There are things we struggle with, which are more psychologically damaging and more worrying than asking google whether eating mango skin is good for your health.
Moreen Chebet, also a former Egerton University Christian Union vice chairperson, narrates her struggle with identity crisis, which almost crashed her self-esteem. For her, she wanted freedom from the societal demand to gain recognition through clan/father’s name. Read on.
Me, myself and I. These are the most crucial self-searching statements someone might battle with in the different phases of growth.
I grew up in a culture that prizes identity on family dynamics. If you really don’t have a strong family/ identity system, the world might come crumbling down for you.
I hail from the slopes of Mt. Kenya. On the leeward side of it. Nanyuki is famously known as Mwisho wa Reli, since this is the last town where the British-built railway line ended. Many have it that the railway line map got lost and the Indian constructors had to stop here.
I’m a firstborn in a family of five, raised by a strong mother and grandparents (I’ve been a community child since almost every woman in the village narrates how they babysat me when my mother was away, possibly looking for something to eat.)
I had many questions in mind including my identity. You talk of your mom, what about your dad? Most people would ask this question any time they wanted to know more about me.
I grew up in a small village where everyone knew everyone and you would be identified with the name of your father as a cultural shtick. On top of this, there is a clan name, where you are named after someone in your family who passed on recently. Your clan is more important than you. People identify with the clan, and not as individuals.The clan name is a preserve only to them whose parents are married. So if your mother is not married, you only end up with the regular name, with no clan name.
Growing in such a society created a longing and a thirst for a name. Especially when visitors or old wazees paid a visit and wanted to dig deeper to know your namesake and would be very happy if you are named after their dead mother, father, aunt or sister. This would win you some sort of favours including an invitation to their home or some instant money.
Without a name or someone to identify with, these favours flew right in my eyes. Identifiable age mates would go pay a visit to their namesake and I would be left behind.
This saw some of my siblings taking my grandfather’s name as their surname to fit in within the system.
With no special treatments, I would be left behind wondering what mistake I ever committed to deserve this.
As a result, I had low self-esteem. I would cry a lot and ask myself why I had no name like others. It pained me more when my younger sister started calling my uncle ‘dad’ like my cousins did. It was so painful to tell people that my mother is not married.
In the midst of all this, my grandparents accepted us. They would defend us from fights and arguments from whoever tried to mock us. My mother would leave early in the morning for work to earn some money, leaving the five of us safely under the care of our grandmother and aging grandfather.
Shosh would cook, feed and clean us. We were named shosh children. We knew we were secure with her. She would sell her poultry or goats to clear our school fees.
Allow me tell more about my grandmother.
Moreen’s grandmom in her graduation attire
She is an early riser, she would be up at the first cock crow, warming water for her grandchildren and making an early breakfast. By the time we left for school at around 7, she would have done the dishes!
This continued till I joined high school. While there, I felt an urge to get into love relationships to fill the gap of a father or rather a male figure. And mark you, these relationships never worked. I felt they were not fulfilling the void in my heart. Fortunately, grandmom’s love and hard work kept pushing us to read hard and return to her good grades.
She would give us a big challenge when she started attending ngubaro classes (classes meant for old people). Her 32 page exercise book would be cut into two pieces (there was no chance for wastage of resources) and this is how much my grandmother valued education.
I remember she would sermon us when she heard that we failed in exams or we had developed uncouth behaviours. Anytime we were with her, we felt a sense of security.
The issue of having a female surname as opposed to most children raised a lot of concerns. Yet I now feel secure and okay using my mother’s name since she is both mom and dad.
I continued battling with identity up untill high school when I kind of took a self-discovery journey. It started dawning on me that I have more than a father to identify with. A father who would stick with me in best and worst moments. This is when I welcomed Jesus Christ as Lord over my whole life.
Whenever I feel lonely or urged to be identified with a physical father, I have and will always whisper to Him my anxieties and He has always been there to hear me out. Doing greater things than what a physical/biological father could do. He never disappoints.
I am now satisfied and secure under His wings.
PS: In case you have a compelling life story, you can tell it at OneStepBeyond, the only place that communicates and reaffirm your worth: email email@example.com