. You and I know our fears. Whatever your fear is, raise your human alarm siren, face it and scare it away or co-exist. Life happens, life goes on! I wish you all a fearless term as the struggle continues: “Alluta Continua”!

*Article written by Josephine Barno

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