Today is my birthday! Woohoo! Another year, another opportunity to grow and be a better version of myself. I still fight the, “I should have done this by this age” story which occasionally pops up and whispers in my ear from time to time. I can’t allow my age to define me.

But as I grow older, I learn it’s important to grow wiser. I believe wisdom is about understanding yourself and circumstances, understanding what you can change and what you can’t. And making a deliberate effort, at your pace, to change what you can.

I normally review my progress quarterly. I have been doing this for a few years now. In some cases, I have been able to grow beyond where I am. In some cases, I have stumbled or been stifled in some shape or form. But I strive to focus on what I can do to actually effect practical change in my life.

I also review my parent’s lives a lot from the stories they have shared, or I have heard of their adult lives, and seek out the lessons I can learn from their successes and mistakes. I have been thinking a lot about Mum lately, this week especially. I just wanted to talk to her, as we did before she passed. Just to ask her some questions, but you know. That’s not possible.

Normally, I would call her on my birthday to remind her, we all did. In her later years, she just forgot everyone’s birthday including her own. The phone call would always go something like this.

“Mama, it’s my birthday today.”

“Oh, really, mos nyathina, I forgot, I am a bad mother,” she would say in her warm voice.

“No, you’re not, you’re the best Mum in the world. It’s ok, I don’t mind reminding you.”

“May God continue to bless you and Happy Birthday Nyamwalo!” She would say.

Then we would go on having other random conversations. I miss those conversations.

The last few months, I have had moments I power through trying to reconfigure my life path and just get work done. There are other days I remind myself I have to live for me and not for Mum anymore. That part is the hardest. The pain is still there, and it never really goes away. I know it never will. It is a bit more manageable but it’s still palpable.

As I grow older without my parents, I find myself drawn to other people’s parents. I thirst for their wisdom and guidance. And mostly their honesty. I love sitting with people who openly admit they knew they did dumb things when they were younger and are willing to share the lessons from it.

Lately, I have been looking back at one particular parent, she’s way younger than my parents, she’s in her 50’s. I met her 5 years ago, through the referral of a friend, Wanny Angerer is her name. Wanny was this firebrand, Honduran with a heart for people, culture and diversity. She can sing a mean Besame Mucho.

I was so drawn to her openness, sincerity and her genuine need to help and grow people. It’s because of Wanny, I discovered I could MC events, run PR campaigns and actually offer something to the world. In retrospect, her pushing me out of my shell and interacting with people in places I never would go started restoring an extremely shattered self-esteem I had.

She showed me I had value, she showed me I was beautiful and she showed me I could do anything I put myself to. She didn’t necessarily say these things like my beautiful Mama did. She showed me. I needed both to push me to become a better version of myself.

So today, as I celebrate my 36th birthday, I celebrate the phenomenal Mary Owino Odengo who brought me into this earth and mentored me. Mama, there will never be any person on this earth who can ever replace the wisdom, love and guidance you gave! I miss you and I pray and believe you are having a blast in Heaven!

Wanny Angerer who mentored me when I didn’t even know I was being mentored! May the Lord grant you a long and fulfilling life for the inspiration and guidance you share with women, like me, around the world!