Slyvia Nkatha: I changed my whole course from nursing to law

Article by: Slyvia Nkatha

Photo: Christian Science Monitor | Jae C.Hong/AP/File

Today, if I tell people that did not know me two or three years ago how shy and quiet I was (still am in some environments), they laugh and slap my back and tell me to shut up. Because, if you do know me now, I am…whatchamacallit….yes, I am expressive. I was going to join campus at age 18. But I was not ready to go to school. I showed up for five weeks and packed my bags and went back home and told my dad we were on an unprecedented break. Three weeks later, he knocks on my room and asks me how long this break was, and I told him the truth, I was not ready to go to campus just yet. Thankfully, he said nothing, told me to figure it out, and have an answer for him at the end of the week, and he was off.

So this is the truth, I was fresh out of one of the most military-grade scheduled high schools, Chogoria Girls. Back then those in my era know I am sugarcoating it when I say that school made us survivors. Strict, I mean super strict, no breaks, books, books, and more books, but the most intense bit of it was the religious aspect of it. See, it is a church-funded school, so religion was a big deal. When I got out of high school, I could recite random verses in the Bible, had a certain outlook on life and I do not want to say I was saved per se, but I was religious to the bone about what was right and wrong and you know, how to handle certain situations.

I get to campus and on my first week, half of my classmates were drunk and doing immoral stuff. I was lost, I did not talk to boys, and I did not have any social skills as I was always a very shy person, but I loved doing stuff that most people did not. Like staying indoors and reading, or riding in fast cars was just about all that entertained me. So I get to campus where conservative people are unleashing their inner beasts in the weirdest way, and almost immediately they got there. Like they could not wait to let loose.

I freaked out. It was painfully clear that I was out of place almost immediately. In the weeks that I was there, I hardly spoke to anyone except to ask for directions. I was terrified at how awkward I was when everybody else seemed so normal. It did not help that my dressing sense was so bad, I always felt comfortable in boyish clothes, while girls in my class had makeup on, girlish hair, and boyfriends by the end of the first week. No, I was not going to hack that environment. Our parents did not shelter us so much as we grew up, but they made sure church was in our system. So naturally, we stayed away from stuff that made them upset. I can tell you my shock in campus those first weeks were so bad I literally fled.

Fast forward, I responded to my dad a week later, told him I need a break for a year, to see what life looks like outside for a bit, maybe sort out my mindset and severe awkwardness, then I will go back to campus. He said ok, I went to work for him, and I tried my very best to interact with people a bit. In fact, I changed my whole course from nursing to law. I would have sucked as a nurse, believe me.

When I got to campus eventually, my feet were a bit more steady when I stepped in there, I could somehow talk to some people, and my dress code remained the same, I did not party because social anxiety was my jam, I was still a bookworm, and I never dated; thank goodness because I saw my roommates suffer heartbreaks and I used to wonder where they found the courage to be with boys. I mean, seriously, where? All I can say of my experience is that I probably managed to stay sane and out of trouble because I knew who I was, and nothing easily sways me. As expressive as I am today, it applies to certain environments. Out there, I am still the awkward girl, closed off, who prefers to be left alone, and if you could pay me to risk my life and limbs around cars, then that is who I am.

If I was to have a wish and go back to campus, hard pass. I would never do that again.

SOURCESlyvia Nkatha
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