In moments of introspection I try to discern what motivates me to live life as I have lived it and continue to live it. The drive that has seen me skip from job to job, career to career, country to country is still with me. Sometimes I was motivated to search for better opportunities and other times I was motivated to move on for lack of opportunity. I never feared to leave everything I knew and take a chance on something totally unknown. I do not cling to the past and the present to the detriment of the future and often marvel at people who stick to their long-term plans, people with ‘staying power.’ I know people who have pursued the same career for 30 years and have no thought of leaving until they retire; mothers who have decided that raising their children is the only occupation they will pursue until their children are fully independent; wives who stick with their spouses through thick and thin even when the ‘thin’ part spreads out for a much longer period than the ‘thick!’ I admire them a lot but I also know that I could never be who they are. In fact I gave up trying to be those people long ago when I realized how depressed I am by a static, predictable life. I am bored by predictability to the point that even today I have little use for a journal although I buy a beautifully bound one every year, religiously; so that it can sit beautifully on my desk or be pulled out impressively from my purse – but it is mostly empty. As I get older I find that I forget the names of people and places but it is difficult to forget experiences and for those I do not need a diary.
Am not as surprised by the ability of others to stay the course of their chosen lives as I am by how life presents them with the opportunity to remain put. My course has been challenging and unpredictable and I live on the edge, excited that I really never know what I will be doing or where I will be living in a couple of years and guess what? It does not matter, nor does it bother me. Perhaps that is why working as an international civil servant seems to suit me perfectly these days because it is purposed for wandering spirits such as mine that do not mind living out of a suitcase or not knowing where their next journey might take them.
It was never a matter of staying the course. It remains for me, a matter of learning to steer whatever new course I find myself on, even when the destination is unclear. Many times young people come to me seeking advice about their careers and relationships and I want to chuckle at their questions: ‘Why did you choose to be a single mother? Why did you give birth at 19? Why did you leave Uganda?’ ‘Why did you return to Uganda?’ ‘Why, why, why?’ Do not be misled to believe that I planned any of this simply because I have given you an account of my first 50 years. In fact many times my impulsive nature has been a curse that has led me to places that I would rather not have gone. But having found myself in those places I simply did not give up. My impulse may have led me off course but I know that with time, reason will seep through the fog and guided by an indestructible will, I shall steer back in the general direction of where I want to go, when the tide turns in my favor. I simply do not give up. I know in the innermost place of my being that I can lift myself up and allow reason to guide me to a better place than where impulse misled me – if I try.
So you see my strength is not in charting the course, rather it is in steering my way on the course that life has thrust on me. I may not have chosen the circumstances in which I often find myself but I take the circumstances that chance has thrown at me and work with them to quieten the storm around me focused on moving along, forward. So do not ask ‘why’ I made a poor choice because if you want a useful answer then ask ‘how’ I steered my way out of the places where bad choices led me. Ask me how I got up after I fell. ‘How did I manage to complete my education as a single mother?’ ‘How did I manage to keep my head over water while living in poverty?’ ‘How am I managing widowhood and raising orphans on my own.’ And like the old woman I met on the beautiful island of Barbados I may have many mistakes in my past and surely there will be more in my future but they do not go to waste. I take chances, I reach higher, I try to fly and many times I fall but nonetheless I stack up on experiences and share them with others, for whatever is learned from any experience that is not shared is surely wasted.
At 50 I refuse to give up on life, hope and the pursuit of happiness because I see how self-pity can be as dangerous as self-righteousness. Those who believe they can achieve nothing are just as tedious as those who think they can achieve anything.