Undoubtedly, 2020 has been a year of so many changes. I have personally never experienced a year like it. To be honest I hated it and cursed at it in the beginning. I thought it was going to be the worst year of my life. It is only now that I realize that on the contrary, 2020 has been a blessing in disguise.
I had just completed my KCSE examinations and attained good grades that allowed me to choose whatever course I would be interested in. Moreover, I received the admission letter to join Strathmore University – an institution that I had admired for the longest time and wanted to be a part of because of its outstanding values. Everything seemed to be perfectly in place for the first time in a long time. Little did I know that a pandemic was on its way to cause turmoil and stand still in the whole world.
For this reason, I was forced to stop attending classes physically at the campus. Certainly, this came as a rude shock to me. I had just started my university experience, interacted with many different people, and for the most part, began taking part in activities such as joining the Strathmore Chorale and being elected as the class representative for my Certificate in Computer Applications (CCA) class.
Attending online classes from home has been no bed of roses. The beginning was tough, and many factors contributed to that. One of them being the fact that I was so frustrated that I was alone and no longer among my peers with whom I could exchange ideas even share small laughs. Moreover, being at home made me feel less motivated to study. All the distractions in the house just added salt to injury. Can you imagine a scenario where there are four people in one room, each attending a separate meeting with their different devices? This was coupled with unsteady WiFi and disruption from one contributing or asking questions in their meeting.
Nevertheless, during this period, my attitude towards this situation has changed greatly. This has been aided by one of the teachings of St. Josemaria where he says, “I want you to be happy, for cheerfulness is an essential part of our way”. Indeed, when joy is incorporated in the activities that one does, the activities become more enjoyable and the result will for sure reflect that. I knew I needed to do something to keep me motivated with my studies and that would also have a positive effect on someone else too. It was at that point that I began to participate more in class by answering and asking questions. For me, it became a responsibility to help in sharing assignments and meeting links to my classmates as well as volunteering to be a module leader in various units.
Furthermore, I realized that I was unable to maximize my performance on any given day as a result of failing to plan. St Josemaria once said, “If you don’t have a plan of life, you’ll never have order.” This statement made me purpose to plan my day such that I can have a balance between the activities I do at home with my family and the online classes.
This pandemic has given me more time to spend with my family and most importantly to find out my weaknesses in family life. Given St. Josemaria’s insistence on putting aside personal interests in order to serve others and God, I just came to realize during this confinement that I am very selfish with my personal time. Who would have thought that a whole pandemic needed to happen for me to see the value of sacrificing my time for others?
Subsequently, I recently discovered a talent that I would never have discovered had I been busy with the hustle of commuting from home to school every day amid the numerous activities at the campus. What I could say I do is drawing but painting is a whole other field that I had never ventured in. This perception, however, came to change when I was invited to participate in the 2020 annual cultural week at Strathmore and specifically the art exhibition. I decided to attempt painting and I am very humbled by the fact that I won.
Indeed, St. Josemaria gave a very beautiful approach to sainthood. It is not a distant thing but rather we can practice it in our ordinary life. This is through doing what you must do at a given time and place with all your heart, to the best of your abilities, and above all, in union with God.
Remember when I said that once the pandemic set in, I thought that 2020 was a ruined year? Well now when I look back at everything that I have achieved this year, I can say that 2020 is going to be a memorable year for many good reasons. It’s the year I expanded my capabilities in art, got more active in cookery, learnt video editing skills, learnt to plait hair, the year I won an art and cooking competition and above all, the year that I had the most time with myself to build a relationship with God.
On one hand, I am very excited to get back on campus while on the other hand, I really wish that this confinement could last just a bit longer because I have thoroughly enjoyed being at home with family and having more personal time to reflect on my life.
In conclusion, I have learnt to not just survive through any given moment but rather to thrive in it. St. Josemaria would say “Be in the present and live in the moment. Let tomorrow take care of itself as the future is in God’s hands and the past is in God’s divine mercy.”
Now it is my turn to ask you, what have you done during this period to not just survive but rather thrive?
This article was written Aicha Mbongo-Zindamoyen.