FROM ‘HIDDEN SNEAKERS’ TO ‘BORROWED SNEAKERS’: ONE WOMAN’S JOURNEY TO CONFIDENCE
I could sit down in chalet 8 of the Elgro River Lodge looking through the window at the serene natural environment while writing about boosters of confidence. This, however, would have you rolling your eyes at theoretical stuff. Instead, I choose to write about Zainab, a participant in the 2019 ANLP. A true-life story. A drama that unfolded before my eyes and captivated my attention.
Zainab made up her mind from the start not to have a thing to do with the physical exercises that are part of the ANLP, least of all the high ropes challenge. At the sight of the 14-meter colossal structure that held the high ropes, she with a scowl on her face reiterated her resolve,” there is no way I am going on that death trap!” I was sure the no go was sealed when I looked down at her feet where instead of a pair of sneakers, she wore an open slipper. How she developed selective amnesia concerning the type of shoes to bring and wear for this exercise is beyond me, because she wore a proper sports outfit, except for the shoes.
Fast forward through the preliminaries to the main activities. At the sight of the first female participant, Neema climbing in tears, shivers and shakes, I could see the different expressions that passed over Zainab’s face- mouth open, teeth clenched, lips pursed. As Neema paused on the high ropes for some more wiping of tears far above the ground, there was a “first-order change” I detected in Zainab’s demeanour. Zainab was actually laughing, clapping, yelling and rooting for Neema!
By the time the fifth female was on the high ropes; Zainab was asking my sneaker size. Just like Goldilocks and the three bears, my sneakers were too small. She then asked Jacob who wears a size eleven; too big. By the time she asked Prince who had a size nine sneaker, it was just right! One pair of borrowed sneakers coming right up served with a lot of encouragement from the participants. Borrowed shoes on, in a jiffy, Zainab was climbing the ladder to the challenge above. It was a remarkable sight as she scaled what she previously considered to be impossible. With little hesitation, Zainab crossed the floating logs, moved across the wobbly zigzags and headed across the pole. We all cheered as she came down with a beaming smile that spoke of accomplishment. She later admitted to hiding her sneakers in her luggage at the lodge to avoid being involved but changed her mind due to camaraderie and collective conquest.
Zainab’s story for me symbolises the need to recognise that sometimes the obstacles we face are those we set for ourselves in our minds and that we may need borrowed sneakers (support team) to refocus and redirect..