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Engage

I did not perform as well as I thought I would when I sat for my Certificate of Primary
Education (CPE) and I suppose I did not perform as well as my father expected either.
You see I am my mum’s last born and my dad’s third born. Yes.. You guessed right, I
hail from a polygamous family and for those you who understand how the birth order
affects or influences the personality traits of an individual may have guessed that I
have personality traits of a last born child and a middle child.. Anyway I digress.
I vividly remember the drive from St. Georges primary school the morning after we
received our results and the harsh words my father said to me “you know Muthoni
with these kind of results there are only 2 professions that you could end up in – A
maid or a prostitute!” You could have heard a pin drop in the silence that ensued, I’m
pretty sure my father could hear the thumping of my heart.

I was 12 going on to 13, I did not want to end up a maid or a prostitute, I wasn’t even
sure I knew what the latter meant. I cried for weeks after that. With an older brother
and sister who had been admitted to some of the most prestigious schools in the
country, my grades were despicable, they embarrassed my family and I wanted to
hide every time the topic came up . I got admitted to a small rural school and made
a promise to myself that those two professions would not be my portion. I made a
conscious decision to work hard and I know I have never worked so hard in my life
and my blood, sweat and tears paid off, I was admitted to a national school for my A
levels and later went against the grain when I joined Kenyatta University to study for
a degree in Education… Against the grain because my father’s choices for me were
Medicine, Law or Accountancy.

In 1982, we were purportedly involved in the coup de tat and were sent out of college
for 14 months during which time I got pregnant and married, much to my family’s despair
and indignation. Being the 1st one in our home to be admitted to Public University,
my daddy thought I would get expelled. I vividly remember during my graduation
dinner speech declaring that I graduated with a degree, a husband and a child.
Although my father has always been a great influence in my life, there was a lot of
dysfunctionality in our relationship and I felt I needed to get as far away from my family
as possible so I requested to be posted to the coastal region…I wanted, I needed to get as
far from home as possible.

I needed to get away from the abuse, and even though my father never raised a hand to
me, I was a victim of domestic violence. I cried whenever my father hit my mother and
somehow my tears made him stop… another reason that pushed me away from home
was escape the virulent relationship my mother and I shared.

I had become my father’s pride and joy after I prove him and all my naysayers wrong.
After my A levels I helped dad in his business and this close relationship with my father
did not auger well with my mother. As I awaited to join college I remember with a lot
of pain the words my mother threw at me in a fit of rage “What kind of relationship are
you looking for with your father”… “Why do you spend so much time with him”.. “What
do you want from him???” These words were spoken to me in my native tongue and
they stung!!

Who uses such words on their own daughter How could my mother who gave me life,
who was supposed to love me more than anyone in the world say this to me? It hurt
more than I can put in words and at 19 my solution for this predicament was suicide
which I attempted. Clearly I didn’t succeed!

I was broken, I had to get as far away from Nairobi as I possibly could.

I thrived in the teaching profession and was a principal by 30. It is my considered opinion
that this was a pretty mean fete but I probably have my big boned size to thank for that
because most of you probably remember your principals as being old and grey… So my plus
size must have helped me nab this one. However this seemed to be the only area I was thriving
in as at the time I was stuck in an abusive marriage which I held on to much longer than
I should have, 13 years too long. I finally garnered the strength and left with my most precious
commodities, my children, the only good that came out of our union. My children are
now 33, 24 and 22 respectively.

I came back to Nairobi and joined the private education sector in the capacity of Principal
for 10 years. I later joined the tertiary education and my last formal job was as Registrar
academic and student affairs at one of our private Universities. I loved my job and I did it
well. However, I did not feel like I had given all that I could and so I went back to school for
my Masters degree, 24 years after I had been given “power to read”. Armed with my newly
acquired skills I thought that I would now conquer the world overnight but this didn’t happen
and the routine of work began to eat at me.

2012 was my 180 degree turning point.. I cut my then shoulder length hair, dyed it red and
took early retirement. I was 50.

I wanted a bigger platform. I wanted to reach and touch more people’s lives.
I auditioned for a role in a 250 episode series for a renowned TV network and I got the role.
I moved from my swivel chair to become an actor. I took a risk? Yes! I wanted to reach more
people and I did. God gave me Africa!

 

by Muthoni Gathecha

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