Writing Competition 2022: Take the Step

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Written by Viola Jemutai

He stood up for his people against their enemies with his great power and might, I can only imagine how big and strong Luanda Magere, the great Luo warrior, was. Harriet Tubman ferried her people to freedom at a time when all they were facing was cruelty and oppression. These are just a few examples of people who displayed immense courage throughout history despite the adversity they faced. The way I see it, we all possess a courageous spirit. However, summoning it takes a journey that we must all walk alone until we can boldly face whatever life throws at us.

It is tasking to delve within ourselves and muster the courage to stand up for ourselves against those who take advantage of us, or to finally ask for a promotion or raise at work, or to ask out that girl we’ve been eyeing and if things work out, even take it a step further. Now, we have all come across some bizarre marriage proposals that must have left us wondering, why would they even try this here? But I see it as courage, a little over the top proposing in the middle of town, but courageous. It surely is tasking, but we still do it. That makes me wonder why it becomes so difficult to stand up to ourselves when our minds are attacking us. Why could I not stand up for myself? Where was the courage then?

Many moons ago, back when I was in high school, I went through one of the darkest phases of my life. I was wallowing in despondence with no energy for anything. Sadness had an avatar and it was me. I cared for nothing and nothing cared for me. You might think that someone would notice, a teacher maybe or one of my friends or classmates. But, in the midst of all the pressure to get good grades and be the best, no one actually did. 

School was like a shaft mine, the teachers and students the miners, all of us in our tunnels vigorously combing the earth to find some precious ore. However, my tunnel collapsed, closing me in, leaving me stranded and suffocating, with crying for help – hoping someone would come to my aid – being my only way out.

It surely is fascinating how our brains work around the clock taking care of things in all our different body systems – keeping memories and discarding others. Most of us would have dried out our eyes if we had to blink voluntarily. Then, my mind was working around the clock, but working against me. 

“You’re not good enough, you’re not going to make it. I mean look at you; they’re better than you.” These are some of the thoughts I had to fight against. I could barely look at myself. I had dark circles around my eyes from all the crying. 

To be at war with yourself is a silent war because only you know what is really happening. Most of us mask it with smiles and the occasional “I’m fine” when we really are not. We walk around carrying the pain of anxiety, beating ourselves up with every waking moment. I was tired, to be honest. Something had to be done fast before things got worse. That’s when I knew I had to be courageous enough to face the bull by its horns. I had tried to hide my pain, but I had to be courageous enough to talk about it to someone. I had to accept being vulnerable, and so I did.

I opened up to one of my closest friends, Natalie, about my troubles and truly, a problem shared is a problem half solved. She helped me get through it, to see the value in myself again. I learnt how to quiet down the voices in my head. I could feel the pain and despair leave me and the tension in my body release with time. 

Soon after, I even got help from a counsellor. In that room, negative energy was replaced by hope and a whole new perspective on life. I learnt that I was worth it, I was enough. You see, with love and the right help from those around you, healing becomes possible and the pain, a distant memory. I healed quite beautifully.

I am grateful for that time of my life because it prepared me for the world outside the safety of the school. Life is hard and often, we are required to deal with all sorts of challenges in our work or even relationships with others. It could be difficult to accept that a fight against ourselves has been lost but it is necessary to pave way for growth and better days. 

These days, I advocate for mental wellness to all my friends and family, at school, and basically anywhere and everywhere I get the chance to. This is because I know how taking a step forward to get help could turn things around. For sure, courage means facing the adversity that life throws at us and being brave while doing it, with everybody seeing and admiring the courage. But courage is also facing ourselves when we become our own enemies, silently, with help from just a few of our loved ones, until we are able to speak up to the world to encourage those whose paths may be like ours.

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Viola Jemutai is a twenty-year-old university student from Kenya. She enjoys reading poems and listening to music. She loves to write from time to time and aspires to be part of something great and to be an inspiration to the world.