By Juliet Maruru (May 27, 2008)

School was for me a conglomeration of fun, torture, joy, sorrow, teenage crushes on student-teachers, rugby, math classes and biology. It went fast and left me with memories and lessons that have stayed with me for life.

I had a tendency to sit at the back of my classes with the boys from the Rugby team. We would make class difficult for the smart kids at the front and bother the teacher, too. I believe that my head teacher seriously regretted encouraging me, a girl, well, a rather large and loud one, to join the rugby team in the name of 'equal opportunity'.

In biology class, Mrs. Njau could hardly get through topics on sexual reproduction. Interestingly when she got to the topic on genetics, even I, the most notorious heckler of all, started listening and taking notes. I can't remember it all, but 8 things stuck on my mind and were translated into life lessons that I still keep.

First on my list is the fact that life assembles in chains. It took me a while to realize just how important I was to society and how important society is to me. There have been times when I would rather have been sailing through life on my own. But soon enough, I realized that I need my family , my friends to anchor me in my endevours to build my life and career.

Once, I had figured that out, I learnt my next lesson. Life builds from bottom up. I would have preffered to have my life made easy at one point. Now, I know, that nothing tastes better than working hard at something before seeing it succeed. Well sometimes, the success doesn't come when you want it, too. And the wait can be torturous. But when it does come through, it is better than sweet.

I have always been quite vocal. I talk, talk, talk and loudly, too. When I started writing, I went on in the same vein as my talking; at noone or anyone in particular, or about nothing and anything. Someone kind sat me down and told me, 'Girl, you need to think. Think about what you say before you say it. think about what people say and what they really mean. Think. think. Think. Then talk.' I guess what he was trying to say is that I need to look at life both superficially and in-depth. Because life needs an outside and an inside to work.

Knowing that I had to think before I talk helped me a lot. It especially helped me when I went to work in remote Longonot as a volunteer in a job where I was required to live with different people from different backgrounds at very close quarters. Actually, Longonot was quite a shocker for me. I have never before had to live at such close range with people who thought so differently from me and worked in complete opposites of my style. But when I forced myself to contain myself and accommodate others, I started to see just how other ways of working and different personalities could be a beautiful for the whole picture. I started to see that life uses few themes to generate many variations. And all the variations can be beautiful.

I suppose the chance to learn how people from different kinds of upbringing and cultures, opened up my eyes to life beyond my carefully set horizons. The more I learn about people, the world and how society works, the more opportunities I can see. A large part of this discovery is focused on learning how I react to the information I receive. It has created an insatiable desire to learn, to get more information and assimilate it in my decisions. It has created an awareness that there is so much more to learn. Life organizes with information. So, I constantly find myself realigning my thinking and way of life.

I have grown from that little heckler in the back of the class, to someone who is eager to make a difference in my world. I am now aware that I can be different kinds of support for different kinds of people. I am a teacher. I am a writer. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a lover. I do not have to negate any part of my identity to fulfill the other. I just need to know what information I need to use with every identity. And in a way, society too can allow people to be who they are without forcing anyone to conform to 'accepted' ways of thinking. Life has to encourage variety by recombining information.

I guess the most amazing lesson, I have learnt yet, is that life creates with mistakes. I have spent many a night shedding tears over a mistake, sometimes thinking I couldn't possibly live past it. Time has taught me that I am human, bound to make mistakes and better yet to learn from and build on them. I have had to relearn this lesson many times. That I need not give up on life because I made a mistake. Sometimes, my mistakes have led me to such beauty that I would probably be tempted to make the same mistake. Ah, the beauty of life!

Life works in cycles. Life has a way of taking us back to the same point that we were at some time before. And life lets us think just how unique each experience is. We are born, we give birth, to life to experiences, to careers to families, to societies and to cultures. We create with every decision we make, with every action we take. We have the power to influence others, even whole societies. We live, we love and even when we die, life still continues. Life!