The danger of the safest closest fit
You see, Andi Osho the toddler was quite the show-off. The performer in me had always been there and frequently revealed itself in my younger years – and not always in the most appropriate of manners. People must have thought ‘Oh gosh, it’s Andi showing off again. She’s so annoying…!’
Up to the age of seven, I was that confident, precocious kid. After that, life started to chip away at me. (I wonder if it’s just coincidence that my dad left when I was about seven too?!) School, bullying, the usual story. By the time I got into a position where I could make a choice about pursuing a career in the performing arts, my confidence had already dissipated without me having even realised it. People like me don’t become actors. It didn’t seem like my reality.
I went to production school and opted to make programmes rather than actually be in them.
In effect, I had found the safest closest fit to my dream.
Take the fear with you
The risk and fear of what change may bring often holds people back. We convince ourselves that the reasons we have for not pursuing our joy are legitimate. They’re not excuses; they’re the realities of life.
But what if we told ourselves that all the things that we think will be problems are just circumstances that we need to work through? What if we told ourselves that it’s okay to be scared?
It’s not only once all fear has been conquered that we then do whatever it is we want to do. What if we told ourselves to charge on with the fear – to take that fear with us and just go for it anyway?
It was only through years of working on myself that I arrived at a place where I could give myself permission to explore the ‘but what ifs?’ in my life. What if I did try to become a performer? I wasn’t satisfied with my life because I’d never gone for my dream. I’d never dared to attempt the ‘what ifs’ that I had long supressed. I decided to actually give my big ‘what if’ – acting – a serious shot.
Learn from your struggles
When I finally changed career to start out acting, there were certainly times when I felt like I was on the bottom rung. I was struggling to get auditions, nobody knew who I was, and I was working for free. Sometimes there are sacrifices to be made that force you to question how much you really want something. The bigger the sacrifices you’re willing to make, the louder you’re declaring to the universe that you’re up for the battle.
I have since moved continent. I’ve learned a lot being in the States. Sometimes it’s intriguing. Sometimes it’s confusing. On a personal level, I’ve learned that what I thought my boundaries were, aren’t quite what they actually are. Living in another country was never meant to be for me. I never thought I’d even want to live outside of the UK but here I am – and it all started with me asking myself ‘what if…?’
I know I’m in a lucky position because I can afford to go for my ‘what ifs’, but everyone can surely find some time and space once in a while to stop and really examine what the things they really love are. We owe ourselves that.
If, at the end of your life’s lane, you were to look back at your journey, would you be satisfied with the route you took? Or would you look back with regrets? It would be a shame if there were something that you really wanted to aim for, that would have completely fulfilled you were you to have achieved it, but you never even tried because you instead spent thousands of hours across your working life doing a job you didn’t like to pay for things that you can’t take with you. What if you lived life doing what you wanted to do? What if?
What if we all lived our passions?
Having taken the leap from production into acting, I have since done stand up, writing, and now film school this year. To be honest, I wouldn’t rule out seeing my mum in 2016, eager to tell her (for the tenth time) that I’ve now really really found the thing I want to do!
Whilst you’re still breathing, it’s never too late to listen to your heart. Your heart is like a compass – use it to navigate through life.
As soon as you start to listen to it, answers start to materialise. I’ve listened to my heart and, crucially, I have given myself permission to follow it. All the answers about who we are and what we should do are already there. We just don’t listen to our hearts enough. We listen to our heads. Understandable – it makes practical choices. That said, I feel we need to unlearn the ‘head over heart’ doctrine in favour of tapping into one’s intuition. Don’t get me wrong, it’s never been about blindly following the heart in a reckless way; there’s still a huge amount of planning and thought that should go behind taking these bold decisions. But the head only deals with what it already knows; the heart deals in feelings and has the freedom to explore.
Whether you’re a lawyer, a therapist, a life coach, or a teacher, do whatever it is you do with a committed heart. I think that’s what lacking across professions – professionals who work for the love of what they do. Insofar as it is possible, people should be encouraged to go into the things that are in their heart, rather than saying '…pffft, I think I’ll just train to be a teacher then.' There are always people who really want to be teachers. Imagine if every single teacher was a teacher because it was their heart’s desire to teach. Think of how great our schools could be. In fact, if everyone lived their life doing what they loved doing, the world would look very different because it would be a much happier place.
I went on a course a little while back and one of my coursemates was a tax accountant. I recall her saying how much she loved her job – and it wasn’t because she loved getting money off of people! – it was because she loved helping people find peace by getting themselves on top of their finances, and she loved helping families know where they stood financially. When she became somewhat emotional talking about her work it really struck me that there are so many different types of people out there with so many different types of desires.
People assume we all want the same thing – to be millionaires, footballers, pop stars… some people ‘just’ want to be tax accountants, teachers, street cleaners, and guess what, the world needs tax accountants, teachers, and street cleaners who love what they do more than we need yet another X Factor winner!
I hope that never changes.
Comedian, actress, director
News anchor @ NTV Kenya, PhD candidate, UNEP consultant
I’ve listened to my fears, and I’ve reasoned with them. I could have stayed in the UK or the USA, found a job, and lived the comfortable predictable life, but I fought that thought and chose to come back to Kenya because I really wanted to make a difference here. I had a lot of fears moving from an environment where I knew how things worked and had built my network, to a place where I wasn’t sure if I’d fit in, or even what I actually wanted to do. Despite all my apprehensions, the thing that motivated me was my purpose – my desire to change the status quo of how things operate in Kenya. It is so important to me to be one of those people who are coming back and actually making a change, and my sense of purpose drives me to overcome that fear.
A lot of people are very definite about who they are. Because I have so many areas of interest, I am not. It can be a strength to have such diverse interests, but it can also open up weaknesses if you’re constantly jumping from one area to another in search of your calling. Despite growing up on screen, when I moved back to Kenya I thought I’d end up practising law for a bit, or move more towards diplomacy. I had no intention of going back into broadcast media. The TV show I hosted when I was younger was very different from anchoring at NTV. I was a teenager myself as was the target audience. Hard news is very different and incredibly dynamic. One of my biggest fears coming into the NTV role was that people would still remember me as that young kid who used to do that kids TV show and therefore wouldn’t take me seriously as a news anchor – especially since my face hasn’t changed that much since I was last on TV! What’s helped me get over that is pure hard work. Through hard work, when people watch me on air, they may think that I still look young but I hope they also think that I’m authoritative and are confident that I know what I’m talking about. Work on your fears, or your fears will work on you.
Yvonne Maingey is a news reporter/anchor at NTV Kenya (current on a sabbatical). She is a senior consultant on UNEP's Tunza programme, aimed at engaging children and the youth in environmental issues. Educated across three continents, including an undergraduate degree from London School of Economics and a Master's degree from New York University, Yvonne is now back in Kenya undertaking a PhD in Climate Change and Adaptation.