Beyond My Mistakes

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

| This is the 102nd story of Our Life Logs |

Each one of us has a story. Mine is a tale of a woman who was able to achieve her dreams because of the people along the way. If others had chosen to let my life unfold without stepping in, I don’t think I would’ve made it.

I was born in 1992 in Chwele, Kenya as the third born in a family of seven. My father was a teacher, and my mother was a businesswoman. I miss the simplicity of my childhood. My father used to take us to Kitale Agricultural Show Ground in Trans Nzoia where we would see various animal and plant species, and the farmers from all over the country who shared their practice. In those days, I always enjoyed the company of my siblings. We protected each other. When the other children bullied me, my siblings fought to defend me. Eventually, my parents forbade us from playing with the other kids because they knew the lengths we would go to keep each other safe.

Me in 2005.

By 2007, I had begun attending an all-girls boarding school called Bishop Njenga High School in Kakamega County with the dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer. While I was studying hard to make sure that I was able to pursue this career, I started dating my first boyfriend, Peter. He was not only handsome, but also brilliant in class. His exemplary performance enabled him to join Friends School Kamusinga, one of the best institutions in the country. I felt proud walking around with him whenever we went home during the holidays. Like many teenagers in love, I wanted to see Peter all the time—even if it was without permission. After sneaking out many, many times, I was caught. I was expelled from school. According to school rules, any student who was caught skipping class would be expelled. I could not believe I had blown my chances of furthering my education at this prestigious school. All for a boy. My whole world shattered in that moment.

I returned home to my village in disgrace, a laughing stock. The women in the village started a rumor that I was pregnant. The young girls started mocking me. Before I was expelled, my father used to tell me that he would not pay my school fees if I did something stupid. When he found out what had happened, he kept his promise. My father did not listen to my pleas and could not see my pain. All he could see was the shame I had brought home and he disowned me. The shame seemed cemented into my reality. Each day, I sat with my mother and watched my brothers and sisters go to school while I was stuck at home.

Even while living with the consequences of my actions, I was still in love with Peter. I tried desperately contact him or see him. I even stole my aunt’s cell phone while she was working at the farm one day. I tried calling him, but he refused to answer. Eventually I ran into his friend in town and begged him to tell Peter that I still loved him. His friend returned to me with a message: Peter didn’t want to see me anymore. I spent weeks crying and regretting ever knowing Peter. I had lost everything all because of my youthful feelings for a fleeting boy.

I laid in my bed for days with the lights off, only rising to do my chores. I lost my appetite. I could not imagine a future without Peter, and worse, I had sacrificed my relationship with my father. I was just a young, naive girl, who was now destined for a life of misery. I didn’t want to live a life of sadness and hopelessness. I formulated a plan that made sense in my mind. To end my pain, I would take my life. The next morning, I walked to the local market to purchase poison, and end my suffering.

I walked to the market in a dazed fog. Just outside of the shop, I encountered my friend Hannah, perhaps by fate. I had known her since we were desk mates in primary school. She asked where I was headed. I couldn’t lie to her. I told her everything. She listened patiently and began to cry after all that I had been through. When I had finished, she wiped away her tears and began to tell me that all hope was not lost. She reminded me what a good student I had been and that there were still other options. My dear friend told me not to give up. Her words broke through my fog of pain and despair. She was right. I could pick myself up and continue to chase my dreams. Hannah helped me understand that my mistakes didn’t have to keep me from making a better future for myself.

I went home and told my mother that I wanted to continue fighting and that I wanted to go back to school. She looked at me through watery eyes and promised she would do everything in her power to make it happen. I went to bed that night with a newfound sense of hope and peace.

Without my father knowing, my mother saved money for three months and got a loan from a self-help group to get me back to school. But finally, when I was able to rejoin, he grew suspicious. I remember the day he confronted her, and she was forced to tell the truth. My parents did not talk for two days after my father realized my mother had been hiding this from him. My father believed nothing good could come out of me. I was surprised he kept his word of refusing to pay for my schooling if I messed up. I thought surely after several relatives tried to plead with him, that he would change his mind, but I was wrong. I began to avoid my father out of fear.

