In his early childhood days, Morris Mchawia Mwavizo learned a life lesson by watching ants that were determined to get out of a trap. With that same sense of self-determination, he found that he, too, could find a way out of poverty into a life he chose for himself.
When I was growing up, I loved capturing ants and trapping them in mud cell walls that were either too high for the ant to climb over, or so wet that it would probably drown. And every time I would do that, I would be amazed at the determination that the ant would have to get out of whichever place it was in. The ant would struggle to get out, hour after hour, going from corner to corner, even though there might have been no way out. And it is this determination of finding a way out on which my life’s principles are founded. I believe there is always a way out of any situation you find yourself in. I have believed in this from my early childhood days and that belief has raised me into who I am.
When I was in school, I wanted to become a writer—to work in a media house and study writing and journalism. But life took on a bitter twist after my parents broke up and I found that although I passed form four with flying colors, college was not an option for me.
I took on several jobs, and was at times so broke that buying paper for writing was not an option. But through it all, I found a way to keep writing. I wrote on the insides of the paper that wrapped maize flour. Wrote on papers I picked up on the streets. I worked as a hawker during the day and wrote poetry and short stories in the evenings, hundreds of which I lost. I trained and worked as a carpenter and still dreamt of writing one day. To keep my dream alive, I wrote about wood and carpentry. In whichever circumstances I found myself, I never lost hope because I believed there was a way out. I found myself working in a construction firm and while there, I started an online course for writing. My fellow employees thought I was a joke. I tore up used cement bags and wrote on the insides of them.
It took me more than a decade of dreaming and three years of study to get certified as a writer. And at 34, I have written for international papers, had my work published in magazines, and have worked for three media houses, all because I believed there was a way out.
Writing has changed my life. I found a way out and it provided a way out of poverty for me. I believe it matters not where you are and what you are going through. There is always a way out. All you have to do is keep looking for it.
Morris Mchawia Mwavizo is a creative writer living and working in Nairobi, Kenya. He is working on his first novel and runs a blog for short stories at: http://naandika.wordpress.com.
This essay is part of the radio series entitled Cha Muhimu, which means Of Great Importance, featuring the personal beliefs of Kenyans of every walk of life. The Cha Muhimu project is facilitated by the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi for the people of Kenya. This episode of Cha Muhimu was independently produced by Koi Muchira Tirima and Kariuki Githau with support from Dan Gediman of This I Believe Incorporated in the United States. Special mention for assistance with this essay goes to Inoorero University, Muthoni Gathercha, Elkana Ochieng, Fred Wakimani, Japheth Musyoka, and Beatrice Ondago.
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