Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make up as a human family.Ban Ki-moon
One leading lady Chemutai Kigen posted a question that basically asked for advice on life outside Kenya. I offered to email her my story. Then a lot of women expressed interest to hear my story too. And then it occurred to me it was not important to hear my story (for now let’s wait for the book ;-)), because sometimes hearing or listening to someone relive sometimes painful memories does not improve anything: it doesn’t help the person and most definitely doesn’t help anybody else. And also in this dotcom age, you don’t have to make the mistakes others made, we can empower each other by sharing information on how we went about various things.
Rather it would be much more constructive if I write on how I navigated obstacles, overcame failure, handled disappointments, managed depressive episodes, rebirthed my inner self to elevate my whole being and how I celebrate wins no matter how little and manage loses no matter how large. It’s been a journey of self-discovery, disappointments, exhilarating moments, doubtful moments, removing myself from very dark places but I have no regrets.
And that, TiH tribe, is how this post was born.
Before I proceed any further, let me tell you this: wherever you decide to go outside Kenya, do not, repeat DO NOT compare anything to Kenya – not the economy, not the weather, not the people, not the mannerisms, nothing because you will lose your mind.
One thing I know for sure is that life abroad is like life anywhere else, ultimately you decide how you want to live it. Having said that I know the opportunities I’ve had in the UK I’d probably not have had them in Kenya. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve had millions and lost millions, I’ve had businesses and lost businesses, I’ve had amazing jobs and been unemployed, I’ve had beautiful homes and been homeless, I’ve been married and single. Above all that I have the most amazing daughter – the real love of my life. During the lowest moments of my life, I’ve had the kind of support I know for sure would have cost me all my vital organs had I been in Kenya. That’s not to say its dismal in Kenya but from stories I’ve heard it can be bleak and gloom for the majority.
And now for the real stuff:
First, try as much as you can to have the right documentation because in this COVID era the current UK government is not joking. That human rights thingy UK is famous for, is dying slowly and painfully. Sad but true.
If I could say one thing to my younger self it’s this, “…. before embarking into the unknown, know thyself and fool-proof yourself, develop a rhinocerous skin because UK life is tough!” As the old saying goes, all that glitters is not gold – as much as life can be great in the UK, it takes nerves of steel, unwavering focus, determination and self-awareness to achieve anything. There will be many times you will feel like giving it all up. I’m sure you’ve heard stories of people who not only gave up on the dream, but on life itself. But if you look after number one, you, you will find a reason to keep going.
You are going to meet people who do not want you to succeed. They will give you false information and bad advice just so they can stay one step ahead of you. Learn to identify well-meaning people from toxic ones.
My advice, gorge on self-development books, because believe it or not some people feed on fear and uncertainty. But when you are confident and self-assured, not in a braggadocious, few will mess with your head: fervently do I wish I knew this in the olden days.
In your quest to self-develop, find out what your challenges are and find ways to improve on that; find out your strengths and ways to enhance that. Having a mentor or someone you can be accountable to is helpful but make wise decisions in your choices. Remember not everybody you call a friend is a friend – beware of wolfs in sheep’s clothing. Above all practice what you read, it’s not a walk in the park but ultimately it is rewarding.
I could say to you what to do or what not to say, but ultimately when you develop yourself personally you know what works for you. When you go on your self-development journey you gain confidence, you develop your own personal affirmations in line with your beliefs and values, and your attitude towards everything changes for the better. Your inner dialogues change as you grow. A lot of well-meaning people will tell you to avoid this or that, but what I know for sure is that when you go on a self-development journey on your own, everything your learn and practice becomes second nature.
When you know what you want and develop a plan on getting that which you want, failure is not an option, failures become trials. You improve on the plan but your goal remains and you keep working on it.
I can’t stress this enough because if you don’t have goals its like holding a bright touch, pointing it forward but walking with your eyes shut.
Attach yourself to people who can give you honest, straightforward answers, even if they are not supportive – that wouldn’t be important – but as long as they can be honest and feed you reliable information, you can navigate your way through things. Attaching yourself to people you know in a country you don’t is important, however, it is definitely not a be-all-end-all situation. You can make new friends on the same journey as you.
However, sometimes in this land of milk and honey, you might find yourself doing things and jobs you don’t particularly like or enjoy. By all means do what you have to do to survive, but keep your eye on the ball. Focus on your ultimate goal, find everything there’s to find on that goal and go for it.
If you can follow your passion. Do that which makes you happy. They say there’s a business opportunity in every passion.
Hope for the best but be prepared for the worst
It is likely you will encounter racism in one form or another. For some of us in Kenya, things like racism is something we are not used to. In the UK, I can honestly say it is not as blatant as in the US but it’s there in subtle forms, it all depends on who is dishing it out and how. You will mostly encounter racism in workplaces and certain parts of the country where people look at you like you’ve just landed from Jupiter. This will be when that rhinoceros skin you developed comes in handy: be that girl who if thrown into a crocodile-infested lake, comes out with a handbag, shoes and belt made out of crocodile skin.
You will also most likely experience some culture shock especially if you’ve led a sheltered life in Kenya or have not been exposed to modern 21st-century society. By all means, be shocked but don’t react visibly especially in matters pertaining to human rights, that’s how people get arrested and then deported for discrimination or bias or whatever legal word is most applicable to any given situation.
I don’t need to tell you anything about the weather, just leave your hand in your freezer for 10 seconds and you might get a rough idea of how cold winters can get. Have you ever missed a bus and cried at the prospect of waiting for another? You will in winter.
Lower your expectations of people but not your personal standards. Be unwavering and stay on course. Wanting to venture into the unknown is a strength in itself. Being well equipped especially mentally will definitely reward your efforts. If you are coming to the UK, at least you won’t have to worry about language and most Kenyan accredited qualifications are well recognised: however, in other places in Europe you might benefit if you have some rudimentary grasp on their national language.
The biggest difference will be the fact that you will be coming from a collective minded culture to an individualist minded culture, this can have the biggest impact on your mental health. Loneliness, depression and everything in between can happen to the sanest of people. Take good care of your mental health and don’t let anyone push you around or make unreasonable demands, and that includes family.
When you are well prepared, the UK is a gold mine. Trust me. Remember you carry with you, at all times, attitude of gratitude, it’s the new sexy!
Please leave a comment and let your voice be heard.
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