If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there

This week started out with me giving a talk to form ones at my alma mater. A talk on goal setting. As expected…so much nostalgia! Except the tables were turned.

I was the “authority” in the room. In quotes because I kinda just felt like a fraud. A lot of the things I had researched and put in the session were not necessarily new but most are not things that I consciously work on or can say I have implemented. Another reason I felt like a fraud is because…I can honestly still remember it as if it was yesterday when I was in form one. When I had that awkwardly long skirt, form ones always have really long skirts, these get shorter as the years progress. Whether it is because the girls grow taller or the skirts grow shorter is yet to be conclusively determined. I still remember my first day when I was dropped off, well, sure I had already been in Kianda since almost infancy, but its different. High school and primary are different. For starters, new uniform. Plus…you instantly feel older and more mature, different building, somewhat more relaxed rules.

Can I backtrack a bit? To the day I was called back to my alma mater for high school…having been in primary, we all felt too cool to come back for high school. By the time class eight was coming to a close, if you had asked most of us, I’m sure we would have hinted at never going back to that school ever again. So that the teachers can keep stressing us for nothing? Heavens no!

We finished class eight and a week or two after, I was talking to a friend of mine and she told me that her parents had just been called and she had been offered a position in form one. I panicked! Wondering if I would get called back since I had not heard from them. I had a really long and depressing day. Running through every worst scenario…thinking that they had probably heard through the grapevine that I had been sticking my nose up in the air and saying it was unlikely I would opt to come back, that I was looking to go to Kenya High perhaps. Ha!

Later that evening my mum came home and told me they had called. Of course I accepted, without hesitation. Those few hours of wondering really put things in perspective. I don’t know that I was built for boarding school!

I was dropped off on my first day and form twos were there to help with our bags. Then came orientation. Everyone was just so happy to see us and it felt like home. The feeling might have been further accentuated by the fact that half the girls in my year had already been in Kianda as well. That awkward stage of not really knowing anyone was eliminated.

The batch I ended up giving the talk to were eager, to talk and participate. I remember being silent and shy in form one. Definitely never one of the first to raise up my hand and contribute. I remember looking up at some of the people they brought back to give talks to us and being awed at how well put together they seemed. Wondering what they were like when they sat on those black chairs in the hall with their notebooks listening to a talk. Big shoes to try fill. Yet there I was, wondering if I could measure up.

Back to the talk, goal setting. There’s this excerpt from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“—as long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Children’s books are sometimes filled with so much wisdom it’s unbelievable! Pause, take that in, re-read that excerpt one more time. Lewis Carroll has to be literary royalty.

The cat is onto something! If Alice doesn’t know where exactly she wants to go, it really does not matter what path she takes. Should her only concern be going or getting somewhere, every path can do that, take her…somewhere.

Is this any way to live life?
I sure don’t think so.

After interning as a software developer for some time last year, I quit. Why? It started to make me increasingly unhappy. The hours were long and really somewhere along the way, I had stopped enjoying it. I could not picture myself doing it for the rest of my life.

One cousin of mine was so shocked when I told him I had quit, so disappointed.

“I have never known you to be a quitter Kathy,” were his exact words to me.

In hindsight, maybe I should have stayed on longer, especially since I still had two whole months of holiday ahead.

Anyway, that’s besides the point. Initially I had really enjoyed my job but that changed because I realised I enjoy something else even more. I’d been dabbling in data science for a while and would get home from work and do a few units of an on-line course I was taking in the field. Eventually, work started to feel like a detractor because I would rather be doing data related things. So I quit to be a full time data enthusiast…and I stuck to that. A year later, you know what, it is kinda paying off. I am finally getting my career in data.

I thought about this as I was preparing the talk. The fact that I knew where I wanted to go and I’m getting exactly what I wanted, down to a T. Is that the expression? Down to a T?(I looked it up, it is.)

In the two months of that holiday that were left, I tried to get another internship at a data science firm but my insistent emails(just 2 to be exact) resulted in the founder of the firm concluding that I am a rude and impatient girl and completely writing me off. Sigh. My humour, or attempt at, is an acquired taste.

I couldn’t get anything relevant to occupy my time so I spent the rest of the two months continuing with the on-line courses, and my friend Sarah and I partied a lot. Now that detail doesn’t add to the plot of this story but it introduces Sarah, who is one of my biggest cheerleaders ever. We all need friends like Sarah. She’s the kind of person who will be on-line looking through opportunities and will see something data-related and forward it to you because you mentioned you were looking to get into data. She’s also the kind of friend who when you do embark on trying to get an opportunity, will ask whether it’s data-related and remind you that in fact, you started out on a certain path. Are you still on it?

Look for friends like Sarah! But even before that, know what your end game is. If you don’t, if your aim is, like Alice, to just go somewhere, anywhere, be very afraid. For starters, how will you know when you get there?

One last nugget of wisdom, never be scared to turn back from one path and start upon another once you realise that the one you embarked upon was not what you expected it to be. Or perhaps you did not like it as much as you thought you would. No matter how much time you have already invested and how far along the first path you have gone, don’t be afraid to start again. Starting again can be scary, being back at zero, but if we choose to see it as such, life is one big domino effect. You are never really starting from zero, you are building upon past knowledge and experience and these can only serve to propel you further.

This other short excerpt from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland perhaps says it better:

“Tut, tut, child!” said the Duchess. “Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”

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  1. 1
    Sarah

    AWWW I got a shout out! I’m glad you’re on the right path at this point in time. Its a blessing…knowing which path you need to take and having the courage to follow it!

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