My Mum in 2007.

I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when I joined Ndivisi Girls High school in Bungoma in 2008. I promised myself that I would make my mother proud because of her determination to enroll me back in school. I worked hard in school, and everything finally seemed to be back on track. Unfortunately, before I completed high school, her hotel business in Webuye town collapsed. The little profit she made was not enough to pay my school fees, sustain her business, and continue to provied for our daily expenses.  She tried to convince my father to help me, as he had secured several loans to pay school fees for my other siblings. He would not hear her plight. My mother approached many of our relatives, but none of them were in a position to assist her. What choice did I have now? I dropped out of school for the second time to help with bills. Once again, I had no idea what to do with my life.

Me (right) with my friend from school.

I stayed at home for two years. During this time, I used to assist my mother with chores while my relationship with my father remained sour. I hoped that one day I could go back to school.  My mother wanted to see me succeed, so she approached several local leaders to convince them to restore my lost glory. Luckily, the Wings to Fly Foundation, an organization which funded poor students, paid my all my school fees for Kabuyefwe Girls in Bungoma County. However, my performance was not impressive. I was so preoccupied with thoughts of my mother’s struggles that I couldn’t focus on studying. I felt guilty, like I should have been home to help my mother just as she had so desperately helped me in my times of need. Eventually, my grades fell below standard and the foundation redacted my funding. I was forced to start over.

After some time, my mother’s friend who was the head of a local day school offered to pay half my fees after a seat had opened up. To earn the rest of the money, my mother and I started doing odd jobs. At school, I did my best not to fail again and scored good grades in my final examinations.

Me (left) and my friend Linda at Ndivisi Girls High School.

My father finally had a change of heart after my exemplary performance. He was happy to see his daughter rising again, and I was so glad to have his love in my life once more. In 2012, he assured me that he was going to pay my fees after I secured a place at Mt. Kenya University to pursue a degree in Health Records. My life was more comfortable while on campus. Both my parents worked together to ensure I got almost everything I needed during my studies. I even remember my father visiting me on several occasions. During my free days, I would walk to Thika Town to talk to some of the successful store owners. After many visits to town, I found my passion in business. I graduated and decided to venture into the second-hand clothes business. This shocked my parents, who expected me to go a different route. All my life, I had to follow the path that was given to me. While I wanted to please my parents, I knew that I needed to make this choice for myself.

Me at my graduation.

At first, my business was not generating as much profit as I expected, and I was in search of help. It was during this time that I met my business partner, Mercy.  She also had a dream of running a business.  We acquired a stall in Thika Town and stocked second-hand clothes. We had to think of ways to take the investment to the next level.

We pumped more capital into the business and relocated to another side of town. Three months later, the venture started paying us very well. We opened another stall in the same city. My mother was happy to see my business success. She kept encouraging me to stand strong amid different challenges. The investment has enabled me to pay my bills and assist my siblings in different ways. Currently, I’m constructing a decent house for my parents in their village.

All my life, I had a thirst for knowledge, even in moments of failure. Though there were obstacles keeping me from school, I didn’t have to give up on obtaining an education because of those people that never gave up on me and finally, I was able to thrive and create my own path. None of this would have happened with wonderful, supportive people in my life like my mother. She stuck with me in the darkest hours and taught me hard work. I’ve found that heart and determination is nothing without the support of others.

This is the story of Lenis Musundi

Lenis, 22, is a holder of a diploma in health records.  She is also a businesswoman based in Thika, Kenya. She considers herself a strong woman who stood tough times to be an achiever.  She attributes her achievements to the great support she got from her mother. She believes all dreams are valid no matter your past. Even after dropping out of school twice, Lenis never lost hope. Today, she feels proud of what she has achieved since she graduated from Mt. Kenya University. She loves traveling, watching movies, singing, and dancing. Her mother remains her pillar of strength.

Lenis, 2017.

This story first touched our hearts on May 22, 2018.

| Writers: Lenis Musundi; Our Life Logs Team | Editors: Our Life Logs Team |

#Kenya #bullying #school #love #expulsion #education #family #college #business #hardwork

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