Blossoming Cactus

Juliet Maruru
Posted February 23, 2009 from Kenya

I remember being a little girl and wondering why my father did not want to hold my hand. That is the first time I faced the identity issue. Before that I was just ‘Juliet Wambui, Standard Two, and that’s my mum.’ The incident with my father, made me ask, ‘If I am not Daddy’s little girl, who am I? Who will hold my hand? And why won’t mummy help?’

My parents were just divorcing then, and that was before mum disclosed that that daddy was not my father. I am a child of the 80’s. Born in a time when more and more girls were being sent to University, some of them abroad, and a whole lot of them coming home with two kinds of degrees. My mother came back with three, a Bsc, a son and a daughter. Marriage was still important, so if a girl chose, there would be a man to make her ‘respectable. In this case the man was a widower with two sons of his own. My mother and her children were integrated into that family and soon enough there was an addition. And not too long after this, that family disintegrated, leaving me with questions.

I will allow a pause here for whoever chooses to launch into a self-righteous debate on the reasons our family did not stay together, but useful too to remember that often when looking into someone else’s eyes you see only a reflection of yourself. And now I will move on to issues of my identity.

Part of personal growth is this constant examination and redefinition. This means that even though our core identity will remain the same, it is possible for us to define goals, choices, efforts, and indeed the path our lives take. My problem has been identifying that core. It has been there all along, but over time, I have allowed painful experiences, brutally critical comments and life circumstances to cloud over that identity.

A few days ago, in the middle of a busy street, somewhere between noticing that the stub of my shoe had cracked, and admiring a beautifully carved masculine caboose, I stopped, and asked myself, “So if I am not Daddy’s little girl, then who am I? Do I still need someone to help me cross the road? Should I run home to Mother and tell her how so difficult it is to be a grown up?”

I went into a little examination journey. I know, I should have gone of to spend some time alone and rediscover myself. But I don’t have the time, and I definitely cannot afford to take time off life right now. So I had to do the mini rediscovery on the go.

First off, I asked myself, what do I really want, right now, tomorrow, and the next day? It is so very easy to get caught up in what everyone else wants and to forget that life is also about what you want. I want to be the best writer I can possibly ever be. I have been working on that since I was 12. I have been working at my language skills, taking college courses, observing people, observing life, so that I can be the best writer there can ever be. I want to entertain, to educate, to help a young woman growing up realise that it is okay to dream, to hope, and to live a dignified and fulfilling life, whatever choices you gravitate towards. How many times have I found myself losing that goal? How many times have I found myself forgetting that it is possible? How many times have I had to sit myself down and remind myself, remind myself what it is I really want?

More than anything, I have found that the fact that I am a sensitive soul, is the reason it is easy for me to lose sight of my goals. I care too much. I pick up too many strays, who then clutter my life and do not add value to my life. I care what people think. I care how people feel. I care…my choices require that I care. So where do I set the limit? I still haven’t figured that out yet.

Today, I asked someone who matters in my life, “What two words would describe me?”

He hummed, drumming his fingers on the edge of a table, staring at the ceiling and then snapped his fingers, “Ah! I know. Blossoming Cactus! Large succulent desert plant, that has thorns and flowers, too.”

Wide-eyed, open-mouthed, soundless gag.

That is what I want to be. But am I? Or is it just a veneer I show off to the world?

So is it true that a person, capable of surviving adverse conditions, may have unpleasant qualities but definitely possesses beautiful ones too?

So I am definitely not my  father’s little girl. I have to define who I am on the basis of who I really am. Young, Female, Kenyan, Writer. I may have to take on other life roles, but they will not change who I am. When the sun is hot I survive. When the night comes in I blossom.

Incidentally, some cacti are used for food and medicine.

Comments 1

  • Jade Frank
    Feb 24, 2009
    Feb 24, 2009

    Hi Juliet,

    These are such good questions... questions that I too often ask myself. And while we can be proud of our roots, our nationality, our family, these things do not define us completely. We can grow and blossom into the women that we want to be. Your writing is so engaging and your voice is strong. You are a blossoming cactus!

    Warm regards, Jade

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