It's a journey, not a race.
Every day I go out jogging, I encounter things that really amuse me, from people telling me “pole kwa uchovu wa mazoezi”, others whistling at me to try get my attention, then of course there are those drivers who just flash their headlights at me assuming I will interpret the meaning of the flash, then there’s that mad (insane, lunatic) guy who is extremely physically fit because he is always jogging or doing some crazy Abs exercises - Dude has some serious 8-pack! But out of all these kinds of people, the people who really jazz me are the ones who keep telling me “pole”. For those who do not understand Swahili, pole is a Swahili word that means “sorry”. Sorry for what, I keep asking myself? After all, no one has a gun to my head chasing me to jog! If anything, I made that personal decision to jog all by myself and no one coerced me to do it, so why the sorry?
Excuse me if I will sound arrogant, but from where I’m standing, or rather jogging, I say sorry to you who is just sitting there by jobless corner and making cat-calls at me and other women walking by, discussing with your friends which of the women you have seen has a more endowed behind than the rest of them. You see, while I’m busy getting back into shape by jogging, you are probably picking up the weight I’m losing just
by looking at me sitting there idle, doing nothing but staring at the female anatomy. So the next time you see me jogging and sweating it out, don’t “pole” me; tell me hongera for taking the initiative to take control of my health. Infact, join me in jogging so we can encourage each other on this fitness journey.
Anyway, going back to my story, while you are on the road, it is very easy to get discouraged by what you see. For instance, you might be jogging at a speed of 7 ½ minutes per Kilometer (which is usually my average speed), then someone joins you from a nearby gate and takes off like he is being chased by something or like it's a marathon. I mean that can be very discouraging to someone who is already tired. Let's say you’ve been running for the last 8Kms and your heart and legs are burning, but there’s this person in front of you who has kept his pace since he joined you on the road and while you are enduring to keep your feet moving, he seems to be enjoying the sound of his legs on the tarmac. That can really be discouraging too. However, you just have to keep moving because you know that if you stop before you are done jogging, then you risk the possibility of having a serious cramp or a stitch. When I get to that point, I switch my mind off and instead go to a place in my mind where there are happier memories, memories that make me forget the pain. So why do you do that to yourself Liz, one might ask. Simple: no pain, no gain.
The thing about jogging is, you just have to look for your own pace and maintain that. Once you are comfortable with that, then see how much more you can push yourself without the risk of you quitting, and keep increasing the pace as you go by. With time, you will realize that you no longer do 1Km in 7 ½ minutes anymore but you probably do it in 5 minutes. Who knows, maybe by the next Olympics you will be a potential contender in the marathon space.
I have seen many joggers give up on the second day because they feel intimidated by those they find on the streets. If you have chosen jogging as your way of keeping fit, then let me let you in on a little secret; the worst thing you can ever do to yourself is compare your progress with that of someone else. For crying out loud please never do that to yourself. You see, there could be many reaons while that person is performing better than you. For instance; if you started jogging earlier than he did, and you started further from where he started, then how can you compare yourself to this person? He is probably into his first kilometer, while you are on your 14th! What comparison is there? His legs are fresh while yours are screaming for help. Another scenario is where you are comparing yourself with a professional marathoner! I mean, how now? And then there's the other side of the scenario. For instance, ever see someone who is clearly dressed for jogging but instead of running they are just walking, and you start thinking to yourself how lazy they are? Well, never judge anyone unless you know their story. Sometimes what you see at face value is very different from the actual situation. Just focus on your own workout and if you cannot encourage someone else then don't discourage them. Mind your own business.
As so it is with life here on earth.
Many people are very quick to judge others, making conclusions on their behalf about their lives yet they know nothing about them. Friends my journey is not your journey, and your journey is not mine. You will never have a clue of where I am coming from and where I am going unless you talk to me and ask me. And even then, you might not understand me. Looking at someone’s situation and making a conclusion based on what you are seeing now at face value is the worst thing you can ever do.
Secondly, I have said this before and I will repeat it again. We are not in a competition here on earth. However, each one of us is on a journey going to our respective destinies, and life is the road that will take us to that destiny. Now some of us will get there faster because our destiny requires us to, but some will take longer for various reasons. Maybe the task you were brought here on earth to do requires more time than the next person’s task. Maybe you are taking long because there’s something special being prepared for you so you can achieve your mission here on earth, or maybe you are the one being prepared to handle your mission. Whatever the case, please do not bother with how fast others are getting to their destinies. Focus on your own journey.
As I come to the end of this article today I’d like to share with you a story someone shared with me recently; it reiterates the same thing I’ve been saying; focus on your own journey...
A certain gentleman walked into a hotel and after perusing through the menu ordered for some food. After about 20 minutes another group of gentlemen walked in and ordered for theirs.
To his dismay, the first gentleman saw them get served first. He watched as they began to eat and laugh heartily. He even overheard one of them brag about how he knew everyone at that hotel and how things moved fast for him there. He felt he was being mocked and contemplated leaving, but he had waited soo long!
Unable to take it anymore, he called the waiter and spoke rather verbosely of how unfair things were.
The waiter calmly told him, “yours is a special order sir, being prepared by the chief chef himself. Their orders were prepared hurriedly by interns because the top chefs are busy with yours. That's why they got theirs first. Please have some juice as you wait”.
Unknown to him the owner of the hotel (who happened to be an old long lost friend of his) had seen him coming and wanted to surprise him and had made changes to his simple meal to make it a five star meal!
He calmed down and waited. Shortly after, 6 waiters served his meal and he was waited on, hand and foot and was made very comfortable.
As expected, the party at the other table were shocked. They couldn't stop staring. Suddenly they were the ones murmuring, asking why they didn't get that kind of service and meal…
Tables had been turned, literally!
So it is with this life. Some people are ahead of you and eating now, laughing at you about how they know people and how they're blessed and moneyed and how they're enjoying life because of it.
You have been waiting long wondering why its taking soo long to get your breakthrough, enduring mockery and humiliation. Maybe you have contemplated suicide, gone through depression or suffered severe mental anxiety.
Do not worry. The owner of the world has seen you. And doesn't want to give you simple meals like those laughing at you. And you're waiting long because yours is a special meal. Those take time. And only chief chefs make those.
Take heart today. Wait for your meal and relax. When it comes. That laughing party will be silenced for good.
Calm down. “Kunywa juice yako pole pole."
Need I say more?
Wishing you all a patient week ahead!
PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 18th September, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".