In my first year of high school, I ran 22 times around our school field. It was for an inter-house competition. A day we really waited for. School’s Sports day. There were no lessons. Teachers and other staff came in sportswear. It was a good day to unwind and play. We sat in small groups, and the obvious discussion would be the best-dressed teacher and laugh at those Kiswahili teachers wearing sport shoes and loose material trousers.
I wore a navy blue t-shirt dabbed Kilimanjaro on the back. A short black kit on the bottom. Lined up at the starting point with a crowd of competitors in differently dabbed t-shirts as per their house team colors, ready to start the race. And there were scorecards written on an erasable whiteboard. These scores kept changing as the teams performed in other games.
This particular race was a tough one. It was famous, but few would show interest. In most cases, only the skinny Form one girls who hadn’t put up a lot of weight from the top layer in the githeri would participate. By that time, I fit that description perfectly, so I represented my team.
My school was in the heart of Gatundu constituency, Mang’u Village. What is now St Francis Girls Mang’u. If anyone has been there, you can tell the size of the field. The main role of this race was to finish. Not to be the first or last but to just Finish the 22 rounds.
I don’t know how, but I did finish it. With sore feet, panting, tired as I could be. I wished I could faint and open my eyes to find the red cross in panic around me. But my body still stood. Needless to say, many dropped off after the first round all through to the 22nd and last round. If you didn’t finish, it added no points to your team. It would be as though you hadn’t appeared. Even if you left on the 21st, it made no difference.
This DNF tag is a very familiar tag with athletes. You can train and exercise well, but unless you get to the finish line, that DNF tag haunts you like everybody else. That did not appear; that dropped off after the first round or even the 15th. The tag has no distinctions. It only recognizes the end. No Matter how close to the end you got. Unless you got to the very end, you did not finish.
Life has its way of giving us these DNF tags. Some of which we carry silently. Others are written all over us, and we carry them along, taking whatever prejudices that come with it. A failed marriage, having no marriage partner to the society is a DNF tag, loss of a job, a failed relationship, childlessness, disobedient children, name it.
On this Day in November 2020, my sister Brenda went to an audition in modeling. The venue was Two Rivers. The time was 9 am. I hired a vehicle to take us there. Big sisters have got to be supportive, you know..unfortunately, the driver failed us last minute, but determination took us through.
We were taking coffee with Brenda that evening at a favorite joint along Garrisa road. We talked about everything and nothing. The sister chit chats then my Brenda saw that pop-up notification in her phone, and suddenly the topic changed to Modelling. It was an audition and needed no experience. It was three weeks away, and this week would see Brenda exercise, get up in the morning to run, drink a lot of water, watch her diet, and all that comes with it. This had been her life. She only intensified it.
As part of support, I woke up to run with her before working or joining her for the evening run. Needless to say, she would lag, but she was overjoyed I accompanied her.
We got to two rivers on time, and the place was flowing with skinny girls and masculine guys who think they fit the description, in black pants and white tops. It looked like a school. Some looked more experienced in heels swinging from side to side doing those turns. Some were tall, others short. All desperately showing off their novice skills, never mind the qualifications were .no experience.
Brenda is 6.1 feet. With those very long legs, All those who call me tall should at this point know that even in heels, I don’t get to her height. Maybe I get to her shoulders. When we walk with her, she steals the show.
The hall was empty, no seats, just a hall, .and I thought to myself. It was a crude way to do things. But I would not say a thing. I had to maintain a very positive attitude for my sister’s sake. This would be her great day. We secured a place next to a pillar and humbled there, waiting for the day to begin. Up until 12, the auditioners had not come. But my book kept me busy. Brenda was not talking much. She just sat, maybe looking around. I couldn’t tell what was in her head.
After what seemed like a century, they arrived. one had a bald shaven head, long earrings hanging, and thigh-high boots. She looked like the boss and actually stepped like one. The two other ladies buzzed around her like bees around a flower. I was keen to see how they disqualify the young souls. I was what we would call an elections observer.
One of the ladies with a long wig.. that is the only thing I remember about her, oh and her very soft but commanding voice started talking and there was dead silence. ” if you are below 5.5′ ft step to the right ” and the group divided into two. looks like everyone knew their height. And, of course, the shorter lot developed gloomy faces as if going to hell, and the other lot had just gotten the ticket to heaven.
The process went on and on, and eventually, there was only less than 30 remaining. Thankfully Brenda was among them. Then the moment to stand before the duly of three came, and I felt like it was me. Butterflies filled my stomach. The lady I had called the boss would look at you and decide whether you pleased her eyes or not. I saw girls walk away in tears after being told NO with no explanation. Those who sought it were told their body was not fit or they were to try next time. Getting evicted at the end with no explanation or the explanation is vague.
I consoled several of them in the washrooms. It’s the safest place to cry then was your face put back your makeup, and walk out as if nothing ever had happened. sadly Brenda was among them she had been told No. I saw her breakdown, and that wsas expected. what was hard for us was dealing with those words later on. that she was not fit. not fit for something she really wanted to do. and hearing it from someone who was regarded an expert in this field . this was her dream her only thing I have seen her so passionate about.. i saw her struggle through those words, refusing to eat as she should.
Fast forward, she worked on herself, and im proud of every achievement. she hit the gym, and I have seen the improvement. When she came over those words, she has risen. She is now the face of B&B.’ll tell you about it later on. We are yet to get a good modeling agency. Actually, if you can help me get to one, I will really appreciate it. But we made the best of that tag we received. I cant wait to see Brenda hold the trophies for what she has always wanted because it won’t be without a fight. But it will be worth every punch.
Don’t worry about the DNF tags you carry. They are not your end.