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Through university with my mask

Life & Style

Through university with my mask

Lawreen Munoka the author with her friends

Lawreen Munoka the author with her friends


In life everyone has someone they look up to. In my case, my parents have always been my greatest influence. I have analyzed every hardship they have gone through just to give me a better life. They have taught me to courageously face any obstacles standing in my way.

Growing up at the Kenyan coast of Mombasa, going to the beach for a swim and school. At that tender age I had fictional movie characters as my superheroes – Rambo, Batman and Superman.

But as I grew up and education got tougher, life got complicated. That is when I realized that my superheroes did not have wings. They had no super powers. My superheroes worked long hours in order to put food on the table and a roof over my head.

My parents taught me the value of education, the power to do well, hard work and respect for others. In school, I wouldn’t classify myself as the best performer, but at least I was above average. My parents’ dream was to one day enroll me into medicine since they both are in the medical field.

But my dream was quite different. I have always been different among my family members. We were only two kids and by the time I was in Primary Six my elder brother was at the university studying medicine. I have always had a passion for poetry and any striking events like travelling, hiking, biking and camping. I have a huge phobia for hospitals or anything to do with medicine. I am different.

While in O’Level, I was the shy girl, the one who talks less, and the one who used to wonder at the playground instead of joining other kids in playing games. I felt like I didn’t fit in because whenever I would try to join in the games, people would tease me about how fat I was.

Eventually I got tired of being bullied, tired of being teased and decided to put on a life mask and hide behind it. I began to act. I was now care-free, crazy.  I would joke around and act as though I was strong-willed. By doing this I lost myself and became so perfect in my new mask. I became popular and had plenty of friends.

At home, I became envious of my brother since I felt as though he was somewhat favored. He was the “A” type performer in school while I was the average performer. He would be allowed to go and play or watch movies while I would be forced to stay indoors engrossed in books or having lessons with a tutor.

Whenever I complained my parents would compare me to my brother. In all these, I never shaded off my mask. And everything became my mask. I pretended I was crazy, strong willed, outgoing and happy.

But at some point I got confused as to whom I really was. As novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne writes in The Scarlet Letter: “No man for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”

With time I came to believe in my mask. Sometimes we are what we pretend to be. I realized I wasn’t the shy girl, I had not given myself a chance to be who I really was. I also understood why my parents wanted me to study so hard.

Sometimes we mistake our parents’ strict nature for lack of love; it can be the opposite. Parents always want what is best for their children. Through my parents’ support, I was able to perform well in my O’Level examinations. The four years had elapsed so fast. It was now time for me to awake my wondering thoughts.

With several universities to choose from, it was a little bit tricky. Whenever high school leavers hear the word university they get a mixture of fear and excitement.

The thought of massive parties and clubbing contrasted with the thought of being alone far away from home. But still, it was a step I had to make.

Due to my love for adventure, I chose a university outside my home country. Iwanted to make new memories and experiences. So Kampala International University it was. Being in a new country wasn’t as easy as I had earlier expected – new food, different cultures, language, new friends, mention it.

Being a freshman wasn’t easy either. It’s quite a surreal feeling seeing all the first-years and the reality was that none of us knew where or what we were supposed to do. It was fun settling into university.

Along the way I got confronted with many challenges, heartbreaks and failures. A lot of things changed and a lot happened. Most of it was unplanned but worth the while.

I will elaborate these things in my future writings. Life at university was not about studying only but also memories throughout the journey. Anyway, it would not have been more interesting without my two best friends – Mariam and Reen.

Through them I was able to meet other friends. We got to travel to different corners of Uganda and this made me feel at home.

Life can be complicated, simple, happy or sad. We just need to believe in our inner voice that says, “I can.” Mariam and Reen, thank you for being there for me. Mama and Papa, you are my superheroes!



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